Sunday, February 5, 2012

Claude Guéant Unleashes a Furor

Claude Guéant unleashed a furor yesterday by appearing to establish a hierarchy of "civilizations" in which those that allegedly value "liberty, equality, and fraternity" (three innocently chosen words, I'm sure) are ranked above the rest, which he stigmatized as favoring "tyranny, the subordination of women, and social or ethnic hatred." Condemnations were swift:
Dans un communiqué, le Mouvement des jeunes socialistes (MJS) a "condamné les propos" de M. Guéant en lui "demandant "ce qu'il cherchait en s'enfermant dans son discours xénophobe et raciste. Le ministre "se range dans la catégorie de ceux qui différencient et hiérarchisent les hommes, permettant le basculement vers un véritable racisme culturel", ont-ils ajouté.


SOS Racisme a dit, dans un communiqué, "espérer un démenti urgent" de ces propos. "Si ces derniers, très graves, avaient été bel et bien tenus par le ministre de l'Intérieur en fonction, ils marqueraient une nouvelle étape dans une dérive vers des extrêmes inacceptables, structurés notamment par des logiques d'infériorisation de l'Autre".
Guéant, once a faceless bureaucrat, has emerged as Sarkozy's frontman in playing the xenophobia card. I think it is a card that Sarkozy has played once too often, however, and this time the ploy won't work. For one thing, it can't be done by proxy. It was one thing when Sarkozy himself stood on the dalle in Argenteuil and promised to clean out the racaille. He fit the tough guy part, and voters disposed to go for this sort of thing found him believable. Guéant, who doesn't look like a man ready for a fight despite his proven readiness to serve the bureaucratic needs of the tough guy's policies, lacks beauf appeal. He's no match for Marine Le Pen in this arena, whereas Sarkozy was once a plausible replacement for her father.

Furthermore, Sarkozy has tried throughout his presidency to raise "the defense of civilization" as a code word for "rejection of the other." It didn't work when, in Rome, he said that schoolteachers could never replace priests; it didn't work when he cribbed from Edgar Morin a supposed "politics of civilization" as a substitute for the relentless pursuit of a larger GDP. It didn't work when he tried to launch a great debate on national identity built on the idea of a "European"or "Christian" civilization from which Muslims who refused to assimilate would be excluded. And this last, pathetic attempt to borrow from the American Christian right the anathema upon "secular relativism" that Guéant pronounced yesterday before the right-wing student group Uni is similarly doomed to the failure it so richly deserves.

"Sarko l'Américain" seems to want to import "dogwhistle politics" from the United States. France should definitively reject this contribution of American "civilization" to the French debate.

18 comments:

Robert said...

Can xenophobic identity politics work in any event when French voters are so focused on economic issues and the European financial crisis?

bernard said...

Mr Gueant has managed to make the headlines in Southern Africa's TVs including post-apartheid South Africa: we are all grateful to him for giving France this racist reputation.

Robert said...

It remains to be seen whether Gueant's comments will help Sarkozy's standing with the working class, which now seems to be deserting him in droves. According to Liberation, Francois Bayrou, of all people, is polling better than the incumbent among les classes populaires.

http://www.liberation.fr/politiques/01012388093-les-classes-populaires-s-eloignent-de-sarkozy

Anonymous said...

It was at the same meeting that Eric Raoult explained the UNI philosophy: go to the street, get hit in the face (presumably by college students, presumably those who are left-leaning, presumably because you stand for what's hard&true, and are few among the many), lose a tooth but destroy the guy in front of you.
Overall, people who need to be convinced they're "superior" with such speeches tend to be pathetic creeps. Who needs such reassurance? To me, it speaks of the state of disarray the UMP is feeling right now.
When asked about this, Laurent Wauquiez said he didn't know the context but probably Claude Guéant meant "les taliban" - which we all know are a "civilization"...

Anonymous said...

http://zeredac.com/2012/02/05/civilisation-le-piege-de-claude-gueant/

Anonymous said...

Pure journalistic over exaggeration on always the same gutter soup.

What about Syria ? What and where are the comments from the political leaders?

Consternation.

Robert said...

Journalists did not make Gueant's quotes up.

Mitch Guthman said...

Quite apart from anything else, I suspect that the representation of France in some kind of hierarchy of “civilizations” by the words “liberty, equality, and fraternity” quite possibly was a slip of the tongue by Guéant. Praising the competition's slogan and values system hardly seems calculated to impress the xenophobic right in France. I think there were three other words that he could have “innocently chosen” which would have made a far better impression on Marine Le Pen’s voters.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Robert,

The defection of the working and middle classes to both Le Pen and Bayrou is totally unsurprising. There have been some other stories in Liberation and some excellent magazine articles describing this phenomenon, including recent cover stories in Marianne and L’Express which I highly recommend.

Among the four major candidates, I believe that only Bayrou and Le Pen have been consistent in raising issues of concern to those classes and advocating for them. Both Sarkozy and Hollande seem to be totally in thrall to the bankers and quite obviously couldn’t care less about what happens to workers or the middle class. I believe this accounts for the defections of both classes, and particularly of workers to the FN.

I know that recently Hollande’s complacency seems to have been a bit shaken by these defections and he awakened from his stupor to deliver a very good speech and make some promises about protecting workers and the middle class. But now he seems to have gone back to sleep while he waits to see who he will face in the second round (unless the second round turns out to be between Bayrou and Le Pen). He an exceptionally lackluster campaigner and his choice of a campaign headquarters was stupid and appallingly tone-deaf (even as it seems to have perfectly encapsulated his candidacy).

Anonymous said...

Mitch: I agree about the campaign headquarters. I'm still scratching my head about that! However I recall that in 2008, during the Reims fight, someone had suggested that they move the PS headquarters to the 19th arrondissement, and many PS congressmen had protested: what, they'd be SO FAR from the Assemblée Nationale! They'd used a pretty disingenuous point, ie;, that the current building might not be "practical" but at least it was just one metro stop away from the assemblée, which is why the PS headquarters should not be moved to a less affluent area. Of course none of them actually walks or takes the métro there...

Anonymous said...

@Robert:
looks like it's not really working indeed.
http://intox2007.info/?p=4520

last poll, 2nd round, Hollande/Sarkozy = 59% v. 41%

Anonymous said...

Fillon and ministers walked out of parliament over 'Nazi' aftermath of this today, not seen since Dreyfus affair says Figaro. See LCP videos:
http://bit.ly/xEI560

Anonymous said...

@Robert

Journalistic "over exaggeration" means orchestration by and with

Some answer:

http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/raphael-enthoven/guerir-de-claude-gueant-par-montaigne_b_1257466.html?ref=france

Anonymous said...

The reaction to the claim did not seem overblown at all. I know it's France but stating that European civilization is superior to the others would certainly lead to serious problems, at least a public apology from the congressman or the cabinet member. But I can't really imagine it, except from very old racist remnants from the Jim Crow era. It's the claim that was used forever to justify domination of a group by another one (ie. Japanese v. Korean, Afrikaner v. Zulu, etc.) In fact the concept has been examined and debunked since Levi Strauss in the early 40s.
To tell you the truth my first thought was "the most 'advanced' civilization of early 20th century -so it was thought even by Great Britain that used to claim the title - Germany, became that of Nazi Germany".
But I also wondered whether Guéant was playing with the various meanings of "civilization", and is now playing with Sarkozy's politics of civilization for example, or "duty to civilize"??
The man who spoke knows first-hand about the "duty to civilize" and the meaning of civilization. By "apparenté" and by the color of his skin, you understand he's the descendent of men and women kidnapped, to be taken in shackles to the island of Martinique where they worked as slaves. Anyone who's seen Sugar Cane Alley will remember the life his grandparents likely had (the film takes place in the 1930s I think.) And wasn't it a year or two ago that Martinique was shaken with protests over issues of respect and the gouging prices set by a few "béké" families (the same békés as mentioned in the film, a proof that on that island things have not changed that much when it comes to feeling superior by virtue of one's skin color)?
That's the context for what that man said.
I hear him say he would not apologize and I think he said Guéant should be the one apologizing.
BTW I would like to point out that he didn't say Claude Guéant is a nazi (the video is running practically back to back on all news channels, interrupted only by long sequences about the weather, snow, cold, snow days, etc). He said that the thought system that Claude Guéant purports to believe in is the same as the one that led to concentration camps, slavery, and colonialism. Since it was my first thought also, I can't fault him for that.
In the end, though, it's kind of pathetic because right now people are dying from the cold, due to lack of emergency housing or housing, period. Yesterday F2 had a segment about two women, articulate, hard-working, who lived in their car and were freezing. Literally. It felt awful. What happened to Sarkozy's promise that there'd be no one homeless when he'd be the president? Really there's too much of a disconnect between that controversy and what's really going on around us.
(Myos)

Anonymous said...

Funny, someone sent me this:
http://www.laforcedonnelecourage.com/

Anonymous said...

Le président de la région Martinique, Monsieur Letchimy, qui a causé un scandale, répond à LCP:
http://dai.ly/zOr0TE

Robert said...

"Journalistic "over exaggeration" means orchestration by and with"

No one is forcing Mr. Gueant to stay in public life, if he doesn't like criticism.

Anonymous said...

Mr Gueant loves criticism, orchestration was quiet excellent!!! and return as expected!!!
Unfortunately opposition has engulfed in this trap.