Thursday, February 5, 2009

Le Torchon Péan

Pierre Péan, the investigative journalist who revealed that Mitterrand had received a medal from Pétain, has a new book attacking foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. There has been a good deal of noise about the book's discussion of Kouchner's work as a consultant to dictatorial regimes in Africa. Less attention has been paid to Péan's own biases and to the questionable techniques he uses to blacken Kouchner's name. He recounts a scene in a restaurant in which Kouchner allegedly stood, hand over heart, while the English national anthem was played at a televised soccer match, while he sat, indifferent, during La Marseillaise. This anecdote supports an allegation that Kouchner is motivated by "le cosmopolitisme Anglo-Saxon," a phrase that harks back to the use of the same word, cosmopolitisme, in the 1930s to accuse Jews of nursing extra-national loyalties. The cover depicts Kouchner arm-in-arm with George W. Bush.

These tactics are not subtle, and Jean-Michel Aphatie exposes them on his blog. Charles Bremner is also worth reading on the subject. Le Monde takes it up in an editorial. Kouchner has defended himself in public, not always to good effect. On France2 last night, he answered David Pujadas' questions with an odd mix of theatricality, belligerence, and self-aggrandizement. But whatever one thinks of Kouchner's flair for self-dramatization or of his political choices, nothing excuses an attack as base and scurrilous as Péan's.


Anonymous said...

Philippe Cohen responds to Aphatie and raises reasonable questions,-Le-Monde,-Le-Nouvel-Obs-et-les-autres-oubliez-nous,-oubliez-les-juifs-!_a174744.html

Unknown said...

Cohen has collaborated with Péan, so it's only natural that he defend his methods. Aphatie was careful to underscore the legitimate questions raised by Péan's book. He objected to the "amalgame," to use Cohen's words, created by the cover photo, anecdotes, and diction. His accusation that the book's critics are using Kouchner's Jewish descent to say that he is unattackable is absurd. At no point does Aphatie say that Kouchner should not be criticized for his consulting work. If there is a "Moscow trial" mentality at work, it's Cohen's.