Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Roger Cohen, Recidivist

I have bashed Roger Cohen before. I might have forgone today's opportunity, except that a commenter begs me to go after his offensive screed (NY Times paywall). And offensive it is: the innocent Mr. Cohen seems to believe that the French have some sort of monopoly on conspiracy theories. He must never have run across a Kennedy assassination buff, a Birther, or a Ron Paulist perusaded that the Federal Reserve and the Trilateral Commission are in cahoots with South African gold and diamond interests. Indeed, it's a bit early to be certain of what happened in Suite 2806, since very little information has been released publicly. So if Mr. Cohen wants to indict entire nations for crimes of credulity, he had better be careful about giving testimony that might one day be used to convict Americans.

11 comments:

brent said...

"Conspiracy theories are the refuge of the disempowered" ... and Roger Cohen is in this instance the last conspiracy theorist left standing, with his phantasm of a French statist (Napoleonic!) anti-American cartel of opinion makers. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Roger Cohen is lucky he didn't participate in a forum where I used to go, which was totally spoiled by a committed Larouchist (from the US, of course), pasting screed after screed explaining that everything, now and in the past, is a sinister plot by the City of London ! Trying to argue with the guy was pointless, nothing could shatter his certainty.

meshplate said...

Exactly right, the US is the home of conspiracy theorists; France is in the minor leagues, but still a player. So his free vs authoritarian society theory is itself rubbish and a flight from reality into tendentious fantasy. However, I can't fault him for bashing BHL.

wm said...

Thanks for the heads up on the NY Times link--I've taken your earlier suggestion and can now figure out when you're linking.

Anonymous said...

I don't much care for Mr. Cohen's caricatures of French society in general, but I would point out that nowhere, in this piece, does he vaunt America or Americans as being any less "disempowered" or conspiracy-theorizing than the French.

And it is indisputable that, with a state so that oversees and guides so much of everyday life, the French expect more from the state - services, in particular, but also explanations for the world they inhabit - than the citizens of other nations.

Cincinna said...

"...A rough rule goes like this: The freer a society the less inclined it is to conspiracy theories, while the greater its culture of dependency the more it will tend to see hidden hands at work everywhere."

Roger Cohen's observation about conspiracy theories makes total sense to me. The greater the hand of government intrudes in the lives of people, and the more dependent people are on government, the more they see the hand of government everywhere.
In that sense, unfortunately, America is becoming more
like France. The difference is that it is not intrinsic in the American system of government. Hopefully, it will be temporary.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cohen is more inspired when he talks on french radio France Inter than when he writes for the NY Times. What kind of journalism is this? He quotes someone he once had dinner with in Paris as if that (stupid) man was representative of the whole country. Why, by the way, doesn't he write the name of the Telecom guy since he (Mr Cohen)is a free (non french) journalist?
Maybe Mr Cohen should go beyond the périphérique and listen to an other kind of people, less parisian/elitist. I am french and like most people here, I don't believe in any "conspiracy" against DSK. But I think citizens (including journalists) should let justice do its job.

Anonymous said...

The French may not have a monopoly on them, but they're pretty quick to roll them out.

Anonymous said...

A simple question: what in the world did Roger Cohen do to deserve his soapbox as French pundit at the New York Times? His articles are so badly written and sloppily reasoned. Who does he speak for? What are his bona fides? I can't figure what sliver of the readership he might represent, since he flip-flops all over the right-left, franchophile-franchophone spectrum, rarely stating a position clearly or convincingly. He really seems to be a provocateur and "sui generis." There are so many American writers who are smarter, better informed on French history, psychology, international relations, etc. Goldhammer, for one. For this the Times wants us to pay subscription fees? I think not.

MYOS said...

I agree with Anonymous above.
A problem with many reporters sent to France is that they live in downtown Paris, which is like trying to understand the US from Central Park west.
Steve Erlanger's doing a very good job there though.

Cincinna said...

Roger Cohen is not a reporter or journalist.
His piece was an opinion piece in the Op-Ed editorial pages of the NYT.