La France… Vit-elle? Reflections on the Latest Judgment

A friend asked me to write something about my (obviously premature) enthusiasm for “Republican France” after the trial, in view of last week’s judgment. I have now read the judgment, which is, from the point of view of an historian who tries to reconstruct past events, a monument of the kind of facetious reasoning that I’ve already complained about both among French medievalists and among French/European media.

To say that the decision was disappointing is obviously putting it mildly. But it was not unexpected. Numerous people wrote me to say, watch out. As one American blogger who lives in France wrote:

    I followed closely your reports on the first part of the trial. I’m still pessimistic. The reason I’m pessimistic is because they’re only asking for the symbolic euro. France2 wants the case just so they can say the courts ruled in their favor, not in order for sanction actually to be applied. I’m afraid the French courts are so politicized that they will give them what they want.

Others noted that the absence of any effort on the part of France2 — no witnesses, no questions for hostile witnesses, no presence of either Enderlin or Chabot — could indicate not a lack of preparation (alone), but a secure knowledge that they need do nothing since they knew they’d win. Several people who claimed to know, informed me and Karsenty independently, that the fix was on before the trial. When I suggested that to an Israeli lawyer I know after the first trial but before the decision, she responded indignantly, “No. The French judiciary is really independent.” I wanted to believe that.

The current joke runs, “Why did Mme Amblard not make the slightest effort during the trial?”
Answer, “Are you kidding? She could have slept through it all.”

Unfortunately, the reasoning of the decision suggests just that. It is at best incredibly one-sided, more likely, intellectually dishonest. I will post the decision in translation with some invited opinions at a later point. In the meantime, I will reiterate my response to the early newspaper quotations from the document: It is nothing short of breathtaking to accuse Karsenty of a “lack of seriousness” as an “information professional” for depending “only on one source,” when he, a marginal figure trying to critique the MSM, has attacked the work of an “information professional” of enormous prestige and influence, who was revealed in that very courtroom as incompetent, dishonest, and staggeringly negligent, and who based his broadcast on only one source, Talal, a Pallywood cameraman of the first order.

I note parenthetically that when I read the decision I couldn’t help notice that in all those 19 pages, with the names of the players cited in CAPS, including people who were not witnesses, my name did not appear. “So what am I, and what is Second Draft, chopped liver?” thought I.

But the key to the above reasoning, including chastizing Karsenty for only one source when he used multiple, including me and my viewing of the rushes, appears here. The clearest evidence of Enderlin’s incompetence as a journalist — not, mind you, as a story-teller; he’s a first class professional story-teller — came from his response to my remark, “But they’re all fakes.”

In casually saying “Oh, they do that all the time,” he admitted not only that he knows his cameraman and the rest of the crowd — and the rest of the Palestinian cameramen — do this kind of stuff, but that he, Charles Enderlin uses that stuff all the time. His newsbroadcasts draw regularly on Pallywood. He takes their product, funneled by his trusty cameraman, and makes it into news for the French public. And he’s handsomely rewarded in prestige and honor by the European elite.

Not only do “they do it all the time,” Enderlin does it all the time. Indeed, Bob Simon (featured in Pallywood), Gerald Holmes (who was stationed in Israel for ABC from 1999-2002 and “never saw any Pallywood”), and the rest of the harried, pack-mentality, access-oriented Western correspondents use this stuff all the time.

Charles Enderlin’s remark had left me, an earnest believer in the “fourth estate’s” journalistic privileges and responsibilities in a civil society, astounded… it was outrageous, inconceivable. How could such obvious nonsense be so complacently accepted? And my report of it did not even make it into the judge’s minds.

Indeed at one point in the decision, as they defend Enderlin from Karsenty’s accusation that Enderlin misled people in giving the impression he was there, we come across the following gem:

Furthermore, the images in question had been taken by his own cameraman who worked for France2 for two decades and whose professionalism had never been put in question.

This line could have been written by Enderlin. After all he wasn’t in court that day. But by the judges, who heard about Talal’s work from an eyewitness? How could they say: “et dont le professionnalisme n’a jamais été mis en cause”? Unless they share Enderlin’s complacency.

Whether penned by the judge or by the legal team at France2, the decision contradicts itself here, since it at least acknowledges and discusses Leconte and Jeambar’s Parisian viewing of the rushes (which was similar to mine — from expressing astonishment to being told, “but you know, they always do that“). So either the sentence is an interpolation (language offered by the France2 team, drawn from Enderlin), or it’s the internalization of this “line” by the judges. In either case, it shows a minimal grasp of what the evidence before them implies, and an extraordinary capacity to ignore inconvenient evidence. The judges work like journalists, bad journalists.

In the larger social and national context, the court’s decision illustrates the basic principle of prime divider societies: inequality before the law. Karsenty has to meet a very high bar to have the right to criticize Enderlin; Enderlin has no bar. As an esteemed member of a nationally-owned public station, he is protected. His failings are continuously passed over, and in the end, by attacking Karsenty, the court then permits the media to spin the story: “Image Choc de l’Intifada is not staged, says the court.

Never mind that the court did not say that. Never mind that the MSM showed no interest in this story when we tried to talk about it, but then appear from nowhere, well informed, when they get the story that they want. Why do the MSM media only feel comfortable weighing in on this case when they can put another nail in the coffin of Israeli responsibility for the Intifada? No rethinking, no picture of the scene Enderlin cut, and then lied about, but images of the icon, money pictures of the boy before he’s been “hit.” First draft regurgitated. As many told me when I embarked on this venture, “you bring it up again, and people will just say, “you see, the Israelis did it. They kill children.”

But in so doing the media have merely blinded us at a time when we need our wits about us, and we need good information. By replaying the first draft, with no attention to the huge reconsideration that’s gone on since 2000, on both this case and on what dynamics played in the outbreak of the second intifada, by closing off any discussion of its relationship to global jihad, and even the current French intifada, the media have administered their valium.

Our ability to deal with the situation depends on our understanding of its dynamics.

And instead, the French courts and media have given us a classic case of aristocratic justice, the kind that Dreyfus elicited initially. As one of my French lawyer friends put it about a different case where a Jewish (lawyer) was being condemned as a scapegoat for the misdeeds of higher-ups, when he appealed on behalf of the truth and humanity, “La justice ne peut pas agir ainsi. Il faut savoir diriger un pays.” [Justice can't work that way. One has to know how to direct/govern a country.]

The tragedy here is that justice becomes the handmaiden of social order defined in terms of the “honor” of the elite. When faced with the classic dilemma of the Dreyfus affair, and here, the Muhammad al Durah affair — honor or honesty — those in favor of “social order” choose honor.

I understand that everywhere, judges take into account “a larger good” in decisions, that there are corrupt and corruptable judges, and that even a principle so noxious to civil society as “honor over honesty” might — even often — direct judicial decision-making. But I think in terms of batting averages. No one bats a thousand. But there’s a huge difference between a .333 hitter and a .250 hitter.

The real test of a democracy is not whether its courts are corrupt, but how it allows the news to reach the public and how it responds to that discovery. As an historian with limited evidence here, but a close understanding of the evidence I have, I’d say that the French justice system is in serious trouble. You can’t bat in the low .200s in these matters (or lower?) and last long in the big game of civil society. And in so serious a case as this… which has so much to say about so vigorous and underestimated a cultural challenge as global Islamism… the bottom can fall out.

Civil society is a magic trick. Like Wiley Coyote out over the cliff, still up because he hasn’t looked down — civil society survives because of attitudes — positive sum over resentment, honesty over honor, courage over placation. No one can be positive-sum all the time, no one can always choose honesty, generosity, courage all the time. But in the crisis, people need to level up.

***

We thought it was a real game, and instead we were agitating ourselves among sleepwalkers. We will continue to agitate with words of reason and reasoning in the hopes of awakening them while they can still win in the world of discourse.

After all, the definition of honor-shame culture is one in which you are allowed, expected, even required to shed the blood of another for the sake of your own (alpha-male) honor. And the definition of a civil society is one that systematically substitutes a discourse of fairness for violence in dispute settlement. When a civil society uses the very courts that were created to make that transition from violence to discourse, in order to unfairly protect the honor of dishonest people who pump poisons into its information stream, it corrupts the very life-blood of its republic.

Two more trials, two more chances.

Next one: this afternoon.

19 Responses to La France… Vit-elle? Reflections on the Latest Judgment

  1. Colin Meade says:

    I know it’s more work, but is anyone preparing a detailed commentary on the judgment? It would be good to post something detailed on the Internet in both French and English, and 14 pages is manageable.

  2. RL says:

    of course. english translation in preparation. this is going to get one hell of a fisking.
    r

  3. chevalier de st george says:

    The manufacture of “Common sense” in the balance of the peaceful status quo between the elites and the people.
    The french government used ideological control to manufacture consent and legitimacy and popular support . It is “soft” coercion.
    The priciples tools are its media and educators.

    Ironically, this is just what Chomsky and Hermann are trying to argue in Manufacturing Consent, the use of modern media to manipulate people into attitudes they wouldn’t embrace were they more aware of the situation. So Europe, which loves Chomsky and his epigone Michael Moore for the same reason they love Charles Enderlin and Jose Bove — because they tell them nasty things about the nations they envy and resent — ends up illustrating the very phenomenon that they comfort themselves marks their superiority over America. Is there a possible cover-law here on resentment and mirroring?

    When the sytem of values and moralities which are prevalent are detrimental to some, it seeks to veil and disguise them until there is enough public outrage to warrant alterations and revisions.
    In the case of the Aldurah tapes, the judgement of the “aristocrats” are not concerned with “justice” but with the preservation of the status quo in the light of what it perceives as a tiny amount of outrage from a small minority it can easily dismmiss as insignificant.
    When the mindset that Israel was a Pariah state and the palestinians were at the top of all the lists of victims was firmly established for a variety of political reasons, any evidence to the contrary had to be denied by the elites.

    i’d be interested in your take on the reasons. it was a long task, dating back to 1967 for the left. but al durah was a tremendous victory for that move. part of the reason that i’m interested in your explanation, is that such a move, for all its benefits in drawing moral Schadenfreude from being able to criticize the Israelis, it’s massively foolish and contrary to so much evidence. It gives stupidity a whole new dimension — real smart stupidity. it certainly gives strength to Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia thesis — only the (foolish) dream of allying with the Arabs to counterbalance America could lead normally smart, free-thinking Europeans to such idiotic and persistent positions on the Middle East.

    Even if proved true, they must be left untold as any blips could be magnified far beyond their actual importance.
    If Collusion between western Journalists and the perceived victim groups to demonize Israel was true, it nethertheless did not damage the general principles of the doctrine that israel must be seen as a brutal fascist entity.
    The real issue is as always – the ownership of truth.
    That remains the property of the elites.

    in civil society it’s the property of the public, which puts it in the trusted hands of its MSM. if civil society is to survive, occasionally the public must reassert its ownership and clean the augean stables. as far as i know, never before in the history of civil society has the MSM gone so far off track in a pack. how’s that for a blog name? off track in a pack. i think this is an unprecedented moment in the history of civil society, and it comes at a time when we can’t afford it.

    emperor’s new clothes dynamics. Andersen actually initially ended the story with the king pulling off his procession, coming back to the palace and saying something like, “Well, that was great. I’ll have to do it more often.” It was only at the last minute that he changed the end and added the (romantic touch) of “out of the mouths of babes.”

  4. Robert Schwartz says:

    My contempt for France multiplies.

    You seem to have anger issues; it’s not good for your mental balance to be filled with so much contempt. take many long breaths and repeat after me: “France is a light onto the nations, in particular for its great republican values engraved on every public building — and esp on the Palais de Justice — liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Wellllll, you don’t have to say “fraternité” too emphatically… but the rest, keep saying it until you’re convinced. then write us another comment on how much better you feel. (you may sign winston if you’d like.)

  5. igout says:

    Ah, now I get it. Cosi Fan Tutti! But if They don’t watch it, this latest performance will end more like Don Giovanni. People like Pistache will get to play the Statue.

  6. Al Tira says:

    So … this will just embolden the frauds, the liars, and the con-artists, will it not. It begs the question: is it better to fight corruption from within or without?

  7. chevalier de st george says:

    Thank you RL – you asked about the extremely interesting and vast subject of the DEMONISATION of ISRAEL IN WESTERN SOCIETY.
    I think that the transformation of Israel from a tiny country fighting for its right to survive into a pariah state is the best example of the power of ‘soft coercion’ and the manufacture of dissent in western society.
    The mechanics of creation of ‘common sense’ in the regimes of Stalin, Nazism, Mao, Pol Pot etc are self evident in that they are based on violence, intimidation and fear.
    The mechanics of the creation of Common ‘sense’ in western democracies are far more subtle and take the form of soft coercion that alters mindsets without hardly leaving traces.
    Only when we look at the unbelievable alteration of the perception of Israel can we appreciate the awesome “invisible” power of soft coercion.
    Had the Western Europeans been subjected to the hard brutal coercion of the above totalitarian regimes they could not have been ‘turned against’ Israel in a faster time.
    I think that even before the ‘oil crisis’ of the early seventies, the elites had decided that it had been a grave mistake to support the creation of the Israeli state.
    When exit strategies are required from such perceived mistakes as in the case of Vietnam and Iraq, dissent must be manufactured to alter the commonsense mindset of the public and permit these strategies.
    The obvious choices for performing such changes are the educators, human rights groups, and the press.
    they will act from ideologal motivation, require little financial renumeration because of their negative sentiments towards any government, right wing or left wing.
    The reasons that the French government manufactured dissent against Israel are well documented by Bat Yeor.
    But the methods used are not.
    Obviously the common decision to elevate Arafat into a godlike freedom fighter, by the elites of western democracies is one. And one must note that this was not started by’ left wing neo marxists ‘They were until then extremely “Pro Israel”. They merely picked up the scent like a pack of willing bloodhounds.

    it is astonishing what happened… and the immediate proliferation of groups like ISM who threw themselves heart and soul into the vilification campaign. your comments are very impt to think about… what’s going on here? and why are normally sane people so receptive to it, even in “watered-down” form?

  8. Eliyahu says:

    Chevalier a beaucoup de raison. Very perceptive of you, C de SG. I believe that British psychological warfare experts were working out ways of delegitimizing Israel as far back as the 1940s, perhaps even before the rise or rebirth of Israel in 1948. The problem is that such goings on are not going to be openly reported to the public. So it is hard to document the ongoing activity. However, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence going back to the 1940s.

  9. Eliyahu says:

    Just read Carolyn Glick’s account of the al-Durah affair and the recent Karsenty trial in Paris. At least some one understands.

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=3&cid=1159193504480&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

  10. explummer says:

    Thank you for all your reporting on this terrible miscarriage of justice.

    Perhaps it’s as simple as this: given the riots of 2005, the French are afraid of anything that would trigger further unrest. This fear now is the primary guide for their foreign policy, and the fear now drives judicial results as well.

  11. I too feared that this would be the result. Legal systems based on the Napoleonic code are highly prone to “respecting the experts”. Of course they are entirely opposed to Fraternité too. Nobody from anywhere in the Anglosphere should expect to understand them as they are completely alien to everything we expect from a legal system.

  12. chevalier de st george says:

    yes Eliyahu,
    and i’m hoping that in such elitist bodies such as the State department,the Foreign office,or the french equivalent, there is still “covert” support for Israel- a support that dares not speak its name if you will for fear of damaging the status quo in political alliances and financial advantages.
    sometimes in trying to burn down the bush around your own house to create a small firebreak , you end up burning your house down and your neighbour’s.
    This is the kind of fire that has been created by those who brought about the unbeleivable change of public opinion towards Israel.

  13. pacific_waters says:

    The verdict pointedly demonstrated the similarities between french and arabic society, rather than being cultures of honor they are both cultures of shame. A culture of shame blames the victim rahteer than the perpetrator.

  14. Orbit Rain says:

    “We will continue to agitate with words of reason and reasoning in the hopes of awakening them while they can still win in the world of discourse.”

    Humanity seems to have this trait where they wish to cut off the head of someone-some*thing* every once in a while. Sometimes you’ll find hostage beheaded…sometimes judges…a man like Saddam would…but also men who wish to be free from slavery to their state…

    I’m telling ya, if you make someone a slave, don’t be suprised that they want to kill you…we have the “courts” where we’ll claim to agree on the rules to interact with each other such that we specifically *don’t* have to resort to violence…insolence at accusation…sometimes that reaction is violent, and that’s usually bad news…it’s not like this shit hasn’t happened before

    oh I forgot…

    Bad news sells.

    that’s all good and fine under normal conditions. “if it bleeds it leads…” when the reader isn’t in danger of bleeding. but when the “normal rules” put us all in danger because people who want to make us slaves want to kill us, and the news prefers to present it (and a large audience of readers/viewers want to believe that we (in this case Israel) has enslaved them (in this case the Palestinians), so that we don’t understand the motivations behind the violence, and become all the more subject to that violence, then i’d say it’s time level up or not survive. and it is curious that it’s not the real bad news about the spread of islamism and global jihad that the newspapers seem to want to sell us, but the fake news of israel “slow genocide” of the Palestinians. maybe it’s not bad news that sells, but schadenfreude — it gives me pleasure to see others in trouble… in this case the Israelis. if it’s bad news about me, i’d rather stick my head in the sand.

    oh i forgot…

    when you’re a 400 pound dewd with a 300 cholesterol count, you may not be able to keep washing down cheeseburgers with truffles. scapegoating consistently ruins the people who go for it.

    if you have the desire to cut someone’s head off, at least make sure he/they deserve it before you indulge yourself.

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