Thursday, June 04, 2009

But then their own Idolatry Failed Them

On the eve of his whirlwind trip to the Middle East and Europe, President Barack Obama gave exclusive interviews to two European television broadcasters: Britain’s BBC and France’s iTELE.

The choice of the BBC is self-explanatory. But iTELE? Why not France Télévisions, the publicly funded French equivalent of the BBC? Or the privately owned TF1, France’s longtime market leader in prime-time news broadcasting?
Elsewhere, John Rosenthal turns his eye to the shallow stupidity of the French press, and a near-failure digital-only startup called i>tété (a digital-terrestrial news outfit whose website tends to crash rather too often,) and the fact that they managed to land an interview with the US president. How do you swing that when you only have a 0,8% share of a small and isolated media market? Play to the king’s whores. The obvious reason I>tété landed the interview was due to the sobbing Bush hater who conducted it.
Perhaps it has something to do with the interviewer, iTELE’s White House correspondent Laurence Haïm (that’s Laurence Haïm, not Laura Haïm, as Jeff Zeleny of the ever linguistically challenged New York Times calls her). For if French journalists in general have abandoned any pretense to objectivity while reporting on American politics in recent years — as has been extensively documented on blogs like No Pasarán or my Transatlantic Intelligencer — Laurence Haïm’s preferences are even more transparent than most.

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“You can, I think, see the fanaticism of these people here,” Haïm says, referring to the merrily celebrating Bush supporters behind her. “You see the screen, you see the Fox News channel, you see the American flag, you see these people. George W. Bush is going, then, to become president again for four years.” And then, after remarking on her mounting emotions, she repeats the phrase punctuated by convulsive sobs.
Also worth noting in the “land of great global wisdom” where Haïm hails from, that in trying to “cheekily” use English in her blog’s subtitle, that she unselfconsciously mimics the complete incongruity of a Engrish. Nonsensically subtitled “The Blog Made in Obama,” she no doubt thinks herself brilliant and wired in to the world, when in reality the preoccupation of nearly the whole of the news media subculture is with the the Arab world, the US, but primarily the attitude of the domestic commentary about their own relationship with US and Arab cultures. It is a far more isolate global outlook than you find in the American and British press, but one dare not mention it for fear of besmirching the public’s dignity.

As for the president himself, he seems to find anything polite he can to play along with Haïm’s vapidity.

“What do you love about France, if I may ask?”
“Well, let’s see … we’ve got the food, we’ve got Paris, we’ve got the south of France, Provence, the wine.”
Elsewhere, on the topic of relations with the “Muslim world,” Ms. Haïm reminds the president that during the electoral campaign he had told her that he wanted to convene a “Muslim summit.” The idea will undoubtedly be of interest to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, whose 57 member states already convene every three years in an “Islamic summit.”
Ms. Haïm does, however, manage to ask at least one seemingly tough question.
“Do you speak French?”
“My French is terrible.”
So instead of asking him any real questions, Haïm is just doing the French thing and looking for ways in which anyone significant, and the rest of the world, can somehow honor them merely for being who they are – scrath the surface and there it is, the ultimate form of identity politics: a delusional nationalism offered at the expense of asking any sort of real questions in the kind of interview that could make or break a talking-head’s career.

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