Tag Archives: France

France’s Fight Over Sexual Freedom

After the backlash, comes the backlash to the backlash. It’s been fascinating to follow the torrent of responses in France this week to an open letter in Le Monde signed by French actress Catherine Deneuve and 99 other women, effectively saying that the #MeToo movement had gone too far and that women should own up to their own sexual agency. (I wrote about the letter here and you can find a full translation here.)

“Sexual Freedom Threatened, REALLY?” ran the headline of Thursday’s Libération, a left-wing daily, beneath photos of three signatories: Deneuve, Catherine Millet, the author of The Sexual Life of Catherine M., and Brigitte Lahaie, a talk-show host and former porn actress. The implication was, why should we listen to these women? “To entertain the idea that a groper on the metro ‘is the expression of a great sexual misery, or a non-event’”—as the Deneuve letter had—“presumes that you live on a planet without rush hour and have enough power and/or hours on the couch to relativize it at your leisure,” the paper wrote in an editorial.

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Posted by on January 20, 2018 in European Union


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First France, Now Brazil Unveils Plan to Empower the Government to Censor the Internet in the Name of Stopping “Fake News”

Yesterday afternoon, the official Twitter account of Brazil’s Federal Police (its FBI equivalent) posted an extraordinary announcement. The bureaucratically nonchalant tone it used belied its significance. The tweet, at its core, purports to vest in the federal police and the federal government that oversees it the power to regulate, control, and outright censor political content on the internet that is assessed to be “false,” and to “punish” those who disseminate it. The new power would cover both social media posts and entire websites devoted to politics.

“In the next few days, the Federal Police will begin activities in Brasília [the nation’s capital] by a specially formed group to combat false news during the [upcoming 2018 presidential] election process,” the official police tweet stated. It added: “The measures are intended to identify and punish the authors of ‘fake news’ for or against candidates.” Top police officials told media outlets that their working group would include representatives of the judiciary’s election branch and leading prosecutors, though one of the key judicial figures involved is the highly controversial right-wing Supreme Court judge, Gilmar Mendes, who has long blurred judicial authority with his political activism.


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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in European Union, South America


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Trump, Macron: same fight

It is customary to contrast Trump and Macron: on one hand the vulgar American businessman with his xenophobic tweets and global warming scepticism; and on the other, the well-educated, enlightened European with his concern for dialogue between different cultures and sustainable development. All this is not entirely false and rather pleasing to French ears. But if we take a closer look at the policies being implemented, one is struck by the similarities.

In particular, Trump, like Macron, has just had very similar tax reforms adopted. In both cases, these constitute an incredible flight in the direction of fiscal dumping in favour of the richest and most mobile.

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Posted by on January 9, 2018 in Economy, European Union, North America


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New Caledonia’s date with destiny

It’s early Monday morning and we’re on the road to the capital Noumea from New Caledonia’s Northern Province. The bus is full of young people heading back to school or work, after a weekend visiting their families in their home villages.

On the outskirts of town, we’re halted by a contingent of French gendarmes. The police block both exits from the bus and send a sniffer dog through, searching for drugs. After the dog reacts to one bag, a young Kanak girl is taken off for questioning. She returns shamefaced after the gendarmes had rummaged through her bag in front of everyone, waving her underclothes in the air, without finding any pakalolo.

New Caledonia has changed a lot since the armed conflict of the mid 1980s, known as les évènements (the Troubles). But interactions like this suggest that inter-community reconciliation still has a way to go.

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Posted by on December 31, 2017 in European Union, Oceania


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Religious wars

France has experienced a moment of political and media madness following the Harvey Weinstein affair. And all the ingredients are there for more of the same: disproportionate comments triggered by a cartoon in Charlie Hebdo of Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan (accused of rape); Twitter providing the ideal tool for reacting without thinking and starting the fire; religion-related issues providing fuel for it; grandstanding by a discredited politician (ex prime minister Manuel Valls) who thinks a wholesale attack on Muslims will revive his political career. And to top it all, the now established rule that every subject, even the sexual harassment of American women, will eventually come round to the question of Muslims in the French Republic.

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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in European Union


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Put yourself in Vichy France: do you resist or collaborate?

A puncture can change your life. In Louis Malle’s film Lacombe, Lucien (1974), the young peasant Lucien is rejected by his former schoolteacher who runs the local resistance organisation he wishes to join and then, returning home by bicycle, gets a flat tire. Seeking help in a nearby farmhouse, he finds himself among a band of carousing militiamen, collaborators sworn to eradicate La Résistance. He denounces the teacher, becomes a local boss of the militia, and is finally shot by resistance fighters.This much-quoted moment of chance is the starting point for the book Aurais-je été resistant ou bourreau? (2013) by literature professor and psychoanalyst Pierre Bayard, which translates as ‘Would I have been a resister or a collaborator?’ As historians, and indeed as citizens, we assume that we would have made the right decision during the Second World War, given what we know about its horrors. The myth developed by General Charles de Gaulle in 1944 – that the French overwhelmingly behaved patriotically, rallied behind his leadership, and liberated the country themselves – persuades us that we would most likely have resisted Nazi Germany. A myth, however, is designed to unify a people and legitimate its rulers, not to tell the truth. As a young lecturer at Oxford 35 years ago, I remember looking round my college’s governing body, composed overwhelmingly of conservative middle-aged men, and wondering what they would have done if Britain had been occupied by the Germans. I concluded that most of them would have collaborated.

Source: Put yourself in Vichy France: do you resist or collaborate? | Aeon Essays

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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Europe


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Congratulations, President Macron – Now We Oppose You

Prior to the second round of the French Presidential election, DiEM25 (the pan-European movement of democrats, mostly of the left, that I helped to found) promised Emmanuel Macron that we would “mobilize fully to help” him defeat Marine Le Pen. This we did – incurring the wrath of many on the left – because maintaining “an equal distance between Macron and Le Pen,” we believed, was “inexcusable.”But there was a second part to our promise to Macron: if he “becomes merely another functionary of Europe’s deep establishment,” pursuing dead-end, already-failed neoliberalism, we “will oppose him no less energetically than we are – or should be – opposing Le Pen now.”

Source: Congratulations, President Macron – Now We Oppose You by Yanis Varoufakis – Project Syndicate

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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in European Union



Don’t believe the liberals – there is no real choice between Le Pen and Macron

The title of a comment piece which appeared in The Guardian, the UK voice of the anti-Assange-pro-Hillary liberal left, says it all: “Le Pen is a far-right Holocaust revisionist. Macron isn’t. Hard choice?”

Predictably, the text proper begins with: “Is being an investment banker analogous with being a Holocaust revisionist? Is neoliberalism on a par with neofascism?” and mockingly dismisses even the conditional leftist support for the second-round Macron vote, the stance of: “I’d now vote Macron – VERY reluctantly.”

This is liberal blackmail at its worst: one should support Macron unconditionally; it doesn’t matter that he is a neoliberal centrist, just that he is against Le Pen. It’s the old story of Hillary versus Trump: in the face of the fascist threat, we should all gather around her banner (and conveniently forget how her side brutally outmanoeuvred Sanders and thus contributed to losing the election).

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Posted by on May 11, 2017 in European Union


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Battle for the French presidency

We are entering an era in politics in which statements beginning ‘It would be the first time that…’ often announce that something previously inconceivable may be about to happen. This French presidential election is the first in which the Front National (FN) going through to the second round is not in doubt: there is a possibility (still highly improbable) that it might win. For the first time, no one is defending the record of the past five years, even though two of the outgoing president’s former ministers are standing: Benoît Hamon of the Socialist Party (PS) and Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (Forward!). It is also the first time that the candidates from the PS and the right, which have governed France since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, could both be eliminated in the first round.

Source: Battle for the French presidency, by Serge Halimi (Le Monde diplomatique – English edition, April 2017)

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Posted by on April 11, 2017 in European Union



Demain, une ville sans voiture ?

Hôtel de ville de Paris. Dans son bureau aux tons clairs encombré de papiers, Christophe Najdovski, adjoint EELV à la maire de la capitale, Anne Hidalgo, se lève soudain pour ouvrir la fenêtre donnant sur la très encombrée rue de Rivoli. « Regardez, lance l’édile chargé des transports, en désignant l’embouteillage plusieurs étages plus bas. Si on enlevait les carrosseries des véhicules pour ne laisser que les personnes, on verrait qu’il y a moins de monde sur la chaussée que de piétons sur les trottoirs. » « Remettre la voiture à sa juste place », c’est ainsi que M. Najdovski définit la politique mise en œuvre à Paris, ce qui ne va pas sans grogne et résistance depuis la fermeture d’une partie de la voie sur berge de la rive droite à l’été 2016.
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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in European Union


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