The Editorial page of the Webmaster (#1)

WARNING : On this website, I am trying to give balanced points of view. BUT : as a Frenchman, I have my own strong personal opinions. I don't know if they are representative but they are mine. If you hate my comments read about "Americans and criticism". See also my resume.

Philippe ROCHEFORT

Other people's opinions I share...

 Read Rochefort's "Diary of an old student"

On French anti-semitism : reinforcing stereotypes : the same day, on Jan.19, 2007, several events took place : Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate, said (once more) something stupid, a French chef in New York was taken to court by some of his employees and the President of France organized a huge ceremony in the Pantheon in the honour of the French "Righteous among the nations". The U.S. Press (I.H.T. and most likely NY.Times) commented at length the first two and did not mention the third one (which was on the first page of all French newspapers). Therefore, for the U.S. press, it will still be very convenient in the next twenty years to keep talking about the shameful Vichy regime, the anti-semitic French people, the cowardly quasi-nazi French, etc.. ; U.S. readers will never know that France is the country with the largest number of "Righteous" designated by the Yad Vaschem Memorial in Israel and who saved thousands of lives. But it is so comfortable to reproduce, once and for all, the stereotype on anti-semitic France.... The American press lies by omission.

Read the whole story. Back to top of the page.

 

 Which US President would the French like the best ? Traditionnally, the French judge US candidates by French concepts. For instance, if they vote in France for the Left they prefer a Democrat because they think he is closer to their values. As far as I am concerned, my preference would be for a US President who has travelled abroad and knows at least one foreign language. I would vote for the candidate who knows international issues the best. It would ensure that, being the president of the most powerful country of the world, he/she knows that the rest of the world does exist and he/she has an idea of what other people think. Then he/she would not invade and destroy a country "to bring democracy" and fight weapons which do not exist. Regarding US domestic issues, like health care or energy policy, he/she could also consider what exists in other countries and works better than in the USA. Do not say "mind your own business" : your country is so powerful that what the President of the USA thinks and does is also MY business ! (2007)

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History : leave it to historians. A controversy in France (Nov. 2005) about the "positive aspects of colonization" illustrates, in my view, a succession of mistakes from all political sides.

  • First mistake : apologies for crimes of the past : in 2001 the Left Government, willing to apologize for slave trade (abolished in 1848...) issued a law (Loi Taubira, May 21, 2001) which stipulated that " ...slave trade was a crime against mankind... " and "...school programs and research programs will give to trade and slavery the significant importance they deserve..." (Art.2)
  • Second mistake : political correctness : referring to colonization, French textbooks systematically emphasize the unforgivable aspects ("statut de l'indigène", forced labor,... ) and hardly ever mention any progress in education, health and infrastructure
  • Third mistake : a stupid law (February 23, 2005) : under the pressure of "pieds noirs" associations, the parliament passed a law that stipulated "...school programs must acknowledge the positive role of France overseas, particularly in Northern Africa, and devote the place they deserve to the history and the sacrifice of the soldiers born in these territories..."
  • Fourth mistake : a typically French controversy : after the riots in suburbs, the Parliament refused to cancel the above (stupid) law, an Association of French Blacks was founded, the "Pieds Noirs" said they are being exiled a second time, etc...
I totally disagree with everything above
  • There is no doubt that colonialism was an unacceptable domination of European nations, including France, on other people. See my page on colonialism.
  • Evaluating pros and cons of an historical event does not belong to the domain of the law : it is the job of historians. The role of the law is to fix the rules of social life and establish what is forbidden (for instance, of course, negationism or racism).
  • As far as I am concerned, I am ready to apologize, if appropriate, only for events which took place after 1962, the first year I could vote and do something about them. I do not ask the Italian Prime Minister to apologize for what the Romans did to the Gauls twenty centuries ago, whether good or bad (after all, Julius Caesar made maybe one million slaves, some of them being probably my ancestors...).

(2006) Back to top of the page.

 

Racist America ? Recently (Oct.2006), I met a young Frenchman who works in a small town in Missouri. He speaks good English and graduated from Cambridge. Every day, his colleagues say hello to him by throwing their arms up in a surrender gesture. They say it just friendly and there is nothing mean in this gesture since it is well-known that the French always surrender. Of course, if he was Jew they would not make a gesture of greediness, if he was Black they would not make a gesture of lazziness, etc.. But he is French and this is just a "joke" : everybody knows that Americans are not racists.... On the contrary, they fight racism everywhere in the world, especially in France where they constanly lecture the French on anti-Semitism. I am sick and tired of seeing so many Americans consider French-bashing just like a good "joke" : it is just pure racism. Calling it a "joke" is what people used to say in Germany in the 1920s about the then very common "Jewish jokes".... Remember : racism is "attributing to a whole group a characteristic that they are all supposed to share and which is considered inferior".

More about French-bashing and the US press. (2006) Back to top of the page.

Rankings.... : In " Doing Business ", the World Bank ranks countries according to their compliance with U.S. business culture. The World Economic Forum ranks countries according to their competitiveness. Every year, the University of Shanghaï ranks universities according to their publications in English. These rankings are biased and over-estimate American criteria. Here is an example of what could be my (very biased!!) ranking of "The Cultural Level of Countries". Let's say that my criteria would be Universities, cheeses, French and wine. The respective ratings are :
 Score : 0 to 5

 USA

 France
 Quality of universities

 5

 3
 Understanding of cheeses

 1

 4
 Level of French spoken

 1

 4
 Consumption of wine

 1

 5


Average : USA = 2, France = 4. France wins !
Do you think that my criteria do not adequately cover what is commonly understood as "cultural level" and that I elaborated my ranking only to prove that France is superior ? Really ? I am a very serious person, I have a doctoral degree in econometry. You should trust me as much as you trust the World Bank, shouldn't you ?
The next time you see the ranking of countries on anything, look carefully at the choice of criteria !

(2006) Back to top of the page.

 About Executive Life : it is a shocking racket, a perfect example of racist and greedy anti-French strategy, due largely to the political ambitions of a handful of Californian attorneys, all that made possible by the American judicial system, which proved very biased and highly subject to political pressure. It is interesting to observe that, although the deal involved many American executives, American lawyers and American companies, not ONE American citizen was prosecuted. Only Frenchmen were. Very strange, isn't it ? (2003) Back to top of the page.

Gauls : In the US press, whenever you encounter the word "Gallic" in an article, change it into "Jewish" or "Black" and read the sentence again. If it looks OK, keep reading. If it looks horrible, you are reading the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal : trash it immediately. "Gallic" is a typical stereotypical way of refering to the French, seen as arrogant among many other defects. Now, if you want to see what the Romans wrote about the Gauls, click here : you could write it about the French!

(2004) Back to top of the page.

 

 About the American press : when I think of all these moralizing stories I heard over years about fact-finding journalism, about the independent power of the press and its contribution to democracy, about the absolute separation between reporting facts and expressing opinions, about the obligation of being totally free from any governmental influence, etc , I just crack up as I watch Fox News or read the International Herald Tribune. The Iraq War will have been the end of that myth : there is no longer an American model for the press. The American press expresses the views of the government and the big business of its country as much as in any other country in the world. Regarding the Iraq war, when, later, the US press had to admit that it had reported wrong facts, it did not apologize for all the anti-French columns which had been "based" on them ("Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge", in the NY Times reported by IHT, May 27, 2004). I remember a student who asked me this question, after a talk on France : "Is there liberty for the Press in France ?"" (Univ.of Missouri, 2000)....

(2004) Back to top of the page.

About the 35-hour week : it illustrates several VERY French aspects. In 1997, the Socialist party won the majority, quite unexpectedly : they decided to do something spectacular to reduce unemployment.

  • They believed that if you share the work between more people, you create jobs (first mistake : labor is not a cake to share ; wrong understanding of economy) ;
  • they thought that people would be happy to enjoy more leisure (second mistake : the working class lost paid overtime which was made very costly to employers and therefore did not forgive the Socialists for that ; wrong understanding of the working class)
  • they expected big companies to implement the law and create jobs accordingly (third mistake : they implemented the law and increased productivity, with very few new jobs ; wrong understanding of big business)
  • they expected small companies to create jobs too (fourth mistake : they closed their shops earlier every day making customers unhappy ; wrong understanding of math : you cannot hire one tenth of a new salesperson in a shop)
  • they believed that the world would admire the unique model of a very human, social and efficient society (fifth mistake : the world thinks that we are crazy ; wrong understanding of the whole world)
    Globally speaking, this reform did not create jobs and made everybody unhappy (even the civil servants, because many of them already worked less than 35 hours a week...). And the Socialists lost in the next elections in 2002 ! (2003)
  • In 2008, Right-Wing president Sarkozy passed a new law which, practically speaking, puts an end to this 35-hour week but without killing it formerly.

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About French bashing : Collateral-bashing is associating something very negative to the French. For instance, you put in the same article " Jack the Ripper killed nine women.(and further along) .. Jacques Chirac declares that it is time to subsidize cheese " : the reader may conclude that Jack the Ripper was subsidized by France. I give in " Documents " two examples of this " collateral bashing " :

  • One by William Safire, a renowned anti-French columnist from the New York Times : in his column (IHT 7/1/2004) he says (more or less)
    1. Jacques Chirac declares that it is not President Bush's business to declare that Turkey should be a member of the European Union (may I humbly observe that France never suggested that Cuba or Colombia should join NAFTA...)
    2. Chirac is sure that he is right
    3. Being sure of something is always difficult : for instance, the NYT was sure that massive destruction weapons existed and they did not : we admitted we were wrong
    4. Conclusions (implicit) : the NYT is the best newspaper in the world and the French are traitors. Please explain to me how the brain of Mr.Safire works !
  • Another example is provided by two messages from a visitor (obviously a very nice and warmhearted person) :
    1. First message : "America saved France from Nazism and they should be more grateful, etc ; therefore I hate the French"
    2. Second message : "you have to understand that when you see the toll of 9/11"
    3. Conclusion (implicit) : "the French supported terrorism and the crime of WTC." Wow....

(2005) Back to top of the page.

 About Algeria : to have an idea of what Algeria means to France, read the followingf (factual) story, and then read a fable, transposed in the American context : In 1830 France decided to conquer Algeria to create new land to develop for her farmers, open local population to progress and civilization and put an end to the attacks of the pirates which made trade dangerous. After a few years of resistance and ambushes, the Algerians were conquered and Algeria became constitutionnally part of France. Thousands of French immigrants developed the country very successfully : farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, Local language, culture and religion were maintained and protected but the French influence was of course dominant. After 130 years, a war for independence broke out. It was a very ugly war on both sides. France won from a military standpoint but lost politically, due to the support that Algerian insurgents obtained from many countries, including the USA, and France had to accept to give independence to Algeria. 100% of people of French origin, almost a million, most of them having been in Algeria for 3 generations or more and having never been to France, had to leave, often with only one bag of personal belongings and they moved to France where they settled. As part of the peace treaty, between one and two million Algerian Arabs were allowed to emigrate to France to find jobs. Discovered by French companies, the petrol was nationalized by the new Algerian government. In the fable, just change France for USA, Algeria for Arizona and imagine... In the 1830s the USA purchased Arizona to create new land to develop for farmers, open local population to progress and civilization and put an end to the attacks of the tribes which made trade dangerous. After a few years of resistance and ambushes, the Navajos were conquered and Arizona became constitutionnally part of the USA. Millions of American immigrants developed the country very successfully : farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, Local language, culture and religion were maintained and protected but the American influence was of course dominant. After 130 years, a war for independence broke out. It was a very ugly war on both sides. The USA won from a military standpoint but lost politically, due to the support that Navajo insurgents obtained from many countries, including France, and the USA had to accept to give independence to Arizona. 100% of people of American origin, almost five million, most of them having been in Arizona for 3 generations or more and having never been to other parts of the USA, had to leave, often with only one bag of personal belongings and they moved to other parts of the USA where they settled. As part of the peace treaty, one million Navajos were allowed to emigrate to the USA to find jobs. Discovered by American companies, the petrol was nationalized by the new Navajo government. It looks pretty stange, doesn't it ?

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About Islam : it took France several centuries to get rid of the Catholic church in everybody's life and I consider the 1905 law separating the church from the state as a major step toward peace and democracy in a secular society : I am ready to fight for it against anybody, including Islamic fanatics. I respect all religions and I refuse to let them interfere in the life of our society. When some Americans say that the French are anti-religious, I'd like to ask them the following question : in the USA, what would be the socially acceptable answers if a minority (for instance: African-American, Poles or Japanese) demanded:
1- sick women to be treated only by women doctors ;
2- the right to polygamy and the official status of polygamous families with regard to public benefits granted to families ;
3- the right for a husband to accompany a woman student to an exam, sit at the same table and be with her when she is being interrogated by the professor ;
4- in high school, no sports and no biology for girls, the possibility to refuse the program in history for all ;
5- the right for girls to wear an islamic veil in schools ;
6- idem for public servants, including teachers in public schools and cops;
7- the right to submit girls to excision and infibulation ;
8- special hours of admission, only for women, in public swimming pools; etc....

Please, just answer "I'd accept" or "I wouldn't accept" to these 8 questions. To know more : see recent provocative behaviors in the name of "religious freedom" and see the mini-bio of Tariq Ramadan.

(2005) Back to top of the page.

 

About political correctness : I understand that, now, in the USA, you have to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas not to offend people for whom Chrismas does not mean anything. At the same time George W.Bush keeps saying "Let's pray God" or "God bless America" with no consideration for people for whom the idea of God has no meaning.

This is not logical...If I were American, I would feel offended. There is definitely TOO MUCH religious fanatism and intolerance in this world : it needs more "laicité".

(2004) Back to top of the page.

About the war in Iraq : it reminds me of the Algerian war in the 1950s and what was called the "Bataille d'Alger" : the French army won it but lost the war ; never humiliate people, especially Arabs who have a lot of pride. Unfortunately, the American war turned the way we had predicted it would : a total disaster and more hate against America. We too had our stupid war (and even more than one) and the Americans should have listened to their French friends... Regarding what the people of this region might think from bringing democracy and freedom through an invasion, I'd just like to quote Donald Rumsfeld in 2003 ("contrary to many armies in the world, the US did not come to conquer and occupy but to liberate"), British General F.S.Maude in Iraq in 1917 ("our armies do not come in your cities and in your countries as conquerors or ennemies but as liberators") or Napoleon in Egypt in 1798 ("we come to restore your rights and punish usurpers"). Three years after the beginning of this absurd invasion, we can evaluate the soundness of this policy. It is always useful to study history... And now, what about what was said about France and the French in 2003 (cowards, ungrateful, traitors,...) and all this good wine stupidly spilled down American gutters... I do not expect to read in the American press anything like "We should have listened to the (d... )French instead of insulting them..." but still, it would be kind of fair-play... An American reader wrote to the Internationa Herald Tribune (Feb.17, 2007) : "Now that the majority of the American people have spoken out against the war in Iraq and Congress has come to the same conclusion, isn't it about time someone has the courtesy to apologize to France and President Jacques Chirac ? We Americans were not supposed to eat French fries or drink Bordeaux, and we were told the French were traitors. Certainly someone in the government should come out and say we were mistaken".

(2007) Back to top of the page.

  • If you disagree with my opinions and the way I express them, please email me ! If you enjoyed them, read Harriet Welty Rochefort's books on the French : at the end of each chapter, she interviews me on each subject (French attitudes, education, food, money, etc...)
 Some opinions I share....    

Throwing in the towel... In a very tongue-in-cheek letter to the International Herald Tribun (July 2, 2005) that I wish I had written myself, G.Vernet writes : "In response to recent columns by Thomas Friedman : Being French, I am an enemy of the USA, I am also an ugly protectionist ; I have delusions of past grandeur ; and I live in a failed state with an over-regulated economy and closed borders. We have a totally outdated social system that is not even a system after all, and certainly not social. I am unemployed, like everybody else here, but I live in comfort by retrieving benefits from the bankrupt welfare state. I am not looking for a job because I am too afraid to find one. I am ashamed when I read Friedman's column with religious fervor in copies of the IHT that are left behind by American tourists in Paris. I can only hope that my country will soon embrace globalization, the American economic model and adopt English as its mother tongue and the US dollar as a currency. When I see the benefits of an American invasion elsewhere, I also wish that the USA could send a few divisions here (we shall surrender immediately if we are not on a long week end) and occupy France until it is purged of its socialist mentality and its encroached racism and anti-Semitism. Friedman could write a new constitution in which our daughters would be required to do their homework so that Indian and Chinese little boys and girls do not pinch their jobs in the future. Alas, I know that America's war machine has been too busy lately. I wish the USA every success, but knowing that America won't be able to come and rescue us anytime soon, my family and I I have decide to commit suicide by eating cheese without any wine until we die. Maybe this will set an example and the French will reform by themselves."

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About insular America : In a letter to the IHT Dec.23, 2006, Graham L. writes : "...I have a modest suggestion for an amendment to the US Constitution : any candidate for the presidency should be required to have lived outside the USA for at least 12 consecutive months. This would ensure, at the very least, exposure to opinions and attitudes other than those in common circulation within the USA, and, at best, could lead to the formulation of a more mature approach to foreign policy."

(2006) Evaluate your "Insularity Score". Back to top of the page.

To related pages : next editorial pages (#2), (#3), (#4) and (#5), to speeches by Philippe Rochefort, Paris Diary, about the webmaster, my family website and its genealogy pages

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For more on intercultural differences, order Harriet Welty Rochefort's books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc..)

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