Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NPR Hyperventilates

National Public Radio is a worthy organization, not quite our France Culture but at least a generally competent news organization with usually intelligent commentary on current events. Imagine my surprise, then, as I drove my wife and son to the bus this morning, when I heard this account of the "clash of titans" that is now "electrifying" the otherwise dull world of French politics. The titans in question are Villepin and Sarkozy, and the description of their clash beggars belief. Beyond the clichés and absurdities that riddle the piece, the hapless listener is given no deflating context that might help to gauge the level of hyperbole that vitiates the article from end to end. American reporting of French politics is generally unsatisfactory, but this, from one of our best broadcast news services, lacks all perspective and is simply indefensible. But I guess that's what you get when you take Marianne and Les Guignols de l'Info as your primary sources.


brent said...

Touche pas à mes guignols! But your larger point is well taken.

satchmo said...

Indeed, the larger point about the (seemingly) ever lower quality of NPR news coverage is well taken. Alas, it's not only coverage of things French, but of many topics.

It's no secret that NPR has changed over recent years, and generally not for the better. Dean Baker and others have chronicled the proliferation of "clichés and absurdities" (to use Art's phrase) in their coverage of economic issues, and in general the institution seems to have become another victim of the partisan US cultural wars of the recent past.

MYOS said...

I really like NPR, although I wish they had more money so they could have more actual programs (in my area, it's classical music nonstop 9am to 3pm).
However coverage of French affairs always seems dismal overall. Friends of mine have wished I could report for the station LOL. Still, much better than what passed for reporting in the NYT a few years ago. In the past year or so, it's greatly improved, no doubt because they changed journalists.

On other topics: what if you went to Quick to have a "big bacon" and discovered the restaurant has gone fully hallal?
Nothing can stop market forces, not even cultural resistance!

Unknown said...

A word on clichés - I was chock full of them prior to coming over to France, to the point that they were constitutive of what I believed France was (as far as I knew). And I LOVED it! I loved the image I had made of France - and maybe thanks to these clichés, I was able to love France all the more prior to my (more or less) permanent settlement here. and no doubt, I still got lots of them - and, given how happy I am here, I love these new clichés too!

But in a news report, and with a journalist, egads! no. its a disservice to journalisme.
De Villepin - the swashbuckling romantic résistant? Um.No.

I haven't seen(or heard) so much cliché-ridden bad journalism on France since Elaine Sciolino's send-off piece a couple years ago in the New York Times. So bad it made me laugh.

But American journalism is mostly about finding high drama, Punch n' Judy storylines and clichés that sell. The rivalry between the roturier de Villepin and the descendant of Hungarian nobility does make for good entertainment in a Fox News Fair and Balanced way.

Anonymous said...

I do hope that you write NPR with your comments. It would be good to let them know they can do better.

Cartesian said...

Villepin is with a Breton, Le Guen, who did have some problems with Sarkozy about the regional elections (I have some news about him sometime with Facebook).

MYOS said...

Adeisidaemon: De Villepin is nobility, as the "de" in his name suggests.
It's interesting because he projects "nobility" in a rather non-offputting way.
Sarkozy is nobility but almost no one knows it. During the campaign, he presented himself as a "little guy" who was born from immigrant parents (not mentioning, conveniently, that they emigrated to the 17th arrondissement - kinda like emigrating to an apartment facing Central Park and comparing it to Washigton Heights), who did not attend the elite, upper-class Grandes Ecoles (not mentioning, conveniently, that he'd failed out of one). His French, even to an outsider, sounds decidedly "working class" or attempting to be.
So, rather than grand aristocrat v. nouveau riche nobility, the media used to portray roturier Sarkozy v. haughty Villepin, up until this year or so.

Unknown said...

according to a heraldry expert (from some article in Le Figaro), De Villepin is the one of roturier stock and Sarkozy de Nagui Bocsa is of a Hungarian noble lineage stretching further back in time.

perhaps the most useless bit of info I've ever relayed here, but there you go....