Thursday, July 3, 2008

To See Ourselves as Others See Us

Hat tip to Boz for calling my attention to Der Spiegel's take on the Betancourt release:

There's a second loser in this drama: Nicolas Sarkozy. The French appeared to have been just as surprised as Chavez to hear about Betancourt's release on Wednesday. Paris had only just managed to establish fresh contact with the new FARC leader Alfonso Cano. Sarkozy had hoped that the French could score a coup by negotiating Betancourt's release and flying her directly to Paris. Colombian government officials had spoken reproachingly about what they often deemed to be politically motivated attempts at intervention on the part of the French.

At Marianne, no surprise, Nicolas Domenach is not inclined to cut Sarko any slack:

Nicolas Sarkozy croit à la contagion du bonheur pour faire face aux mauvaises ondes et à la tyrannie du malheur. Le moral se vitamine d'un rien. Les Dieux se retournent d'un souffle. A condition de savoir prendre le vent, d'être capable de démultiplier la force et l'impact du positif dans les têtes comme dans les cœurs. Et ça, le «médiacteur» Sarkozy, sait faire - mieux que personne. Il a donné, feuilletonné, une nouvelle preuve de son talent, dans une mise en scène faite non pas d'hystérie auto-promotionnelle cette fois, mais toute d'émotion, d'amour, de joie, de larmes retenues. Pas de triomphalisme, surtout pas, même si certains conseillers y poussaient. Genre, Vive Sarko le libérateur des infirmières bulgares à Ingrid Betancourt. Gloire à notre Zorro national. C'était risqué et pouvait passer pour obscène. Il valait mieux jouer le familial fusionnel. C'était à la télé hier soir…

But the harshest comment of all comes from Marc Cohen at Causeur:

L’abominable calvaire qu’a vécu Ingrid Betancourt lui a été imposé par son statut de micro-vedette des médias, pas par ses idéaux. Certes il est possible que son exfiltration ait un impact sur les affaires intérieures colombiennes (mais, en vrai, qu’est-ce qu’on s’en fiche ?) ; en revanche, il est certain qu’à l’échelle planétaire, cet heureux dénouement c’est peanuts. Pardonnez-moi de gâcher la fête, mais cette libération-là n’est pas celle de Sakharov ou de Mandela. Il est vrai que, dans ces deux cas, TF1 n’avait pas jugé impératif d’interrompre ses programmes.

Me? I'm glad she's out. I'm equally glad that her suffering will no longer be exploited.


Alex Price said...

Is Marc Cohen serious? I’m all for provocative writing, but it’s too easy if you let yourself say n’importe quoi. Betancourt may have been treated unusually badly by the FARC, but her media profile wasn’t to blame. She was an exceptionally important hostage because she was running for president at the time of her capture. Her high visibility in the French media was partly the result of efforts by her family. Perhaps their strategy backfired and made things worse, it’s not unimaginable, but it’s ridiculous to suggest that Betancourt was as much a victim of the media as of the FARC. And it’s false to say that her kidnapping had nothing to do with her ideals: if she hadn’t been pursuing them, it would never have occurred. She knowingly entered FARC territory, deliberately took a risk, as a matter of principle, to hear her tell it, and there’s no reason to doubt her on this count. So I do think, pace Cohen, that her release represents a small victory for democratic and humanitarian ideals. As for Cohen’s other points, that the Uribe government is rotten, undemocratic, and as implicated in drug trafficking as the FARC, if not more so, and actually the FARC may not be such bad guys, let’s not rush to judgment! – well, forgive me if I’m skeptical.

I do think it’s interesting to try to think about the Ingrid Betancourt phenomenon, and I wish I could do it better. Having seen Melanie Betancourt and other family members I don’t know how many times on France 2, and having read newspaper and magazine articles – in short having followed the story for years now, I was as excited and thrilled even by the news of her release as anyone. At the same time, I’ve been astonished by how much play the story gets in France and by the heroine-martyr status she has achieved. It’s interesting that she mentioned Aung Sung Suu Kyi on her release, because her place in the public imagination bears some resemblance to Suu Kyi’s. Attractive women sacrificed in the fight for democracy. Her story is a fantasy. Her perfectly BCBG family, all of them, even her ex-husband, overflowing with love and concern for her, concern shared at the very highest levels of the state. The king himself frets about her health and deigns to plead with her captors! And she, released through the bold ingenuity of her country’s brave soldiers, declares that she forgives completely those who tortured and held her for six years. The nobility of the sentiments of every right-thinking person is justified by her saintly but still credibly human comportment. Everywhere there is nothing but goodness, altruism, benevolence and justice. This is the play being performed right now in which thousands or millions of us are participants. As any modernist would know, it’s kitsch. But fortunately, I’m not a modernist.

Anonymous said...

en l'occurrence, Nicolas Sarkozy n'a été absolument pour rien dans cette libération.

MYOS said...

Well, Ségolène Royal, you're right, but that's beside the point, only fools would delusion themselves that he had anything to do with the captive's release. (ok, perhaps Nicolas Sarkozy himselves managed to convince himself he had something to do with the "libération"..)
Ok there's been an uproar over that statement but I can't quite understand why.

Alexpri: thank you for your response.

Art: I'm afraid you were too optimistic. "I'm glad her suffering will no longer be exploited"... I foresee countless photo ops by the Sarkozy-Bruni team.

Anonymous said...

Segolène Royal may be right on the facts, but she just sounds mean spirited. The facts that matter are that Betancourt is free and that she credits Sarkozy with keeping up the pressure to get her out. That's how most French voters are going to remember it. Sarkozy's haters will cling to their own unrelenting take, as they do for everything that happens.

Anonymous said...

I am flabbergasted about the controversy. I watched Betancourt on Wednesday and she credited Chirac, De Villepin, and Sarkozy, along with her "comitees". Ingrid Betancourt also believes Americans had nothing to do with the release and that no money was given. It's her right. Anything that brings her comfort is her right.
On the other hand, I find the press motivations irksome and the UMP's murky. My feeling is that the French can't stand having been pushed aside and want to pretend they did "something". Sure, Sarkozy spoke, but to what effect? None whatsoever. If I understand properly he even got into a row with Uribe (which I'd link to a sentence that had puzzled me in Betancourt's address to him: "il faudra reparler à Uribe") At this point, after 2 days of full-time coverage, I feel as if she's been used by him more than anything (I felt different on Wednesday. Some people objected to the children being on camera at Elysée but I defended that choice. I thought Sarkozy was good then, except when he mentioned Gilad Shalit. There I felt as if he'd trumpeted "I've found myself a new hostage to free!"... Negotiations are taking place between Hamas and Israel in Turkey so Sarkozy's name dropping seemed out of place. But overall he was good.)
I really don't understand why stating the obvious is such a problem. Sure President Sarkozy wished he'd done something, but he hasn't.

Alex Price said...

Ségolène’s comment fully meets the definition of a political gaffe as the American journalist Michael Kinsley famously defined it: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.” It seems to me evidence either of her political incompetence or of her particular political talent (or perhaps both). Her comment was a sourly partisan jab that broke with the dominant mood of celebration. And it was a reminder that Ségolène’s main, perhaps sole, contribution to French political life since the election has been a series of pot shots at Sarkozy. That’s all she seems to have to offer these days. On the other hand, her bluntness in this case distinguishes her from the pack. Personally, though not a big Ségo fan, I have a weakness for her “tough” side, and I think it works for her politically.

Anonymous said...

"... she credited Chirac, De Villepin, and Sarkozy,..."
Duh. Two of those won't be running for re-election.
But it may be Delanoe who benefits most from Royal's "gaffe," which suggests once again that she's too focused to get the big picture.

Anonymous said...

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