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Madness

VilefranceThese are a couple of images taken from an ad I've been seeing now for a while running on The Corner. It's really an astounding thing. Notwithstanding disputes over the Iraq War, it's quite true that French foreign policy has often been less-than-admirable in the recent past. But is France really "our bitterest enemy?" Now I suppose that once I point out that this is completely insane, some clever rightwinger will write back saying, "no, no, no nobody ever said France was worse than al-Qaeda, it's just that the French are literally more bitter" but that's stupid. I don't even know what this obsession with France-bashing is supposed to be about at this point. During early 2003 it was a useful way to distract the public from the serious questions being raised about the advisability of invading Iraq by stigmatizing all opposition to the war as objectively pro-French (and, of course, pro-Saddam), but there doesn't even seem to be a cynical purpose to it at this point. It's just the descent of conservatism into pure ressentiment (a French word, yes, but it comes to us in English through the German Nietzsche, so...) divorced from any real aims.

March 31, 2005 | Permalink

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» Windex time from Wing Nut Echo Chamber
Matthew Yglesias, whose blog's tagline is "A Reality-Based Weblog", as his panties in a twist over an ad running on The Corner. The ad is for Denis Boyles book about our Franco-American relations. As ads are wont to do it... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 1, 2005 3:34:20 PM

» Windex time from Wing Nut Echo Chamber
Matthew Yglesias, whose blog's tagline is "A Reality-Based Weblog", has his panties in a twist over an ad running on The Corner. The ad is for Denis Boyles book about Franco-American relations. As ads are wont to do, it employs... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 1, 2005 3:56:25 PM

» America? Peweee! But France, How Could Anyone Not Like France? from Right Wing News
Popular left-winger blogger Matthew Yglesias takes note of an anti-French book advertised at National Review and opines that: "I don't... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 1, 2005 11:12:58 PM

» America? Peweee! But France, How Could Anyone Not Like France? from Right Wing News
Popular left-winger blogger Matthew Yglesias takes note of an anti-French book advertised at National Review and opines that: "I don't... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 2, 2005 7:05:44 AM

» America? Peweee! But France, How Could Anyone Not Like France? from Right Wing News
Popular left-winger blogger Matthew Yglesias takes note of an anti-French book advertised at National Review and opines that: "I don't... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 2, 2005 7:07:49 AM

Comments

Well, since many of the same folks are still fighting the Scopes trial, it only makes sense that once France became the enemy (?!?), it should remain so. Whatever else we might say about contemporary rightists, once they've got something in their jaws, they never let go...

Posted by: sglover | Mar 31, 2005 4:53:51 PM

"They turk r'd jrbs?" No, wait, thats India.

Maybe its because the chicks don't shave their pits. Its all I can come up with.

Posted by: Adrock | Mar 31, 2005 5:08:48 PM

Good timing! Early today I picked up a fine bottle of French wine (2002 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret - Chateauneuf-du-Pape, mmmmmmmmmmmm!) I would much rather drink their wine than listen to the vacant heads of the right wing whine. They can go screw - while I grab my corkscrew.

Posted by: mroberts | Mar 31, 2005 5:09:09 PM

Has no one pointed out to these morons that Chirac has been America's strongest ally in the Lebanon-Syria struggle, providing diplomatic muscle in pushing through UN Resolution 1559 and isolating Bashar Assad? French bashing is so 2003.

Posted by: Hank Scorpio | Mar 31, 2005 5:09:43 PM

Mr. Yglesias,

No expert I, but having followed these arguments over the last couple of years, I would say the reason for conservative dislike of France these days is a pure reaction to the now-well-publicized French dislike of the US.

Conservatives being the patriot party, this is a natural reaction.

And whats this about a purpose ? There does not need to be a purpose, just like there really isn't one in plenty of liberal obsessions.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 31, 2005 5:14:29 PM

You read the Corner?

Posted by: praktike | Mar 31, 2005 5:22:01 PM

"It's just the descent of conservatism into pure ressentiment"

1> 'conservatism' not conservatism.

2> I sorta agree with that, and sorta don't. Resentment of France is the resentment of the pretend-strong being unable to work their will on the weak. On the other hand, France is clearly the source of all liberal evil (???) (!!!) except it isn't. To my mind, this is a lot more about psychology of an angry mob deprived of a hate target, rather like a sonar-guided torpedo hunting for a target. Saddam is in chains, 'conservatives' are in charge, so it's not liberals making 'conservatives' gag. They can't focus on Osama, because they can't (won't) do anything about that. Nor China, since their Masters have dictated that China is OK. I dunno, this seems more like the case of the weak ('conservative' blue-state elite pundits) trying to distract the strong (all those guys (proles!) from red states) from focusing on actual problems, while waiting for the next big thing, like Terry Schiavo.

Now, you might argue that the red state rank-and-file are motivated by ressentiment, but they aren't the people writing the books.

'Deviousness. Envy. Delusions of grandeur.' seems to me to pretty much sum up the thinking of 'conservative' pundits. That is, the frog-bashing has become an exercise in pure displacement. Combat masturbation or something.

ash
['Wow! That's some hard-core heroic self-love there!']

Posted by: ash | Mar 31, 2005 5:22:13 PM

Reminds me of The French Betrayal of America, another absurd francophobic polemic that I blogged about last March.

Posted by: Bragan | Mar 31, 2005 5:22:37 PM

Mr. Scorpio,

Yes, just like nobody told all those Frenchmen back in the 1950's that the US was their best friend in backing them on the EC, the Marshall plan, etc.

But still they hated the US.

There is on one hand policy and alliances for mutual benefit, a formal transaction, and then there is personal feeling. The French have managed to penetrate the US consciousness, after years of screaming about their feelings and being ignored. This is the natural reaction. After so many years the dislike is now mutual.

This now-revealed mutual antipathy should not prevent cooperation.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 31, 2005 5:22:52 PM

The target is not France; it is liberalism.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Mar 31, 2005 5:26:44 PM

Mr. Ash,

Your analysis is over-complex.

If one finds that he is being regularly insulted behind his back, the normal reaction, assuming ordinary human feelings, is to return the insult.

Yes, this is a shouting-match in the schoolyard.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 31, 2005 5:27:38 PM

Mr. Bragan,

There is substance to this subject, polemics or no, and regardless of the quality of that particular work. Revel is no foolish polemicist. Neither is Bruckner -

http://www.dissentmagazine.org/menutest/articles/sp03/bruckner.htm

"It is remarkable, for example, how we evade contemporary tensions, even on our own territory, and delegate responsibility to the Americans, only to criticize them mercilessly thereafter. Whatever it does, whether it abstains or intervenes, America is always wrong. In the Middle East and elsewhere, Europe no longer wants to get its hands dirty, only to hold them out in a passionate appeal to all men and women of goodwill. When those men and women reject our friendship, well, we leave it up to others to do what is necessary. We saw this in Bosnia in 1995, in Kosovo in 1999, and comic-opera style, when the European Union asked Washington to mediate the microscopic Spanish-Moroccan conflict over Parsley Island off the coast of Tangiers in the summer of 2002."

France is definitely the center of this feeling. And long before this, as I saw for myself, this antipathy was certainly present.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 31, 2005 5:35:47 PM

France stands for a bunch of conservative nationalist bugaboos:

--In the American mind, French products have long had a mark of the elite. There's a widespread belief that all the "best" food and films are French. Thus, the French can be painted as an elitist nation by those who want to stir up populist feelings.

--The French (really just the Parisians), unlike some other Europeans, have a reputation for being pissed off at Americans when we invade their country en masse in the summertime and refuse to even try to speak their language. So Americans are already predisposed to be a bit irritated at these people for having the temerity to be such poor hosts.

--France, though its current government is center-right, serves well enough to conservatives as an example of all the problems of an expanded welfare state and higher taxation.

The aim is to try to whip up nationalist feeling among the American electorate, and then direct it against all the policies it believes France stands for. We can't have higher taxes, more state regulation of business, a more secular society, and more willing to get the government to help out the poor. Good God, man, do you want us to become like those, elitist, asshole French?! It's not much different from the attempt to impart to Red Staters the identity of the common man, while Blue Staters are elitist, effeminate, intellectual latte-drinkers who think they're soooo much better human beings than Red Staters.

Posted by: B | Mar 31, 2005 5:39:02 PM

Mr. Alegria,
It is not a natural reaction. The french disagree with our foreign policy and have actively opposed it in a number of areas. Where they agreed with this administration's goals and methods they've cooperated (Afghanistan, Persian Gulf War, etc.). Now this is pretty similar to any number of countries --- i.e., Germany, Russia, Mexico, China, etc. Only France has been subject to this particular vitriol from the right. And you can't seriously think that there is not a much longer history of conservative disdain for the french. As I recall, the term "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" is not innovative.

Something about the French rubs American conservatives the wrong way --- whether its the socialism, the secularism, emphasis on intellectualism and culture, thinness, who really knows? Perhaps the idea of a multi-polar world, which has been most prominently advocated by the French, strikes American conservatives as fundamentally pernicious in light of our "City on a Hill" destiny. But again, who really knows. The point being that American conservatives have felt licensed to unleash their pre-existing anti-French sentiments over the last couple of years and these sentiments are way out of proportion to any pain and frustration we've suffered on account of the French.

Posted by: Finn | Mar 31, 2005 5:40:41 PM

The French regularly go out of their way to publically state how much they hate American and Americanism, so returning the antipathy seems only fair.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Mar 31, 2005 5:40:42 PM

And whats this about a purpose ? There does not need to be a purpose

Yep. Sounds like pure ressentiment to me.

Posted by: JP | Mar 31, 2005 5:43:22 PM

The French definitely have their delusions of grandeur. Residual self-image, if you will.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 31, 2005 5:46:00 PM

France didn't complain when we intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo, because it was a good idea to intervene in Bosnia and Kosovo. France did complain when we intervened in Iraq, because it was a bad idea to intervene in Iraq. Don't shoot the messenger.

Posted by: joe o | Mar 31, 2005 5:46:20 PM

Mr. Holsclaw,

Precisely.

Mr. Finn,

Its much more than US foreign policy, and it certainly is much older than this recent contretemps. Who was denouncing and destroying MacDonalds restaurants, oh, ten years ago ? Who was marching against Euro-Disney ? Who was organizing ministries to block US "cultural infiltration" ?

For a large class of French people, their object of dislike is the US itself, its society, economy, culture, and the people themselves. yes, its schizophrenic anc contradictory and muddled and complex and basically inexplicable I think, but its there and has been there a long time. I recommend Revel on the subject.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 31, 2005 5:48:07 PM

"The French regularly go out of their way to publically state how much they hate American and Americanism, so returning the antipathy seems only fair."

or is it the other way around, Seabass?

Posted by: Drew | Mar 31, 2005 5:50:07 PM

Mr. Joe O,

France was blocking intervention (by anyone, substantially) in Bosnia for years, until they were persuaded by their own people, like Bruckner - and then they asked for US intervention. And then they still complained about the US. Its not politics or policy. Its personal.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 31, 2005 5:51:46 PM

Mr. Drew,

From what I have seen, Americans have basically ignored France (or French opinions) for almost two centuries. Americans have rarely had a bad word for the French.

The French have not ignored the US, certainly not since 1945.

This situation has recently changed just a bit.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 31, 2005 5:55:19 PM

Mr. JP,

"Ressentiment" - well, yes, in a sense. But my sense is not yours I think.

American opinion formed not against French policies or the nature of France or the condition of the world or frustrations about anything; it is a reaction to French attitudes. That is a different thing entirely.

There is no such dislike of Russia or Germany in spite of similar behavior.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 31, 2005 6:02:11 PM

Oh really? Anti-French sentiment goes back much further than the Iraq war, Dr. Luisa. However, that is not the point. I'm just commenting on the idiotic circular logic my good pal Seabass used.

Posted by: Drew | Mar 31, 2005 6:04:32 PM

the issue with france is dumb. the french as a whole don't hate america... in fact, many french citizens still openly praise america's courage during WWII (and even with dealing with the middle east... remember that paris is basically little palestine). With that said, it's certainly true that some french people don't like america. who cares? it seems that the french are more of a worried friend than a sworn enemy. France has sat in the thrown and worn the crown. they know what it's like to be a super-power. sure they harbor some jealousy, but maybe they dont want to see a replay of the wildly unsuccessful napoleonic wars (from a long-term prespective), which ended with instability in france and a tremendous fall from grace that took more than a century to repair.

Posted by: kurt thomas | Mar 31, 2005 6:10:59 PM

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