Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Le Point Is No Longer the Mag You Thought It Was

Le Point has a cover story on the US, with a comic-strip-type balloon emerging from the Statue of Liberty, saying "I am not the one you think I am".

Although the idea of the conservative weekly is to suggest that there are multiple facets of life in America and let's not omit the positive, it never deviates from the prevalent monolothical thought: that Bush's domestic detractors are right (just as invariably right as America's foreign critics), that the war was/is catastrophic, that Bush lied about WMD, and that the moral dimension of Saddam's dictatorship was "swept away" by the discovery of American "torture".

Two or three years ago, I heard a colleague with a French journalist card complain that Le Point was too pro-American. What a good thing that Paris is getting that publication under its control too. Remember the rules, les gars: no room for ambiguity when it comes to America and its allies!

Le Point's rallying to the self-serving opinion of the French masses and powers-that-be has been visible for some time: The January 2 cover showed a forlorn-looking Jacques Chirac with the words France Punished: Bush's Revenge and listing five types of vengeance (exclusion from Iraq contracts, opposition to France as the location for the Iter energy project, being side-lined from the Libya deal, alleged unfair treatment in the Executive Life scandal, and, the most ridiculous of all, the Air France slap [keeping an Air France flight grounded on December 24 because of terrorist concerns, when the same thing occurred with a British Airways airliner]). All in a "poor us" tone, "it's unfair, we only wanted to further the cause of peace".

Showing Chirac and Villepin on the cover of its March 14, 2003, issue, Le Point asked: Are They Going Overboard? But the (supposedly objective) language of journalists Domnique Audibert and Romain Gubert in covering "four months of escalation" serves throughout to reinforce France's preconceptions about itself as heroic, moderate, and reasonable and those about America and its allies as… well, you know the story by now. Examples (all cases of emphasis are mine):

  • "Chirac seems surprisingly serene. As if, after a lifetime of horse-trading and successive conversions, he has finally found a genuine conviction which puts him in harmony with himself and the nation."

  • "Between Chirac's irrevocable 'no' to preventive war as early as September 2002 and Bush's obstinacy to carry out his fatwa against Saddam, these long months of tensions have been but the chronicle of an inevitable break."

  • "Two days later, the 'letter of the eight' is published in several European newspapers. Chirac was taken completely by surprise. From Britain he was expecting such a low blow." [But not from the other countries who are "stirring up ill-feeling in Europe".]

  • "The argument [that Saddam is not disarming but lying] will be hammered home relentlessly in the weeks to come."

  • "Everything is done to isolate Benoît d'Aboville, France's ambassador to NATO … and to weaken the Berlin-Brussels-Paris alliance."

  • "Colin Powell is crazed with fury" ; "the Americans are drunk with anger" ; "Colin Powell repeats mechanically…"

  • "Dominique de Villepin's peroration on Iraq … France's opposition to war … It's his moment of truth, and Villepin turns it into a fine piece of eloquence."

  • Joining the foreign ministry with the goal of improving relations with Washington, he has in the meantime measured the arrogance of the American hyperpower, denounced previously by his predecessor, Hubert Védrine."

  • "Hans Blix denounces the pressure and the manipulation of the American intelligence services to heap abuse on Saddam."

  • "On February 15, Bush's belligerant crusade sparks demonstrations unprecedented since the Vietnam conflict. More than 10 million people march against the war throughout the entire world. … In an interview, Villepin drives the point home: 'Europe must be able to hold its values high and defend its ambitions'."

  • "The Mexican president no longer stands to attention before George Bush. Far from it. He has even pointed out several times that his country is opposed to war."

  • "The front pages of [American] newspapers try to outdo each other in bad taste and bad faith. … In France, the press is more moderate."
…like Le Point, sans doute?

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