Friday, January 03, 2014

Dieudonné and His Inverted Nazi Salute, the Quenelle

Update: French comic Dieudonne 'must pay racism fines'
says French interior minister Manuel Valls.
France is, as we all know, a very polite nation … and … there are plenty of French ways to be polite to people and express your hope that they will enjoy a happy new year to come 
quips Stephen Clarke as he gives several examples in the Telegraph.
Strange, then, that a French footballer should ignore them all and express his joy at scoring a yuletide goal with an altogether different greeting. After Nicolas Anelka scored for his team West Brom, he made the sign known in France as the “quenelle”. For the non-gastronomic amongst you, a “quenelle” is a sort of sausage usually made from fish and breadcrumbs. The gesture itself is also a mixture – it’s half what the French call a “bras d’honneur” (an “arm of honour” – the “up yours” gesture made by thrusting one fist forward while clutching your inner elbow with the other), and half a downward Nazi salute. Anelka [performed] a very formal-looking “quenelle”, putting one hand at the top of his arm while extending that arm stiffly downwards. As anyone who has read about the story will know, the gesture was invented by a comedian called Dieudonné (ironically, “god-given”) who has recently made himself infamous thanks to his outrageously anti-Semitic comments (I wouldn’t call them jokes), including one about a journalist who dared to criticize him and who, in Dieudonné’s opinion, ought to have gone to the gas chamber. (Now you see why i don’t call them jokes).

Everyone in France knows about Dieudonné, and he has a cult following amongst the tiny minority who enjoy race-hate comments. There are doubtless a few youngsters who make his “quenelle” gesture out of ignorance, thinking that it’s purely anti-establishment, in the same way as the punks in the 1970s wore swastikas just to annoy their parents’ generations – they weren’t (usually) Nazis. The same presumably went for Prince Harry when he made his Nazi uniform party outfit gaffe. But an experienced international footballer who knows full well that the few seconds after a goal has been scored are the most filmed and photographed moments of a match? And who has been photographed with the originator of the gesture, joyfully performing a “quenelle” duet?

Say what you like about the average IQ of a Premier League footballer, if there’s one thing they understand it’s the media. They are all experts at promotion. Many of them make as much money being photographed as they do on the pitch. And Anelka’s gesture didn’t look as though it was being made in the grip of wild elation. He looked calm and collected. It looked to my, perhaps over-cynical, eyes that the gesture was a deliberate sign, aimed perhaps at certain sections of impressionable French youth, that it’s OK to say the kind of things that Dieudonné’s fans go along to hear.

It seems a shame, when the French put so much care into expressing the hope that everyone will enjoy each small segment of the day and night, as well as the different sections of the end of the year, that someone thinks it’s OK to send out a mass-media message that is exactly the opposite.
Nasri and Sakho make “Quenelle” gesture (0:45 from end)

How 'Quenelle' Salute Creator Dieudonne Built Bridge to Anti-Semitic Far Fight by Robert Zaretsky:
… the quenelle is the odd gesture — an extended right arm slanted towards the floor, the left arm stretched across the chest — for which Dieudonné claims paternity. The salute has blossomed both on-line and on soccer fields: a succession of French athletes from Tony Parker to Nicolas Anelka have performed the quenelle in order to signal their… well, their what?

This is where things get fuzzy.

Dieudonné insists the gesture is simply a French raspberry, aimed at “the system.” Obviously, this claim begs the question of its deeper significance for Dieudonné if the Jews, as he suggests, own and manipulate “the system.” It also ignores the context of the gesture — which many critics insist is an inverted Nazi salute — used by Dieudonné to punctuate his racist jibes and anti-Semitic innuendos. A number of athletes who replicated the gesture, ignorant of its import, seem sincerely angry to have been caught with their shorts down.