Friday, June 3, 2011

Charade?

So what will la Brigade de protection de mineurs learn from Luc Ferry? Probably nothing it couldn't have read in the press some time ago:

 En fait, il a sans doute fait allusion à une rumeur qui a couru lors de la campagne pour les Présidentielles de 1995,  et dont l’Express s’était fait l’écho – pour la démentir. 
Please note the word démentir. Several of you commenters seem to be persuaded in advance that the rumor is nevertheless true. One of you claims that anyone "who had dealings at the rue de Valois knew." Really? How? Was there visible evidence of orgies when you walked into the lobby? Or do you mean, rather, that you knew someone who knew someone who worked at the rue de Valois who gave credence to gossip that might or might not have some basis in fact? Another commenter asserts that the criticism of Luc Ferry shows that the political class is yet again closing ranks. Perhaps. But mightn't it also indicate dismay that a responsible person would choose such an incendiary way to make a grave charge he had never seen fit to make in a more suitable forum than a TV studio?

I'm very much in favor of a higher standard of public morality (see my previous post), but I'm frankly shocked by the eagerness of some of you to leap from délation to condamnation sans appel. Please read a history of the Vichy regime to see the consequences of such credulity.

11 comments:

bernard said...

So long as we are into golden oldies, we all remember the one about the guy who was planning to snuff (all, most of) the elderlies. He turned out to be not so successful after all as life expectancy actually rose. I know who was the guy, but I won't say. Reason is it turns out there were several guys. Check out the French press during the merry summer of 1981. Or check out the US press in very recent years.

meshplate said...

Art, I am not claiming the unnamed person is guilty or that there really has been a cover-up. We don't know, but these serious allegations deserve serious investigation. Surely we have to know more and that is the point. If LF turns out to be simply an idiot repeating some old rumor with no basis, then we can pillory him and perhaps sue him for defamation (of whom I am not sure).

What shocks me is the political/journalistic class's willful defensiveness, its refusal to take what he says seriously, its dismissal of it out of hand. Instead of taking on board the message, it attacks him, and worst of of all is the will to not investigate his claims.

Imagine if he had been the Watergate whistle blower. A person making such allegations has to be sure of what he is doing because he will draw the ire of all the establishment and its journalistic apologists - it is amazing that journalists in France want to take on that role rather than as a counterbalance to the government power. What if he really is a Joe Wilson?

Of course LF could not go to the police without evidence; he was not privy to the cover-up nor did he participate in it, but he does claim to have been privy to accounts made by those who were. What he has done has hopefully forced a genuine investigation into the matter by the police, if not by the press.

Surely we also have to give LF the benefit of the doubt that he very well understands that making such a grave charge without any solid basis will destroy his credibility? Are we really to assume that LF is a suicidal loon out to ruin his own reputation and future? He's what we call a whistle blower in the states. In France, they call that an enemy of the nation, a coward, a slander and pompous fool. I tend to think otherwise.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

And what if LF is just a former minister with an ego, who was suddenly seized with the desire to show that he was once in the loop? So he blurted out something about which he had no actual evidence. As for the journalists, Le Point says it investigated. Perhaps it didn't investigate very energetically. Perhaps what it found didn't meet the high hurdle set by French law for publishing derogatory information about private activities. But we don't know any of this. And the foreign press is not restricted as the French press is, but it didn't relay the rumor either. So perhaps there was nothing to it, or not enough to justify publication.

Anonymous said...

Nuance: Luc Ferry merely exercised a "right" to raise a concern. No one is saying his accusation is the truth. That will be determined by due process. Ferry felt strongly enough to step forward and worry publically. Under previous French "omerta" this would never happen: the right of a concerned citizen to question the morality / behaviour of the powerful, was discouraged, frowned upon, punished, or simply impossible. No one would listen, or take action (media, police, investigators), even if it was a serious allegation. Today in Voice of America, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is quoted as telling French radio the pedo accusations were serious and merited a judicial inquiry. He said public officials should be "above reproach." Bravo.

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/europe/Sex-Scandals-Lead-to-Examination-of-French-Culture-123034998.html

This will not sit well with the Fredo Mitterand, BHL, Polanski, Jack Lang cadres. Luc Ferry is not being given a free pass to smear, he is still bound by laws, and will be forced to defend himself and make a case before investigators. Nothing irresponsible here, so far. And nothing like the denounciations of Jews in fascist, Vichy France. Let's keep a sense of proportion.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Yes, let's keep a sense of proportion. Luc Ferry's allegation had been raised before. He had the right to raise it again, of course, but could have chosen a more suitable venue. And those who conclude that a charge previously and previously investigated, only to be dismissed, is perforce true because it is raised again, this time on TV rather than in the press, are encouraging slander rather than a healthier attitude toward sex crimes.

meshplate said...

Maybe you can post links to what Le Point investigated years ago. This is not something I have seen elsewhere, only something you have said. But even if Le Point concluded that these allegations (assuming they refer to the same matter) were unsubstantiated, Ferry, it seems to me, is saying that there is reason to believe otherwise. Le Point's investigation is not the same as a police investigation. You can dissimulate to a journalist; doing so to a policeman is a serious matter.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

How can I link, Meshplate? The whole point is that Le Point heard the rumors that "everybody knew," investigated them, and THEREFORE DECIDED NOT TO PUBLISH. To publish an unsubstantiated rumor is to propagate it. Responsible journalists don't write that "we have heard that so-and-so is a reprobate, but we don't believe it." But this is what you are extolling as a desirable state of affairs. Publish all rumors in order to put pressure on the authorities with subpoena power. Think where this will lead.

meshplate said...

What I was hoping to find out is the basis for your claim that this is an old allegation that Le Point failed to substantiate. All I was asking is to know the basis of your claim? I didn't give it much thought.

My own personal experience is that it was the talk of the town in the French community in Bangkok in 1992 ( I was there and heard it from people myself) that a government minister had come to Bangkok for purposes of sexual tourism. There was also talk of underage partners. Did I believe what I heard? Yes? Do I have proof? No..... Am I defaming anyone? I am not.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

My source is in the quoted passage, which says that L'Express (sorry, not Le Point) investigated **pour démentir**.

As for your 1992 rumor, who might that have concerned? The rumor about JL involves Morocco, not Thailand. The story about Frédéric Mitterrand in Thailand was told by himself, in his book, before he was a minister. So your own evidence demonstrates the flimsiness of these stories. Minister? Not minister? Thailand? Morocco? 2006? 1992? It doesn't matter: it's all grist for the rumor mill. Tous pourris. This is absurd.

bernard said...

It's not absurd. It's called "une campagne électorale à la française".

meshplate said...

I am speaking about a completely independent incident. Yes, a Minister in office in 1992. Why is it absurd? It's what was told to me; I was shocked at the time, shocked not only that he would allegedly do it, but apparently also knowing there was no reason to worry about getting away with it. Is this an unsubstantiated rumor? Yes, I will insist on that myself. I can't say I heard on highest government authority either. But I heard it over and over in the context of a very small French journalistic/embassy community. It was the talk of the town. The US sent the Pacific fleet to Thailand for shore leave r and r after the first Gulf War for goodness sakes. And you can be sure they didn't do that simply because there are nice beaches there either. Why do I bring it up? To say that I still today don't doubt what I heard, and because of the apparent impunity suggested by the alleged events. Personally, I would like to see the PS in power, so I have no dog in this fight.