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2004/10/06

Le Monde 2: Issues # 29 to # 40

After an interruption in August for the summer vacation, Le Monde 2 returns in a slightly different format. (The most visible change is that the magazine is no longer bound by glue but with staples.) Edwy Plenel starts his editorial in issue 29 (September 4) with an (indirect) appeal to terrorists' intelligence, concerning the kidnapping of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbruno (the journalists "who tried to tell the story of the Iraqi inferno, with humanity and curiosity"): "to threaten France, which was the only diplomatic obstacle the United States ran into on the road to Baghdad… there have been instances of logic, even be they of the criminal kind, that have made more sense. But maybe therein is the meaning of those crimes: that there be no more meaning, precisely, that it be the war of everybody against everybody, that in turn, we let outselves give into violence and hate. That we respond to fear with fear. That is the trap."

And you know who, consciously or (criminally) unconsciously, set the trap, don'tcha? "'Be afraid!' says the American imperial eagle" shouts Plenel, echoing the bird in Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers. "'Be afraid!' hastened to shout the administration's liege man in Baghdad, the former Saddam Hussein vassal recycled by the CIA, Ayad Allawi, taking as a pretext the double kidnapping to invite France to enter into a crusade against the 'forces of evil', a religious war without quarter or pity of which Iraq will be the inevitable battlefield."

Edwy Plenel forgot a couple, so I'll add them for him: "Be afraid! " cried Edwy Plenel, pointing to Uncle Sam and the forces of capitalism. "Be afraid!" cried the intellectuals, pointing at McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Hollywood, and a mouse named Mickey."Be afraid!" cried the French people, pointing at Bush, the devil incarnate. (If any of this blog's readers have the original (English-language) Spiegelman book, can they confirm that my retranslation from French into English ("Be afraid") is correct? D'avance, merci…)

Then, we have Jacques Buob and Alain Frachon's interview with Spiegelman, who is (conveniently) "revolted against the nationalism of the American media and against all religious fanaticism". The artist with a sense of humor which "remains a weapon of mass reflection" condemns Bush's "politics of fear", erupts in fury at "all those stupid flags that have appeared everywhere", and says he is "terrorized as much by Al Qaeda as by his government". My heart goes out to you, Art. Oh, and when will you make a Maus version of the killing fields in Saddam Hussein's Iraq?

In addition, Véronique Mortaigne presents an article on Oscar Niemeyer, the "aesthetic and militant architect" who built the main buildings of Brasília, the UN building in New York, and the Paris headquarters of France's Communist Party. "Communist for one day, communist always", she writes admiringly of the Brazilian icon. And on the final page there is another Jacques Buob interview, with Virginie Despentes, a writer-director who voted for the Parti Communiste in the last elections…



Issue 30 (September 11) brings us Josyane Savigneau's interview with Philip Roth ("compared to his son, the father was a George Washington") and Pierre Assouline's condescending dismissal of Nicolas Sarkozy and Bernard-Henri Lévy. (Why? Because neither is a Frenchman comme il faut, i.e., one who hates America.) As the archives story, we are served the history of the McDonald's corporation which is celebrating the quarter century birthday of the opening of its first restaurant in France.

Then we have Edwy Plenel with the tiresome pacifist slogan "endless war" (aren't simplistic thoughts supposed to be anathema to sophisticated, deep-thinking Frenchmen?) along with his condescending attitude towards Dubya, Putin, and Sharon ("all united against evil, to use Bush's religious vulgar speech"), as well as Ronald Reagan (for his "evil empire" discourse). "Everything is happening as if, from Washington to Moscow, our post-Cold War world was impatient to invent a world war and find a global enemy." Of course, just about exactly the same thing was said about the Americans (Reagan among them) when they opposed the Kremlin during the Cold War: those simplistic, war-mongering Americans need an enemy at any price, people sneered. Today, the Eastern European members of the former Soviet block, stand with, and behind, Washington as one. Don't you wonder why? This is not something that a member of the French press like Plenel will ponder.

Claudine Mulard's story on "the Man who Dares Attack Bush-Television", i.e., on Robert Greenwald, the filmmaker behind Outfoxed and Uncovered, who fights what Le Monde 2 calls "radical conservativism" and "the message of a Republican Party leaning more and more to the right: heightened patriotism, defense of so-called family values, etc, the whole packaged in an information-spectacle fashion." Mulard then proceeds to recount how John Moody's "scandalous" memos determine what Fox News will show.

What is funny, or sickening, is how much worse this is in France. Take the following sickening memo:

The images of Abu Ghraib are perturbing and scandalizing. Today, we have images, broadcast by Al Arabiya, of an American hostage, blindfolded, clearly against his will. Who will be scandalized for him?
The memo is not sickening in itself, or for what it purportedly shows about the Fox corporation, it is sickening precisely because of the fact that Europeans find it shocking. It is sickening in that that is shows exactly how the French media reacted, albeit in the reverse fashion. What is sickening here are the double standards. All the men who were kidnapped, and who had their heads severed, were down-played. All any one person has to ask him- or herself is, what is worse, forcing a prisoner to wear a dogleash or chopping off a prisoner's head. Which prisoner suffered more? The family of which prisoner bears the deeper wounds? When you have answered those questions, you can go complain about Fox News all you want.


Issue 31 (September 18) features "Americans" on the cover. It is surprizingly balanced, with verbatim quotes from 15 Americans, accompanied by beautiful portraits by Guillaume Serina and Matthias Braschler, and without (too much) commentary from Alain Frachon. Among the Americans quoted (some of them famous, some unknown), there are five each in the Bush camp (Ed Koch, Ashley Meyer, Jeff Politis, Robert Lee, and Christine Iverson) and in the Kerry camp (Eric Williams, Gavin Newsom, Sharon Furman, and the lesbian couple Emily Whiting and Christa Torrens), along with an equivalent number of Americans who don't really say whom they support (James Lipton, Allen Soong, Bianca Ortiz, Sonia Cordella, and Charity MacDonald) — although with some it can be guessed. Maybe some journalists, editors, and VIPs are starting to see that, with the likelihood of a Bush victory, they ought to be more balanced in their presentation of the news.

The final page is devoted to Jacques Buob's interview with a HIV positive homosexual who is a leading member of the Jacques Chirac's UMP. Jean-Luc Romero is complaining: "Take the magazine [for gays and lesbians,] Têtu. Before, it said: 'It's a disgrace that he does not admit to being HIV positive.' And the day I do announce it, they say that I am using it to further my career! They will not accept that one can be a conservative and be gay" at the same time. Cheer up, Jean-Luc. In some countries (and editorial rooms), they do not accept (not very graciously, at least) that you can be a rational, open-minded American and be for Bush at the same time.



Michèle Champenois's article, "Aux arts citoyen", in issue 33 (October 2) shows us a number of Maurizio Cattelan's pieces of art, including the sculpture meant to show "how, suddenly, after September 11, life became militarized, highly controlled." Pierre Barthélémy, meanwhile, interviews Sir Martin Rees, "one of the most respected figures in Bristish science", who predicts various types of catastrophes for our planet, from ecological to bio-terror. (Naturally, he gets twice as many pages as 28's Bjørn Lomborg as well as an interview, in which he is quoted verbatim without comment from the journalist.)

As for Annick Cojean, she interviews "women in an Afghan Garden", and her story about how the women will vote in Afghanistan's first election in history is presented as if the election had happened like that, without mention of the, uh, contributions of the United States Army, Air Force, and Marines. In fact, whereas the words France, Germany, and NGOs (or their grammatical derivatives) are mentioned several times, the word America is not mentioned once.

This pleasant issue of Le Monde 2 ends with the archive section devoted to "China's Turning Red". It is true that October 1 marks the anniversary of Mao's founding of "the People's Republic". With a photo of the founding speech of Mao Zedong, Listen to how poetic and laudatory the introduction reads: "Fity-five years ago, the communists headed by Mao Zedong installed in the most peopled nation in the world a system still in place today. The birth of the People's Republic marked the end of a quarter century of civil war with the nationalists."

It's peace, folks! Peace! Peace like in Iraq before the ouster of Saddam Hussein brought chaos, insecurity, and confusion! Peace, that thing that modern, visionary Europeans like to put the emphasis on in their history museums. Now, ain't that somethin' to celebrate?! Let's read some more headlines: "'Martians' in Shanghai: the Reds Capture China's Manhattan"; "The Legend of the Long March", "A United Front Against the Japanese Invasion", "And the Party Created the Nation: China Reunited under the Red Flag". No. No, there aren't any pictures of political prisoners in Mao's gulags. No, there aren't any photos of prisoners getting shot with a bullet in the neck. No, there aren't any images of China's invasion of Tibet. Why do you ask?

As for issue 40, it has an article giving an entirely partisan view of weblogs and the "blogosphere" (InstaPundit is against Bush and the war in Iraq?!)

Go read about issues # 1 to 20 and # 21 to 28

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