Sunday, March 16, 2014

Scandal Centennial

… the Landes, that pious and tradition-bound country south of Bordeaux,  where more women poison their husbands with arsenic and get away with it  than in any other part of the world.
-- Arthur Koestler, The Age of Longing (1951)

“Nicht der Mörder, der Ermordete ist schuldig.”
-- Franz Werfel, 1920

This morning, in my mailbox, came a link to one of Le Figaro’s “100 Years Ago Today” articles:  a feature made possible that venerable periodicals longevity, plus que centennaire -- a fact almost incomprehensible in today’s mayfly media scene.

Today’s article, commemorating the sombre events of the sixteenth of March, 1914, is of especial interest to that hoary-locked news organ, as it concerns the assassination -- six bullets right to the heart -- of its editor-in-chief:

In Wiki’s summary,

On 16 March 1914, Gaston Calmette, the editor of Le Figaro, was assassinated by Henriette Caillaux, the wife of Finance Minister Joseph Caillaux, after he published a letter that cast serious doubt on her husband's integrity.

The murder was obviously pre-meditated (the assassin had hidden a pistol in her muff), and was even less honorable than that thumbnail might imply, for her main motivation appears to have been, not to avenge the ‘outing’ of her corrupt husband, but to prevent her own ‘outing’ as an adulteress.   A sordid affair.
But not, so far as that goes,  a true national scandal.  The real scandal came later, at the trial, from which she walked from the courtroom scot-free:  No jail time, no fine, no consequences whatever for what was more than a personal murder, it was a hammer-blow against an unfettered press.

Since then, the feminists have taken up her case or her ‘cause’.   The English Wikipedia article,
goes into such chasse-aux-hommes contortions, it is (unintentionally) funny.

Striking a blow  for freedom of adultery,
and the muzzling of the press.


Nor, since that time, has the reliable French gusher ceased to spew forth political scandal.  Even though I read the French press daily, I have difficulty keeping up and sorting things out;  a very clear and useful summary by Scott Sayare  appeared today in the New York Times,

It reads like a screenplay for a political thriller.  Only, in reality, it wouldn’t make a good movie:  too many subplots, and no heroes.

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