Monday, January 19, 2015

Marine Le Pen Begins Her Long March through the AMERICAN Institutions

With an op-ed in the Times, quoting Camus, no less, and an interview in the Wall Street Journal, Marine Le Pen has shrewdly set out to persuade American opinion that she is the rampart against European terrorism that Americans want and need.

Mme Le Pen's rhetoric is impeccable. She seizes the occasion of the terrorist attacks to claim that she was right all along--about everything: border controls, the euro, the nature of Islam, the fecklessness of French elites, the identity of UMP and PS, the loss of French identity, the tragedy of the EU, the ravages of globalization, etc. And suddenly she is respectable. The Times plays her game by giving her a forum; the WSJ blandly repeats her claim that she has "been ahead of others in sounding the alarm against anti-Semitism."

Useful idiots? Or useless idiocy? I suppose the great organs of our press have decided to make good their ringing endorsements of free speech by according a platform to a political leader whose ideas they deplore. Such an honorable intention--but you know what they say about honorable intentions.


brent said...

Am I mistaken, or did the Times English version repeatedly, including in its headline, mistranslate 'islamist' as 'islamic'? This in a piece where Ms. LePen specifically posits the dangers of conflating 'islam' with 'islamism,' and for good measure adds the Camus quote about the 'malheur' of misnaming.

If I'm right, I wonder if you, Art, as the leading French-English translator, oughtn't to point this out to the Times? I believe we make this useful distinction in English routinely, and it would advance the discussion if the Times learned to make it.

That said, I have to admire the high-minded tone of LePen's rhetoric here (in contrast to the deplorable ways the FN has actually started to govern). I hope French politicians, especially those on the 'Left,' will put aside their dismissive, condescending attitude toward her and recognize how formidable she will be, and how skilled in manipulating the terms of the debate.

Art Goldhammer said...

Brent, good point, I hadn't looked at the French. I'll write them. And yes, I fully agree about Le Pen's formidable skills as a politician.

Art Goldhammer said...

Brent, having looked at the French and the English, I see that "Islamist" is used but "islamic fundamentalism" is more or less identified with Islamist radicalism. But that conflation exists in the French and is probably deliberate on Le Pen's part. So I don't think I can complain to the Times.

bernard said...

I personally was very impressed by the only concrete measure she proposes in her op-ed, namely nationality stripping. I can easily see how Coulibaly and the other assassins would have been scared into inaction by this, not to mention the Boumedienne woman who underwent several border checks before she apparently got to her beloved Daesh.

Hey, I'll give MLP a bet: Boumedienne is a very senior terror operative and will slip through any border check that she wants and cares about her nationality about as much as I care about religion. That woman - not MLP, Boumedienne of course - reminds me of the British white widow, or is it black widow. MLP on the other hand was well described by, of all people, Frederic Mitterrand just the day before (see for example if you want to have a Charlie Hebdo like laugh).

brent said...

Hate to belabor the point, but LePen uses "Islamist" consistently in phrases like "Islamist terrorism" and "Islamist fundamentalism." She "names things correctly," as she says, and only uses "Islamic" when referring to the so-called "Islamic State" (their usage, not hers), or to distinguish "Islam" from "Islamism."

The Times, on the other hand, uses "Islamist terrorism" and "Islamic fundamentalism" (each phrase translating "islamiste") as if the adjectives were interchangeable.

Does this matter? Yes! "Islamic fundamentalism" may be dubious theology, but it is a religious practice which millions of Muslims engage in peacefully. "Islamist", whether fundamentalism or terrorism," describes an aggressive, often violent imposition of "Islamic fundamentalism" on the willing and the unwilling alike. I believe (though LePen may not) that Western societies can live with "Islamic fundamentalism," but I'm pretty sure we can't co-exist with "Islamists." That's a big difference, not a semantic quibble. LePen makes the distinction ; the Times translation blurs it.

Art Goldhammer said...

Are you sure Le Pen isn't deliberately conflating "Islamic fundamentalism" with Islamism, because I think her position is that all fundamentalists are Islamists. I haven't compared the original and the translation as closely as you have, but this is not a fight in which I care to have a dog. Take Le Pen's assertion that "Daesh" is a circumlocution intended to avoid identifying the Islamic State with Islam. Is she naming things correctly or trying to associate Islam in general with the savagery of what we here call ISIS? Why are you so sure that Le Pen is "naming things correctly."

bernard said...

well Yesterday I happened to learn that birds can have very smart strategies to protect themselves by disguising their colours: one bird in the USA apparently makes the same sound as a rattlesnake when it feels in danger, then there is another bird in South America I think where the progeny in the nest will appear exactly similar as a deadly caterpillar.

So, Brent, I think most French politicians - certainly all on the left, they are not completely naive you know - have fully realised that MLP is very shrewd and can see the caterpillar behind the bird. We know where she is going with these semantics: she wants most electors to conflate them all together and maintain a thinly disguised veil of deniability.

FrédéricLN said...

Hey, this is a high-flying discussion, word reference is watching you.

The point is relevant, I think, and the substance too.

As you put it, Art, "islamique" is ambiguous in French and seemingly in English too; it may be just a synonymous of "related to islam", or "muslim" (at least in French, "l'art islamique" would be "l'art des civilisations musulmanes").

But as far as it refers to "non-religious" dimensions of the muslim community (art islamique, Secours islamique, Etat islamique, finance islamique…), it may be used to suggest a threat of a political takeover of a "laïque" country like France. FN plays on this fear since decades (+- since 1986).

And is it refers to fundamentalism, as brent suggests (— "Islamic fundamentalism" may be dubious theology, but it is a religious practice which millions of Muslims engage in peacefully. —) that's something the French society has not recognized yet. For many people here, it's hard to imagine that you can be a religious fundamentalist (either Catholic or Muslim, by the way) and nevertheless not a menace to society. And moreover, regarding islam, many French think that armed djihad, having sharia been applied to anyone, and so on, are intrinsic components of islam.

Many French appreciate that the Roman Catholic Church dropped (even quite late: 1926) her hopes of restoring a Christian-inspired political order, and that Christians, as a group, almost completely disappeared from the stage, "l'espace public", at the exception of the Pope's visits (see secular cloths, the disparition of street processions, limitations to bells in many places…). These French require muslim communities to do the same, to become invisible, at a moment where they grow, build, become stronger, better rooted (with more muslim native French people, not only immigrants), wealthier compared to previous misery, and so on. And they may view terrorists as just the cutting edge of forefront, of this (supposed to be) broadly shared political agenda.

E.g., salafism, which is on the whole (though not always) a very peaceful group, with much less implication in public affairs than many other islamic groups, would spontaneously be figured by may French as synonymous of "breeding ground for terrorism".

The bottom line would be: as islam becomes a very strong component of the French society, we French will need to know islam better than we did, and learn the right names for the right things ;-) If we don't, we open ground for those politicians intending to confuse the issues. Not only Mrs Le Pen!

FrédéricLN said...

(Too much typos to correct. Sorry :-( ).

Alan said...

Dear Mr.Goldhammer,I have studied in France and married a Frenchwoman.I think that Lenin said it correctly i.e. that Capitalists will sell the noose that hangs them.With Liberalism abandoning the quest for social justice they search or a new quest and have left open ground to facho-nationalists.Petainism is Poeticism itself and economic stagnation and muslim extremists are supplying the excuse.I hope that The Fifth Republique birthed by French Colons and Algerian terror will not fall but soldiers in the streets and Islamist killing cells does not bode well for France.Fine post.Best Alan New Mexico USA

Anonymous said...

Hello! A small point, but not an insignificant one. Marine Le Pen's op-ed piece appeared in the international edition of the NY Times only. Those of us stateside who read the paper on paper or on a device using the NY Times app didn't see it. I only learned about it from Le Monde! -- Mark