Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bias, Decency, Etc.

My criticism of a Figaro article that in my view was unfair to Ségolène Royal has attracted many new readers to this site in recent days. Quite a few of them are French, who learned of the existence of "French Politics" when my post was translated into French and published on a number of French sites. It has been interesting to me to observe that many of the commenters make assumptions about my intelligence, honesty, and motives similar to the assumptions made about the intelligence, honesty, and motives of Mme Royal.

One writer suggested that I had been suborned by agents of the French government, who have over the years nefariously bestowed honors on me in order to win my favorable opinion of France. Several have thought it necessary to give me lessons in the basics of French politics: we are divided, they tell me, between the Left and the Right, and Le Figaro is a paper of the Right, whereas Mme Royal is a politician of the Left, et alors, que voulez-vous? (Big Gallic shrug.) To some I am clearly a Ségolèniste, no doubt seduced by her beauty and flattery to overlook flaws that, to the writers, are glaringly unmistakable. Yet another commenter explained the article about Ségo by suggesting that Le Figaro had become "a troskist [sic] fanzine," which I'm sure would surprise Trotsky and Serge Dassault as much as it did me.

To which I can only say, vive la démocratie! It's good from time to time to break out of the ivory tower and the confines of a relatively restricted Web audience to discover the full range of political opinion out there. But if I may offer just one word of explanation to discontented readers: it wasn't bias that I objected to in the Figaro article, it was the confident imputation of motives that could not possibly have been known to the writer. I have no objection to newspapers that have partis pris in policy matters. If a writer is persuaded that high payroll taxes are an impediment to growth or that borders need to be tightened or that the ECB should lower interest rates immediately, I say, à la guerre comme à la guerre. I prefer, of course, that opinions be coupled with arguments justifying them, but perhaps that's my academic bias. What I do not like is the imputation of ulterior motives or defective intelligence to explain opinions with which one disagrees. So if I insist that Mme Royal is not a ninny, for some this means that I must have been bought off or afflicted with a pea brain or ignorant of French realities or blinded by lust. No other explanation will do. Forgive me, but I don't think any of these theories is correct.

6 comments:

yabonn_fr said...

I don't think any of these theories is correct.

Neither do I : no pea brained, or ignorant, or anything. But how about : "a little influenced by the Hillary bashing of the campaign at home, and maybe not cautious enough in applying that frame to a different situation" ?


Goldhammerology! New word!

Avistew said...

I know it's a stupid question, and I apologise for asking it, but I've always wondered what "sic" means, and nobody so far has been able to explained to me. It usually sounds to me like a mix of "I quote" and "sigh", but I'm not too sure what it stands for, except that it's probably latin.
As you used it in this post, I thought you'd be able to answer this question. Thanks if you do.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Avistew,
"sic" is Latin for "thus," "just so." In proofreading or text, it means that the misspelled word in the text is just as it was in the original being quoted. For more information, see:
here

Avistew said...

Thank you very much for this information. Because it's so close to "sigh" (at least the way I used to pronounce it: "sig"), I thought people were sighing because of the spelling (or sometimes the content).

The wikipedia article about bacronyms reminds me about how as a kid, I thought "etc" stood for "et tout ça"

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Was the part about the substantive contrast between Jospin and Royal translated into French blogs?

Is it the case that some people are implying that Sen. Obama and Ms. Royal do not have as much substance as they have hallow, fleeting charisma?

Respectfully, I submit that the treatment afforded readers should be more respectful, "umanità", what a concept?

Earlier this week, the discussion about a question posed to Segolene Royal, was practically cast to the wind or opinions (good or bad) were the object of attempts to become the ultimate arbiter of what is plausible to discuss and what should not be discussed?

If you treat some of your readers as pea brains, they might think the same of you, do you catch our drift?

sushi105 said...

hallow?

hallowed?

hollow?

sorry.

je n'ai pas pu resister.