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[update below]

There have been the expected slew of documentaries and reportages since last Sunday on the new president of the republic, which, taken together, offer a more than positive image of him. The one on TF1 Monday night, “Emmanuel Macron: les coulisses d’une victoire,” is really worth seeing. TF1’s description:

De secrétaire général adjoint à l’Elysée à candidat à la présidence de la République, le novice en politique est passé de l’ombre à la lumière en très peu de temps. Durant 200 jours, nos caméras l’ont suivi dans les coulisses de sa campagne et dans son ascension exceptionnelle. Durant huit mois, nous avons été les seuls à être autorisés à suivre le candidat Emmanuel Macron avec notre caméra dans les coulisses de cette campagne exceptionnelle. De l’annonce de sa candidature jusqu’à son élection le 7 mai, nous vous proposons un documentaire exclusif vous permettant de vivre de l’intérieur la campagne d’Emmanuel Macron à la manière d’un thriller politique.

Seeing Emmanuel Macron behind the scenes, one cannot help but like him. He’s always smiling, in a buoyant, positive mood—avenant is the word in French—and that clearly rubs off on those around him. Contrast this with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, with his perpetual tête des mauvais jours, always scowling and trash-talking (and his spokespersons—Alexis Corbière, Éric Coquerel et al—are no different). Thank god that S.O.B. didn’t make the 2nd round.

France 3 also aired a most interesting documentary Monday night, “Ainsi soit Macron.” The description:

La trajectoire fulgurante d’Emmanuel Macron l’a fait passer en trois ans du quasi anonymat à la présidence de la République. Et pourtant, même si les médias l’ont suivi jour après jour durant sa campagne, personne ne le connaît vraiment. Le politique s’est exprimé, progressiste, social et libéral en même temps, mais l’homme reste une énigme. Derrière le story-telling officiel, quelle est la véritable personnalité de celui qui va diriger la France ? Quelles sont ses forces, ses faiblesses ? Grâce à des images inédites et des témoignages exclusifs, dont celui de son épouse Brigitte, ce film raconte les moments charnières de la trajectoire du nouveau Président et révèle les motivations profondes qui l’animent. Enquête sur un météore devenu Président.

And France 2’s Envoyé Spécial on Thursday had the inevitable reportage, “En marche vers l’Elysée.”

Qui pouvait imaginer qu’en créant son mouvement En marche ! en avril 2016, Emmanuel Macron deviendrait président de la République ? Ce pari, longtemps moqué par le sérail politique et médiatique, est l’objet de ce film. Grâce aux interviews exclusives du candidat et à l’accès aux séances de travail dans les coulisses de son QG, ce document raconte la stratégie de campagne mise en place par Emmanuel Macron pour conquérir l’Elysée.

For some reading—not watching—see this interview with Macron on his apprenticeship in philosophy. C’est une tête celui-là.

UPDATE: For more reading on Macron’s “tête,” see the lengthy piece in Mediapart by Joseph Confavreux and Mathieu Magnaudeix, “Dans la tête d’Emmanuel Macron.”

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Emmanuel Macron, Paris, April 17th (photo: Le Temps)

PREFACE: This post was largely written before last night’s terrorist attack on the Champs-Elysées, which is naturally dominating the news today and leading to all sorts of speculation as to the consequences for Sunday’s vote, and with nervous nellies—mainly non-French—fretting that it could boost Marine Le Pen’s chances. The only thing to say about this is that France has experienced numerous terrorist attacks over the past three decades and with none moving the polls in one direction or another. E.g. the Mohamed Merah killings in Montauban and Toulouse in March 2012—one month before the 1st round of the 2012 presidential election—had no effect on the race—and, moreover, did not even cause a momentary uptick in tough guy President Sarkozy’s numbers. The 2015 regional elections may be a partial exception to this, with political scientist Pascal Perrineau saying at the time that the November 13th atrocity three/four weeks earlier increased the Front National’s score by up to three points. But November 13th was a huge attack and that traumatized the entire French nation, regional councils are mostly powerless bodies that the vast majority of citizens never think about, and elections to them are low participation affairs—50% in the 2015 1st round and 59% in the 2nd—and outlets for throw-away protest votes against the incumbent party at the national level. And in 2015, the FN’s historic score in the 1st round provoked a mobilization of anti-FN voters in the 2nd, resulting in the party not winning a single council. Last night’s attack does play into themes that Marine Le Pen has been hammering away at and could possibly move some voters she’s been losing over the past month back into her column. If any candidate does benefit from the attack—and I emphasize if—it will, however, more likely be François Fillon. But that’s idle speculation and that I will engage in no more of. On verra dimanche soir.

On the race, the final polls are coming in and all show stability, with Emmanuel Macron narrowly in first, Marine Le Pen a close second—but losing ground—and François Fillon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon on her heels and tied for third, and all four within the margin of error. This thing could go any which way—with six possible configurations, three of which are calamitous—and with any prediction at this stage a crap shoot in view of the exceptional number of undecideds and uncertainty over the participation rate. Everyone is fretting, nervous, or downright worried. Speaking for myself, by tomorrow night I’ll probably be in a state of terror contemplating the prospect of one of the three calamitous configurations materializing the next day.

As for those calamitous configurations, they are the 2nd round match-ups that do not include Emmanuel Macron.

Macron had his big Paris rally on Monday afternoon (Easter Monday, so a public holiday) and which I attended. It was at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy—formally branded the AccorHotels Arena—which is the largest indoor arena in the city. The turnout was impressive. My friend and I wanted to be in the fosse (standing-room pit in front of the stage), so we could walk around and take photos, but after waiting in line for almost an hour, were turned away, informed that the fosse was reserved for En Marche! activists (wearing orange bracelets), so we had to sit in the upper deck, making it difficult to take good photos (particularly with my not terrific Galaxy A5) and my friend, who has a high-end camera (with telephoto lens and all), was not allowed to bring it in—security at Bercy is draconian—which was a disappointment. So no photo album for this rally. Just this one pic, taken a couple of minutes after Macron mounted the stage and with the audience on its feet.

Some observations on the rally, which crystallized much of the Macron campaign: It was stage-managed to a far higher degree than any other such political event I’ve attended in this country. First, the mere fact that the fosse was reserved for activists, and who were, moreover, seated, so no fluidity or moving about. And the lower decks, which were mainly occupied by activists wearing En Marche! t-shirts, and roughly grouped by color (yellow, orange, blue). It looked good from a distance, and no doubt on television. Cf. the Benoît Hamon rally a month ago, which was more laid back. There were also more people at Hamon’s rally, as Macron’s had a much larger stage and in the middle of the fosse—with four teleprompters, so he could move about while doing his televangelist-like act—thereby reducing the number of people who could get in there (I’d say 17,000 people were in the arena, compared to 20K for Hamon).

Second, Macron arrived at precisely 5:00 and spoke for precisely an hour-and-a-half. Impeccably choreographed. The crowd was enthusiastic, as one could expect, but, from my vantage point at least, I didn’t find the overall atmosphere as electric as the Hamon rally. As for the audience, it was in the image of Macron: that portion of France that is educated and part of the global economy—and for the young people there, who will soon be part of that economy. That’s Macron’s base. I tried to determine, in the audience reactions during his speech, if they were politically more to the left or right. As his oblique references to Fillon and Le Pen aroused the loudest boos—and particularly his dig at Sens Commun—this would suggest that his hardcore fans are not, in their majority, habitual voters of the LR party. Indirect references to Hamon and Mélenchon—e.g. the line about turning France into a “Venezuela without oil” and “Cuba without the sun”—did not provoke the same negativity from the crowd.

As for Macron’s speech, the first half of it was vaporous. He’s a good enough speaker—though I will rank him below Mélenchon and Hamon—but can talk for minutes on end without saying anything in particular, or nothing that anyone remembers. The second half of the speech, which focused on his vision for France, was better (for the whole thing, go here). He thankfully did not present a laundry list of policy proposals but rather sought to give an idea of what one could expect with him in power. It was classic Macron: un coup à droite, un coup à gauche. Numerous phrases contained buzzwords appealing to right and left alike, e.g. “entreprise” and “réussite” (success) to impress the right—and  “equality” and “solidarity” to reassure the left. And all in the same sentence. And invoking De Gaulle and Mitterrand, and in the same breath, as great leaders of the past and from whom he draws inspiration (which is actually not reassuring, but that’s another matter).

I’ve been wanting to like Macron, as I desperately hope he is elected on May 7th—There Is No Alternative: it’s him or the deluge—but it’s not always easy. His youth, political inexperience, and incessant triangulating—of trying to be too many things to too many people—causes him to make avoidable mistakes. E.g. saying in his JDD interview two weeks ago that he would reform the Code du Travail by ordonnance (i.e. modify the labor code by executive decree). This is both bad policy and terrible politics. The Code du Travail is one of the hottest potatoes in the French political system and any reform of it needs to be preceded by a public debate—however conflictual that may be—and a vote in parliament. Changing it by presidential ukase will cause the left to hate him, and Macron needs as much of the left as he can possibly get. But enraging the unions—even those otherwise well-disposed toward him (CFDT, CFTC)—and voters on the left will win him nothing on the right, as not a single Fillon voter is going to defect to him on account of this alone. It was a stupid rookie error and that he has had to partially walk back. And he said nothing about it in his Bercy speech.

There are other problems with Macron—notably in the (Gaullist/Mitterrandian) way he says he will govern—which I’ll take up next week (assuming he qualifies for the 2nd round). But there are some very positive, compelling features of his candidacy and which counteract the drawbacks, one being his sunny optimism for France and its future. Macron’s discourse is devoid of demagoguery, dark pessimism, or apocalyptic depictions of present-day France and the world (cf. the other three top contenders). If Barack Obama had not trademarked “Yes we can!,” it would be the ideal motto for the Macron campaign. Macron projects positivity, and smiles while he’s at it. Macron believes in France and its ability to prosper and thrive in a globalized world.  And, as one knows, he is the most pro-Europe candidate and whose election will thrill France’s EU partners. Among many other things, a President Macron will surely increase French influence in the European Council. Macron represents change—a rejuvenation of the French political class, which voters say they want—but without wreaking havoc. C’est-à-dire, il ne va foutre le bordel. Again, cf. the other three contenders.

Leaving the Bercy arena, my friend—sociologist Didier Le Saout, who is on the left and not a Macron fan de la première heure—said to me, “Can you imagine what this presidential race would be if Macron weren’t there?” We would have nothing but awful choices. Hamon would no doubt be higher in the polls but, as the candidate of the discredited PS, would have no chance. And it’s not clear that François Bayrou on a fourth try would have generated the same dynamic that Macron has. So alhamdulillah الحَمْد لله for Emmanuel Macron.

Didier Le Saout has sent me his reflections on the rally and the Macron phenomenon. Le voici:

 Le projet social-libéral d’Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron veut définitivement casser l’image partagée dans les représentations politiques françaises du libéralisme emprunt de valeurs de droite. En déclarant en 2015 que le « libéralisme est une valeur de gauche », il se montre préoccupé de voir son projet légitimé par la gauche. De son point de vue, cette dernière porte le mieux la dimension culturelle ou sociétale du libéralisme pour défendre et étendre les droits et libertés des individus. A cet égard, la reconnaissance du « mariage pour tous » sous la présidence de François Hollande s’accorde parfaitement avec son projet d’émanciper les individus du joug de la tradition et de la religion. Ces mêmes valeurs libérales de la vie en société sont revendiquées haut et fort par ses partisans. Lorsque dans son grand meeting parisien du 17 avril 2017, deux hommes puis deux femmes vêtus du teeshirt du mouvement En marche sont filmés en s’embrassant sur les grands écrans de la salle, ils sont applaudis sous les hourras des 20 000 participants.

Mais Macron n’entend pas cantonner son projet à un univers de représentations perçues comme de gauche. La référence faite au libéralisme culturel et sociétal ancré à gauche lui permet de faire un pont avec un modèle de « société libérale avancée » tel que prôné par d’autres courants de la droite. Ceci lui vaut d’être dénoncé par la gauche comme ne proposant qu’un relooking de la politique menée par l’ancien président Valéry Giscard d’Estaing qui dans les années 1970 avait abaissé l’âge de la majorité de 21 à 18 ans, légalisé l’avortement et permis de divorcer par consentement mutuel. Ne critiquant pas le capitalisme, le projet de Macron montrerait alors ses limites selon ses détracteurs.

Revendiquant un libéralisme politique articulé sur des dimensions culturelles et sociales, Macron en appelle alors à la morale pour se distinguer du libéralisme thatchérien. Il ne se prive pas de mettre en garde des patrons d’entreprises publiques et privées contre les excès de leurs rémunérations montrant ainsi que l’Etat peut indiquer aux entrepreneurs le juste chemin à suivre. De la même façon, il met en garde des risques d’exclusion que pourrait induire le libéralisme. Ce n’est encore pas un hasard si durant ce même meeting parisien du 17 avril il fait référence à Philippe Séguin, l’inspirateur du fameux discours de Jacques Chirac durant sa campagne électorale de 1995 sur la « fracture sociale ». Si personne ne doit rester sur le bord de la route, il n’importe pas selon Macron de renforcer les dispositifs d’aides sociales mais de permettre à chacun de pouvoir bénéficier d’une formation tout au long de la vie. La nécessité de parvenir par la loi à une « moralisation de la vie publique » et au renouvellement des élus prolonge encore ces exigences morales dans le système politique.

En bref, Macron défend un libéralisme politique articulé sur des dimensions culturelles et sociales pour encadrer la vertu créatrice et l’envie de réussir tout en ne remettant pas en question le rôle de l’Etat et encore moins du capitalisme. En cela, son projet peut résolument être considéré comme social-libéral.

The Macron rally over (at 6:40), Didier and I took the metro to Porte de Pantin, to Marine Le Pen’s rally at the Zénith, which was scheduled to begin at 8:00.

The above photo, taken by me, is of the end of MLP’s speech, with all the FN’s heavyweights (Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Gilbert Collard et al) on the stage, and in what was the one festive-like moment of the rally. Otherwise, it was a horror show, by far the darkest—both figuratively and literally (the lighting in the arena was somber)—political event I have witnessed in France, indeed anywhere. I attended Marine’s rally in 2012—five years prior to the day—also at the Zénith, which I had a post on and with dozens of pics. The Zénith is not the largest arena in Paris—seating 6,300 and with no fosse—so the mere fact that MLP held her rally there, despite flying high in the polls, signified that the FN didn’t think it could fill a larger hall. And it didn’t even this one: whereas it as was full to capacity in 2012, this time there were empty seats in the upper rows. The turnout was likely on the order of 5,500. Not terrific for a candidate who, it has been assumed until lately, is a shoo-in for the 2nd round.

I thought the 2012 rally was a success for Marine and that she gave a good speech. Not this time. First, the production values of the event were poor: In addition to the somber lighting, there was no music before things got going and the two warm-up speakers were duds (one I hadn’t even heard of—I didn’t catch his name—and campaign spokesman and Fréjus mayor David Rachline, who’s 29-years-old but looks and acts like he’s 50). As for Marine’s speech, it was an hour-and-forty-minute diatribe and from the get go: against immigration, migrants, terrorism, radical Islam (when not just Islam tout court), crime, globalization, global financiers… in short, against all the FN’s boogeymen and everything it fears and/or hates. Adding to this were her vituperative attacks on Fillon, Macron, and Mélenchon, all referred to by name and with the hall booing loudly. It was an orgy of red meat thrown to the crowd, which devoured it all. There were moments when the entire hall was in a frenzy. It was an unpleasant ambiance. A Turkish Kurdish activist friend of Didier’s, who’s settled in France and wanted to see an FN rally with his own eyes, came along with us; he was visibly uncomfortable throughout—and not at all reassured by a man sitting near us who continually bellowed “Islam hors de France!” (Islam out of France!), and another who, likely observing that we were not applauding—and were maybe journalists, another target of FN hate—tried to goad us at a couple of points (we ignored him). As Didier was allowed to bring in his camera, he took photos—which are a lot better than mine—some of which he put into an album that may be viewed here.

At the 2012 rally, Marine flashed smiles at the crowd; this time she was febrile, indeed tense. As for an explanation as to why she was on edge, her campaign has been preoccupied, even alarmed, of late by her loss of five to seven points in the polls over the past month and Mélenchon’s sudden surge, at least some of which is coming at her expense. And also by Fillon’s doggedness and the hard right lurch of his campaign. It has gone without saying that Marine would qualify for the 2nd round but that is now not looking 100% certain. An IFOP-Fiducial-JDD-Sud Radio poll taken earlier this month showed that FN voters are concerned above all with immigration, terrorism, and crime—the FN’s historic stock-in-trade—and less so with Europe and the euro (which MLP largely ignored in her speech). Thus Marine’s virulence on Monday night. The return to fundamentals. She was whipping up the base. And so much for de-demonization. During her diatribe, I leaned over to Didier and said “Je la trouve particulièrement facho ce soir” (I’m finding her particularly fascistic this evening). The reaction in the media the next day—plus a Facebook exchange with Time Magazine’s Vivienne Walt, who was also at the rally—indicated that I was not alone in my sentiment.

So it’s definitive: It’s the same old Front National. The FN has not changed at all. And it never will. It will thus not rule France: not this year, or in 2022, or ever.

Another party that, beginning next month, won’t be in power for a long time—if ever again—is the Parti Socialiste. Benoît Hamon had his final Paris rally on Wednesday, at the Place de la République. The event started at 5:00, with speeches by a panoply of high-profile Hamon supporters (e.g. Thomas Piketty and other stars), a keynote by Hamon, and then a concert with various groups scheduled to go to midnight.

I arrived at 7:30, while Hamon was speaking. There were several thousand people in the square, who were enthusiastic enough, but the square was not full. It was, in effect, Hamon’s farewell speech. I feel for him, as no one anticipated the plunge in the polls—and into the single digits no less—and particularly after the success of his March 19th Bercy rally. And he faces humiliation on Sunday. He finished the speech at 8:00, after which most of the crowd left the square, with not too many remaining for the music. I found some friends there and, as it was quite cold—in the 40s F/8°C and windy—we took refuge in a nearby bar. I wonder if the event didn’t end early. Triste fin de campagne. Didier Le Saout was there and took a few photos, which may be viewed here.

I’ll have an election eve post tomorrow.

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Le CEVIPOF de Sciences Po a développé, en partenariat avec le quotidien 20 Minutes, une boussole présidentielle, qui permet aux citoyens de tester leurs convictions politiques par rapport à celles des onze candidats à l’élection présidentielle. Le test est bien conçu à mon avis—comme le Politest, qui a été crée en 2006 par des étudiants à Sciences Po (et actualisé en 2012). Pour accéder à la boussole, allez ici.

France 24, pour sa part, a créé une boussole électorale aussi, qui n’est pas mal. And it may be taken in English.

To take the Politest—”the test to see where you are situated politically”—in English, go here.

My results for the two “boussoles” are below (screen shots). I am closest to Benoît Hamon, not surprisingly, though just a little to his right 😉

According to the France 24 one, the candidate whose positions I am in the most agreement with is… Nathalie Arthaud. Allez savoir…

As for how I will be casting my ballot on April 23rd, I am still undecided between Hamon and Emmanuel Macron, and will likely remain so until the day of the vote…

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Capture-decran-2015-11-20-a-16

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]

Yesterday I had a brief post on the victims of the November 13th attacks. Today it’s on the perpetrators. If one hasn’t seen it, Olivier Roy has the best analysis so far of the terrorists, in a full-page tribune in Le Monde dated November 25th, “Le djihadisme est une révolte générationnelle et nihiliste” (also here). In reading Roy’s essay in hard copy, I underlined noteworthy passages to quote. But as almost the entire thing got underlined, I’ll just let you, the reader, read it in its entirety. If the essay is eventually published in English, I’ll link to it.

One key line by Roy: What we’re facing here is not a radicalization of Islam but rather an Islamization of radicalism.

Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group, who has spent much of the past two decades living in Iraq and Syria, weighs in on the Paris terrorists in a must-read post, dated November 26th, in Orient XXI, “Tuer les autres, se tuer soi-même.” Again, if this one is published in English—which, in view of Harling’s bilingualism, is possible—I’ll link to it in an update.

The excellent Farhad Khosrokhavar, who knows more about jihadism in Europe than any other social scientist, is interviewed in L’Obs (November 26th) on the question post-Paris, “Moins ils connaissent l’islam, plus ils sont attirés par le djihad.” Translation: the less they know about Islam, the more they are attracted by jihad.

Also interviewed on the Paris attacks (November 26h) is the well-known Islamologist Gilles Kepel, in the Lausanne daily Le Temps, “Le 13 novembre? Le résultat d’une faillite des élites politiques françaises.” Kepel—who unhabitually lets loose in the interview—has some interesting observations on, entre autres, Saudi Arabia, as well as on the Al-Qaida/IS grand penseur Abu Musab al-Suri. (BTW, on al-Suri see Adam Shatz’s 2008 review essay in the LRB, “Laptop jihadi“).

EHESS doctoral candidate Adam Baczko has a tribune (November 26th) in Libération, “L’objectif de l’Etat islamique est de provoquer une politique de réaction identitaire.”

À suivre, évidemment.

UPDATE: Olivier Roy, at a conference in Germany on international terrorism ten days ago, gave a speech entitled “What is the driving force behind jihadist terrorism? – A scientific perspective on the causes/circumstances of joining the scene,” which is pretty much an English version of his Le Monde essay. It is linked to in PDF in the first comment below (thanks to Rich Kaplan—crack sociologist and personal friend—for finding it).

2nd UPDATE: If one didn’t see it, French journalist Nicolas Hénin has an op-ed in The Guardian (November 16th), “I was held hostage by Isis [for ten months in 2013-14]. They fear our unity more than our airstrikes.” The lede: “In Syria I learned that Islamic State longs to provoke retaliation. We should not fall into the trap.” Pour l’info, Hénin has a book out, Jihad Academy, published by Fayard this past February.

Omer Aziz, a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School who recently worked for the UN Special Envoy to Syria, has a piece in TNR (November 17th), “The soul of a jihadist: The radical evil behind the terrorist attacks on Paris.”

And ICYMI, the NYR Daily has two posts dated November 16th: “Paris: The war ISIS wants,” by Franco-American anthropologist Scott Atran—who has written extensively on radical Islamism—and UCL doctoral student Nafees Hamid; and “From Mumbai to Paris,” by the well-known Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid.

3rd UPDATE: The Swiss RTS had a twenty-minute interview with Olivier Roy on November 27th (listen here), in which he said, entre autres, that trying to deradicalize jihadists is “absurd.”

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Ansongo, Mali, 29 January 2013 (photo: Kambou Siakmbou Sia/AFP/Getty Images)

Ansongo, Mali, 29 January 2013 (photo: Kambou Siakmbou Sia/AFP/Getty Images)

That’s the title (in English) of an op-ed in Le Monde (issue dated 11-12 October), by Sciences Po international relations professor Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer, and with which I entirely agree. For those too lazy to click on the link, here’s the full text, with notable passages on the Libya intervention in bold (a subject on which I have periodic contradictory exchanges) [UPDATE: Jeangène Vilmer has a piece with Olivier Schmitt—who teaches political science at the University of Southern Denmark—dated 14 October on the War on the Rocks blog, “Frogs of War: Explaining the new French military interventionism.”]

Avec le chaos en Libye, l’emprise de Daech en Irak et en Syrie, et la progression des talibans en Afghanistan, il est de bon ton de s’en prendre à l’interventionnisme occidental des quinze dernières années, dont les crises actuelles ne seraient que les contrecoups. Il est certainement nécessaire de tirer les leçons de nos échecs, mais il faut le faire sans céder à la simplification.

Premièrement, cet examen de conscience ne doit pas être une excuse pour amalgamer des interventions plus ou moins légales et légitimes : l’invasion de l’Irak (2003) reste un cas à part, une guerre de choix non autorisée par le Conseil de sécurité, contrairement aux autres.

Comparer, pour la décrédibiliser, l’intervention en Libye (2011) à cette agression illégale est faire fi de la résolution 1973 qui, contrairement à un préjugé répandu, n’a pas été dévoyée. Elle n’autorisait certes pas le changement de (more…)

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Kamel Daoud (photo credit: AFP/Bertrand Langlois)

Kamel Daoud (photo credit: AFP/Bertrand Langlois)

[update below]

Kamel Daoud, the excellent Algerian commentator and author—whose latest novel was a finalist for the 2014 Prix Goncourt—, has been hit with a fatwa by salafi imam Abdelfatah Hamadache (a.k.a. Shaykh Abd al-Fatah al-Jaza’iry)—who preaches in salafi Algiers mosques and leads a micro-political party (not recognized by the Algerian state) called the Islamic Sahwa Front—, calling Daoud a “Zionized…apostate” who insults “Allah” and the Qu’ran, and who would, if Algeria were governed by Shari’a law, be put to death for “apostasy” and “heresy” (the good imam published the fatwa yesterday on his Facebook page; the post begins with this: دعوة لتطبيق الحد عليه). Here is Daoud’s brilliant riposte, published on his FB page. It merits translation into English and other languages

 50 nuances de haine

Question fascinante: d’où vient que certains se sentent menacés dans leur identité, dans leur conviction religieuse, dans leur conception de l’histoire et dans leur mémoire dès que quelqu’un pense autrement qu’eux ? La peur d’être dans l’erreur les poussant donc à imposer l’unanimité et combattre la différence ? De la fragilité des convictions intimes ? De la haine de soi qui passe par la haine de l’Autre ? De toute une histoire d’échecs, de frustrations, d’amour sans issue ? De la chute de Grenade ? De la colonisation ? Labyrinthe. Mais c’est étrange: ceux qui défendent l’islam comme pensée unique le font souvent avec haine et violence. Ceux qui se sentent et se proclament Arabes de souche ont cette tendance à en faire un fanatisme plutôt qu’une identité heureuse ou un choix de racine capable de récoltes. Ceux qui vous parlent de constantes nationales, de nationalisme et de religion sont souvent agressifs, violents, haineux, ternes, infréquentables et myopes: ils ne voient le monde que comme attaques, complots, manipulations et ruses de l’Occident. Le regard tourné vers ce Nord qui les écrase, les fascine, les rend jaunes de jalousie. Le dos tourné à l’Afrique où l’on meurt quand cela ne les concerne pas: Dieu a créé l’Occident et eux comme couple du monde, le reste c’est des déchets. Il y a des cheikhs et des fatwas pour chaque femme en jupe, mais pas un seul pour nourrir la faim en Somalie. L’abbé Pierre n’est pas un emploi de musulman ?

Laissons de côté. Gardons l’œil sur la mécanique: de quoi est-elle le sens ? Pourquoi l’identité est morbidité ? Pourquoi la mémoire est un hurlement par un conte paisible ? Pourquoi la foi est méfiance ? Mais que défendent ces gens-là qui vous attaquent chaque fois que vous pensez différemment votre nationalité, votre présent ou vos convictions religieuses ? Pourquoi réagissent-ils comme des propriétaires bafoués, des maquereaux ? Pourquoi se sentent-ils menacés autant par la voix des autres ? Etrange. C’est que le fanatique n’est même pas capable de voir ce qu’il a sous les yeux: un pays faible, un monde «arabe» pauvre et ruiné, une religion réduite à des rites et des fatwas nécrophages après avoir accouché, autrefois, d’Ibn Arabi et un culte de l’identité qui ressemble à de la jaunisse.

C’est qu’il ne s’agit même pas de distinctions idéologiques, linguistiques ou religieuses: l’imbécile identitaire peut tout aussi être francophone chez nous, arabophone, croyant ou passant. Un ami expliqua au chroniqueur que la version cheikh Chemssou laïc existe aussi: avec la même bêtise, aigreur, imbécillité et ridicule. L’un parle au nom de Dieu, l’autre au nom des années 70 et de sa conscience politique douloureuse et l’autre au nom de la lutte impérialiste démodée ou du berbérisme exclusif. Passons, revenons à la mécanique: de quoi cela est-il le signe ? Du déni: rues sales, immeubles hideux, dinar à genoux, Président malade, une dizaine de migrants tués dans un bus sur la route du rapatriement, dépendance au pétrole et au prêche, niveau scolaire misérable, armée faiblarde du Golfe à l’océan, délinquances et comités de surveillance du croissant, corruption, viols, émeutes. Rien de tout cela ne gêne. Sauf le genou de la femme, l’avis de Kamel Daoud, le film «l’Oranais», dénoncer la solidarité assise et couchée avec la Palestine, l’Occident en général, le bikini en particulier et l’affirmation que je suis Algérien ou le cas d’Israël comme structure des imaginaires morbides.

Pourquoi cela existe ? Pourquoi l’âme algérienne est-elle encerclée par une meute de chiens aigus et des ogres pulpeux ?

A petition has been launched in Algeria expressing solidarity with Kamel Daoud and calling on the Ministry of Justice there to prosecute Abdelfatah Hamadache for his call to murder. Très bien.

UPDATE: A well-known Algerian journalist and blogger informs me that Abdelfatah Hamadache is “nothing other than a pawn in the hands of the security services” (n’est rien d’autre qu’un jouet aux mains des services). And Éditions La Découverte’s engagé CEO François Gèze—a longtime critic of the Algerian regime—has a post (December 21st) on his Mediapart blog in which he informs the reader that Hamadache is indeed an agent of the DRS. Perhaps. Algerians will always tell you that so and so is in the pay of the DRS and offer all sorts of evidence (or “evidence”) to back it up. On en prend acte, c’est tout.

solidarité avec kamel daoud

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(image credit: BFMTV.com)

(image credit: BFMTV.com)

[update below]

What a miserable affair. Worse than pathetic. One can hardly believe that French politics has descended to this level. And with everything else happening in France and the world, that this is the talk of the town. I, for one, refuse to read Valérie Trierweiler’s book. I won’t even pick it up. I have learned as much as I need to know about it from the media coverage, plus these choice morsels published in Les Inrocks. Now I have no sympathy with François Hollande in this sentimental psychodrama, as I made clear in my posts of last January when the thing first broke (here and here), but now have even less for Valérie T., who, in her manic—and likely successful—effort to politically assassinate her ex-companion and permanently sully his character, has only further discredited herself—and sullied the institutions of the Republic in the process.

This does indeed seem to be the consensus at least among journalists. E.g. Ariane Bonzon—whom I know for her excellent enquêtes on Turkey—has a good commentary in Slate.fr on “La triple faute de Valérie Trierweiler,” which thus begins

Lors de l’affaire DSK, un de mes amis, qui n’avait pourtant rien à voir directement avec cette histoire, m’avait dit qu’il se sentait lui aussi touché: «J’ai honte à trois titres: en tant qu’homme, en tant que juif et en tant que libertin.» Chacune de ces identités impliquant chez mon ami une certaine exigence, éthique. Comme si l’opinion qu’il avait de lui-même avait été bafouée par DSK, homme, juif et libertin.

En lisant le livre de Valérie Trierweiler, j’ai ressenti le même sentiment que cet ami: ce livre me fait honte en tant que femme, en tant que citoyenne et en tant que journaliste.

Renaud Dély of Le Nouvel Obs had a similarly entitled commentary on Thursday, “La faute de Valérie Trierweiler,” in which he asserted that

Le livre de l’ex-Première dame n’est pas seulement un brûlot anti-Hollande, c’est une attaque contre l’esprit civique et une menace pour les institutions.

Rue 89’s Pierre Haski was on the same longueur d’onde in his commentaire à chaud, “Grand déballage de Trierweiler : la vengeance est mauvaise conseillère.” For his part, France Inter political editorialist Thomas Legrand—who is one of the smartest, most insightful analysts of French politics around—, in speaking of VT’s book, deplored “L’arlequinisation de la vie politique” in his commentary the day before yesterday. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, in an interview on Europe 1, called VT’s book a “moral suicide” of the ex-première dame, and in which he quoted from an editorial by La République des Pyrénées’s Jean-Marcel Bouguereau, who observed that

L’image que son “ex” donne de François Hollande est terrible au point qu’on se demande comment elle a pu rester une décennie avec personnage qui apparaît sous sa plume comme menteur, arrogant, infidèle, veule, lâche et surtout cynique.

Indeed. Mme Trierweiler does not smell like a rose in all this. Loin s’en faut.

One thing I need to assert—and that I have been doing since Wednesday—is that I do not believe for a split second that Hollande uttered the bit about “les sans-dents” in the first degree, i.e. in a literal sense. If he indeed said such a thing about poor people, there was certainly a context, or he was being ironic about someone else who may have said it, or something like that. As Libé’s Laurent Joffrin said on France Inter this morning, no one who has known Hollande personally over the years and spent time with him—as has Joffrin and so many other journalists, politicians, and public personalities—gives the slightest credence to VT on this. For this smear alone, she deserves permanent banishment from public life—and certainly from the journalistic profession.

If all this is not the coup de grâce to Hollande’s presidency, it’s not far from it. I don’t know how he and his entourage at the Elysée will pick up the pieces from this but they’ll no doubt soldier on nonetheless, as Hollande will certainly not resign. Unless he commits a crime or misdemeanor, or some really gross indiscretion, there is no reason for him to do so. He just won’t do it. And almost no one outside the Front National wishes for him to, or for him to dissolve the National Assembly at the present time. As the latest TNS-Sofres baromètre reveals, every political party in this country—including the FN—is presently judged negatively by public opinion. C’est du jamais vu. And the latest baromètre of L’Observatoire Politique CSA shows only two national political personalities—Alain Juppé and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem—to have higher positive than negative numbers with those polled. I mentioned this in my post last week on Valls II and it’s being confirmed with every poll that’s coming out. If neither the PS nor UMP has an interest in going to early elections, then they won’t happen. Period. Moreover, alarm at the damage to the political system and institutions of the Republic is sure to be expressed by increasing numbers on both left and right, as has Sophie de Menthon in a tribune in the right-leaning webzine Atlantico, in which she calls for a “Halte au feu! Pourquoi il faut sauver le soldat Hollande malgré lui.” As she puts it

A trop critiquer François Hollande, nous contribuons à mettre plus bas que terre la fonction de président de la République, ce qui finit par être mauvais pour la croissance et le moral de la France.

If one hasn’t seen it, Art Goldhammer had an incisive analysis yesterday of this weeks’s events (and in which he offered a tidbit about me, which I clarified in the comments thread).

Triste France, c’est tout c’que j’ai à dire.

UPDATE: Magistrate Philippe Bilger—whose political views are solidly on the right—has read Valérie Trierweiler’s book and written a commentary on it, entitled “François Hollande en compagne!,” on his Justice au Singulier blog (September 6th). On “les sans-dents” business, which right-wingers are going to town with on social media, he has this to say

La version de VT est-elle d’ailleurs exacte? L’Elysée dément et conteste ces allégations. On comprend que François Hollande soit «atterré»: on le serait à moins, sans que cela valide en quoi que ce soit les coups ciblés de VT.

Même si elle a mis en lumière les ambiguïtés de l’histoire amoureuse et politique entre Ségolène Royal et François Hollande, j’attache cependant infiniment plus de crédibilité à celle qui a été sa compagne durant longtemps, la mère de ses enfants et qui est autant imprégnée d’humanisme que la journaliste. Ségolène Royal a formellement contredit cette image d’un François Hollande sarcastique et dédaigneux des affres de la misère en se fondant sur l’expérience qu’elle a eue de l’homme et du politique.

Bilger’s review is interesting and well worth the read.

Le baromètre des partis TNS-Sofres de septembre 2014

Le baromètre des partis TNS-Sofres de septembre 2014

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