| France in the U.S. press
||The media in France :
misc. facts & figures
France and the French, as seen by the U.S. press : zero, except for clichés (fashion, food, strikes) or sensational
happenings. Conversely, whether you read about the USA as a superpower,
an economic giant, or a place where everyone's running amok with
guns, you READ about the U.S.A. every single day ! Criticizing
France and the French in the press is NOT, of course, French-bashing,
but when the same themes come back on and on, it becomes common
wisdom for French-bashers. Read more about French-bashing and
the US press. Read the results of a survey (published by the L.A. Times in 2005) about the adjectives associated with the French : wow !
The New York Times (NYT) gives
an excellent example of a systematically anti-French editorial
policy, but it is not the only one : The
International Herald Tribune
(IHT) can be very patronizing as well, and The
Wall Street Journal pretty
manipulative (see below).
Among the mosting shocking recent
- "France and the United
States are at War" (read a quote
from it), "The French, Now Sniffing at Themselves"
(NYT Nov.28, 1998 on hygiene), "Easygoing, Not French
and Formal (NYT Feb.3, 1999 on American restaurants), "Anxious
French Mutter as Envoy Tries to Sell Globalism" (NYT
Dec.2,1999), etc... (NYT Sept.19, 2003).
- The headline of the cover story in Time
Magazine (Time, Nov.21, 2007) was "The Death of French
Culture" when the article itself illustrated,
on the contrary, what was new about it, especially coming from
young artists from minorities.Read more about it.
- See another example about France
- Wrong facts :
- in March 2003, the NYT (and the IHT)
published two editorials by William Safire,
"The French Connection", in which it was said
that France, China and Syria have one common reason not to want
the US and British troops in Iraq : they would make clear to
the world that these three nations have supplied Saddam Hussein
with illicit products for his missiles, etc... ; Barry Lando,
a former CBS journalist, checked the facts and established there
were wrong ; the NYT refused to publish his article, arguing
that they never publish articles which criticize their editorials
and that editorials contain opinions and not facts ; therefore,
you will not read anything about all that in the US press and
to learn more, you have to read "Le Monde" (March
26, 2003) ; read a quote
from the National Journal
- In July 2010,, the NYT (and IHT) wrote that "French preparatory classes are expensive" : in fact they are free !
- More to come
- Patronizing :
- "Having persuaded themselves
that cinema should be about art, not money, France's educated
elites have never disguised their disdain for much of what reaches
French movie and television screens from the United States...."
(I.H.T., Sept.13, 2002)
- About the French economic stimulation program : "America is 6 months behind ; it has wasted a lot of time", said Mr.Devidjian, the minister in charge of the French "relance"... "by the time Washington
gets around to doling out most of its money, the crisis could be over". Gallic arrogance aside, Mr.Devidjian has a point." (IHT, July 4, 2009). My comments : who is arrogant ? The French minister, who only reports a facts, or the journalist for whom it is inconceivable that the French could do something faster than the Americans ? What would you say if he had written "Jewish arrogance aside" ? See what American journalists mean by "Gallic".
- Manipulative ("were you victimized by the French") :
- a reporter
(Paul G.) asked me (WSJ, Feb.20, 2003) "...anecdotes
about incivility toward Americans in Paris...." ; for
anybody who ever set his/her foot in France, the question does
not make any sense ; I am sure it will make a "balanced"
article with 50% of the article about Americans ill-treated in
Paris, and 50% of other stories. What was the Editor looking
- The French read more magazines
than comparable countries ; the most circulated are L'Express
or Le Point (like Time or Newsweek), Le
Nouvel Observateur (more Left-wing),VSD and many others
; contrary to the USA, they are sold much more by copy than by
subscription. Read Paris Diary about kiosques.
Every Wednesday, the whole political class reads, anxiously,
Le Canard Enchainé (the Chained Duck), a very well-informed
- The French read less newspapers
than comparable countries : Ouest-France (regional, 800,000),
L'Equipe (daily, sports only, 500,000), Le Figaro
(center-Right, 400,000), Le Monde (center-Left, 300,000),
younger and more left-wing people read Libération,
business people read Les Echos or La Tribune ;
many commuters read one of the free newspapers (Metro
or 20 Minutes).
- As in the USA there are hundreds
of TV channels through cable or satellite, but the most
watched (free) channels are TF1 (private, around 30% of
the audience), Antenne 2 (state-owned, similar audience),
France 3 (regional, state-owned, number 1 outside Paris),
M6 (private), etc ; there is also Canal + (private,
by subscription, sports and movies) ; in France, the national
news on TV is at 8pm. See facts & figures about French TV channels.
- See French radio
stations and French Internet (to be completed).
- About the freedom of the
press, contrary to what many Americans think, France is not
very different from the USA and France ranks #31 in the RSF
ranking (USA #48)
- More to come....
Certain subjects are recurrent in the French press
and represent some problems
of the French society which are not being addressed adequately
and/or on which the country is deeply divided; they include :
- Corsica : discussions with leaders who are pro or against
more autonomy, bombings by autonomists, etc
- The privatization of major state-owned
utilities : EDF (Electricité de France), France Telecom,
GDF (Gaz de France), La Poste, etc
- Immigration : how to limit
it ? Often linked with serious problems in the poorest suburbs
: crime, unemployment, problems in schools, controversy about
the islamic veil, etc
- Social Security : its increasing
cost and how to control fraud and waste
- How can France join Europe and
still keep its traditions, its social system and remain different
- More about the most frequently
covered events in the
- More to come
Some specific aspects of the French press (compared to the US press)
- The reader or the TV-viewer is not shocked when the journalist expresses his/her own view (that is democracy...) instead of presenting only facts (thats is considered boring...). Nobody seems to be impressed by the classical concepts of distinguishing reporting and commenting : they are often considered sheer hypocrisy....
- Most French journalists lean to the Left Wing ! It is not prejudiced to observe that a large majority of French journalists and the editors of French TV (whether public or private) and of most newspapers lean very distinctly to the Left. Of course this is not the reason which explains why the general French mood is so negative and depressed but it could contribute to it. According to a poll published by the weekly magazine Marianne, only 6% of French journalists declare they feel closer to the Right Wing (this figure must be considered with caution : it is an old poll -2001- and its methodology is not clear). Just an example to illustrate it. On Sept.6, 2010, the day before huge demonstrations against a governmental project of reforming the retirement system, I watched the News on two state-owned channels. On France3 (regional), 10 man-in-the-street interviews : ALL of them against the reform, that's all. On France2 (national) : 4 man-in-the-street interviews : 3 against the reform, the fourth one who is very moderate ("maybe there is no other solution…") is (of course) a banker with suit and tie, then comes an interview of the leader of the major union and finally a report on how difficult the life of a worker impacted by the reform will be. If you come from Mars, you conclude that everybody in France, except maybe the President, is against this reform (but according to several polls, a majority of the French approve the reform, but it seems this is not an interesting fact for TV reporters....). If you want to form our own opinion, just watch TV or read the headlines.
- Editorial policy :
- just remember the campaign of
all US media in 2003-2004 about France denying the existence
of Weapons of Massive Destruction in Iraq..... No apologies were
ever publisehd !
- the campaign about "anti-semitism
in France" in Spring 2002 did not correspond to real facts
in France at this time but it caused a lot of damage in the US
public opinion. Read a letter
to the International Herald Tribune, by an American living
- "His (Sarkozy's) party leader in Parliament wants to pass a law that bans women wearing burqas and niqabs from the street. The Talibans would be pleased. The rest of the world should declare its revulsion". (NYT Jan 26, 2010). Read my colum "Talibans in New York".
of words :
- "The French surrender
again" (about cigarette ban in restaurants) (Herald, Everett,
- When the police forces dispersed
troublemakers with water canons after a huge student demonstration
(March 28, 2006) with nobody seriously injured, CNN said it was
"like Tienanmen" (with hundreds injured
or killed by tanks).
- During the riots in November
2005, many US medias (and CNN systematically) headlined "Muslim
Riots in Paris"
which was totally and doubly wrong : there was nothing religious
in these riots. Any other term would have been acceptable for
these riots : urban, youth, jobless, black and arab, desperate,
violent, etc.. but "muslim" was a deliberate bias to
the truth ("Muslim Riots" is as ridiculous as "Masculine
Riots" although they're all males...). In addition to that,
the riots took place in distant suburbs and not in Paris, which
is a second bias.
- "Where a friend would
be described as "steadfast", for example, France is
"adamant". Her spokesmen "snipe" at
our position, where a friend would merely "criticize",
writes John L.Hess,
former correspondent of The New York Times in Paris, in
his book, written in 1968 and which could have been written in
2003 ! Read more
- "Germany and France,
whose economies are moribund and where unemployment is
high..." (International Herald Tribune, Sept.10, 2004,
First page article). According to The American Heritage Dictionary
of the English Language, "moribund" means "at
the point of death". A little exagerated, isn't it ?
- Biased presentation ("avoid anything positive about France") :
- Can you write a 5-page article on fast trains worldwide (Japan, Germany, Spain and of course USA, where they do not exist...) without mentioning France and its TGV network operating since 1981 with more than 100 million passengers/year ? It looks difficult, but Scientific American can do it, in its May 2010 issue. Not a word. Of course whenever we do something stupid, which happens quite often, the US press reports at length about it, but when we do something better than Americans, it is considered less interesting....
- when the World Health Organization
ranked France's health system 1rst and the USA's 39th out of
191 countries (see : Sick
in France), the NYT headline (June 21, 2000) was "Europeans
Perform Highest in Ranking of World Health", it mentioned
France as ranking "in the top five" and indicated the
American ranking only in the tenth paragraph... (this is quoted
by Edward C.Knox, in a well documented article : The New York
Times Looks at France, The French Review, N°6, Vol.75,
- Abstaining from
mentioning an information if favourable to the French
is widely used about anti-semitism : read about a recent
example of lying
by omission and see my
editorial about it.
Visit miquelon.org, the authoritative site on French-bashing,
with appalling quotes and links to racist and hate sites. See
a few examples
and more about French-bashing.
Hate the French ? See a list
of a few anti-French books...
The French "Godwin Point"
- You know the Godwin Point : when, in a discussion, someone raises the image of "nazi" or "holocaust" to counter your argument, this is the end of any reasonable discussion.
- In the American political debate, France is often a sort of "Godwin Point". When a politician says "It's like France", it means "socialism", "addiction to the State", "despoilment of those who work to the benefit of the lazy", etc… and this is the end of the discussion....
- See a few quotes to illustrate it :
America in the French press
|To related pages
(#1), more intercultural
management (#3) and
the image of the USA (#4),
irksome France (#5), typical French
values (#7) and favorite US
artists (#8), American
writers in Paris, etc...
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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
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