Sunday, December 29, 2013

"La quenelle" d'Anelka

Who knew what a "quenelle" was (apart from the dinner table, of course) until the French striker Nicolas Anelka, who plays for the British football club West Bromwich Albion, used the gesture twice to celebrate goals in a game on Saturday? It turns out that the touching of the right shoulder with the left hand while the right arm is stretched straight down at one's side is a gesture used by the anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné, allegedly as an inverted parody of the Hitler salute. The French interior minister Manuel Valls has threatened to ban performances by Dieudonné on the grounds that they may occasion public disturbances:
Il annonce qu'une circulaire sera adressée aux préfets « dans les prochains jours, en tout cas avant la tournée » de l'humoriste qui commence à Nantes le 9 janvier. « A l'occasion de chaque spectacle, ils devront apprécier si le risque de trouble est caractérisé et justifie d'interdire la représentation », explique le ministre, qui note toutefois qu'« arriver à l'interdiction peut prendre du temps ».
Anelka's coach pretends that the player did not know the significance of his gesture:
“I’m aware of it, but it has got nothing to do what is being said,” Downing said at his postgame news conference. “It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well. He uses it in his act and I think speculation can be stopped now. It is absolute rubbish really. He is totally unaware of what the problems were or the speculation that has been thrown around. He is totally surprised by it.”
This, alas, is disingenuous at best, since if Anelka "knows [Dieudonné] very, very well," he cannot be unaware of the comedian's sulfurous reputation. The whole episode reeks in every respect. One can only shake one's head at the absurdity of a black athlete and black comedian borrowing a gesture associated with the Front National, which must regard them, to borrow the Stalinist phrase, as "useful idiots." And of course the interior minister's reflex, which is not peculiar to Valls but is a common reaction in France, to respond to Dieudonné's provocations by banning him only allows him to play the victim of the "Establishment" to which he claims his "quenelle" is a riposte.

What a sad commentary on the state of the European mind 75 years after Kristallnacht.


Addendum: See here for Dieudonné and Anelka together doing the "quenelle." (h/t Martin O'Neill).