Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I can't tell whether J.-L. Mélenchon was pleased or not with his interview by J.-M. Aphatie. Here is Mélenchon's version:

Pour me punir de n’avoir pas répondu comme il l’avait prévu à ses premières questions, Jean-Michel Aphatie a décidé de couler l’entretien qu’il avait avec moi sur RTL. Lui-même déclare à l’antenne que l’entretien est incohérent. Mais il se garde de dire que s’il en est ainsi, c’est de son fait. Une nouvelle fois me lever à six heures du matin pour me faire traiter de cette façon mérite réflexion. Me faire interroger deux minutes sur sept à propos de Cuba le lendemain d’un samedi dimanche de manifestations pour la liberté et la démocratie en Algérie, au Yémen, au Maroc et surtout en Libye est sans doute la chose la plus étrange qui soit  et la moins respectueuse pour moi autant que pour l’auditeur! Quant aux questions sur Strauss-Kahn, mon début à propos de l’Islande lui ayant déplu, Aphatie est passé à Cuba. Je vais donc dire ici tout ce que je voulais dire sur les sujets qu’il était convenu d’aborder. Inclus  Strauss-Kahn, bien sûr. J’ai espoir qu’un jour on reconnaisse avec le droit à la liberté des questions le droit à la liberté des réponses. Mais avant cela je prends juste le temps de me réjouir de voir que même avec ses confrères le considérable monsieur Aphatie se donne un rôle de censeur professionnel tout à fait impérieux. Je crois que c’est une première.
Qu’aurait dit monsieur Aphatie si c’était moi qui avais fait cette leçon de morale à l’un ou l’autre de ses confrères !

It's possible to understand Mélenchon's disappointment with the way the press covers presidential campaigns and with the way he is treated by interviewers, but his urge to overpower his adversary is self-defeating, since it prevents him from presenting a coherent argument for his own position. Judge for yourself:

And incidentally, the expression "vous m'avez dans l'os, M. Aphatie," is not one you often hear in the mouth of a presidential candidate:

Avoir dans l'os:

Subir un échec.

L'"os" de cette expression n'est autre que le sacrum. Familièrement, l'"avoir dans l'os", c'est l'"avoir dans le cul". L'image est forte, mais sa connotation sexuelle évoque à merveille l'humiliation. Cette expression signifie qu'une personne a subi un échec, ou bien une forte déception.


Mark said...

Seasoned politicians have to become comfortable with never answering the question they are asked. You get asked one thing, and you answer with whatever it is you wanted to say while making a passing nod to the question. JLM needs to remember that and practice his interview technique in advance to get his hand in. However, J-M Aphatie seems less respectful than he could have been; in France, journalists are sometimes too impressed with power and too happy to let an interviewee who doesn't answer the question get away with it. They don't dare to press their point with a follow up because they are afraid of losing their access. However if you are not in power, you can't expect to benefit from the same courtesy it appears.

Anonymous said...

Based on my observation, Aphatie is especially guilty of what Mark describes above. He IS a very good interviewer though.

brent said...

I'm not interested in being an apologist for Mélenchon's excessively combative personality, nor for his apparent tactical decision to direct his campaign against the mainstream media in its entirety. I'm not a fan of his vulgarisms either (though having a vulgar mouth doesn't seem to have disqualified M. Sarkozy from high office).

That said, the practice of Aphatie and others (e.g. Jean Quatremer) of raising the Cuba question with JLM on every occasion needs to be examined. Mélenchon is perfectly right to insist that DSK and the role of the IMF in the global monetary crisis, etc. etc. are real substantive issues; the merits or demerits of the Cuba regime are not. Here in the US we have a good old-fashioned name for Aphatie's tactic: it's red-baiting, and should be condemned as such.

I am reminded of Dennis Kucinich's attempt in the last presidential primaries to inject serious (and it turns out, prescient) concerns from the center-left into the debate. He eventually gave up because the MSM refused to discuss anything about him other than his (alleged) position on the existence of UFOs. We all lose when serious candidates are thus marginalized, and I'm sorry to see the French press take that low road.

Mark said...

I agree with you Brent. Red baiting is the term, but JLM really should learn not to take the bait. Vulgarity is also a bad tactic. The guy needs to be sanitized by a pr specialist. But his rough and ready presentation is at least refreshing compared with all the prepared boiler plate that we have to hear.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

I agree that there is red-baiting going on, and I agree that Cuba is not the best way to approach the issue, but I think it is legitimate to question Mélenchon about his views on the nature of political change, since one of his quarrels with the PS is with its tepid reformism. Mélenchon insists on the need for a more radical transformation ("Qu'ils s'en aillent tous!"), and I'd like to know more about his thoughts on the problems that may arise when a more radical course, at odds with the policies of powerful neighbor countries, trading partners, and allies, is attempted. I agree that it would be more productive to approach this problem head-on rather than draw invidious parallels with Cuba.