Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why the French Can't Compete ...

... in the upper reaches of academic economics, at any rate. Except of course for those exceptional few who do. But Etienne Wasmer explains how the deck is stacked against the rest. A quite illuminating look behind the scenes of academic recruitment.

Rockefeller Center No Place for Books

Pierre Assouline takes a hard line on the closure of the Librairie de France in Rockefeller Center. You don't find bookstores on the Avenue Montaigne in Paris either, do you? asks Assouline. He's right of course, economically speaking. Naive New Jerseyan that I was, it had never occurred to me, when I visited the librairie as a youthful student of French, that it was there in the "temple of wealth," as Assouline calls it, only because the Rockefeller family wanted a "European presence" in its Gotham seat.

Bibliophile that I am, I confess that over the years I bought only one or two things at the Librairie. The prices were always high, and the store, with its higgledy-piggledy arrangement and steep stairway, was hardly a model of organization. Here in Cambridge, Mass., we still have Schoenhof's, which, despite the name, is (or was at one point?) owned by Gallimard and features a fair selection of French books. But with Amazon.ca and Amazon.fr only a click away, the foreign bookstore-as-cultural-bridgehead survives, I think, chiefly as a purveyor of textbooks and syllabus-reading for foreign-language courses at nearby universities. So I'm afraid that I've been contributing in recent years to the decline of the French bookstore in the United States, even as I support beyond my means the publishing industry in France. I will survive the demise of the Librairie de France and would survive even the demise of Schoenhof's, as long as the Internet and international postal service continue to thrive.

Centre Malcolm X

This could be interesting:

Banlieues : sous le feu des médias
il y a des journalistes politiques, économiques, etc… Il n'y a pas de journalistes spécialistes des banlieues.

Fin octobre 2005, la mort dramatique de Bouna et Zyed à Clichy-sous-bois est le point de départ d'un embrasement des banlieues françaises.

Pendant trois semaines, la télévision a consacré des heures d'antenne à ces événements, les banlieues et leurs habitants se retrouvant sous le feu des médias . Choix des mots, choix des images, choix des journalistes envoyés sur le terrain – reporters de guerre de TF1 - , choix des invités « bons clients » censés représenter les jeunes, discours dominant abondamment relayé, amalgames, stigmatisation des quartiers et des jeunes, absence d'autocritique des journalistes.

Avec quel impact sur la vision de la société pour le citoyen téléspectateur?

La première partie de ce film confronte des images issues de journaux télévisés et d'émissions, toutes chaînes confondues. Avec un principe : pas de commentaires de spécialistes des médias, uniquement des extraits, avec des images arrêtées, commentées et décryptées.

Ensuite, la parole est donnée à la banlieue, à des jeunes d'Aulnay-sous-Bois, qui reviennent sur leur rapport aux médias, à l'image donnée de leur quartier. Samir Mihi, éducateur sportif à Clichy-sous-Bois revient sur sa médiatisation. Une mère de famille raconte ce qu'elle a vécu après un passage au 20H de TF1. Enfin, un journaliste témoigne de son travail en banlieue et des choix rédactionnels.

(h/t G. Randow)

Q&A

Q. On what top-50 hit parade does Michel Drucker rank no. 14 and Nicolas Sarkozy no. 42?

A. This one.

What does it mean? You tell me.

Europe: The Coming Thaw?

In the old days of the Cold War, it was common to speak of a "thaw" whenever relations between the United States and the Soviet Union temporarily brightened. A new kind of thaw may be imminent in relations between the United States and the European Union. Europe may help Obama close Guantanamo, as he has promised to do, by taking some prisoners off American hands. In return, Europe wants the US to "soothe" the Russians over the provocative placement of missiles in Eastern Europe.

The Times article leaves considerable ambiguity, however. Europe itself is divided on the Russia question, the missiles and radars and whatnot. Have these divisions been resolved? And does credit for the thaw, if it comes, really belong to Condi Rice, as a State Dept. spokesman claims? One suspects that the Bush legacy rewriting team may be at work here, going so far as to hand out plaudits to Portugal (Portugal?) while scrupulously omitting any mention of Sarkozy, who is reportedly out-of-favor with the outgoing administration that lionized him only a short while ago. Even on Afghanistan, where Europe will be asked to pony up troops and material support but wants American assistance, we are told, as quid pro quo, the shift is attributed to Robert Gates, incoming as well as outgoing Defense secretary, and, again, Sarkozy is not mentioned, even though he took a political risk at home by increasing the French presence in Afghanistan, where French troops have suffered significant losses and where they fight with inadequate equipment--a case in point that the article might have emphasized.

I have often criticized Sarko for his penchant to take more credit than he deserves, but by the same token I don't think he should be denied credit where merited (which is not to say that I necessarily think he's right on Afghanistan, but he has taken the lead on the issue and in touting the move as a step toward reconciliation with the United States; and he has certainly worked to maintain European unity on the Russia question and to tone down American belligerence).