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Red-Baiting Hollande

Reading, watching and listening to the mainstream media in America, it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between journalism and rank propaganda. Consider the coverage of the French parliamentary election currently underway.

Most Americans who read newspapers probably learned about this via the Associated Press report that went out on the weekend for Monday’s papers (AP is the de facto “foreign correspondent” for almost every newspaper in America now that all but a few papers have eliminated their foreign reporting staffs). It stated that recently elected Socialist President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party “stands positioned to take control of the lower house of parliament.”

Okay so far, right? But then the reporter, Elaine Ganley, who may well have been writing from the US given that the article, as it appeared in my paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, didn’t carry a Paris dateline, or indeed any dateline at all, went on to say “…so he can revamp a country his partisans see as too capitalist for the French.

Ganley went on to warn readers that “A leftist victory in the voting, five weeks after Hollande took office, would brutally jar the French political landscape.”

Whoa! Last time I looked, “brutally” was a word reserved for nasty over-the-top abusive behavior. I suspect that the hundreds of thousands of Parisian “partisans” who poured into the streets around the Bastille on learning of Hollande’s victory would not consider their victory “brutal” for France. In fact, if anything, they would probably say that the experience of several years of austerity and a raising of the French retirement age by the ousted conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy was what was brutal.

Would Ganley have written that the election of conservative Jacques Chirac as president following the second and final term of the last French Socialist president, Francois Mitterrand, “brutally jarring” for the French political landscape?  Hardly!  In fact, an AP report on that election to replace Mitterrand, who was legally barred from running for a third term, said that the victor, conservative former prime minister and Paris mayor Jacques  Chirac, “was elected by people who wanted a change.” Indeed Chirac, who after leaving office was convicted of epic corruption, was widely hailed in the US press upon his initial election. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1995 on the crowds celebrating his victory and predicted that his government would “concentrate on the battle against unemployment and the problem of  ‘the excluded,’ those who are outside the mainstream of France’s economic and political system.”  The change from Socialist to Conservative government was described as “dramatic,” not as “brutal.”

The Los Angeles Times called his 1995 election “a formidable force for change” in France.

But let’s go back to AP’s Ganley and the current election. Most people in Europe, left, center and right, would titter at her naive claim that  French Socialist Hollande was just elected because French voters had decided the country was “too capitalist” for their Gallic taste.

The truth? France’s Socialists, like the Social Democrats in Germany and the Laborites in the UK, and indeed like all the major socialist parties in Europe, have no problem with capitalism. Not one industry will find itself the target of expropriation under Hollande. France will continue to be a capitalist economy under Hollande and its corporations, which include some of the largest capitalist enterprises in the world, will continue to flourish.  All that will change, hopefully, will be that the poor and the working class will get a better break, older workers will get to retire a little earlier, and services like health care, public transit and education will be better funded.

But it’s not just that American journalists are ignorant. Reporters like Ganley, and the editors who hire and encourage her, are deliberately promoting the ignorance of the American public, not just about the world, but about the political alternatives to the corrupt tweedle-dum/tweedle-dee corporatocracy that poses as a democracy here in the US.

Loaded terminology like the use of the word “brutal,” and twisted analyses, which would be edited out if they were applied to a US political election for being too blatantly biased and propagandistic, are common when it comes to reporting on international news — and particularly about left-leaning governments.

No wonder Americans are so clueless, not just about what is going on in the rest of the world, but about what the real options could be for change in the US.

And it’s only going to get worse, with news that now the Pentagon is going to be deliberately feeding disinformation to the American public about its own activities at home and abroad.

Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia. 


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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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