October 1, 2008

The French see Palin as Annie Oakley

Steven Erlanger writes in the NYT:

They value sophistication above almost anything, and so they regard their own hyperactive president, Nicolas Sarkozy, with his messy romantic life and model-singer wife, as “Sarko the American.”

But this year has been difficult for the French. Mr. Sarkozy has generally supported American foreign policy and has praised the United States’ openness and entrepreneurial verve. And the sudden emergence of Senator Barack Obama — black, and seen as elegant and engaged with the larger world — has sent many French into a swoon.

But the combination of two recent surprises — Gov. Sarah Palin and America’s terrifying financial meltdown — has brought older, nearly instinctual anti-American responses back to the surface.

These two surprises, one after the other, have refreshed clichés retailed under President Bush, confirming the deeply held belief of the French that the United States remains the frontier, led by impenetrably smug and incurious upstarts who have little history, experience or wisdom.

Even worse, from the French perspective, Americans are reckless optimists, incurably blind to the tragedy of life, to the weary convolutions of history and thus to the need for lengthy August vacations and financial regulations.

While the French see themselves as the heirs of urban revolutionaries, with a strong distaste for politicized religion, the American revolutionary spirit seems to them these days to come like a hurricane from the uncosmopolitan right — from the dry, dull flatlands of Texas ranch country or the emptiness of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Wyoming, and now from the odd sunset communities of Arizona and the bizarre bars, churches and hockey rinks of Alaska.

The financial meltdown also seems inevitably American, a product of the reckless audacity that the French pretend to abhor, but often secretly admire. But however careful France’s own banks may have been, the United States is so large and so dominant that the French are afraid of being hit with what one economist, Daniel Cohen, called the “toxic waste” of the scandal.

This year, mocking the candidates has become an industry, with the satirical puppet show “Les Guignols de l’Info” recently adding a squeaky-voiced Senator John McCain puppet to the jug-eared Obama model. In general, though, Americans are portrayed as Sylvester Stallone, lunky and thick-headed. Ms. Palin has been a kind of godsend.

The French know exactly what to make of her, said Frédéric Rouvillois, and that is the problem. Ms. Palin may be an American dream but she is a French nightmare, said Mr. Rouvillois, a lawyer and social historian who has just written a book titled “The History of Snobbery.”

“She’s a caricature of a certain America that hasn’t parted with its boorish ‘Wild West’ side,” said the impish Mr. Rouvillois, who has also written a history of good manners. “For the French snob, the only admissible American is from the East Coast, knows Henry James, is comfortable in French, a sort of European on the other side of the Atlantic.”

A little, yes, like Senator John Kerry. ...

France, like most of Europe, is quite taken with the Democratic candidate, whom the French regard as a “métis,” politely translated as someone of mixed race, usually used for those of African colonial ancestry. Mr. Obama is seen uniquely as an American métis with global experience and antecedents in Africa, through his Kenyan father, not in slavery.

Bernard-Henri Lévy wrote in the magazine Le Point of Mr. Obama as a new type of American black politician.

“Obama is, certainly, black,” Mr. Lévy wrote. “But not black like Jesse Jackson; not black like Al Sharpton; not black like the blacks born in Alabama or in Tennessee and who, when they appear, bring out in Americans the memories of slavery, lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan — no; a black from Africa; a black descending not from a slave but from a Kenyan; a black who, consequently, has the incomparable merit of not reminding middle America of the shameful pages of its history.”

He goes on for a while, but you get the idea.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that Americans take a degree of interest in what the French think of them, and are dismayed by French anti-American attitudes, while being totally oblivious to the fact that the Germans are just as bad in this regard if not worse.

headache said...

The French are hypocrites. They like to think of themselves as the leaders of Europe but cannot pay the bill. So they basically shook down the dumb Germans who are financing the EU which the French control (and profit from). In exchange the Germans are spared another war with France and the expenses in military spending. And of course they get some more atonement for you know what.

dearieme said...

If you gave the French the credit due for their winning your independence for you, they might take a kinder view.

halfbreed said...

Shouldn't Americans have similar "instinctual" antipathy against the French, considering all they stand for? And shouldn't their reactions to our candidates cause us to instinctively want to run in the other direction?

Having said that, and speaking as someone who found Palin refreshing when she first appeared on the scene, over the past two weeks she's appeared a pretty dumb Annie Oakley. That bit about Alaska's proximity to Russia giving her foreign policy experience was embarrassing enough the first time; the fact that she would repeat it has been downright cringe-inducing.

gordon-bennett said...

Let us never forget the alacrity with which the french cooperated with the nazis in dispatching french Jews during WW2.

H. said...

I have a qualified admiration for traditional French literature, art and culture, speak the language and have visited Paris several times. That said, I really don't give a rat's a-- what today's French intellectuals and pols think of us and our elections. We have a totally different history and culture from them, and they really don't understand us. I am sick of their posturing pretensions, which persist despite the fact that we saved their bacon twice. Contemporary France counts for nothing; it merely uses its glorious past as a pedestal or pulpit from which to act high-handed to countries it wants to view as beneath it.

neil craig said...

I think much of the way she is being portrayed is wrong. They went for a simple just plain folks rootin' tootin' frontier momma look rather than the tough "Barracuda" chief executive of the largest state in the union (at least geographically) who beat a corrupt political machine, balanced the budget & enjoys 80% approval among her constituents.

I understand why they thought the former would be an easier sell but it also leaves her more open to the inexperience tag.

Henry Canaday said...

The most common advertisement I saw on the Paris Metro this August was one for an English language course. It did not emphasize the ultimate reward of reading Henry James.

The course was titled, "Learn Wall Street English," that is, go to New York, or work with New Yorkers, make money, get out of this Metro and off your scooters.

Gide said...

Bernard-Henri Lévy isn't French. He lives in France and speaks its language.

That said, the degenerate French display all of the suicidal qualities of their degenerate racial kin across the Atlantic. They, like most whites, furiously rail against "the other" for any reason at all - as long as the other looks like they do. As long as it's Shelbyville versus Springfield. If the other has a drop of some blood that makes them look in any degree different, then they're off limits. They're exotic, something for the curio cabinet, something to be interested in and marveled at. Jazz? Rai? Pho? All fantastique diversions on the way to another word they'll soon learn. Sharia.

jimbo said...

And as for French bankers being so much more prudent than Americans:

http://www.moslereconomics.com/2008/10/02/ambrose-evans-pritchard-europes-banks-more-leveraged-than-us-banks/

Jun said...

But however careful France’s own banks may have been....

Not careful enough, apparently:

Sarkozy calls in French bank chiefs

Anonymous said...

Time will tell if the French remain immune to the credit crisis. Some have said that the problems in European banks are far worse than here, but just haven't gotten exposed yet.

France already nearly lost SocGen due to the actions of one rogue trader.

SKT said...

I don't know if the average French person really believes this garbage, and I base that on other message boards that I post on, on which French people also post. These are apolitical sites by the way.

I think equating what the Paris university/government/media elite (with many of them being Jewish) to what the average French person thinks, is like equating the New York/Washington elite to the average American.

Jonathan said...

I recently watched the HBO series "John Adams." In the series, Adams travels to France on a diplomatic mission and gets dumped on by his French hosts, who regard him with barely concealed contempt and treat him like a provincial clod. French attitudes toward Americans are no different today.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Francophile and am married into a French family, so I certainly have much regard for this point of view. However, I vote for the most moral and conservative person to not just run the country, but to shape that third branch, the Judiciary. BTW, I find whiterpeople insufferable and not too much like Europeans. Our liberals seem to be in an arrested development. Take for instance, coffee shops. Independent ones here have the aura of teenage rebellion about them while ones in Italy are astonishingly beautiful and sophisticated. Another example of this arrested development: one of the premier chocolate places here in Tampa is called "Choxotica" http://www.choxotica.com/.
Or chefs Jacques Pepin, who I once watched spend five minutes artfully making vegetable flowers to garnish a souffle, which I'm sure was delicious vs. someone who calls himself the Naked Chef (Brit or Aussie?). http://www.jamieoliver.com/

Blode said...

Indeed the French are not the leaders of Europe, but Sarkozy is much less PC than they're used to. Maybe he paved the way for Denmark and now Austria to begin toying with wild ideas like defending their civilization against violent colonists from south and east. Also, check out Geert Wilders interviewed by Glenn Beck. Wilders is a bigger critic of Islam than I am, which is saying something.

You think maybe some Europeans are aware of the 300+ years that Muslim slave traders kidnapped their ancestors (or rather, their ancestors' nieces) and forced them into sexual slavery? Most Americans certainly aren't. They probably think Obama is descended from slaves.

Oh, but it was just fine and dandy for people from Obama's continent to come and kidnap European, because it was just a response to the Crusades (which largely affected a different continent). Revenge is just fine. (Of course, the fact that the Crusades were just revenge doesn't count, because revenge is no good.)

Don't ever forget how to think like an anti-white leftist - or how to stop thinking like one.

Bill said...

Palin, to the French, is the archetypical American woman -- long an object of scorn in France.

testing99 said...

First, Steve, French banks are in financial crisis too. As bad as the toxic loan portfolios were in the US, imagine what they are in the EU. Several UK banks have been closed (Northern Rock, B&B) because of this, Fortis, various other banks on the Continent need bailing out. All from the same reason -- propping up economies through loans.

Second, France is divided, deeply, between landless urbanites and their often hostile landlords who control the central government, and Napoleon's legacy of mulish, resentful countryfolk who have small holdings and guard them jealously.

The resistance, such as it was, did not really get going until the countryside started to see land confiscated by Petain and the Germans, and the Allies found some success. When Napoleon granted the peasants great chunks of the Aristo's estates, he created an Army, and more importantly, an eternal conservative force in French politics.

Yes, the urbanites have had their way since 1968 or so, with cars burning nightly. But outside the cities, the average Frenchman is shockingly conservative socially (and somewhat politically). He would probably shock the most conservative Alabama redneck with his views on Blacks, immigration, women, urban living, and the like.

The urbanites hate the French peasantry with a passion, which is often returned. Many films like Manon of the Spring show how the urbanites view country folk.

The country folk don't like Americans of course ... but because they are just another foreigner. They don't like anyone else either.

Anonymous said...

"Bernard-Henri Lévy isn't French. He lives in France and speaks its language."

Of course he's French. Just because you have a bug up your ass about Jews doesn't mean that the French share your racialist definition of nationality. They most assuredly do not. If they did, they wouldn't have elected me President, or more recently, Sarkozy.

Léon Blum

tommy said...

“Obama is, certainly, black,” Mr. Lévy wrote. “But not black like Jesse Jackson; not black like Al Sharpton; not black like the blacks born in Alabama or in Tennessee and who, when they appear, bring out in Americans the memories of slavery, lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan — no; a black from Africa; a black descending not from a slave but from a Kenyan; a black who, consequently, has the incomparable merit of not reminding middle America of the shameful pages of its history.”

Perhaps the French write this stuff to take their minds off the shameful pages of their history.

Anonymous said...

I was embarrassed for my country tonight. The idea that a major party would put that woman one heartbeat from the presidency is inexcusable.

Richard h said...

Does anybody have reliable numbers on what percentage of France will be Muslim 20 or 50 years from now, based on immigration levels and birth rates? I want to know how bad things are for them.

Anonymous said...

Richard h, no one knows because France does not keep those kind of statistics. Most estimates are that people of non-European ancestry are about 15% of the population. There are also a very large number(millions and millions) of people of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Basque, Armenian etc. ancestry in France. Not to mention British Ex-patriots.

How many people in France are actually French is anyone's guess.

tommy said...

I have a qualified admiration for traditional French literature, art and culture, speak the language and have visited Paris several times. That said, I really don't give a rat's a-- what today's French intellectuals and pols think of us and our elections. We have a totally different history and culture from them, and they really don't understand us. I am sick of their posturing pretensions, which persist despite the fact that we saved their bacon twice. Contemporary France counts for nothing; it merely uses its glorious past as a pedestal or pulpit from which to act high-handed to countries it wants to view as beneath it.

Thank you. I also admire the French for what they have bestowed upon Western civilization, but modern France provides little more than pretentious, obscurantist, ridiculously dull fads for English Lit professors to chase after.

From Descartes to Deleuze, where did the French ever go wrong?

tommy said...

A funny quote:

John Searle once told me about a conversation he had with the late Michel Foucault: "Michel, you're so clear in conversation; why is your written work so obscure?" To which Michel replied, "That's because, in order to be taken seriously by French philosophers, twenty-five percent of what you write has to be impenetrable nonsense."

Richard h said...

"Richard h, no one knows because France does not keep those kind of statistics. Most estimates are that people of non-European ancestry are about 15% of the population. "

I don't think it's that bad. From Wikipedia...

"A study conducted by Michèle Tribalat, a researcher at INED, and based on 1999 French census returns, showed that claims of 5 to 6 million Muslims in France were overestimated. According to the census returns, there are 3.7 million people of "possible Muslim faith" in France (6.3% of the total population of Metropolitan France in 1999)[4]. These 3.7 million people whose ancestry is from countries where Islam is the dominant faith may or may not be observant Muslims themselves.

Nationalist and far-right organisations have often been hostile to the spread of Islam in France (as elsewhere in Europe).

An Interior ministry source in l'Islam dans la République (Haut Conseil à l'intégration, Nov. 2000, p.26) published the following estimated distribution of Muslims by country of origin:

Algeria 1,550,000
Morocco 1,000,000
Tunisia 350,000
Turkey 315,000
Sub-Saharan Africa 250,000
Middle East 100,000
Asians 100,000 (mostly from India and Pakistan)
Converts 40,000
Illegals & awaiting regularisation: 350,000
Other 100,000
Total 4,155,000
"

So Wikipedia says Muslims are 3 to 6 million, meaning 5 to 10% of the total population. The number of Asians and blacks seems to be negligible so for our purposes we can ignore them and still consider France 90-95% white.

According to the Wikipedia page "Islam en France"

"La population française musulmane a un taux de fécondité plus élevé - bien qu'en baisse - que le reste de la population française, respectivement 3,3 et 2 enfants par femme[14]"

At 3.3 children per Muslim woman, compared to 2.0 per French woman what does that mean in 20, 50 years? Surly someone could come up with an estimate taking the low end current Muslim figure (3 mil) and the high end (6 mil). That's assuming no more immigration. According to Wikipedia again, 90,000 African immigrants came to France in 2004 and 13,000 Europeans. Assume that these numbers stay constant or that there is a slight decrease. Somebody should be able to put that all together.

i am the walrus said...

Celine was the best European novelist of the last century. The only writer with the courage to face the implications of nihilism. Death on the installment plan is an apt turn of phrase for the slow suicide of the French people.

gide said...

Tommy,

I'm with you. I don't have access to my library at the moment, but I remember Heidegger saying something along the lines of, "Even the French, when they want to study real philosophy, must learn German." I'm paraphrasing, of course.

dougjn said...

Tommy --

Love your quote re: Foucault.

It must be said though that the French remain awfully good at the art of artful, fine living. Some of that are the classics of food, wine and fashion.

But maybe on those things other parts of the world are catching up.

There remains something about the relations between the sexes though, and French women. How do they (and French men) avoid American style feminism so well?

gide (trying again) said...

Will all this pretending ever stop here? It's not 1746, or some other
random date when the leaders of European nation states at least nominally
showed some interest in their subjects. There is no "Germany" or "France"
any more in the sense that they're talked about on this board. There are
some pieces of land called such, with banks, multinationals, and ethnic
networks running the show (and most of us aren't part of any of them).
It's like when Dick Sargent replaced Dick York on Bewitched - totally
different dude, but everyone still called him Darrin.

Nor can the French population today be considered the same thing as the
French population of yesteryear. The place was nearly bled dry by the time
Napoleon came along, and his conscription left what would've been its
future fathers slaughtered on fields across Europe. It's a hop, skip, and
a jump to Sedan, Verdun, and the presciently named Fall of France. Couple
that with colonialism, birth control, blah blah blah...

Minister Blum, my apologies. The Levites, as you probably know, have a
long, illustrious history in France. I would never want them confused with
the wretched rabble who, contrary to your opinion, and in line with the
approximately 30 million books on the subject, made life so hard on them
for so long. Though the fact that the Frenchies gave the Jews cholent
might lend some credence to your assertion that all's groovy in Gaul, I'm
going to have to stick with the Zionists' outlook - Frenchman or Jew, and
never the twain...

I wish you'd been right. Then that crazy thing called Vichy never would've happened, and I never would've had to listen to Serge
Gainsbourg's "Rock Around the Bunker".

SFG said...

It's interesting that Americans take a degree of interest in what the French think of them, and are dismayed by French anti-American attitudes, while being totally oblivious to the fact that the Germans are just as bad in this regard if not worse.
I think only elite Americans care. We inherited French as the language of snobbery from our cultural forebears the English, who were conquered by them in 1066. There also aren't that many French people in America, so it's safe to beat on them, whereas there are plenty of Germans, Italians, and Irish who might complain. (Also quite a few elite Americans are Jewish, who think it's 1945 and probably figure if the Nazis dislike them it must be a good thing. ;) )

Let us never forget the alacrity with which the french cooperated with the nazis in dispatching french Jews during WW2.
Hey, don't make Steve's readership too fond of them. ;)


I don't know if the average French person really believes this garbage, and I base that on other message boards that I post on, on which French people also post. These are apolitical sites by the way.
Oh yeah. The public is rarely as internationalist as the elite. Though I wonder how much of the elite is Jewish nowadays; didn't they all get killed in WWII? Internationalism wasn't invented by Jews; the elite always has to deal more with the outside world so they tend to adopt a more global picture.

I actually suspect I probably would have made a better Frenchman (or German) than American; I'm pessimistic, bookish, and unathletic. But they'd never take me now; I don't speak French!

Anonymous said...

I know it's off topic, but what about banks in Asia. I read something that mentioned that they stayed away from buying these packaged mortgages, which means that now they aren't in the hole the European banks have dug for themselves.

Matra said...

Though I wonder how much of the elite is Jewish nowadays; didn't they all get killed in WWII?

There are 600,000 Jews in France. The most of any country in Europe. Many of them are Sephardic Jews who had to leave Algeria in 1962.

Jews are very prominent in French society. A lot of its filmmakers and entertainers are Jewish - though not as many as in Hollywood. Jews are also prominent in politics. In addition to Leon Blum and Sarkozy there was pierre Mendes-France and Laurent Fabius (prime minister) in the 80s.

Other influential French Jews include:

Simone Veil - best known for getting abortion legalised - the Veil Law of 1975

Jean-Claude Gayssot - a communist, was the prime mover behind the Gayssot Act which criminalised holocaust denial and racial discrimination

Daniel Cohn-Bendit - student leader during the May '68 disturbances and now a Green Party leader who advocates giving the EU more power

Jacques Derrida - (Algerian born) the founder of deconstructionism

Robert Badinter - abolished the death penalty in the early 80s

Bernard Kouchner - the present day foreign minister and founder of Doctors Without Borders. He is probably France's most prominent advocate of 'humanitarian' interventions such as the bombing of Serbia in 1999

Gisele Halimi - feminist lawyer and activist for immigrants

SFG said...

Hmmm...any on the right? The Brits had Michael Howard and before that, Benjamin Disraeli...

headache said...

"jimbo said...
And as for French bankers being so much more prudent than Americans:"

Don't worry, the Fench will get the dumb Germans to bail them out once again through the common ECB. Aint' the EU a wonderful construct!

Anonymous said...

"The number of Asians and blacks seems to be negligible so for our purposes we can ignore them and still consider France 90-95% white."

Your 90-95% estimate is wrong - that is obvious from just walking around most places in France. It is obviously VERY wrong at the under 18 age level which is the most important age bracket. To say that the number of blacks and Asians is 'negligable' is also just wrong. Blacks are everywhere in France and their number is certainly not negligable. All the numbers for foreigners in France in the Wiki article are obviously understated, just as they usually are when it comes to these things - because otherwise it may alarm the wrong (native) people. The horrors!

"Will all this pretending ever stop here?"

Most whites - even intelligent whites - really have no clue. They don't understand how fast things are changing around them, they underestimate the power of their enemies' propaganda, or that they even have enemies - especially internal enemies - or that propaganda exists. They can't be an enemy if they are born in France too - right??? It can't be propaganda if it's the Simpsons or if Jon Stewart is saying it - right? Instead they retreat into a make-belief world of yesterdays when their great-grand-fathers really were on top of the world and countries like France meant something more then just another place where to swindle the productive middle class.

matra said...

Hmmm...any on the right? The Brits had Michael Howard and before that, Benjamin Disraeli...

Not many French Jews have been on the right. The only prominent ones that come to mind are philosopher Raymond Aron, former PM under de Gaulle Michel Debre, and I recently learned that one of my favourite filmmakers, Jean-Pierre Melville, thumbed his nose at the commie auteurs and fully supported de Gaulle against the left.

Incidentally, few French Protestants are on the right either.

Richard h said...

"Your 90-95% estimate is wrong - that is obvious from just walking around most places in France. It is obviously VERY wrong at the under 18 age level which is the most important age bracket. To say that the number of blacks and Asians is 'negligable' is also just wrong. Blacks are everywhere in France and their number is certainly not negligable. All the numbers for foreigners in France in the Wiki article are obviously understated, just as they usually are when it comes to these things - because otherwise it may alarm the wrong (native) people. The horrors!
"

Do you have evidence to back this up or are you just claiming a Wikipedia conspiracy to keep us from getting upset?

As for people walking around France and seeing the statistic is wrong, it obviously depends on where you're walking. Most people visiting a foreign country hang out in the big cities. Imagine someone visiting Chicago and then trying to estimate the amount of blacks in America.

Anonymous said...

"Do you have evidence to back this up or are you just claiming a Wikipedia conspiracy to keep us from getting upset?"

Ok.. two minutes of research on google yields this article:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/09/20/news/france.php

From 2005... let's quote from it:

"In France, it is not permitted for a census to list people by race. Nor is it permitted to ask about race on a job application. Hence while blacks are thought to number about 1.5 million, of a total population of 59 million, no one knows the exact number, which some experts estimate to be far higher."

1.5 Million - surely an insignificant number - right? And some experts think it may be not just higher, but 'far' higher. This would just about match my observations of living in France for several years. Of course my lying eyes cannot possibly be correct - right?

For you to say that the number of blacks in France is insignificant is either ignorant or malicious.

Richard H said...

"For you to say that the number of blacks in France is insignificant is either ignorant or malicious."

Calm down my friend. I don't want a large number of blacks in France anymore than you do. We have conflicting reports and nothing else to go on.

One silver lining is that different Western countries are pursuing extinction at different rates. Those who can remaing homogenous for a while longer will be able to see the dystopian nightmare of a hostile non-white majority. Whether it will wake them up, we don't know.

matra said...

For you to say that the number of blacks in France is insignificant is either ignorant or malicious.

It also shows he has never been to France.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the French ethnic population

Anonymous said...

For whatever it's worth, I'd say maybe one third of people I have heard speaking French here in Thailand have looked European.

A large percentage have been Caucasoid "tweeners" (too European to be Arabs but not quite European).