Thursday, February 17, 2005

"Letters to the Editor" — Why We Blog

Why am I so angry, asks Louis angrily of me in a first comment that the discontented reader left on one recent post. And, indeed, am I angry at all?
[For those who already have read this, his second comment is answered 12 paragraphs below.)

I wouldn't describe myself as angry, but let me say that the answer has to do with injustice, double standards, and the injustice of double standards.

I do not like the injustice of the French press covering the 60th anniversary of D-Day, while downplaying the contribution of the Americans, the foremost country involved in Western Europe's fighting from 1944 to 1945.

I do not like the injustice of covering the negative news in Iraq and totally ignoring not only the positive news but the views and emotions of the Iraqi people.

I do not like the double standards of attacking Bush on his every position (or absence thereof), often with vigor and while speaking loftily of principles, while having nothing to say about the shenanigans of the members of the peace camp or the United Nations.

I do not like the double standards of speaking with contempt and condescension of George W (while calling any attempt to bring some sensible arguments to the debate as being nothing less than asking "the entire French populace [to sign] a fealty oath to [that] frat-boy overlord") while having no emotions (bad or even mixed) about, or policies opposing, even slightly, Putin, Hu, Mugabe, and (last but not least) Saddam Hussein.

If you think that "dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in Europe and elsewhere is rarely, if ever, expressed with the belligerence and vitriol of the attacks on 'France' and the 'Euroweenies' from the American right", then I can only conclude that you are blind or seriously deluded. What you call "dissatisfaction" is like I said before, a mix of contempt, condescension, mockery, and arrogance, the kind of which is visible in your comment about that "frat-boy overlord George W" and which is likewise never (as I also just said) applied (including by yourself) to any other leader…

Yes, I do call such types of injustice and double standards anti-Americanism, and I find it hard for any individual to honestly conclude it is anything else. As it happens (and this'll make you laugh), I believe that "the belligerence and vitriol of the attacks on 'France' and the 'Euroweenies'" is related to, yes, Americans' greater sensibility. Greater devotion to justice and fairness and a greater sensibility to the absence thereof.

About seeing "anti-Americanism everywhere", a Swiss friend recently asked me if I didn't think I was exaggerrating with all my posts (and those of the other webmasters); I answered the truth: we don't invent anything or set anything up — we react to what we see, hear, and read in the media and in society, and if there is so much to react to, the fault can hardly be attributed to us.

As for the getting glances from women (French or otherwise), let me just say that I don't think I ever had much to complain about…

I will add that what you seem to be doing is applying the same tired tactic from people of the left, which is to make personal attacks, in your case calling supposed adversaries angry, paranoid, (sexually) frustrated, etc, not to speak of suggesting they can only be the vassals of Dubya

French-speakers (and -readers) can read a more developed explanation here.

Oh, and by the way, I already addressed the draft-age comment (along with attendant "enlist or shut up" spiel).

This answer brought up another message from Louis:

In this post you relate France's honoring of Americans with the Legion of Honor to anti-Americanism somehow. Why?
Because, like I said, when observing events, it is necessary to take a step back to get a larger view and put the events into context. When, for instance, you hear, or see, an autocrat say he is willing to cooperate in the hunt for WMD, you cannot just take this as proof of good faith and positive intentions, but you have to take into account whether (and how much) he has been cooperative in the past, whether he ever tried to build weapons of mass destruction in the past, whether he used same on his enemies, foreign or domestic, and how trustworthy he has shown himself to be. Trust, but verify. Sometimes one makes mistakes, but better safe than sorry…

Louis later claims that an American government official (Bush) is doing nothing more than putting on on "an act" — why can't it be said when (if) a French government official or decision is, from the face of it, an act?

Like I said, I was about to post the news item verbatim, until I remembered how the press covered the 60th anniversary of D-Day last summer (more below). And if it is fair for people and media outlets opposed to members of the Bush administration to point out inconsistencies in their speeches and deeds, is it not fair for me to add, from an objective point of view, how often French deeds turn out to have been self-serving? Is it not always said, "We are not against the American people, we are only against Bush"? Here, double standards prevail as well, because you obviously cannot be against the Chirac administration's foreign policy (or the general atmosphere prevailing at le quai d'Orsay) without being against France

Besides, aren't you always saying, "Vous croyez tout ce que l'on vous dit? Do you believe everything the officials say? Don't you know you shouldn't trust politicians? Don't you know that leaders are liars and treacherous?" It turns out that this skepticism and this cynicism should only and always be directed at Uncle Sam, because when countries opposed to Washington say, and/or do, what seems to be positive things, then this can only be taken as proof of their generous intentions and their openness and honesty. And any skepticism as to that is immediately rendered as acting with obsessive bitterness and in bad faith.

The so-called "French press" (aka, one article you read somewhere) hasn't exactly re-written history on D-Day.
The "one" article? This would seem to prove that you neither follow the French press nor our links (or that you minimize and relativize everybody's (mis)deeds, except those involving Uncle Sam). The general attitude, throughout the totality of the French press, from June to August and beyond (nary a word on the Battle of the Bulge), was a belittlement of the contributions of the Americans.

There may have been exceptions, but that was the general mood in all of France. And in any case, what little description of the Americans' heroism there was, was invariably compared unfavorably with Washington's foreign policy today.

Of course, I would hope that nobody has forgotten that in June 1964, President Charles de Gaulle refused to attend the ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the D-Day landings (a decision which one school textbook (!) heralded as his "spectacular" feat), n'est-ce pas?

(By the way, the French did participate in the advance on Nazi Germany — all French history books make a point of honor of pointing out that Gaullist France fought against the Nazis, at least in the last part of the war, and was one of the main four victors — and the French press did make a brouhaha about the Warsaw uprising (involving nobody but Poles, Germans, and Soviets); so do not simply brush away statements that the fighting at Bastogne being hardly mentioned in the French press is due only to a French absence in the campaign.)

They didn't exactly dynamite the museum at the Pointe du Hoc.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no museum at the Pointe du Hoc. I also note that (and this is typical in some european circles) in your eagerness to counter-attack and to depict me as a Bush-loving nut who is invariably anti-French (effectively trying to destroy my credibility), you deliberately ignore those of my comments which can only be described as positive ("I have never failed to put the failures of the French military — real or imagined, supposed defeats or the failure to even show up — mostly on the back of French politicians").
And if I recall it's in American conservative circles that I often heard the call to disinter and repatriate the American soldiers buried in France -- for what? Because De Villepin wanted to let the inspectors finish? Because France was opposed to an ill-conceived war, the rationale for which has been changed multiple times in the interim?
You put it so nicely: "De Villepin wanted to let the inspectors finish", "France was opposed to [a] war", ill-conceived or not. Which many others wanted and were. But what France, and Villepin did, was go far further in their words and their actions, and the entire population participated in the denigration not only of Bush (if not of America) but all his allies in the coalition of the willing, which became the poodles, the messenger boys, etc, etc… What you put so diplomatically was, rather, filled with condescension, castigation, and snobbishness.

This illustrious French writer says as much here (And this time, please follow the link, Louis — merci.) That condescending tone of voice and that attitude, in which France "transformed itself into an anti-American propaganda relay station" (and in which it voiced its contempt for its fellow EU members), I believe and unless I am mistaken, was what made certain Americans talk about repatriating the fallen of Normandy.

As for rationales changing multiple times, I would be a lot more sensitive to your arguments if you applied the same standards to the "peace camp". First, they oppose the United States because the war would cost tens of thousands of lives and go on for months while millions of refugees would starve as they lined the roads from Baghdad, the battle which could only turn into "Saddamgrad", a bloodbath comparable to Stalingrad; then, we knew all along Saddam had no WMD; then, the main goal of the crisis became to get the occupying foreign troops out; then, the entire Iraqi population was rising in resistance; then, Arabs and/or Muslims aren't capable of voting; then, what will we do if, as expected, the Shi'ites win the elections and won't America suffer for it; and now (my favorite), the new Iraqi government risks being too weak! And throughout it all, the line, "Ah oui, we predicted tragedy, we were right all along, you should have listened to us…"

Injustice? Hypocrisy? Of the European elite. Of the American administration. I only wish you were a little more balanced. I wish I understood what all the mockery of France was for, what you hope to accomplish. Is the French press exactly kind to Chirac?
With regards to foreign affairs, yes! Definitely! While most of the criticism you mention about Bush originates from within the United States and her media, hardly any of France's foreign policy originates there, and a conversation in which one doesn't give in to the Bush-bashers invariably ends with the knee-jerk reply calling the offender "anti-French" or otherwise clueless or fascistic (typical response: "Mais vous n'êtes pas pro-Bush, quand même?!")…
Why do you want so badly for me, or anyone else, to take George W. Bush seriously?
As it happens, I have written a post in which I argued that Bush may be be the worst politician in the world (thank you for following the hyperlink…)

No, Louis, I do not expect you to take Dubya seriously. I expect you to treat Dubya fairly. And not in his interest, but in yours. For you to rail about Dubya's sins, while ignoring (relatively speaking) those (often far worse) of, say, Chirac, Putin, Hu (an example here), Mugabe, the "peace camp", and Saddam Hussein himself is your loss, intellectually speaking, not Dubya's (or America's) and gives you, in my opinion, a skewered view of the world (one in which America and capitalism are always caricatured, always playing the role of the worst offenders and the most dangerous threats and in which it is always those who remain skeptical of this point of view and who point out the double standadrds involved who are charged with acting with obsessive bitterness and in bad faith)…

Electoral politics in America and France are equally craven.
Perhaps, but the media and the citizenry in America — contrary to the self-serving legend always circulating in Europe about goose-stepping media outlets and uncouth, clueless citizens — are far more willing to be critical, and far more likely to be aware of criticism which their leaders are facing. This in contrast to, say, the food-for-oil scandal and the business dealings of the "peace camp", which French citizens and media alike dismiss out of hand of being of little interest.
If you can willingly point out Chirac's vain and flatulent oratory, why can't you handle people mocking Bush's pseudo-populism and proud anti-intellectualism?
The point of No Pasaran, in my mind, is less to "point out Chirac's vain and flatulent oratory" than to point out a media, a populace, and a culture which is unwilling to challenge that oratory, at least when it concerns foreign policy, especially when that foreign policy entails opposing the big, bad bogeyman… I am all for people, pundits, and politicians mocking any American leaders' pseudo-populism (as I am all for their opposing wars), but not when it entails double standards (the type of which Revel describes here).
If he doesn't look a little ridiculous to you with his pandering cowboy act (and it is an act), AT LEAST as ridiculous as Chirac (and that's pretty ridiculous), then we don't live in the same universe.
Yes, Bush is the most ridiculous-looking politician in the world (except for…)
What's the purpose of all this? Why would you live there if it's all so contemptible to you? I love France. I love Paris now. I love how scared you are of the kids from the cites. I love going to concerts out there and hearing the newest hip-hop from the 94... maybe you just can't connect, and that's why you're afraid. I live in New York, in the shadow of terrorism every day, and I'm not scared. Is that the difference between us?
"What's the purpose of all this?" I answered in my previous comment: I do not like injustice and double standards. As I said before, you take comments based on objective observations and turn them into evidence of personal defects (anger, fear, frustration, paranoia, racism, mentally challenged, brainless, vassals, poodles, acting with obsessive bitterness and in bad faith, fascists, etc) while pointing out, indirectly, to your own courage and joie de vivre — a type of self-serving opinion which, incidentally, can be included in the very type of injustice and double standards this blog is determined to expose.

I will add this: I happen to consider that this blog, and the family of blogs that write in the same spirit (see the blogroll), are very fact-oriented, based on objective observations, and that opinions are not taken lightly. When W points out that the French media play the race card inappropriately (to say the least), he doesn't do so without good reason, and he argues, he shows, he demonstrates, he proves, so to speak, what leads him to say so.

In that perspective, what is extremely odd is that people like Louis, Thierry, Rémy, and anti remain largely absent from any type of debate — on issues central to the opposition to Bush such as this one — until something tendentious, or something that can be given a tendentious ring, comes up. Then they let loose, (and I don't mean to be rude), they all flock down, like vultures upon a carcass, as if they had passed the message around, and retreat to their places of hiding until the next ever-so-slightly tendentious piece comes up. It gives you the distinct impression that they do not visit blogs or browse the web to learn anything — indeed, they don't even live life to debate and learn anything new or for any intellectual challenges — they just act, and crusade, to defend their (self-serving) biases and preconceptions…

No comments: