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A question for my French friends

ETA: It's Saturday now. I posted this entry on Thursday, and filtered it so only the French people on my flist would see it. I've probably gotten all the response I'm going to from them, so I'm going to make the post public now because someone who saw the entire article (that post is also being made public)was curious as what discussion there had been.

Okay, the only people who can see this post are Aline, Babycakes, Jem, Rosie, Morgared, Mouse, and GreedyDancer.  I can only think of two (possibly three) other people who might be interested in the story, and I'll post the entire newspaper article elsewhere for them.

Wednesday's Financial Times included an article by Martin Arnold, who reports for the paper from Paris.  The piece talked about an interview that Gérard Larcher gave on Tuesday to a group of foreign journalists.  I won't transcribe the full article here, but the first three paragraphs are shown below (bold and italics mine):

France's employment minister yesterday blamed polygamy as one reason for the rioting in the country.

Gérard Larcher said multiple marriages among immigrants was one reason for the racial discrimination which ethnic minorities faced in the job market.  Overly large polygamous families sometimes led to anti-social behaviour among youths who lacked a father figure, making employers wary of hiring ethnic minorities, he explained.

The minister, speaking to a group of foreign journalists as the government stepped up efforts to improve its image with the foreign media, said:  "Since part of society displays this anti-social behaviour, it is not surprising that some of them have difficulties finding work ...  Efforts must be made by both sides.  If people are not employable, they will not be employed."

I was a little shocked to read this.  Not necessarily by the sentiment ... you can't control how people think and prejudice flourishes everywhere ... but rather by the fact that it was a government minister publicly expressing these views.  I wondered (and this is my question) what the reaction was in the French press and among the French public. An American government official who made similar remarks would be pilloried in the press and in the court of public opinion, and would probably soon be out looking for a new job.  If the Financial Times story is accurate, do you think that Larcher will survive?  Or, like Sarkozy's "scum" remark, is he just saying what a lot of people think?  Or is the whole think just a tempest in a teapot, and, like the riots, the foreign press is guilty of exaggeration?

I'm a long way from being able to pick up a French newspaper to try to answer my questions myself, so I'm asking what all of you think about it.  Don't feel you need to reply unless you want to, but I really am curious.

 

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
greedy_dancer
Nov. 17th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
well, i'm probably the less informed person as i haven't been following news programs and i don't read the press, so take this as a really personal view ...

i do believe that is what the guy said. then again, a lot of people have said lots of things, including people standing up and saying the government and society at large were as guilty as the people burning cars out there. it's tempting i suppose to pick out the most outrageous bits. i don't know if that is all the minister said, but from what i have gathered, it's not really cauing a huge scandal - i mean, if it has, it hasn't reached me.

the other thing is that lots of politicians these days seem to be assuming extreme stances to "cut the grass under the feet" of the Front National. i mean, look at Sarkozy's job approval rates: they're rising steadily, and it was pointed out in some program i watched that the rise was partly due to a vast majority of card-carrying FN members agreeing with Sarko's politics. my greatest fear, for one, is that the FN will gain a lot out of these riots. on the other hand, if "non-extreme" right-wing politicians start speaking like the FN, and advocating the same measures, to 'protect' us from a rise of the FN ... well, you know what they say. if it sounds like a racist and acts like a racist ...

just my two cents.
aswanargent
Nov. 18th, 2005 10:11 am (UTC)
Your two cents is exactly what I wanted, lol.

The only reason I'm as aware about this as I am is because I read a European paper (Britain's Financial Times) on a daily basis in addition to reading The New York Times. Also, because I'm following the worldaffairs and dominiquelechic ljs, I get a lot of links to other European news sources through the posts I see there. But you guys are the ones who are actually living in France (well, except for Babycakes), and so you're the ones who really see or hear what's going on.

Btw, I clipped something out of the Op-Ed page of the Times the other day; it was a titled "The French Riots: A Political Scorecard", and it ranked Chirac, Sarkozy, Villepin, François Hollande, and Le Pen on how their standing had been affected by the unrest. (I might post the whole thing when I have a chance.) Anyway, the writer seemed to think that any new support the National Front might get as a result of the rioting would possibly be offset by the loss of some of their voters to Sarkozy (just exactly what you were saying above).
crazybutsound
Nov. 17th, 2005 06:25 pm (UTC)
If Sarkozy can go about saying what he regularly says and still be a minister, do you really think that Mr. Larcher saying what he said will land him in trouble? I think not. Our government, ever since Chirac was elected the first time, has always made it very clear that as long as it could go on ignoring what the people are shouting about, it will. There have been ministers before who stayed in place over issues that were at the time reacted to a lot more violently than Mr. Larcher's ridiculous take on things.

The other thing, of course, is that as I was telling your friend jenni_snake, what these politicians are doing by trying to exacerbate racism with such outrageously xenophobic comments is of course rallying the majority of the lower and middle classes behind a common ennemy. If the people get fed such bullshit about how immigrants and the differences in their culture and habits is working against better employment, etc, then the people will be too busy being scandalized by said immigrants' behavior to see what the real problem is: that the government and most of France have been working hand in hand against the people.

Right wing and FN politicians are manipulating the population into following them by playing on their fears and against anything and anyone that wouldn't be "in the norm". It's despicable, but look at what happened in the US, look at what Bush and his partisans have been doing and saying, look at some issues like Irak or Homophobia. Bush won his second election over those by playing the exact same game Sarkozy and his cronies are playing. They're using the majority's desperation and deflecting the subsequent anger the majority feels towards minorities by painting them as dangerous to social order; that way the people lose track of the bigger issues.

Mr Larcher's remark was terribly clever because only weeks before the riots started, there had been strikes and movements to protest against the government's policies, to protest against rising unemployment which the people felt was due mostly to a lack of social program from our government. Look at what's happening now: Larcher is pointing the finger to people who have no job, explaining the fact that they have no job from one of their "non-French" characteristics, and whoosh, the rest France is all like "that's not entirely false, see? That's why unemployment is raising!" And voilà! We forget to go and keep blaming our leaders' lack of social program.

Sure, the press, the left wing parties, those who don't agree with those kinds of politics are shocked and saying they are, but the majority is unfortunately not left wing nor disagreeing with Mr Sarkozy's and Larcher's ideas.

If you're interested and have time to look at this in French (won't offer to translate because frankly, I wouldn't have the time nor the patience): http://www.liberation.fr/page.php?Article=339074
aswanargent
Nov. 18th, 2005 10:55 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link! I can print the article out and try to stumble through it with my dictionaries (it's good practice).

Now, see, this is why I wanted to ask you and the others on the scene about all of this. You're my way of finding out about things that don't necessarily get covered by the international press (like the earlier strikes and protest movements you mentioned).

And yes, of course, here in the U.S. Bush is doing exactly the same thing. That's one of the reasons I was so annoyed by all the fuss being made over here about the so-far mythical bird flu pandemic (he made a big deal over announcing the government's plans to ask Congress for something like $7 billion in emergency funding to stockpile drugs as preparation for the pandemic). It's nothing but a distraction to get people's minds off Iraq and what a mess he and his government have made of things there. He and Cheney are continuing to do the same thing in their attacks on Democrats who voted for the war but are now saying "wait a minute, we were misled". The Administration is saying that the people in Congress who are now becoming increasingly critical had all the information they needed when the vote was taken, and because they voted in favour of the war then but are changing their tune now, they're doing it for political reasons. And in fact that's a lie because Congress never had all the information the White House did. Jeez! Sorry. But you mention Bush around me and I tend to go slightly ballistic.

Speaking of the left wing parties, there's an article in today's Financial Times entitled "French presidential run-up deepens Socialist party infighting", and one of the things it says is that the party has seemed irrelevant during all the recent urban unrest because the party leaders have been too busy with internal power struggles to capitalise on everyone's unhappiness with the Chirac government. It's quite an interesting article, I think. I may post it.

I'll probably end up boring everyone on my flist to tears with my political posts but, hey, sorry. I just find all this fascinating, whether it's what's going in France, or the German elections, or the rigged presidential election in Azerbaijan, or what Berlusconi's doing in Italy, or the first woman elected president in Liberia, etc. etc. etc. Nobody has to read the posts or comment on them, but they're going to be out there for people to see. I may not even limit the French stuff to just you guys after this; there's no reason the Americans on my flist shouldn't learn a little more about what's going on in the world.

And, hah! So Jem and Jen are talking to each other. That should make for some interesting reading. :-)
crazybutsound
Nov. 18th, 2005 11:09 am (UTC)
Speaking of the left wing parties, there's an article in today's Financial Times entitled "French presidential run-up deepens Socialist party infighting", and one of the things it says is that the party has seemed irrelevant during all the recent urban unrest because the party leaders have been too busy with internal power struggles to capitalise on everyone's unhappiness with the Chirac government. It's quite an interesting article, I think. I may post it.

Unfortunately all too true. The Socialist party has been hopeless and it's what's currently frightening me more than anything. We have no strong enough personality on the left side to stand up to the right in the upcoming elections. I'm praying for these guys to wake up and get their heads out of their asses, but to be honest? I'm thinking what happened in the US during the last election is exactly what it going to happen here. Kerry lost the election in great part because he lacked the striking charisma needed from a candidate, and the democrats lost because of some issues which devided the left rather than uniting it.

Same thing is going to happen here, I'm afraid. Sarkozy is not Bush's biggest fan for nothing. Not to mention that despite their probable rivalry Sarkozy, Chirac and DeVillepin are still trying to present a united front. Something the left haven't been doing at all. *sigh*

And I like politics. Not passionate about them but I'm interested. You posting articles and reflections in your journal is bound to interest me. It's the WA stuff I'm not interested in, not politics. You could say my thing is: politics, yes, political slash, no.
aswanargent
Nov. 18th, 2005 12:49 pm (UTC)
And I like politics. Not passionate about them but I'm interested. You posting articles and reflections in your journal is bound to interest me. It's the WA stuff I'm not interested in, not politics. You could say my thing is: politics, yes, political slash, no.

Good enough! I only did that post about the new lj so if anyone was interested they'd know about it and how to find it. Any other posts I do that are WA-related get sent out there with a filter, and you don't see those.
french_hobbit
Nov. 19th, 2005 12:05 pm (UTC)
what the reaction was in the French press and among the French public.
I'm not watching tv, only reading some press (essentially on the internet), and the only reactions I've read about this were one or two articles, quite factual. It seems political friends of the minister have brought some reservations about what he said (like, 'it was in a the middle of some other causes for the crisis' and so on). So, nothing strong here about this line. From my point of view, it's not the worst thing that we've heard by one of our political men here, Sarkozy is far more aggressive, provocative, and has a FN point of view on several matters. And the media are actually focused on him, unfortunately...
aswanargent
Nov. 19th, 2005 12:30 pm (UTC)
And it seems that Sarkozy is going to be the main winner from the riots. I'll be posting an article called "A Political Scorecard" later today if I get a chance.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )