Friday, February 8, 2008

Spin

Le Figaro has a perfidious piece on Ségolène Royal's visit to the US. It leads with the insinuation that she was somehow snubbed by Barack Obama because she attended his rally without obtaining a picture of herself with the candidate. I said yesterday that I would not share my private impressions of Mme Royal, but in this case I will make an exception, because I had a conversation with her about the Obama rally. It came up because I asked her if she was following the American election campaign--it was Ash Wednesday, the day after super-Tuesday in our Christian political calendar--and she told me how interesting it had been to watch Barack in action and to see the crowd's reaction to his unique speaking style. To my mind, it was entirely to her credit that she went to the rally out of curiosity, without a VIP invitation, and that she had enough interest in the United States and American politics to rub shoulders with the ordinary people who had turned out in large numbers to hear Obama speak at Faneuil Hall, the cradle of American liberty.

I have no idea whether or not she had tried to obtain an interview with Barack, but for Le Figaro without evidence to imply that she did in order to make insinuations about her insignificance is nasty and underhanded and a fine example of the media bias that is so often decried in France. And then to continue the article with the waspish comments of rival Socialists is to complete a job of character assassination of which François-Xavier Bourmaud should be ashamed. Even the photograph, which shows Ségo in front of a blackboard filled with graphs and equations at MIT, contributes to the sandbagging: it doesn't take a semiotician to recognize that one is meant to infer a stark contrast between the higher reaches of the intellect and the "pretty face, sans plus," alongside.

A wretched piece of journalism.

19 comments:

Scott Guye said...

A very nice commentary Art. Imagine The French left's CHOSEN candidate not being given the true VIP treatment they feel she deserves.

I definitely agree it reflects a purity of interest rather than an attempt to get publicity.

Anonymous said...

Le Figaro est un journal de "droite conservateur" très Sarkoziste (Nicolas Sarkozy) pur sucre!

Il a mené la guerre contre Ségolène Royal pendant toute la campagne et continue après. Son objectif est de continuer à tout faire pour tenté d'affaiblir Ségolène Royal, faire tout pour qu'elle ne soit pas en mésurer de porter le fer contre Sarkozy pourvoir et... dans la perspective de la bataille du contrôle du parti-socialiste et surtout de 2012.

Alors il s'emploie à jouer les rivalités au sein du PS et ouvre largement ses pages à tous ceux qu'on trouve comme opposants notoires de Royal au PS qui peuvent s'y exprimer.

Ce n'est même plus du journalisme qu'ils font mais de "la médiocrité écrite"

Un progréssiste n'a rien à trouver dans le Figaro !

KJS said...

Art, Thank you for your forceful comments. In France we observed this kind of unfair treatment of Ségolène Royal throughout the campaign - a kind of perfidious undermining of her capacities. I had reacted to a TF1 reportage of her trip to Israel in December 2006. She and Tzipi Livni had dinner together and this was coined, in the reportage, as “un diner entre filles”! I wrote to the station and received some polite automated answer back. By the way, I always write out Ségolène Royal’s name in full, to give her abasic identity equal to any male competitor. KJS

ZÉLIE said...

You don't know Ségolène Royal she came to America
to Harvard only for publicity. She tried to meet Obama
to show her pretty face to the press.... in France
She is full of spite, her political projects change now
and then according to the polls, she lied so many
times that she is not trustworthy. The reality is she
doesn't work her files,that make her incompetent
Ps coming from a french-american active democrat

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Zélie,
I think I know Ségolène Royal at least as well as most French voters. I do study French politics quite seriously. So I have an idea of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses, and if you'll read back over the past posts, you'll see that I'm hardly uncritical of her. But I think it's only fair, when one accuses a person of "lying" and "incompetence," to give concrete evidence and examples, not to make blanket generalizations.

Annick said...

She lied about the minimum wage, the hours of working time, her family. During her mandate as
"ministre" she clammed she helped the handicap
children, her successor did it . She is remembered
only trying to forbid the string at school and jailing
before inquest all teachers accused of being pedophile, one who was innocent killed himself

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Annick,
Yes, and I believe I mentioned the matter of the minimum wage in my post. Yes, she didn't say that she and Hollande had split, but then Sarkozy didn't tell us the true nature of his relations with Cécilia either--and I thought the French believed in the separation of private and public life. Nevertheless, I agree that candor would have been preferable. Apportioning credit among ministers for what is eventually enacted into law is always a tricky exercise. As for le string (thong) affair, I think one might say that those who remember her only for that are neglecting her much broader concern with the matter of demeaning women in advertising, TV, film, etc. You might agree or disagree with her concern, but to reduce it to a matter of banning a particular item of underwear is to trivialize by ridicule, and I regard it as unfair, even though I'm not sure that this is an area in which government can do much to reverse societal trends. As for the treatment of pedophiles, I recall a good deal of hysteria in France and elsewhere in Europe on the subject, and we have had similar hysteria here in the US. The public pressure to do something was intense. Of course a statesman should resist misguided public pressure, but I don't think an individual can be held responsible for a failure that involved many, many people and institutions.

ZÉLIE said...

The terrible story of innocent citizens from Outreau
has nothing to do with the poor teacher who committed suicide , at first, when he was released from jail,she claimed the boy accuser changed his
testimony under the pressure of the school,the parents the city and the county where she reigns
I agree with you,she is not only a pretty face, only
the most incompetent, superficial candidate that
we in France had seen

aps said...

Thank you, Art, for your equinimity in responding to Zelie and Annick. I would not have the patience.

Anonymous said...

J'ai lu et relu l'article du Figaro et je ne vois pas le problème. Non, franchement, il n'est ecrit ABSOLUMENT NULLE PART que Obama "a rejeté Ségolène Royale". Il est simplement écrit que Ségolène Royale aurait bien aimé pouvoir ramener une photo en France d'elle et d'Obama. Ce qui est absolument vrai. Il ne faut pas être à ce point naïf. TOut homme ou femme politique qui se respecte aime à se montrer aux côtés de personnalités qui ont le vent en poupe.
C'est vous qui faîtes un mauvais procès au Figaro en lui prêtant des phrases qu'il ne publie pas. MAis peut-être est-ce un problème de traduction ?

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Anonymous, vous écrivez:
"Il est simplement écrit que Ségolène Royale aurait bien aimé pouvoir ramener une photo en France d'elle et d'Obama. Ce qui est absolument vrai."

Que savez-vous des désirs de Ségolène Royal? Comment pouvez-vous affirmer avec certitude ce qui est "absolument vrai"? Vous voulez dire plutôt que, selon vous, ce serait parfaitement logique qu'elle ait un tel désir. Mais la naïveté est de croire qu'en faisant de cette hypothèse--plausible, admettons--la base de son article, ce journaliste n'aurait pas voulu suggérer ce qu'il n'essaie même pas de prouver, et ce dans le seul but de jeter le discrédit sur la femme qu'il prend pour cible. Il n'y a pas de problème de traduction. Je le dis comme je le vois. Et supposons qu'elle n'y soit pas allé justement pour prévenir une attaque de ce genre. Elle se serait privée alors d'une expérience enrichissante; elle aurait fait preuve tant de lâcheté devant les média que de manque de curiosité, défauts graves dans un leader politique.

Anonymous said...

"Je le dis comme je le vois"

Et bien alors, tout le monde est d'accord. Vous émettez des hypothèses, j'émets des hypothèses et le Figaro émet des hypothèses...

Mais Sainte Ségolène éclairez nous de votre douce et merveilleuse lumière, pour que nous puissions y voir clair dans cette tartufferie politique !

Enfin, c'est tout à votre honneur de défendre cette femme si compétente...

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Anonymous,
Vous tombez tout de suite dans le langage bien rodée de dénonciation: l'incompétence, la tartufferie, la sainteté. C'est bien sûr votre droit absolu. Mais votre colère quand quelqu'un résiste ces facilités de dénonciation me laisse froid. Quand Mme Royal exprime un point de vue incohérent, je le dis. Voir, par ex., ici.

Je ne suis donc pas Ségolèniste, comme vous supposez. Mais je n'aime pas du tout un certain style de diffamation qui est bien trop courante en France des deux côtés de l'échiquier politique.

Anonymous said...

J'ai oublié...

Vous écrivez que Ségolène Royale gagne du crédit à avoir été épaules contre épaules avec les "ordinary people"...
Si mon anglais n'a pas encore complétement disparu et que je ne commets pas de contre-sens monstrueux, je dirais que c'est parfaitement insultant pour vos compatriotes américains.
Est-elle si "supérieure" ? Vous semblez avoir une faible estime du mortel des communs...

Je pense que mes posts ne vont sûrement pas vous aider à les estimer davantage, mais c'est tellement risible le point de vue de grands "hommes" sur les petites gens dont je fais partie.

Enfin, j'espère ne pas trop vous froissé sur votre propre blog. Au pire, vous pourrez exercer un peu de censure...

Anonymous said...

Ce n'est pas parce que je vous contredis que je suis en colère. Avoir un peu de répondant n'est pas interdit... pas encore en tous cas. Je souris beaucoup en écrivant si cela peut vous rassurer.

Si votre blog est là pour pouvoir parler de la vie politique en France, je vous donne mon avis à la fois sur votre article qui me semble donner une crédibilité naïve à cette femme, et sur la vie politique en France en général, à savoir une gauche qui se tire joyeusement dessus plutôt que d'exercer une véritiable et constructive opposition, une destruction à laquelle égolène Royale participe activement.

Stan said...

Hi, I have just discovered you blog and I want to congratulate you or it!
What you said about the Figaro article is sadly the truth...French medium are sometimes really bad (and most often...), and it is a really bad news for our democraty to have to read foreign press if we want to have some good and well founded analysis about our public life.
The "Fig" isn't worse than the other daily newspaper, but since some months it is becoming worse and worse. It is afraiding me.

Ps: The men who is writting here is a right student, who has voted for Sarkozy last year (but without any enthousiasm)
Ps: Please excuse my poor english!

gerard said...

Dear Sir,

I think you should have a global look at the Figaro website.

I do everyday. If something is clear, it is that the main titles are just describing, line after line, the complete disintegration of Our President.

I humbly suggest you to have a look at the piece about election in the former city of Our President to appreciate the so-called support to the existing majority from their journalists.

At the moment, the general tone of this paper looks like what we could expect from troskist fanzines. Much more engaged than the supposedly centerleft papers like Le Monde or Liberation (never ending fans from Reagan policy in central america or anywhere else) who are in desperate needs from state support or refinancing.

Just go and check.

Concerning Mrs Royal. She is clearly, like Our President, in a cartoon-like posture. The difference is that the president clients expect him to defend their vested interests. Royal adresses peoples that are, at least for part of them, trying to go further and consider solidarity values.

After the proof that the socialist party and the rightwing are in accordance for the ratification of the european treaty, and the support of Royal to such an attitude, it will be very difficult for her (quite an understatement) to have any kind of chance to rally enough support from the real left electorate. She's burnout.

As for the press. I am afraid that the Figaro is quite moderate on her.

Sarkozy is a Star but she joins to cast off the limit of the unbelievable.

pcrt said...

Merci pour votre analyse éclairée M. Doghammer. Au delà des polémiques, elle reste très instructive sur les procédés de manipulation de certains journalistes.Et les Français (entre autres...) vont devoir être très vigilant avec leur presse dans les temps qui vont venir face à la stratégie ( hidden agenda ?...)de ses nouveaux patrons.

Caroline said...

Dear Sir,
I should thank you for taking interest into French politics for such a long time. I would rather find it quite uninteresting nowadays. When I look at our political representatives, our medias, our political so-called analysists... I sometines fell into despair. I sincerely hope we will not totally surrender to this wave of vulgarity and intellectual cheapness.
However, about your comment on Le Figaro, France has a strong history of virulent, verily violent, arguments over political issues, opposing right and left wings. Le Figaro is strongly rooted on the right side of the spectrum, "the rightest, the better" may be their motto. On the other side, Libération ou L'Humanité are leftists, the latter being close to the Communist party. I would call this freedom of speech and opinions. Someone who reads those papers knows exactly what he will find.
And it seems to me that US medias can be as subjective as French ones. Would you call Fox News objective and independant ? or maybe you don't consider this as an informative media.
Moreover, women in France haven't yet acquired a real status, on a political and professionnal level at least. The legacy of Simone de Beauvoir, and of the feminists movements has never being taken seriously. We cannot forget that France is a male-driven, catholic-rooted country. There is still work to achieve... But I don't think Ségolène Royal would be of any help on this matter. On the contrary.