Sunday, December 22, 2013

La plaisanterie du Président

You are by now (unfortunately) probably familiar with the spine-tingling, blood-curdling tale of

(upon which we are formally forbidden to comment, for reasons explained here).

You are far less likely to hear (unless you hear it from me;  so far [Sunday morning] the anglophone press has been silent on the matter) about another incident that happened at the same time, likewise involving a joking public reference to the hazards of visiting Africa, which is, however, of considerably greater moment, since in this case, the perpetrator was not some self-caressing P.R. ditzhead, but the Président de la République française, M. François Hollande:

L'Algérie vexée par la boutade de Hollande sur la securité
Le président Hollande avait déclaré sur le ton de la plaisanterie le 16 décembre dernier que le ministre de l'Intérieur, Manuel Valls, était rentré «sain et sauf» d'Algérie. «C'est déjà beaucoup», avait-il ajouté.

[Here the Président expresses joshing satisfaction that his Interior Minister has returned “safe and sound” from Algeria, “which is saying something!”]

In both cases, the hazards alluded to are entirely accurate (it is for that very reason that they caused a scandal):  In the case of [name of USPerson redacted]’s indiscreet Tweet about [named darkcontinental ultrameridional nation-state] being the world’s principle hot-bed and breeding-ground of [quadriliteral acronym deleted], that is well-known.  In the case of Hollande’s off-the-cuff about the perils of Algeria, these are extremely well-known in France, which has lost many a citizen to Algerian kidnappers, Algerian terrorists, etc.,  though little-known in the United States. Hence Americans might scratch their heads over this anecdote, which has Algerians in an uproar (and they can be quite dangerous, when thus aroused), and thus might easily themselves have unwittingly perpetrated such a gaffe, if, contrary to our advice here (“No Comment”), they were ever to say anything to anyone  beyond “Pass the salt” to a spouse or other close relation  while dining en famille in a room that has been swept for listening-devices. (And even “Pass the salt” can lead to lethal consequences, as we demonstrated here.)   The Algeria taboo is an example of the subjects alluded to in our earlier essay, which is a stone no-no in one country, but not even within the cultural ken of another.

As usual, the witty Figaro readers  do not disappoint:

Terrible nouvelle. Va-t-on devoir arrêter d'acheter du pétrole et du gaz Algérien que la France paye 1,5 fois plus cher que sur le marché libre ? Va-t-on remettre en question les accords préférentiels qui permettent aux Algériens de venir massivement s'installer en France ?
On a plus de chances de rentrer saint et sauf d'Algérie que de Marseille !
Connaissant Mhollandréou et son à plat ventrisme j'ai l'impression que cette plaisanterie va nous coûter bonbon .

Si cela vous parle,
savourez la série noire
en argot authentique d’Amérique :


There is another, subtler layer to the story, namely that the ever-oily, ever-ingratiating Hollande -- who is by no means accustomed to laying bald facts out plain -- was, in this case, actually attempting, in his ham-handed way, to be politically-correct :  only, within a certain sociopolitical microclimate (compare Romney’s notorious remarks about the 47%, which were well received in the closed conclave in which they were delivered, but which leaked out urbi et orbi).  This is hinted at in this slightly different account:

Le 16 décembre, le président François Hollande déclarait sur le ton de la plaisanterie devant le Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (Crif), qui fêtait ses 70 ans, que le ministre de l'Intérieur, Manuel Valls, était rentré d'Algérie «sain et sauf».

I shall not point out here what will be obvious to any Frenchmen, since here we touch upon a taboo that spans the Atlantic.   But the French know perfectly well what is going on:

Le coprésident du Front de gauche, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a tweeté dimanche que la boutade de François Hollande lui avait donné «la nausée» : «L'ivresse communautariste du dîner a grisé #Hollande. Mais c'est nous qui avons la nausée. #CRIF#Algérie», a-t-il écrit.

This is well-observed, worthy of Proust.   To understand it, you have to be clued in to the meaning of communautarisme -- but I have already said too much.

BTW … Notice the Biblical cadence in Mélenchon’s riposte.  He is echoing Ezekiel 18:2:

'The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children's teeth are set on edge.'

Also note that, once the (quite transparent) veil of allusion has been pulled aside, and the subtext  properly understood, Mélenchon’s considered quip is far more politically incorrect than Hollande’s impromptu brain-fart:  the moreso as it was intended seriously, and not in jest.

[For extra credit:  Compare the nature of the conclaves in the two cases, Romney and Hollande.  Determine the dynamics, and solve using the Hamiltonian equations.]

Travaillant au noir,
le détective  se trouve aux prises
avec le Saint-Esprit


For the benefit of our obligate-anglophone audience, herewith a décryptage of that Reader’s Comment:

Connaissant Mhollandréou et son à plat ventrisme j'ai l'impression que cette plaisanterie va nous coûter bonbon .

Which is to say (leaving details apart): 

Knowing Hollande’s propensity for truckling and sucking up, I have a hunch that this jest is going to cost us a pretty penny.

The oleaginous French President  is indeed quite shameless in his pandering;  we have commented upon a couple of such incidents here:

Above and in related essays with the Label  rhetorical analysis”, we tweeze apart the intricacies of expression, peeling them back to reveal the writhing maggots in the meat beneath.   Such analysis applies to imagery as well.  Consider this recent photograph;  guess which man is the French President, and which the Foreign Minister of Algeria:

Can I bring you coffee?

It is a general rule in such photo-shoots, that the alpha male looks triumphantly into the camera, and does not so much as glance in the direction of the beta-male or Least Baboon;  the latter fawns on the former, as though pantingly awaiting an order to bend over and spread his cheeks.   But here, the peg-boy is in fact the French President.

I weep for France.

¡ Gratis !
Leer la historia completa aqí :


A good half-century ago, the Situationist International in France popularized the critique of the Société du Spectacle.   What was true then, is even more on-target now, in the age of social media.  Cf. further:

*     *     *
~ Commercial break ~
For a mini-movie of our own, try this:
We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

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[Update, evening]  Judging from the substantial page-view response, it seems to have fallen to our lot to aid in the socio-linguisto-political interpretation of France and of America, the one to the other.  Along these lines, word-lovers may enjoy these:


Et entretemps … while France is absorbed in such insipid distractions as this latest entry in the palmarès of “The Wit and Wisdom of François Hollande” (which, however, next to the Tweet that Riveted the Morons of America, towers in the annals of diplomacy) -- some genuine events are unfolding in Françafrique, following in the wake of much bloodshed, and heralding more bloodshed to come:

Plusieurs milliers de musulmans, sympathisants de l'ex-rébellion Séléka, ont manifesté dimanche à Bangui contre l'opération militaire française Sangaris, après la mort le matin même de trois combattants Séléka dans un accrochage avec des soldats français lors d'une opération de désarmement.

[For the background on events in Centrafrique, and the curious American perspective on same, click here.]

A reader comments, calmly but ominously:

On y est, guerre de religion et les français sont les Croisés. Le djihad va être déclaré en France. Êtes-vous prêts ?

[For an extension of this commentary, along linguistic lines, try this: ]

~  Art thou weary -- aye, world-weary -- ~
~ of the never-ending roll-call ~
~ of the follies of mankind ? ~
Consider then rather this:

A consulter aussi:  Leçons de géometrie hexagonale.

[Update 16 mai 2014]  The latest weird French overreactive Tweetgate:

L’histoire n’en restera donc pas à un simple échange d’amabilités sur Twitter. Furieuse par la non-sélection de Samir Nasri, Anara Atanes, sa compagne, s’était répandue en insultes via des tweets accablants du type : « Fuck France and fuck Deschamps ». Malgré ses excuses le lendemain, Didier Deschamps a porté plainte contre elle, pour injures publiques, devant le Tribunal de grande instance de Paris, avec constitution de partie civile. La Fédération française de football (FFF) a également porté plainte de son côté, pour le même motif.

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