The French are angry at the foreign media coverage of the riots. Here’s why:
PARIS Even Christine Lagarde, France’s trade minister, has received phone calls from concerned friends in Chicago and Washington to check whether she was safe.
As scenes of vandalism and violence in central Paris flicker across television screens abroad and major newspapers speak of riots and anarchy in France, people here are grumbling that the media coverage of three weeks of mass protests against a labor law – especially in the English-language press – has unjustly distorted France’s image.
A week before she embarks on a four- city trip to the United States with the ambition of countering the negative images, Lagarde complained Wednesday that media coverage had been “excessive.” “We’re meeting with the French community and with investors and are trying to explain that despite the fact that they see people on the street all the time and nothing else, it’s not every day and it’s not the whole of France,” she told reporters Wednesday.
Defense Minister Michèle Alliot- Marie put it more starkly: “We’re not in Baghdad,” she said in a statement to the International Herald Tribune.
“Some foreign columnists amplify and exaggerate the situation in France, just as they did during the unrest in the suburbs,” she said, referring to three weeks of rioting last autumn in immigrant suburbs outside France’s big cities.
French sociologist Erwan Lecouer explains the reasons behind the “outrage.”
One explanation, sociologists say, for the widespread French incomprehension and outrage at seeing the violence so widely covered in some countries is that they themselves have long become accustomed to sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and violence in suburban housing projects across the country.
During the rioting, the toll of burned vehicles topped 1,400 on one night; when the number dropped to 90, the police declared the situation back to normal.
“The French have got a bit used to this phenomenon,” said Erwan Lecoeur, research director at the Observatory for Public Debate, which analyzes the impact of media coverage on society.
“Our Anglo-Saxon friends love showing that things are going badly here and the reaction on CNN is emblematic of that,” he said. But he added that it was “hypocritical” of the French to complain about coverage when French TV was also airing plenty of violent images.