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2004/10/06

Le Monde 2: Issues # 1 to # 20

In January 2004, Le Monde launched a weekly magazine that serves as a supplement for the daily's weekend edition.

The 60th Anniversary Celebration of Le Monde

Le Monde 2 is 90 pages long, filled with a mixture of text and photo reportages. Perennials include Edwy Plenel's editorial, Pierre Assouline's column, a one-page feature called "Lunch with…" a given celebrity (which always features two photos, one of the celebrity and one of the bill), and at the very end, a large dossier on a subject (person and/or event) taken from a number of articles in the Le Monde archives.

Other perennials include a double spread featuring a given job's equipment (newsstand seller, fireman, rugby player, Formula 1 race driver, a Victorian-era detective, samurai (!), etc) and map in hand (supposed to explain things like regions with drinkable water, the British Commonwealth, the moon, the countries that practice "state homophobia", the location of the top 500 companies in the world, the countries where GMO (and what types and in what amounts) are grown legally, the countries with golfers participating in the Ryder Cup and the number of golf courses in each, the location of the latest UNESCO patrimony sites, the places of theft of the most valuable artifacts, "the Caucasion Inferno", "the [Israeli] Wall Goes to Court", "Iran's Nuclear Ambiguties", and "Is Iraq sovereign?"

Some issues are devoted entirely to one subject or one country; issue 12 (April 4) was devoted to Britain (celebrating the 100 years of the entente cordiale), issue 32 (September 25) was devoted to Italy, and issue 21 (June 6) to D-Day. (As far as links are concerned, I have not found a website for the magazine or for any of the articles that can be found inside it. Readers are welcome to help me update these posts when and if links become available.)

Whereas the independent newspaper tries hard to retain (and present itself as a conveyer of) an independent voice, Le Monde 2, like Le Monde diplomatique, shows its true colors much more clearly…

To celebrate the 100th post on Le Monde Watch, I have decided to write an in-depth overview of Le Monde 2 since the magazine began.



Issue 1 (January 25, 2004) seems pretty tame at first sight. The archives section concerns the Macintosh revolution. There is James Nachtwey's photos of "A GI's Life" in Iraq ("Boredom, fear, nostalgia: Baghdad on a daily basis"), where we learn, in typical fashion, that "a number of them are very young and … many don't understand why it was necessary to go to war in Iraq."

It's when we come to the story on the arrest of Saddam Hussein that we realize that France's newspaper of reference has lost nothing of its usual habits: Michel Guerrin feels compelled to say that the aim of the arrest was "to transform an arrogant and tyrannical head of state into a homeless man with a hirsute face and a degraded body." The broadcasting of the images of an army doctor examining him, he points out, "may have shocked but did not provoke a debate concerning the Geneva conventions." Then Guerrin heads into familiar the-American-authorities-are-nothing-if-not-treacherous-liars mode. "But the exact moments of the arrest are missing in the official version. They are said to have been photographed by an unknown soldier with a throwaway camera. … On certain reproductions, the face seems swollen. Molested? In any case, less 'presentable' than on the previous images."

Of course, the entire issue starts out with an Edwy Plenel editorial saying nothing less than that under the Bush presidency, humor has been criminalized. "For the first time, a democracy declares that one does not laugh with jokes, even if their humor is dubious. In a prison-boat, facing the Bronx, a young Frenchman, Franck Moulet, has a bitter taste in his mouth after responding to an American Airlines flight attendant's question with irony. According to the Quai d'Orsay, it is but one incident among others, just as absurd, since the time that, after the enormous crime of September 11, 2001, the policy of fear has settled at the helm in Washington."

"For the first time, a democracy has proclaimed…", Edwy? The head of the independent newspaper has apparently never heard of the — ubiquitous — saying that free speech does not mean one is allowed to cry "fire" in a theater, and he seems unaware of that although the example, as far as I know, dates from the beginnings of the Republic (i.e., almost 230 years). A "policy of fear", Edwy? It is a policy of common sense, and nothing more.



Issue 3 (February 1) features a bedraggled-looking Michael Jackson on the cover. Samuel Blumenfeld mentions that Jack-o runs the risk of being a victim of racism (should the Santa Maria jury not be representative of the singer's race).

Martine Valo spotlights an article about the new target unifying the humanist militants of France: advertising. Meaning, the "antipub" movements head into the subway to "Free the Métro" (by writing messages over ads such as "Stop", "Fed up with ads", "ads = jail", "capitalism's police", economic "growth is not the solution", and Prisoner-style "I am not a consumer, I am a human being"). Good thing they are aware of the world's dangers and have their priorities straight.

Anne-Line Roccati brings us an article devoted to Batya Gour, the Jerusalem author who "exercises a tenacious citizen vigilance" in Israel, while the archives section is devoted to "the pope of the poor", the Abbé Pierre, and his fight against "exclusion". Pierre Barthélémy has lunch with Garry Kasparov, which naturally leads to a discussion, among other things, about Putin and the Chechnya mess, but Barthélémy manages to not once mention Saddam Hussein or the chess champion's support for the Iraq war.



In issue 5 (February 15), Pierre Barthélémy has lunch with Hubert Reeves, who spouts various attacks on Bush and US policy. Meanwhile, the ever-condescending Pierre Assouline makes fun of Winston Churchill for winning the Nobel Prize in litterature in 1953, between Mauriac (1952) and Hemingway (1954). Calling the publication of the Nobel comittee's archives "compromising", Pierre Assouline adds: "It seems as incongruous today as 50 years ago." "The other prospects were not weighty enough: Graham Greene, Jules Romains, Robert Frost." "One must rub one's eyes [in disbelief]."

"It is true that [the last lion] had also written. Dozens of memoirs … war chronicles, without forgetting the biographies of daddy (Lord Randolph) and tonton (his ancestor Marlborough)." (Tonton and tata are French children's equivalents of daddy, mommy, gramps, etc, for uncle and aunt.) "By remembering his little talent for watercolors, we should be happy that there has never been a Nobel prize for painting." Shocking! Isn't it? Absolutely shocking that a political decision of that magnitude may have intervened in one single instance! One that happened to involve the bloodiest war in the history of mankind. Assouline's condescension fits perfectly into the French press's haughty attitude towards Americans that will accompany the 60th anniversary of D-Day later that year.



The cover of issue number 7 (February 29) screams "JFK", and it features Joe Klein's portrait of John Forbes Kerry. Inside, we find Yann Plougastel's article on Orson Welles' 1982 prediction of a terrorist attack that would "blow out New York"; a column by Pierre Lescure entitled "I Vote for Arlette" (the name commonly used by Arlette Chabot, head of the radical Lutte ouvrière party); and Pierre Jullien's dossier on the miners that inspired Zola's Germinal.

Issue 8 (March 7) features Annick Cojean's article on Desmond Tutu, with the Nobel Peace laureate's "faith in humanity and in God" (although she seems more inclined to focus on the "humanistic" aspect of his faith than in the religious aspect) and his participation in the opposition marches to the Iraq war ("it was so stimulating!") while comparing the "10,000 Iraqi civilians" killed in the war to the 3,000 people killed on 9/11.

Also, Denis Chapouillié and Frédéric Edelmann's articles on the construction of the largest opera in the world (although there is little, if any, debate on how much such a building is needed in Beijing and little or no commentary on the Chinese police state or, unlike any comparable article on an American project of that magnitude, the evoking of the city's poorer classes — then again, the opera is being built by a Frenchman [Paul Andreu]).

The cover article concerns the interviews of seven former prime ministers about how life was for them in the official Matignon palace (lonely). For instance, Pierre Mauroy says that in order "to celebrate [the socialist party's victory in the presidential election of] May 10, 1981, Fidel Castro had sent a marvellous havana cigar. That evening, I was thus smoking the cigar, while watching the TV news. It was one of my rare moments of relaxation." (No word on what gift(s), if any, Saddam Hussein sent, on that or any subsequent election victory.)



In issue 10 (March 21), we find Jan Krauze's article on the billionnaire campaigning against Bush. "Soros wants to save America", the title informs us. Patrick Jarreau treats us to lunch with Joseph Wilson, the former State Department employee whose wife was ousted as a CIA spy. Of course, Wilson lends credence to the peace camp's "endless war" credo, with his "After Iraq, it will be Syria, Iran… They want to implant our power in the Middle East." (I wonder how many Syrians and Iranians would be devastated about such developments.) Patrick Jarreau ends his article by saying that in Wilson's eyes, "resorting to war 'to disarm Saddam Hussein' would have been justified. What isn't [justified] is the fact of launching the conflict, unilaterally, while the UN inspections were proceeding without mishap" (sic, emphasis mine).

No se puede combatir el terrorismo con guerras, starts Plenel's editorial (in bold letters), waxing wisely on the wise, wise words of the wise, wise José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who, unexpectedly, had won Spain's election the previous week. As for Geneviève Brisac, she joins in the chorus with El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido. (What I'll never understand is why Bush's declarations are supposed to be simplistic and the "peace camp's" are not. But never mind: Le Monde 2 isn't finished with Spain yet.)

Pierre Lescure quotes (albeit in French) the founder of El País, Juan Luís Cebrian: "do not lose sight of the fact that the young Aznar grew up as a phalangist." Pierre fires broadside after broadside, on "the reaction of Aznar and of what one wants to call his clique, aping the 'methods' of yesterday's dictators, Franco foremost among them." "No way is there any question that betting on reality and on national solidarity, emotion, and responsibility will be stronger than the rejection of the pro-Bush policy. And so, they lie. Totally." "The authoritarian and pretentious blindness of José Maria Aznar", "the small phalangist [who] played the small messenger boy to the hilt." ("The small messenger boy", meaning poodle, is what one French politician called Aznar when his government supported Bush and Blair.) Thank you, Pierre, for providing us with this stunning example of French journalism at its most charming and its most sophisticated: unless you oppose Uncle Sam, you are a poodle and a fascist.

So much for the columns. With the help of El País, Nicolas Bourcier and Olivier Schmitt give us a full-blown article of the minutes (literally speaking), minute by minute, of the "state lie". When you hear "state lie" or "original lie" in the French press, you know they're speaking about Uncle Sam or a Bush ally. Here, we are talking of Spain's José Maria Aznar, and the article goes from the bombings in Madrid on Thursday March 11 at 7:14 am to the José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's election victory on Sunday March 14 at 11:13 pm.

Thus, we learn not only of the demonstrations at which several million Spaniards gathered, we also learn of the demonstration in which several dozens of Spaniards gathered (the wise individuals — within 48 hours, they already understood that nothing but the government's machiavellian lies could be behind this); we learn not only of the exact hours that the various demonstrations against the Aznar government start but also when they continue (!) ("Sunday March 14, 7:49 am ["7.49"?!]: several dozens of people continue to demonstrate in Madrid before the PP's headquarters shouting slogans that accuse the government of having lied" — emphasis mine). We are also informed of such fascinating details as the fact that at 5:53 am on Sunday, a president publicly accuses Aznar's government "of having lied for electoral reasons". Who is the president? Cuba's Fidel Castro. Well, if el Líder Maximo accuses anyone of lying, who is to counter him?



In issue 11 (March 28), Pierre Assouline writes about how France's humanists consider Mel Gibson's Passion a scandal, with one of them calling it a "fascist" film (in that it erects violence, barabarism, and hatred into spectacle to the detriment of the Word). He goes on to say that the film is to be considered as "a political machine manipulated by the nebulous integrists who gravitate around Bush" (!)

In issue 15 (April 25), Geneviève Brisac has an article called "Smith, Wesson, and myself" where she castigates simplistic Americans for allowing the gun culture to exist, mocking their love affair (especially that of the Texans) with the gun. (Nowhere do we hear abut how the Gestapo's work was made easier by the fact that nonviolent, sophisticated Europeans were supposed to trust in their governments' capacity to protect the citizenry. Nor, to use a more recent example, does Brisac speak about Slobodan Milosevic's decision to have Yugoslavia's police force disarm the citizens of Bosnia and Kosovo before going ahead with the ethnic killing…)

In issue 16 (May 2), Edwy Plenel intones that "the Iraqi people has gladly let the United States rid it of the dictatorship. But that doesn't mean that it intends to let itself be occupied, humiliated, and put into submission, communtarized, and lebanized … In Bush's Iraqi faux pas, there is lots of scorn and ignorance." There is especially a lot of scorn and ignorance in speaking of "the people" in the usual fashion that forgets about, and ignores, the individual, and which castigates anybody who does not agree with the speaker's opinions of what the bulk of the people should think and what it should do.

Then it's over to Frédéric Joignot's cover article with Salman Rushdie, who intones that "it is time for [America] to stop making enemies and to seek to make friends", for instance by ceasing to make war against the impoverished populations of Sudan [make war against Sudan?!], Iraq, and Afghanistan in "retaliation for their tyrants". Then it's Raphaëlle Bacqué's elegy to the founders of the terrorist group Action Directe, whom she introduces by quoting them as "[we are] the oldest political prisoners in France".

The issue ends with the archives section devoted to the leftist-inspired coup d'état that ended 46 years of Salazar dictatorship in Portugal. Whereas the archives section devoted to the creation of Red China in issue 33 made no mention of Beijing's latter blunders (not to call them outright crimes on a massive scale), Former President Mario Soares is quoted as complaining that "the rightist government's alignment with the Bush administration and the framework of the invasion and the occupation of Iraq have created difficulties with the French-German axis and with the European Union." (Difficulties with what European Union, Senhor Soares, when 12 members out of 25 (13 before Spain pulled out) are engaged in the coalition of the willing?)



Issue 17 (May 9) has Michael Moore
on the cover, lighting a stick of dynamite while a black-and-white photo covering the wall behind him shows Dubya in his National Guard days. Inside, Frédéric Joignot has a story on Toni Morrison while Dominique Le Guilledoux has an article on São Paulo mayor Marta Suplicy, a Worker's Party woman "detertimined to eradicate poverty" who is "the idol of the favelas".

Issue 18 (May 16) starts out, as usual, with Christian Colombani one-liners, the first one of which, as noted before, is the following jewel:

The consequence of a faltering health system, one third of Americans soothe their illnesses by more prayer and less medicine.
(I thought the Americans were supposed to be the ones making constant simplified statements?) Okay, let's see… what have we learned here? Or, rather, what is confirmed here, for the French?! It's not only that America's health system is run down, no, we must read between the lines. Because, contrary to the French…
  • Americans have blind faith in their capitalist society, and therefore don't think of revolting (or making a full-fledged revolution) in order to provoke the advent of an egalitarian society of the French type;
  • Americans are backwards folks and superstitious beings;
  • Americans, when they are not feeling well (physically or otherwise), display the grave tendency of not turning towards the state for help;
  • Americans are egotistical beings who do not help each other (that is, by turning to the authorities);
  • Their health system is KO — whereas the French system does work and is not failing (the proof being the fact that the French take more mediciine than Yankees do).
What is ignored:
  • Prayer or no prayer, it has been well established that a positive attitude has a positive effect on one's health. A study recommended the use of cassettes and DVDs of comedies in hospital rooms (in addition to the medical treatment);
  • the French not only take more medicine than Americans do, they take more medicine than the rest of Europe. They must therefore be the most humanist people of the European Union as well! Unless, of course, it is the French health system that encourages people to turn towards free or cheap medicine.
As an American woman who has lived in France for over 20 years said to me: "When the French start feeling the slightest touch of sickness, they rush to a pharmacy. I myself go the supermarket to buy some orange juice, but it is true that that option is not reimbursed by the state's health system…"

On the following page, Pierre Assouline helpfully informs us that, "as the debate concerning the abuse and the torture by the American army [sic] in Iraq intensifies", an ad in the magazine L'Histoire reads as follows: "We are seeking testimonials on rapes committed by American soldiers in France, England, or Germany during the Second World War. This research is based on the university work of Robert Lilly and is done for a historical TV documentary."

Samuel Blumenfeld follows this with an article showing how Gillo Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers has found a following among military planners in the Pentagon. Following that, we are treated to two articles by Michel Guerrin on Robert Capa, and his beautiful photos, on 18 pages.



In issue # 19 (May 23), Christian Colombani begins his collection of one-liners with the soldier Dionicio Arevalo, who, after returning home to San Francisco after serving as an Abu Ghraib MP, "hits his wife in his sleep, claws her face, and pulls her ears believing himself to be pulling the pins out of handgrenades". This is followed by an item on the director of Child Victims of War, Jo Baker, claiming that "depleted uranium weapons, used by the Americans in Iraq, are leading to the births of babies with missing limbs or eyes".

On the next page, Pierre Lescure proceeds to tell us that the Abu Ghraib scandal is "a harder blow, and a more tragic one, for Bush than Watergate was for Nixon."

This segues nicely into the cover story, concerning "Bring Home Our Kids: The Fight of the Soldiers' Mothers Against Bush". "The Revolt of the GIs' mothers" merits a posting all by itself, and it gets one.

The other interesting article of the issue
is Samuel Blumenfeld's piece on the Duke, based on Michael Munn's John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. The title of the article? "Hollywood paranoid" (of course). The main revelation concerns the question whether Stalin was trying to have John Wayne assassinated, but in this, a typically judgmental article, we also hear of the movie star's "obsesson" ("the hunt for communists, a national sport in the McCarthyite United States of the 1950s") and of "the good John Wayne … co-habiting with the bad John Wayne, impassioned defender of the witchhunt and co-director of The Green Berets, a propaganda film in favor of keeping American forces in Vietnam."

The smug article manages to dis other movies of the Duke's with sneering irony, notably Big Jim McLain and Blood Alley (in William Wellman's movie, "poor Chinese villagers are suffering the horror of communism. Thank God, John Wayne and his boat are in the neighborhood. The villagers will be able to leave the inferno and settle in Hong Kong"), but the ever-wise Blumenfeld is not finished with "the feature conceived as a western where the vicious Vietcong take on the role of the Indians". He climbs to new heights of America- (or neocon-) caricaturing with his final picture caption: "In The Green Berets, the most overt propaganda film of the history of the Vietnam war [really? has Blumenfeld seen any pro-North Vietnamese pictures made in the 1960s, not to speak of North Korean movies themselves?], John Wayne does everything: director, star, producer, messiah."

In issue 20 (May 30), Edwy Plenel gives a demonstration that shows that when Americans aren't being compared to fascists, they are being compared to Stalinists!

Go read about issues # 21 to 28 and # 29 and following

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