Une occasion de plus de fustiger l'Amérique, sa société, et ses leaders : Les Portraits des artistes dans Le Monde

Continuing our celebration of Le Monde 's 60th anniversary (following postings on its Le Monde 2 magazine and the daily's film reviews), we sneak over to another section of its cultural pages, the VIP portrait section…

The 60th Anniversary Celebration of Le Monde

Regularly, almost every day of the week, Le Monde gives its readers a so-called in-depth portrait of a VIP, French or foreign, whether an artist or a human rights activist or other.

Not unsurprisingly, often part of these portraits are devoted to Bush-bashing or other diatribes against the hyperpower, its policies, and its capitalist society.

(VIPs lambasting Dubya and/or U.S. foreign policy include Gael Garcia Bernal (article by Thomas Sotinel), Björk (Véronique Mortaigne), Judith Butler (Clarisse Fabre), Brigitte Fontaine (Fabre), Carlos Fuentes (Jean-Pierre Langellier), Philip Glass (Marie-Aude Roux), Alberto Granado (Christine Legrand), Nicolas Hayek (Afsané Bassir), Hong Sai-Wa (Philippe Pons), Lenine (Mortaigne), Ken Loach (Florence Colombani), Sergio de Mello (by his companion Carolina Larriera), Jacques Monory (Géneviève Breerette), Nana Mouskouri (Mortaigne), Véronique Sanson (Bruno Lesprit), Will Smith (Florence Colombani), Fernando Solanas (Paulo Paranagua), Michael Stipe (Stéphane Davet), Tsunenari Tokugawa (Pons), Paul Verhoeven (Sotinel).)

The big news came when even Johnny Hallyday — France's favorite "American" rocker! — voiced impatience with America and its policies. Now that means something! (I couldn't find the hyperlink, malheureusement; if any lecteur knows of it, merci de me le faire savoir…)

In addition, Le Monde has shorter and more news-itemish articles about celebrities, albeit on the front-page, whose only purpose is to bash Bush (Woody Allen [Florence Colombani], Cat Stevens [Véronique Mortaigne], Bruce Springsteen [Bruno Lesprit], etc). On the other hand, Bob Dylan — the protest singer par excellence — refused to comment (to Lesprit) on Bush and the American presence in Iraq.

In fact, here we get to what is surprising. What is odd about Le Monde's portraits is that you rarely, if ever, see anybody speaking about Bush (or American foreign policy) in positive terms. On the other hand, you do find portraits (a large amount of them) where Bush (and American foreign policy) is not mentioned at all. Nor do you ever hear anybody say anything negative about John Kerry.

It's almost as if, when face to face with someone who either 1) is a Bush supporter, or 2) doesn't care one way or the other, or 3) didn't come up with a very original and quotable anti-Bush one-liner (because some of these VIPs are well-known for their vocal opposition to all things American — see next paragraph), the Le Monde journalist decided that that part of the portrait wasn't worth mentioning (unless, of course, his or her editor cut it). In any case, something that isn't worth reporting.

(Portraits in which Dubya and/or US policies were not mentioned at all include those devoted to Anonymous 4 (article by Renaud Machart), François-Marie Banier (Josyane Savigneau), Booba (Stéphane Davet), Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (Thomas Sotinel), Jackie Chan (Sotinel), Dominic Chianese (Damien Bonelli), Olivier Cohen (Alain Salles), Michael Connelly (Gérard Meudal), Raymond Domenech (Philippe Broussar), Kitsou Dubois (Rosita Boisseau), Daniel Cordier (Philippe Dagen), Serge Dassault (Dominique Gallois & Pascale Santi), Henri Dutilleux (Marie-Aude Roux), Ichikawa Ebizo XI (Fabienne Darge), James Ellroy (Gérard Meudal), Isaac Fanous (Xavier Ternisien), José Frèches (Philippe-Jean Catinchi), Jan Garbarek (Antoine Jacob), Nicole Gautier (Jean-Louis Perrier), Michel Gondry (Sotinel), Jean Guidoni (Véronique Mortaigne), Judith Henry (Darge), Philippe Herreweghe (Machart), Yannick Jaulin (Davet), Elfriede Jelinek (Joëlle Stolz), Gérard Jugnot (Jean-Michel Dumay), Daniel Keene (Darge), Joël Kermarrec (Harry Bellet), Aubert Lemeland (Machart's headline says the composer is "crazy [!] about America"), Wangari Maathai (Jean-Philippe Rémy), Michael Mann (Jean-François Rauger), Miossec (Davet), Nagui (Guillaume Fraissard), Genesis P-Orridge (Odile de Plas), Georges Prêtre (Roux), Noël Quidu (Michel Guerrin), Sam Raimi (Jean-Luc Douin, no link available), Denis Roche (Savigneau), Mylène Sauloy (Marie Jégo), Omar Sharif (Afsané Bassir Pour) Sandra Kilohana Silve (Boisseau), Alberto Sorbelli (Dagen), Daniel Spoerri (Dagen) Rachid Taha (Mortaigne), Anne Tismer (Brigitte Salino), Daby Touré (Bruno Lesprit).)

Another funny thing is that another thing you don't find much of in the independent newspaper's portraits is criticism of Jacques Chirac or French foreign policy. It is almost as if… as if the VIPs (French or foreign) did not want to risk alienating part of the Monde readership… (Unless, of course, it is the reporters of the newspaper of reference who do not want to alienate their editors and the powers that stand behind them…)

This, in turn, makes you wonder: how anti-Bush are all the VIPs interviewed really, and how much are they playing (deliberately or unconsciously) to their interlocutors (the journalists interviewing them) and to the general (self-serving) atmosphere pervading Europe and avant-garde America?

This all ties in with the numerous examples of film reviews and portraits lambasting American society, Washington's foreign policy, or the American character's supposed dark side, things that have little to nothing to do with the films' artistic merit (let alone the filmmakers' original intent), or little to do with the artist's actual words.