Wednesday, November 09, 2005


It was inevitable that we'd see articles like this:

Hurt pride shows as France sees world report riots

PARIS, Nov 8 (Reuters) - A barrage of critical world media reporting on the violence in its rundown suburbs is rubbing nerves raw in France, which is more used to hearing praise for its food, its countryside and its opposition to the Iraq war.

"Last night, Japanese television and Turkish television were in my city hall telling me what should be done. That hurts me," he said.

"Fire and blood in France -- at least that's what some foreign media claim is going on," Le Parisien wrote. "Paris is burning, civil war, war zone, race riots -- the headlines, especially on TV, often have no nuance."

The conservative Le Figaro was indignant about the way U.S. media reported from riot-hit areas such as Seine Saint Denis...

"American newspapers don't hesitate to compare Paris to Baghdad or Seine Saint Denis to the Gaza Strip and to call the crisis a 'Katrina of social disasters'," an editorial fumed in a reference to the recent hurricane.

Etc., etc., etc. The French media are indignant over what Deutsche Presse-Agentur referred to as "thinly veiled gloating" over the riots. The subject--gloating, that is--is one that the French media seem to know a lot about. Let's--if I may use that phrase that the American Left enjoys pinning on us conservatives--turn the clock back, to about two months ago.

Le Monde had a wonderful time dissecting what they called "the American myth" in the days after Katrina, crediting the storm for pointing out "the country’s social inequalities...Despite the economic and military strength it is prepared to deploy overseas, the United States has shown itself incapable of dealing with a catastrophe of this scale at home.” Headlines were stuff like "After Katrina, the World Extends a Hand to a Humiliated America."

The lefty French paper Libération joined in eagerly: "Each catastrophe ... instantly expose[s] the society that it strikes [prophetic words!], and Katrina is no exception to this rule...."Nice and dry in his mountain range...[Osama bin] Laden must be dying of laughter [as] the American civil-security helicopters make like ducks along the Mississippi." Another Liberation writer, Philippe Gangereau, used the opportunity to attack the American president: "Bush is completely out of his depth in this disaster. Katrina has revealed America's weaknesses: its racial divisions, the poverty of those left behind by its society, and especially its president's lack of leadership." A different Liberation writer, Gerard Dupuy

accused the Bush administration of "contempt for victims who without a doubt were doubly at fault for being both poor and black." He concluded that the neoconservative "crusade," which was "already mired in the Mesopotamian marshes" of Iraq, had "foundered in the Louisiana bayou."

The "conservative" Le Figaro was little different: à cette occasion, l'Amérique découvre ou redécouvre qu'elle abrite le tiers-monde en son sein ("on this occasion, America discovers or rediscovers that it shelters the Third World in its centre.") Jean-Pierre Aussant: "This tragic incident reminds us that the United States has refused to ratify the Kyoto accords. Let's hope the US can from now on stop ignoring the rest of the world. If you want to run things, you must first lead by example. Arrogance is never a good adviser!"

There was also a Le Figaro interview with one Emanuel Todd, "a research engineer at the National Institute of Demographic Studies, historian, author of Après l'empire [After the Empire], published by Gallimard in 2002 - an essay in which he predicted the "breakdown" of the American system." According to Todd, Katrina was yet another signpost on the road to America's upcoming Soviet-style collapse:

Q: You postulate that the management of Katrina reveals a worrying
territorial fragmentation joined to the carelessness of the military
apparatus. What must we then fear for the future?

A: The hypothesis of decline developed in Après l'empire evokes the
possibility of a simple return of the United States to normal, certainly
associated with a 15-20% decrease in the standard of living, but
guaranteeing the population a level of consumption and power "standard"
in the developed world. I was only attacking the myth of hyper-power.
Today, I am afraid I was too optimistic. The United States' inability to
respond to industrial competition, their heavy deficit in
high-technology goods, the upturn in infant mortality rates, the
military apparatus' desuetude and practical ineffectiveness, the elites'
persistent negligence incite me to consider the possibility in the
medium term of a real Soviet-style crisis in the United States.

The gang of black unemployed who loot a supermarket and the group of oligarchs who try to organize the "heist" of the century of Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves have a common principle of action: predation. The dysfunctions in New Orleans reflect certain central elements of present American culture.

The lefty magazine Marianne gleefully announced: "The American giant folds beneath the weight of its failures and struggles to enforce an order that it wanted to impose on the world."

Agence France-Presse solemnly quoted a taunting Die Zeit ">editorial: "[Katrina weakens America's] image of itself as a nation which is the avenger and protector of the defenseless, the nation that brings order, democracy and prosperity. Today, it must beg for beds and blankets from foreigners." In the same article, it quotes French author Nicole Bachran:

"Sept. 11 put the spotlight on America's vulnerability, just as Hurricane Katrina has in another way. It showed that the country is not that strong or effective."

A blog rant at The American Thinker describes Katrina's television coverage in France:

...the French, and first and foremost the incorrigible state-owned television channel France 2,* attacked us in our very foundations, set fire to our essence with inflammatory accusations, flailed us with acid-based criticism, smeared us with the muck of hearsay, propaganda, and outright lies, and even that was not enough to satisfy their lust for revenge. France 2’s new newswoman oozed contempt from every strand of her short cropped bleached blond locks. The station’s main man in the field gleefully gloated through every pore of his shiny outer space bald noggin. No alcohol-soaked floozy wandering bleary eyed through the ruins of la Nouvelle Orléans was too zonked to get a pass at a France 2 mike and belt out curses against the guv’mint.

The so-called independent TF 1 was hardly less vicious. A nuance here and there, nothing worth mentioning. Both stations buy their images from the same pool. The bloated body floating across France 2’s screen at 8:05 PM popped up on TF1 at 8:10. I don’t know if these images of bloated bodies were particularly expensive, but they got worn to death from being re-used every day for 2 weeks.

It's very instructive to compare the naked gloating (the German press was even worse than the French, by the way) on Katrina to the hurt feelings on display on the reaction to the riots: The demands for "nuance" from the same people who seemed to have been thrilled by all the carnage and the horror of Katrina, who eagerly pronounced a death toll of "10,000 people," who are so eaten up with hatred of Bush and more broadly the USA that they surveyed at the effects of one of the world's worst natural disasters with unconcealed delight.

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