May 5, 2002
1:29 PM   Subscribe

There is no far-right Vichyite renaissance in France, no Pieds Noirs uprising, nor, really, is there any antiSemitic rampage (Le Pen is spasmodically anti-Semitic but systematically anti-immigrant; i.e., anti-Arab.), but it's a safe bet that Jean-Marie Le Pen can never peacefully become President of the French Republic. It used to be said that for evil to triumph it was necessary only for good men to do nothing; in France, historically, for evil to enter it is necessary for good men to tell other good men that nothing is the best thing a good man can do. As the French are now being reminded, it is better to muddle through with your pants around your ankles than to die lucidly with your nose in the air. How relevent these words and events are here in the US?
posted by semmi (32 comments total)
Not sure. If you tell me what these words mean in terms of some specifics, I might be able to come up with an answer.
posted by Postroad at 1:55 PM on May 5, 2002

For a clear primer on Le Pen and his movement, see this profile in Ha'aretz. For discussion of what it means to America, see here, here and here.
posted by Iberaband at 2:14 PM on May 5, 2002

The Economist on LePen. Relevance? Similar to George Wallace-- he might eventually change his mind if he loses.
posted by sheauga at 2:17 PM on May 5, 2002

semmi - nor, really, is there any antiSemitic rampage (Le Pen is spasmodically anti-Semitic but systematically anti-immigrant; i.e., anti-Arab.)

Since Arabs are Semites, saying that he is "systematically anti-immigrant; i.e., anti-Arab" does not in any way, sense or degree keep him from being an anti-Semite, semmi.
posted by NortonDC at 2:22 PM on May 5, 2002

Norton, we've been over that before. The term "anti-Semitism" was invented by Jew-haters to refer to Jew-hatred. What an annoying grammar flame to have to keep dousing. What the hell are we supposed to do, go back in time and tell them to make up a different word?

semmi, there's a lot of words there, but by quoting Adam Gopnik out of context you made him seem to be talking nonsense.
posted by dhartung at 2:57 PM on May 5, 2002

Gopnik as political commentator? Well, he's basically adept at stating the obvious
Maybe his softer pieces about baguettes and the French being more charming than Americans think have some fans, but really, French politics are not his thing
posted by matteo at 4:15 PM on May 5, 2002

Call it what it is: bigotry. No muss, no fuss.

And the only reason it meritted comment was that it was being used in exactly the wrong way, and for the purpose of minimizing one form of bigotry by pointing to another that doesn't draw as strong a reaction from this audience. That's not about grammar.
posted by NortonDC at 4:47 PM on May 5, 2002

I wonder if there'd be such an uproar and all of this media bollocks if the Communist Party candidate was getting the same amount of support? Oh, maybe not, because Communists aren't 'evil' like all folks on the right wing.
posted by wackybrit at 4:49 PM on May 5, 2002

Wackybrit: Le Pen isn't just a French Tom DeLay. He's a dangerous, extremist, vapid fool. Don't trivialize.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:59 PM on May 5, 2002

Right on, Norton.

(Incidentally, I'm tired of these Front Page Polemics. It's been MetaTalked to death, I know, but still.)
posted by donkeyschlong at 5:04 PM on May 5, 2002

Chirac's been clever in turning the run-off into an unpalatable "vote crook, not fascist". It's whether he can be clever enough between now and the legislative elections which will be the true test. On the one hand, he has to acknowledge the role of the left in minimalising Le Pen's final percentage; on the other hand, he has to prevent Le Pen from presenting it as a victory for the old corrupt order. There's no space for complacency on any side.
posted by riviera at 5:16 PM on May 5, 2002

I’m confused. Hasn’t most of the recent Jew-baiting and attacks in France come from the left? If the French left hates Jews too, why is the defeat of Le Pen being seen as such a victory for humanity?
posted by nobody_knose at 5:18 PM on May 5, 2002

Chirac is on the right wing in France, wackybrit. Maybe if a Communist candidate had said that the Holocaust was merely "a detail" of history (as Le Pen has), or proposed "that illegal aliens be placed in 'transit camps' before deportation and that a 'special train' be organized to send them to Britain" (as Le Pen has), or punched a female political candidate in the face (as Le Pen has), he would garner as much opposition as Le Pen has.

But then again, maybe it's because communists (unlike fascists) did not start the bloodiest war in human history. I rather like how Jacques Chirac put it: "The leaders of the far right betrayed the French people by allying with the forces of evil and the enemies of our homeland. History has definitively disqualified them from speaking on behalf of France."
posted by skoosh at 5:32 PM on May 5, 2002

If you tell me what these words mean in terms of some specifics, I might be able to come up with an answer.
posted by Postroad

"The intellectual classes, who matter in France as they do nowhere else in Europe, share some responsibility for encouraging the kind of self-indulgent utopianism that deprecates even successful parliamentary politics as empty and distasteful."
posted by semmi at 5:54 PM on May 5, 2002

good call, skoosh: worth remembering that during the Second World War, the group that carried the name 'National Front' in France was part of the communist resistance. And while some people regarded Chirac's playing of the Vichy card as a bit underhand, those memories are still sore.
posted by riviera at 6:25 PM on May 5, 2002

'merchandise will be burned'


this thread is gonna be fun. where-oh-ever shall we start.
posted by clavdivs at 6:34 PM on May 5, 2002

Chirac landslide against LePen - CNN
Chirac crushes LePen in runoff - International Herald Tribune
Jews hail LePen defeat in France, see more danger - Reuters / NYT
France shuns LePen, Chirac wins by landslide - NYT
France's Social Problems Are the Real Villain, Analysts Say - LA Times
posted by sheauga at 6:34 PM on May 5, 2002

Timing is everything. Just at the moment when people feared unrest against LePen, this UPI story:

"PARIS, May 5 (UPI) -- Le Journal du Dimanche reports Sunday that Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network is preparing to kidnap hundreds of people throughout Europe over the next few days ... "
posted by sheauga at 6:43 PM on May 5, 2002

Oh good. So we're safe here on the F Train.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:52 PM on May 5, 2002

How relevent these words and events are here in the US?

I would say "zero relevance." The major political parties are so similar here because everyone is so pragmatic; we are the anti-France.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:01 PM on May 5, 2002

Chirac victory speech and links to fuller coverage - BBC
posted by sheauga at 7:06 PM on May 5, 2002

Military relevance of France.
posted by sheauga at 7:14 PM on May 5, 2002

France has no military relevance because the French are too self-absorbed to project it anywhere other than, perhaps on their own territory.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:37 PM on May 5, 2002

Not to sound to 'Paranoid" (can anyone be too paranoid),
But it occurs to me that it would be a great coup if Chirac had actually orchestrated Le Pen's Initial victory it would be a great way to eliminate the left opposition and still come out the hero, wouldn't it?

We in the US know what our (s)elected officials are capable of:

Denial of rights to tens of thousands just so Jeb could bring a victory for his brother- not that that worked,
Repeated vote tampering in Chicago and just about the entire state of Louisiana,
Massive voter fraud in the returns from overseas,

Uniquely Chirac may have pulled off a perfect coup, the rightious coup that noone in their rights (left) minds would expose or even queston...

Neat, very neat....
posted by Elim at 8:17 PM on May 5, 2002

Gosh, Elim, that must be true. Because to suggest that the broad spectrum of center and left parties were badly fragmented, and the leading candidate in this group, Jospin, was as boring as Ben Stein pretends to be, well, gosh, that would be crazy talk.
posted by dhartung at 8:45 PM on May 5, 2002

We in the US know what our (s)elected officials are capable of:

This is so stupid. IF you were going to rig an election, you wouldn't do it by a fraction of a percentage. You sound like completely French/Trilateral Commission (an adjective) in your "analysis."

As for Chirac, Le Pen has been out there for decades.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:50 PM on May 5, 2002

Hey. Come on. A victory of right-wing conservatism over ultra right-wing extremism is no win for liberalism, as this seem to be touted.
posted by tnadeau at 9:21 PM on May 5, 2002

Sure Le Pen's been out there for a while, that's what makes it so pretty.. If it had been some new young noname buck deciding to knock horns with the 'Alpha Male' then we would be a bit more cynical, but an old rival, hmm, who'd think a fix is in?

Then again maybe the real conspiracy was just to keep the voters interested.

Kinda like a fox network reality show, missing some drama in real life, invent it and profit from the chaos...
posted by Elim at 10:44 PM on May 5, 2002

It all just kind makes me giggle....
posted by Elim at 10:49 PM on May 5, 2002

I just realized how much this reminds me of the 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial election.

Not quite the same, but the runoff managed to pit three-time previous governor and well-known crook Edwin Edwards against former grand wizard of the KKK David Duke.

Edwards won, with pretty much the same logic people used to vote for Chirac, although the margin wasn't as definitive then. (I couldn't find any links with the exact numbers.)
posted by nath at 2:15 AM on May 6, 2002

6 million people voted for Le Pen. That is hardly the complete non event that some would portray it as. The local elections are coming, I'd expect him to have a far greater impact on them.

What I find strange is how everyone slags off Le Pen, producing a stereotyped response, without really acknowledging that their may actually be an important underlying reason as to why he is being so successful.
posted by RobertLoch at 4:25 AM on May 6, 2002

come on now citizens. i liken this to french voters saying to chirac/govt.

France: "listen, do something about some order or we might just elect him"

hands pointing to the meanest dog (we are all dogs, yes?)
brinkmenship ala
semiotic statecraft.

"Thoroughout the world there are men who now recognize
that what we are confronting is not some transitory illness, but an incurable anarcy that represents the predestined denouncement of a culture and an economic system, the beginning of the end"

-Nizan from'The Watchdogs'

way otta context
but i've been waiting 10 years to use this line
way otta context

vive la France.
posted by clavdivs at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2002

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