Monday, August 30, 2010

Kouchner Has It Both Ways

Bernard Kouchner feels pangs in his heart for the mistreated Roma. He came close to resigning, he says. But on Friday he defended the expulsion policy before an assembly of ambassadors, saying that it was slander to accuse the government of stigmatizing an entire people.

Is Kouchner confused, or is he deliberately trying to confuse people about where he stands? Or perhaps both.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Socialist Party

A long and lucid analysis of the situation of the Socialist Party by Laurent Bouvet.

Téléspectateur en haut lieu

You wouldn't believe whom Sarkozy wants off the air.

The Dilemma

Reading the various comments on yesterday's post and my Libé interview, I am forced once again to recognize Nicolas Sarkozy's tactical brilliance as a politician. The Roma expulsions are the perfect issue to distract and divide. The dilemma for critics is to avoid becoming entangled in a debate about minutiae and to refrain from overreacting to provocation. It's not an easy task. If one defends human rights and due process of law, one is accused of turning a blind eye to the problem of illegal immigration. If one defends the innocent, one is accused of championing the guilty. If one defends a "community," one is accused of being unrepublican and by ricochet reinforces the stigmatization of an entire group of people, willy nilly, that is at the root of the whole issue.

My problem is only a petty version of the larger problem of the Left. The Left has not been any less successful than the Right of dealing with these issues, but it has constantly been wrongfooted by clever demagoguery. To oppose xenophobia is branded "angélisme." To recoil from heavy-handed police tactics, mass expulsions, the use of bulldozers to raze camps, and the mediatization of private calamity for political gain is to be accused of promoting anarchy. On the other hand, to countenance any enforcement of immigration laws is seized upon by ultras as proof that one is really, secretly, in league with sinister traffickers in human chattel.

So, bien joué, Sarkozy, Hortefeux, Besson, et cie. For the moment. But this is a dangerous game.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Libé Interview

I'm quoted in Libé this morning on the Roma affair. If you aren't a subscriber, here's what I said:

Cette affaire des Roms dégrade-t-elle l’image de la France aux Etats-Unis ?

Oui… dans la mesure où elle est connue. Il y a eu quelques articles dans le New York Times mais on ne peut pas dire que ce soit un sujet dont on parle beaucoup aux Etats-Unis. Tout simplement car nos médias ne couvrent pas beaucoup l’actualité française. Nous avons nos propres problèmes d’immigration, ou la mosquée de Manhattan, qui nous préoccupent bien davantage.

Parmi les Américains qui suivent l’actualité française, comme les lecteurs de votre blog, quelles sont les réactions ?

La plupart sont choqués, comme je le suis, qu’on ait utilisé quelques incidents mineurs, qui dans la vallée du Cher n’impliquaient même pas des étrangers mais des citoyens français, gens du voyage, pour une réorientation complète de la politique de Sarkozy vers le tout sécuritaire. Pour les Américains qui connaissent Sarkozy, ce n’est pas une complète surprise. On l’avait déjà vu procéder ainsi durant sa campagne électorale. Mais on pouvait aussi espérer qu’il avait changé, après l’avoir vu tendre la main à la communauté musulmane ou nommer des ministres issus de l’immigration comme Fadela Amara. Avec l’approche de l’élection de 2012, Sarkozy semble maintenant revenir à l’agitation de boucs émissaires.

Eric Besson a plaidé la semaine dernière que Barack Obama lui même ferait un scandale en France, pour avoir envoyé 1500 hommes en renfort à la frontière mexicaine…

Ce parallèle est inacceptable. Les Roms ont parfaitement le droit de venir en France puisqu’ils sont citoyens de l’Union européenne. Les Mexicains qui tentent de franchir la frontière américaine sont des illégaux qui prennent de grands risques pour venir aux Etats-Unis. Même d’un point de vue humanitaire, la décision de Barack Obama peut se justifier pour préserver ces immigrants de la mort dans le désert.
Il est vrai que l’opinion française est très réactive, peut-être trop parfois. Mais il est clair pour moi que Sarkozy voulait provoquer ces réactions excessives de la gauche, pour faire revenir la droite dans son camp. Je pense que les réactions excessives faisaient partie de l’objectif de Sarkozy.

I've already heard from one Parisian friend who isn't too happy with my remarks, perhaps because I speak of an "overreaction" of the Left that Sarkozy may have sought deliberately to provoke. I include myself in this allegation of  "overreaction," since I assumed initially that the Roma, being European citizens, had the right to stay in France indefinitely, when in fact there is a three-month limitation with exceptions for those who have found employment or are seeking employment. But what I really meant was that the Left overreacted by ignoring the authentic anxieties of the French. Its record on dealing with crime and managing integration is in fact better than that of the Right, and it needs to remind people of this while continuing to defend the legitimate rights of immigrants. I could have said this better. Fortunately, Bernard Girard already has, here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Who Said That?

Playing against type:
C'est en tant que Française et sans complexe que je dis qu'il peut y avoir de la délinquance par défaut d'intégration, et que le crime n'a pas de couleur. Cessons donc d'opposer les Français les uns aux autres, au profit d'un meilleur vivre ensemble !

-- Rachida Dati (UMP)


Rien n’a changé, et pourtant tout a changé. Changé, le regard sur les autres – Roms, gens du voyage, immigrés, musulmans… Changé, le regard sur la France, pays qui jadis avait des repères, des principes. Changé, notre regard sur nous-mêmes, entre citoyens français et "citoyens d’origine étrangère" quand l’article premier de notre Constitution "assure l’égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d’origine, de race ou de religion".

Il ne s’agit pas là de simples détails, car nous ne pouvons oublier, au-delà de l’indigne, jusqu’où peuvent conduire ces jeux-là. Erreur, dit le philosophe… Non! Faute. Faute morale, faute collective commise en notre nom à tous, contre la République et contre la France. Il y a aujourd’hui sur notre drapeau une tache de honte.

-- Dominique de Villepin (UMP)

Il faut "rétablir la police de proximité , car la délinquance en banlieue vire au grand banditisme, au trafic de drogue à grande échelle avec l'apparition de stocks d'armes. Mais comment combattre ? On a supprimé dix mille postes de policiers depuis 2002.

-- Henri Emmanuelli (PS)

France and the Ratings Agencies

Nicolas Sarkozy recently called an emergency meeting of his economic team to deal with the perceived threat of a downgrade of French sovereign debt by ratings agencies, especially Moody's. But why? Paul Krugman notes that eight years after Japan was downgraded, it can still borrow at 1 percent. Economic policy should not be guided by fear of the ratings agencies' wrath.

Of Prefects and Patronage

Now that Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to stake his presidency on le tout sécuritaire, it's not surprising to see policemen being named prefects. Bernard Girard reflects on the consequences of this choice and, more generally, on Sarkozy's penchant for relying on men and women who owe their careers to him--appointees who, under the Ancien Régime, would have been known as ses créatures. I have nothing to add to Bernard's astute comments on the way in which this style of governance induces phénomènes de cour.

I do have one additional observation, though. Sarkozy is by no means the first French leader to opt for this manner of rule, and Éric Le Douaron, the ex-cop, is not the first prefect of the Isère to be a favorite of the prince. Indeed, he was preceded in this very post two centuries ago by the illustrious mathematician Joseph Fourier, for whom the Fourier series and transform are named. An admirer of Napoleon who became one of his favorites, Fourier quit his chair at the École Polytechnique in 1806 when Napoleon named him prefect and sent him to Grenoble. Would that all créatures du pouvoir were as prodigious in their contributions to knowledge as the former prefect of the Isère.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hortefeux Joins the Tea Party

Why do I find Brice Hortefeux so antipathetic? Let me count the ways. Here's one:

BH: La société bouge, la délinquance évolue. Il y aura donc autant de textes, de lois, de règlements que la réponse au défi de la protection des Français l'exige. Je n'ai aucun complexe là-dessus. Que certaines voix de la gauche milliardaire aient du mal à le comprendre ne me trouble pas du tout, bien au contraire !

Le Monde: Le peuple contre les élites, n'est-ce pas simpliste ?

BH: Sur les questions de sécurité et d'immigration, le message des Français au printemps était limpide. Nous ne sommes ni sourds ni aveugles. Seul Saint-Germain-des-Prés ne le comprend pas.

Dany's "Lassitude"

Bravitude was the word that weighed on the Left in the last presidential election; lassitude may be the word for 2012. Lassitude is Daniel Cohn-Bendit's choice to describe his own political mood in the summer of 2010. It's by no means clear from this distance exactly what DCB's analysis of the situation is, but a few points emerge from his recent remarks. First, he does not believe that an ideological "anti-capitalist" platform can beat Sarkozy. Second, he doesn't think that point-by-point rejection of the program of the Right suffices to define a program of the Left. For instance, he refuses to defend categorically the age of 60 as the legal retirement age and says that "workers should be free to choose" when they want to retire. His fatigue seems to stem from his inability to persuade les Verts and Europe Écologie that they are on the wrong track.

It's hard to imagine a "fatigued" Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Energy has been his defining characteristic. But it's not hard to imagine being worn down by intraparty squabbling. "My political future is behind me," DCB said this week. If so, it's not a good omen for French politics. The French Left faces a structural problem if it wishes to gain power at the national level. Its divisions are such that it cannot win without carving out une force d'appoint in the center. To do this, it needs to devise a plausible new political line and subdue some of its more extreme voices for the duration, at least, of the campaign. Out of la nébuleuse écologiste one might have hoped to see the consolidation of such une force d'appoint. As Cohn-Bendit's lassitude increases, the chances of such a consolidation are evaporating.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chabot Is Out

Arlette Chabot, longtime news director at France2, has been ousted. Veteran readers of this blog will recall her widely reported spat with Nicolas Sarkozy back in 2009. It was rumored then that she would not remain in her job for long, but she survived almost a year. Of course Sarkozy's various disagreements with her may have had nothing to do with her ouster. But then again ... When the executive exerts as much control over the state news media as in France, Fats Waller's dictum is always pertinent: "One never knows, do one?"

Selon les informations du "Monde", Arlette Chabot a été "relevée de ses fonctions" de directrice de l'information de France 2 et va quitter son poste la semaine prochaine.

French Mathematics

Two French mathematicians, Ngo Bau Chau and Cédric Villani, have been awarded the prestigious Fields Medal. The politicians and newspapers are crowing. But seriously, is there something distinctive about the way in which mathematics is taught in France to account for French overrepresentation at the highest levels of mathematics? I think the answer may be yes, and I speak with some knowledge of the subject: my Ph.D. is in math, and my thesis drew on the work of a number of great French mathematicians, including René Thom and Jean-Pierre Serre. But more important than the way in which mathematics is taught, perhaps, is its place in the French cultural pantheon. My impression, perhaps erroneous, is that mathematics is held in higher esteem in France than in most other countries, with the possible exception of Russia. The first question asked of a mathematician in France is not, What is your work good for? Abstraction is valued. Art for art's sake is a concept that is understood, if honored perhaps more in the breach than the observance. In any case, it's good to hear French mathematics talked about again as something other than the basis of financial engineering.

How Should the Roma Be Treated?

A commentator suggests that there are no easy solutions.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Amusing

An amusing souvenir of recent history:



Quand Hortefeux et Besson s'affrontaient à la télévision
Uploaded by lemondefr. - News videos from around the world.

Business as Usual

Sarkozy's preference for publicity over policy is obvious to everyone:

The thing is, none of this is really all that unusual. The French government regularly shuts down the camps and expelled 10,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria last year alone. Since, as EU citizens, the Roma are free to travel to France without a visa (though not to live there permanently) and still face far less discrimination there than in Eastern Europe, many of them simply return a short time later. But this time Sarkozy has made the expulsions the centerpiece of a larger law-and-order campaign. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Context

John Vinocur sees a wider European context for the recent French crackdown on immigrant nonconformity and criminality.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Henry Rousso on "Republican Denaturalizations"

Henry Rousso, one of the leading historians of the Vichy period, cautions against ill-considered comparisons of Sarkozyan "securitism" and Vichy xenophobia. Nevertheless, he rejects any suggestion that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds (read the whole piece; it's worth the time):

Tradition et nouveauté. Les mesures xénophobes actuelles du gouvernement s'inscrivent certes dans une longue filiation, dans une tradition française bien antérieure à Vichy. Lorsque Christian Estrosi déclare «Français ou voyou, il faut choisir», il énonce sans ambiguïtés une conception de la Nation qui se réfère à une forme fantasmagorique de pureté, avec son corollaire immédiat: le désir de purification, lequel a constitué par exemple l'un des traits de l'idéologie maurassienne, reprise par Vichy. Mais cette nouvelle xénophobie d'État s'inscrit dans un contexte qui n'est plus seulement national, une partie de ces mesures existant aujourd'hui dans d'autres pays européens ou en Amérique du Nord. Elles ressortissent à une tension qui n'est plus celle des années trente, marquées par une profonde crise des réfugiés, de nature politique, et limitée au continent européen, mais à une incapacité de gérer les flux migratoires à l'échelle mondiale, dans lesquels la dimension politique est sans doute moins forte que la dimension économique et plus encore l'attrait que continuent de représenter nos pays développés malgré la crise. Par définition, une tradition se refonde, se réinvente, se réactualise. C'est ce qui semble se passer sous nos yeux. Et, à cet égard, il est inquiétant malgré tout de voir à quel point les héritages négatifs du passé ne constituent plus un frein dans la conscience collective contemporaine.

How Much Is Woerth Worth?

Sorry, I couldn't resist. But there does seem to be a discrepancy between the €3,000 monthly revenue reported on a loan application and the €16,000 he actually earns as minister and mayor of Chantilly. Another scoop for Mediapart? Or a sign of the "fascist" newspaper's acharnement against "an honest man?"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Security"

We Americans have become only too familiar with the ways in which the word "security" can be used to justify actions that only recently were thought unthinkable, or attributed in popular fiction and film exclusively to villainous enemies. With the latest outbreak of le sécuritarisme sarkozyste, France is making the same discovery. More than a few stomachs have been turned. See here for the reaction of a UMP deputy of Villepiniste tendencies and here for the strictures of a magistrate.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Krugman on the Retirement Age Debate

Paul Krugman weighs in on the issue of raising the retirement age. He's against it, mainly because of disparities in the life expectancy of rich and poor:

Finally, disparities in life expectancy have been rising sharply, with much smaller gains for disadvantaged socioeconomic groups and/or those with less education than the average. Yet these are precisely the people who depend most on Social Security.

Juppé Tackles Sarkozy

Alain Juppé is not happy with Sarkozy's sécuritaire turn. The country is not in flames or awash in blood, he says. Let's not exaggerate. And then he quotes Montesquieu to good effect:

« Je rappellerais volontiers […] cette belle maxime de Montesquieu : “Quand il n'est pas nécessaire de faire une loi, il est nécessaire de ne pas en faire.”
La priorité sécuritaire ne doit pas non plus conduire à des exagérations, peu compatibles avec nos valeurs fondamentales. »

Claws Out

The most savage comment yet on Sarkozy's attack on les Roms, from an unexpected but witty quarter. And a characteristically witty and informative analysis from Eolas.

Double Dip?

As deflationary fears gain traction in the US, we see that prices actually declined in France by 0.3% last month, and industrial production is down. Not good signs.

Fighting Words

"Racist" is of course an incendiary word. The UN Committe for the Elimination of Racist Discrimination did not exactly call France a racist country. It did, however, say that France "lacked political will" in the fight against racial discrimination. But Claude Guéant isn't worried: for him, the committee is not the UN, just a group of individuals expressing themselves individually. This posture conveniently allows him to avoid the substance of the charge or the role of recent presidential verbiage in eliciting it.

The End of Social Mixing?

Bernard Girard offers some astute observations on the absence of social mixing in France (but applicable to other countries as well).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fassin on Polling

Do polls reflect public opinion or construct it? For Eric Fassin's take, see here.

Slow News Month

Nick has taken off with Carla for 3 weeks on the Riviera, so the news is slow and the beard is long. But have no fear: the pressing business of the state is being attended to by the loyal minions, who were busy this morning busting up a camp of Roms.

You know, it was more fun covering the Sarko presidency when things were still looking up, and it all fit together. Speedboats on Lake Winnipesaukee and tax breaks for the rich; getaways to Luxor the Mediterranean Union; shuttle diplomacy with Moscow and standing ovations from the US Congress. Today's juxtapositions are a bit jarring by contrast: rafles among the gypsies and imitations of raffish rock producers on the Riviera.

Edgar Morin

André Burguière looks back on the career of Edgar Morin.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lutetia Sold to Israeli Group

The Hotel Lutetia on boulevard Raspail, where I like to have a late-afternoon apéritif when I'm in Paris, has been sold to an Israeli investment group. During the Occupation it was the Paris headquarters of the German Abwehr. History is fond of irony.

Villeneuve

Steve Erlanger has an excellent piece in the Times about Villeneuve, the Grenoble neighborhood that has been the focal point of recent conflict. It's great to see the Times doing background reporting on social conflict in France. Note to editors: please publish more of this kind of thing.

And please note this line: "The Sarkozy push on security appears to have been well-planned, ready for the spark provided by Villeneuve and another attack on the police in St.-Aignan after a Gypsy was shot dead during another car chase." Indeed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tony Judt, 1948-2010

Tony Judt's death yesterday at 62 of Lou Gehrig's disease was not unexpected. He had been chronicling his own demise for more than a year in the pages of the New York Review of Books. Still, his loss is a blow to all of us who study modern France and to the even larger number of people who looked to him as an articulate and impassioned defender of social democracy. He will be remembered for many things, but for me his most notable books were Past Imperfect, The Burden of Responsibility, and of course his masterpiece Postwar. He will be missed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What Passes for Political Shrewdness

Well, according to Le Figaro, the results are in, and M. Sarkozy has once again demonstrated his tactical brilliance, wrenching victory from the jaws of defeat with his latest crackdowns:

L'Elysée triomphe : un sondage IFOP publié vendredi 6 août par Le Figaro confirme les enquêtes confidentielles du gouvernement : les sondés soutiennent massivement les mesures répressives de M. Sarkozy.

Who's kidding whom? The Élysée has spent the summer sending messages to its two favorite constituencies, the Neuilly set and les Français de souche.

To Neuilly, the message has been: "Don't worry, read my lips, no (or at any rate, not too many) new taxes (you may be required to pony up a bit as quid pro quo for retirement reform, but rest easy, in the end you'll come out ahead). And if you continue to finance the UMP, early and often, you'll be covered for all sins, past and present. We will never give an inch to our persecutors, filthy populists and fascists all." Il ne faut pas désespérer Bettencourt, in the immortal words of Philippe Cohen.

To les Français de souche, supposedly quaking in their boots for fear of being égorgés par les égorgeurs de moutons, the message has been, Hold tight! The cavalry is on the way! And indeed, former police heavyweights have been named prefects; the anti-crime brigade has been sent into the projects of Grenoble armed and flak-jacketed like troopers in Iraq, to haul out a handful of teenagers, all of whom were released the next day; and some Gypsies may be forced to take to the road from the Périphérique to Pontoise, or vice versa (as though they didn't have the habit already).

As de Gaulle might have said, Quelle mascarade!

Times Blasts Sarkozy

The New York Times blasts Sarkozy for his latest verbal outrages, comparing his proposals to attempts by the American right-wing to repeal the 14th Amendment and deny jus solis.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Don't Offend les Amerloques

Via Trade Diversion:

Guy Michaels & Xiaojia Zhi, 2010. “Freedom Fries,” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, vol. 2(3), pages 256-81, July.
Do firms always choose the cheapest suitable inputs, or can group attitudes affect their choices? To investigate this question, we examine the deterioration of relations between the United States and France from 2002-2003, when France’s favorability rating in the US fell by 48 percentage points. We estimate that the worsening attitudes reduced bilateral trade by about 9 percent and that trade in inputs probably declined similarly, by about 8 percent. We use these estimates to calculate the average decrease in firms’ willingness to pay for French (or US) commodities when attitudes worsened.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Apple Falls Far from the Tree

Who would have thunk? Robert Badinter's son Simon is a talk-radio host in Chicago, IL. There must be a story there, but unfortunately I don't know it. (h/t DB)

Le Débat

Serge Audier reviews the history of the influential journal Le Débat. In large part he is rehashing one of the theses in his book on "la pensée anti-68," which Sam Moyn reviewed here. Much of the intellectual history of the past 40 years is bound up in this saga. For my own take on one aspect of this story, now somewhat out of date (it was written as a response to a polemical piece by Perry Anderson), see here.

And incidentally, Marcel Gauchet, the editor of Le Débat and focal point of Audier's critique, played a large part in the "Benjamin Constant revival," which Jacob Levy discusses here, in a blog post that includes a nice compliment to French Politics. (We intellectuals may live in a small world, but never let it be said that we're not incestuous. I not only wrote the review of Helena Rosenblatt's book, to which Levy refers, I also translated essays for the Cambridge Companion to Constant, which she edited, including part of Gauchet's book on Constant.) As Levy notes, the Constant revival extends well beyond the narrow confines of the Latin Quarter. This is one of many reasons why it can be misleading to write French intellectual history as an exercise in the sociology of small groups or the ethnography of some exotic tribe, although the temptation is permanent, particularly among outsiders gone (almost) native, like myself. The Parisian microcosm may be a basket of crabs, as Audier implies, but political thought continues to matter there in a way that it doesn't in the United States, as Moyn's closing lament makes clear.

"Irregularities"

Christine Lagarde has thus far survived her association with Nicolas Sarkozy with her reputation intact, but Le Canard enchaîné reports that her compagnon, Xavier Giocanti, was formerly associated with a Marseilles venture that has been charged with "irregularities" in connection with a million-euro subvention from the EU.

More Signs of Fraying

Among the ways in which Nicolas Sarkozy proposed to transform France at the beginning of his quinquennat was an income tax deduction on mortgage loans, which was supposed to encourage home ownership. French home ownership rates are low compared with other European countries, so this was an idea with some promise. But it hasn't had the desired effect, though it has proved costly, and the measure is now being rescinded. Ideology meets reality.

Loss of Nationality

The Right is now claiming, contrary to what I asserted yesterday, stripping a person of his or her nationality is constitutional in France and, what's more, that the Left initiated it. This is untrue, as Patrick Weil explains here, but the situation is more complicated than I thought, and the law does permit a person convicted of treason or terrorism to be stripped of French nationality, provided that the loss does not render him stateless. The latter provision was added by Elisabeth Guigou in order to conform with European law on the matter.

Be that as it may, the technicalities are irrelevant. Sarkozy proposes to strip nationalized French citizens of their nationality if they murder a policeman. What is the purpose of such a measure? Is this supposed to add anything to existing laws against murder, attacks on public officials, etc.? Does anyone seriously believe that loss of citizenship is a greater deterrent to murder than the penalties that can already be inflicted? The purpose of this law is not to prevent a heinous crime but to stigmatize a whole category of people as more likely to commit that crime.

Indeed, on the inefficacy of everything Sarkozy has proposed of late, see Bernard Girard.

An extensive comment on stripping of nationality from the think tank Terra Nova can be found here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Irresponsibility

Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal to strip certain criminals of French citizenship has brought the xenophobes out of the woodwork. Thierry Mariani, always a leader in this pack, has proposed extending the punishment to all who have been naturalized for less than ten years and convicted of crimes with sentences of greater than five years. The round numbers make short shrift of the constitutional problem, that any such law creates two classes of French citizens, those whose citizenship status is precarious and the rest--contrary to the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, which states that "all French citizens are equal before the law."

But these dérapages were predictable once the cat was out of the bag. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that they were intended. Each surenchère relaunches the polemic and distracts attention from other issues. And of course none of these measures--even in the exceedingly unlikely case that any of them are enacted, given the likely refusal of the Conseil Constitutionnel to accept them--would have the slightest effect on the "security" of the French. What proportion of crimes is committed by recently naturalized citizens (or wandering gypsies)? But this is the infernal logic of le discours sécuritaire: it is really the "national identity debate" redux. Besson failed in his mission by pretending to have a "debate." Sarkozy has now shown him how the trick is actually accomplished: you seize on some trivial fait divers, invoke the inalienable human right of self-preservation, and direct anger and fear at some disliked and defenseless element of the population, accused without evidence of imperiling the "security" of authentic citizens.

Self-righteous wrath is so much more satisfying than reason, and so less vulnerable to counterargument. For a president of the Republic to encourage it is the height of irresponsibility. Sarkozy is wont to sigh about the heavy burden of his job. He did so only recently in a return visit to shipyard workers. But he shows no sign of having wrestled with the gravity of his latest proposal. The burden of statesmanship having proved too much for him, he has reverted to the more familiar role of streetfighter. No holds barred. For the first time in his presidency, I am frankly appalled.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

(Mis)Outed

Followers of the blogosphere's inner workings may be aware of attacks by various American rightwing sources on an Internet group of journalists and bloggers called "Journolist" (google it if you're not aware of the controversy). In the view of the wingnuts, the members of Journolist were a vast leftwing conspiracy to overthrow the Republic. In the view of Journolisters, they were simply working journalists sharing information and, by and large, broad political sympathies. I wouldn't know, since I wasn't a member of the group. But here's the thing: various sources (here and here), for example, are claiming that I was.

Now, to be sure, I would have been proud to be a member and probably would have found the discussions useful, from what I know of their tenor. But nobody ever asked me to join. Just my luck to be blacklisted by these neo-McCarthyites (see the commenter who says all the named names should not only lose their jobs but should be tried for conspiracy under the RICO law) without having shared in the booty. But perhaps exposing the exposers will do some good.

A word to the conspirators: I'd be happy to join if Journolist is still operating.