No, this has nothing to do with the Denver motorshow nor the generally healthy state of carmakers (with the obvious exception of Das Auto). Not even with the unfortunate passing of Ziggy Stardust aka David Bowie after a run of well over 100 singles and nearly as many albums. No, today marks the first anniversary of the January 11, 2015 Paris march that followed the Charlie Hebdo killings on that same january 7th – an event that was the topic of the first in this series of chronicles (1). And the topic is how the current french regime is trying to maximise political mileage from terrorism, using and abusing « security » for political advantage in view of the 2017 presidential elections.
As with every election since the famous showdown between presidential candidates Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie le Pen back in 2002, the emergence of the National Front on the ashes of french derilict national governance is having everyone up in arms.
It sounds very much as if political agents and press commentators all suffer from deep Alzheimer, each time rediscovering that about 25-30% of voters (50% of the eligible population) vote FN and each time analysing why this is so. And, each time, coming up with the same diagnostics which they promptly forget once the election is over. This time this effect is further reinforced in the wake of the november 13 shootings in Paris.
Had I known, I would have saved the title of my previous chronicle, « From the killing fields to autocracy« , for today. How relevant that would have been now that we are in a suspended state of democracy. As the islamic killing teams wrought havoc to the parisian nightlife last Friday, the bottomless pit of hypocrisy that passes here for national governance has voted to hijack the traditional pitch of the far-right: securty is the first of our freedoms, hence the need to curtail all other freedoms for its sake.
See the end of this article for an explanation of the above picture.
On Saturday October 17th, two days after the publication of The Drone Papers describing US drone-enabled assassinations leaked to The Intercept, the french paper Le Monde put out a story about the french military specifically targeting a French ISIS fighter called Salim Benghalem. And apparently succeeding in killing him. Benghalem was said to be the general manager of french-speaking ISIS recruits and listed on the list of most wanted terrorists.
Alain Finkielkraut is a well-known essayist turned radio host on the « Répliques » programme from national radio channel France Culture. Finkielkraut is seen as a somewhat conservativish, right-wingingish actor in the french intellectual landscape and certainly holds some debatable views, which make his work all the more interesting.
This week’s Charlie Hebdo satirical drawings relating to the drowning of the Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach, and more generaly to the migrant/refugee flux into the EU, drew international salvos of criticism. Was this the work of a journal whose near demise from terrorism led to one of the biggest march for freedom of speech in recent history? You bet.
We all had a good laugh this week when ex-and-would-be-next-president Sarkozy said that « France, throughout eternity, as always been on the side of the oppressed and always on the side of the dictators, always on the side of the one thrown into prison for believing in his ideas ». (1)
Sarkozy is one of the world’s biggest hypocrits and liars but for once he said something true: France is, indeed, always on the side of dictators unless it wants to change the incumbent dictator for a more convenient one. Or for chaos, which is just another form of dictatorship with new opportunities.
That’s it: end of summer vacations, back to work, school or, preferably, the french chronicles. France is gripped by the difficult question of the massive arrival of migrants in Europe, symbolised here by the Calais beach shantytown, but the dimension of which is forcing the establishment to get its head out of the sand of the said beach: 340 000 refugees have entered the EU since the beginning of 2015, a human wave not seen here since WWII.
I don’t know if it’s El Niño’s fault but it’s been hot around here for the past few days. Good weather for the grapes here in Southern Burgundy, at the same time as the UNESCO includes the Burgundy wine-making area (so-called « Climats de Bourgogne ») in its world heritage listing. This could boost wine tourism in the area, though at what cost I don’t know.
France has a real problem. Well it has a multitude of real problems, but it has one particular real problem identified by its screams and finger-pointing: Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Born in Spain in 1962, member of the French Parliament from 2002 to 2012 when he took office as Interior Minister under then-PM Jean-Marc Ayrault, before becoming himself PM in March 2014, Manuel Valls was always the short-tempered, authoritarian kind of guy but these caracteristics combined with the power of prime-ministership are becoming a serious liability for this country.
The « République » was the focus of french political action this week. Attachement to « republican values » and to the very concept of « the republic » was hotly contested between the governing socialists under François Hollande and the conservative oppostion party which has just relabelled itself « Les Républicains ».