July 24, 2003

What TF1's Editorial Judgment Says

What TF1's Editorial Judgment Says About France Today

I didn't have the time last night to blog a bit more about TF1's ludicrously buried treatment of the news of the death of Saddam's sons per the post immediately below. The French station's handling of the story is something well beyond the bias of, say, the Beeb, the Guardian or the Independent. No matter how deep-seated the relatively knee-jerk anti-americanism of the Independent, for instance, that paper will at least appropriately judge the death of Saddam's sons as highly newsworthy and rightly play it as the major story of the day. Sure, there may well be subtle (and not so subtle) anti-American digs within the story--but they will at least give the coalition its due for having scored, for instance, a "major breakthrough".

Which brings me back to TF1. How to explain that 31 minutes of the broadcast on France's main televised news show had passed before that station even deigned to mention the events surrounding the death of Saddam's sons? This is well beyond sour grapes regarding the diplomacy before the war. Nor does it have to do with a neo-Gaullist nationalism that prevents the French media from airing a success in what is widely derided as a misguided Anglo-American neo-imperialistic adventure (though such resentment at a coalition success certainly played a role in tamping down the story). After all, it has been a tough summer for the coalition, and news of the death of Uday and Qusay may well have dampened some of the schadenfreude over the Seine.

But the root causes for the absurdist way TFI handled this story are deeper. Deeper even than Rob Kagan's notions of a post-historical neo-Kantian Europe living blissfully outside of history--neglecting "high" security issues for the nitty-gritty of the lastest European Central Bank interest rate cut or agricultural subsidy rows among EU member states. More too than France's bitterness resulting from its lack of real hard and/or soft power leading to vague mumblings about the importance of multipolarity rather than a more realistic, nuanced approach advocated by (yes) the Germans!

I feel, when hearing about such a pitiable handling of this major news story, that France (and I say this as a sometime Francophile) is a wounded country. Wounded because it is grasping for its role on the world stage in an unmoored, ad hoc way. De Villepin's naive neo-romantic approach to diplomacy has proved somewhat reckless, incoherent, self-indulgent. Paris embittered a real and important ally involved in, as seen from Washington, an existential battle against a bitter, evil foe. And the French, at some level, likely feel some odd form of embarrasment or self-hatred for having abandoned a fellow democracy in her time of need--perhaps at some level, given shared Englightenment values, aware that she was on the wrong side of the fight.

There is, of course, more to all this. But I'm left with a nagging feeling that France is facing somewhat of an identity crisis post-Iraq. The ramifications of its Iraq stance continue to manifest themselves several months on. And one result appears to be that France has withdrawn. Not in terms of a protracted navel-gazing exercise, which is likely needed and would be welcome, but simply curled up and provincialized. How else to explain that stories on prison breakouts, small claim judges or pollution in Bouches du Rhone warranted more prominent billing than that of the death of Uday and Qusay?

Posted by Gregory at July 24, 2003 05:04 AM
Comments

yvflxiiti upopeteaa.

Posted by: Matilda at August 29, 2004 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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