Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Iowa Primary Viewed from France

The Iowa primary results have been extensively covered in the French press. Many Americans would be surprised by the degree of attention paid to their politics in France. Of course there are errors and approximations at times, as when France2 described John McCain as a "moderate," presumably because he doesn't advocate teaching creationism or rounding up all Mexicans. Would that it were so. Versac, the leading French political blogger, featured the election in several posts and even surveyed some of the American political blogs. Naturally, as a practitioner of the art, I can only applaud the effort to unravel the internal politics of foreign countries. I think political life everywhere could be enriched if there were better understanding of the constraints and pressures driving politics elsewhere. To be sure, the French no doubt feel, rightly, that what happens in America impinges on them more directly than what happens in France impinges on Americans. Still, I cannot help feeling that the almost total American ignorance of French politics, even among those in the government and the media, makes a sad contrast to the lively French interest in the United States.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The way the campaign has been covered, though, often tends to play into the worst caricatures that French people tend to have of the US. I mean the fact Le Monde chose to headline (front page !) on "God playing a huge part in the campaign" (which is, if not untrue, a huge overstatement) is very telling.
Similarly, the coverage seems to underplay the notion that states have different affinities for different candidates (as in why Huckabee is not good material for NH) because it seems so foreign to a French centralist mind.
And of course the parallels between Segolene and Hillary, if completely ridiculous when you look closer at both women, is what sticked in the mind of most people (at least it did in my mom's mind even though I took the time to explain her things from the here-in-America perspective).

PS: How interesting was it that Le Monde wrote an entire piece on a subtribe of the Sioux declaring they were no longer American citizens (a group of 40 breakaway misfits as far as the AP described) and that it was not covered in the larger US newspapers at all. Once again, the way they pick and choose stories play into the prejudices of the French public, which, in this case, tend to have an affinity for the "horrible" way we treated Native Americans.

What that gives us is a little perspective. Our judgement on other countries is always moulded by pre-existing ideas of what we think the other country is like. I am therefore not sure the outside view is any more accurate.

PeakVT said...

"Still, I cannot help feeling that the almost total American ignorance of French politics, even among those in the government and the media, makes a sad contrast to the lively French interest in the United States."

Rampant monoligualism strikes again, though realistically the politics of France should rank below that of Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, and Britain (India? Pakistan?) in importance to Americans. Plus, Americans have the internal politics of 50 states to monitor (not that they do).

Anonymous said...

The French have it exactly correct....John McCain is a moderate. Which is especially true if he were plugged into the French political spectrum for example with LePen way off to McCain's right. But even within the American right he is to the left of all of the major Republican candidates.

Anonymous said...

However will the French deal with the results of these two Democrat primaries in IA and NH?

The French media, controlled by the Left, views America through the lens of Alabama ca 1952. Racist, ignorant, and hateful.

How can that racist America that keeps Black people enslaved elect Barack Obama?

They are long overdue for a reality check about America and American politics and values.

Anonymous said...

tends to play into the worst caricatures that French people tend to have of the US.

I don't see where the Monde uses the "worst clichés". God does play a huge role in the race, or what? As in France faith is a more private matter it makes news here. Where are the clichés?

Anonymous said...

Dear Cincinna,

I don't want to use Art's very good blog to start a rant so I would only correct your views on the assumptions you have that French media are controlled by the Left. As a matter of fact, most big media in France are owned by very large industrial groups, the likes of PPR, Dassault or Lagardere, involved in luxury, construction, wood/paper, weapons and other military industries.

If that helps, I can reassure you that these media owners are not known for their socialistic penchant, rather more the opposite.

I won't correct you on the rest of your assessments but I will mention in passing that it is as exaggeratedly misplaced.

Finally, following with great interest these primaries from my adoptive UK, I was thrilled to see Obama win the first one and admit disappointed to see HC win the second one after having put on a "emotional show". One could be surprised to see that she positions herself as the one with the most experienced and able to deal with the complexities of the White House job from day one but shed a tear at the first primary defeat. I would have thought that a Presidential candidate could take a rough patch on the chin and keep his/her head up without resorting to "emotional" tears.