French MSM Losing their Grip: The Problem with Soft Power

Just before the elections this Sunday, the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, whose anti-Sarkozy leanings make the Tower of Pisa look ramrod straight, ran this cover:

nouvel obs sarko

The point was, come out and vote for the left in the legislative elections so that you can stop Sarkozy from becoming a tyrant. It was more or less typical of how the anti-Sarkozy MSM (the significant majority of that MSM) in France has tried to oppose him. And yet, it utterly failed. Sarkozy’s party won a crushing victory in the first round.

The media is now trying to rally voters to come out and vote for the left in the next round. Wrote Le Monde in a front page article of news (not analysis, not opinion):

It would be enough for the abstentions to be fewer, that the mobilization of the opposition parties be more effeient, to correct the almost caricatural effect of the victory or the right, which is so spectacular.

But what the French elections indicate picks up the tale from where the “No” to the EU constitution of May 30, 2005 had begun. The MSM had massively supported the Yes, to the point where an impartial watchdog group noticed that they gave twice as much time to “Yes” arguments as to “No.” And yet, within the final month of the vote, a huge 10% switch in voter opinion occurred and the Constitution went down to a 55-45% vote. As I suggested back then, it represented a key disconnect between the voting public and the media and political elites.

What we are witnessing today is the dangers of abusing “soft power” — which is they key to media influence. In the 11th century the power of interdict and excommunication — individual or region deprived of the sacraments — grew steadily with the enthusiasm for the reforming papacy, so that when, in 1076, the Pope excommunicated Emperor Henry IV of Germany, it brought the proud man to his knees, barefoot in the snow outside the Pope’s residence at Canossa in the Alps. It was a spectacular victory of soft over hard power, of the public opinion and delegitimization of an authority. Modern historians have a tendency to describe it as the first great victory of the pen over the sword in European history.

But as spectacular as that first papal use of excommunication was, it depended on the belief and good will of an aroused public. Subsequent efforts to wield that pen as a sword ended up draining it of its power, and devaluing what had, initially, been so spectacular a weapon.

So it is with the media. They have enormous soft power, which they have used repeatedly to inspire the public to strong emotions, whether against racial discrimination or war or apartheid regimes. Now, having exercised their power with at times overwheening arrogance, they find themselves losing their grip on a public which had to trust them in order for their soft power to work. And once lost, it will take a great deal of probity to gain that trust back.

The way the media has treated Israel represents, to my mind at least, one of the more scandalous and disastrous of the media’s overreaching itself. Even the paper that hosts Robert Fisk has called for an end to the demonizing: “It’s time to end the villification of Israel.”

Not that this massive movement will turn on a dime. The UN is still blaming the problem on… wait for it… US support of Israel.

The next couple of years should be very interesting.

14 Responses to French MSM Losing their Grip: The Problem with Soft Power

  1. fp\http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ says:

    i wish i could be hopeful.

  2. Richard Landes says:

    don’t we all. and given the disastrous mess we’ve been vouchsafed by the hope-addicts who botched the oslo trojan horse, it’s hard. but it’s important not to fall to the other side of the tight rope we’re walking either.

  3. fp\http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ says:

    well, it is important, but if one relies on empiricism, one must follow where it leads. and from what i’m seeing, it does not lead to hope.

  4. fp\http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ says:

    Here’s something apropos:

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/016926.php

  5. N00man says:

    De Soto’s report is a fascinating read. Overall, I think it’s far more even-handed than much of what I read about the conflict. The argument about both sides’ non-observance of the ‘roadmap’ is well-observed, but he seems to put the onus on Israel to honor its part in the belief that this will prompt the Palestinians to do likewise. I think that this is a legitimate and honorable position for a UN negotiator to take. Why not, when trying to solve a problem, work with the party amenable to rational persuasion and possessed of a governing capacity capable of implementing its policies? Of course, I share your skepticism about the results of such action, and find interesting what De Soto relegates to a footnote:

    But I think he may have a point about allowing the transfer of funds to the PA. You talk about a soft-power exhausting itself through overuse; I think sanctions exemplifies that perfectly. When have they ever worked? When have they ever not rallied the hostile nation into solidarity behind the most adversarial leader or position available?

    I don’t think it’s cognitive egocentrism to suggest that the desperate conditions of Gaza make an apocalyptic death-cult seem less unreasonable. Ideology is powerful, but I think at the end of the day, all humans share a deep-rooted biological attraction to safety, comfort, and stability.

    This isn’t to say that the blood libels of the PA leadership(s) wouldn’t continue to circulate and influence, but convince me that Israeli benevolence would be a countervailing argument.

  6. N00man says:

    De Soto’s report is a fascinating read. Overall, I think it’s far more even-handed than much of what I read about the conflict. The argument about both sides’ non-observance of the ‘roadmap’ is well-observed, but he seems to put the onus on Israel to honor its part in the belief that this will prompt the Palestinians to do likewise. I think that this is a legitimate and honorable position for a UN negotiator to take. Why not, when trying to solve a problem, work with the party amenable to rational persuasion and possessed of a governing capacity capable of implementing its policies? Of course, I share your skepticism about the results of such action, and find interesting what De Soto relegates to a footnote:

    But I think he may have a point about allowing the transfer of funds to the PA. You talk about a soft-power exhausting itself through overuse; I think sanctions exemplifies that perfectly. When have they ever worked? When have they ever not rallied the hostile nation into solidarity behind the most adversarial leader or position available?

    I don’t think it’s cognitive egocentrism to suggest that the desperate conditions of Gaza make an apocalyptic death-cult seem less unreasonable. Ideology is powerful, but I think at the end of the day, all humans share a deep-rooted biological attraction to safety, comfort, and stability.

    This isn’t to say that the blood libels of the PA leadership(s) wouldn’t continue to circulate and influence, but convince me that Israeli benevolence wouldn’t be a countervailing argument.

  7. N00man says:

    Hi– apologies– the post seems to have gotten mangled and doubled and I don’t have time to fix.
    But here’s De Soto’s footnote, not in a blockquote:

    “The pragmatists in Hamas argue that recognition amounts to acceptance of the occupation, and that only if Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinians to a state in the 1967 borders would the question arise whether Hamas should recognise Israel. For the ideologues in Hamas, their objections are even more fundamental, of course.” p. 31

    I imagine these ‘pragmatists’ and ‘ideologues’ will be parties to the next Gaza civil war with Fatah being defeated.

  8. fp\http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ says:

    >I think that this is a legitimate and honorable position for a UN negotiator to take.

    Are you serious? Putting “legitimate and honorable” in the same sentence with UN — i dk whether to laugh or cry.

    >Why not, when trying to solve a problem, work with the party amenable to rational persuasion and possessed of a governing capacity capable of implementing its policies?

    Because that makes the policies of irrational barbarians rational in the instrumental sense. If one side perceives the other side conveying weakness in the context of jihad, which invites further demands from and attacks on it, it does not take much brain to figure out the stupidity underlying such policy. This is exactly what oslo and the current policies of the west prove.

    That’s why, as you you observed, he buried that comment in the note. It shows that he is aware of the root problem, but he disregards it because (a) he knows nothing can be done about it (b) not living in israel he thinks he can live with the consequences if his policy fails (which, of course, will be only for a while).

    It reminds me of the guy who was looking for the keys he lost not where he lost them, but where there was light.

  9. fp\http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/ says:

    Like so many deluded westerns, he finds “moderates” even where they don’t exist. He must, because if there aren’t any, the implications are something he does not want to contemplate.

  10. Cynic says:

    Nooman said;

    De Soto’s report is a fascinating read. Overall, I think it’s far more even-handed than much of what I read about the conflict. The argument about both sides’

    Have you acquainted yourself with the UN’s directives to be so sure of its evenhandedness?

    Five Facts About John Dugard

    1. The mandate of special rapporteur on Palestine — created in 1993 by the discredited and now defunct UN Commission on Human Rights — is to investigate only violations by Israel, a one-sided duty John Dugard has zealously embraced since his appointment to the post in 2001.UN “expert” John Dugard: Terrorist Spokesperson with a UN License,

    He is the UN Special Rapporteur or investigator on Israel. His UN mandate was created by the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights so as to specifically exclude any consideration of violations of international law or human rights by Palestinians. This clearly suits Dugard just fine. Speaking in this report he reminds us, without concern: “It does not fall within the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to comment on the state of human rights in Gaza under the administration of the Palestinian Authority.” and “The Special Rapporteur’s mandate does not extend to human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority.” So with relish this UN official proceeds to attack Israel with a level of vitriol only explained by his support for a one-state solution, that is, the end of the Jewish state.

    Just two examples, the second one explicit about the UN directive Dugard received.

  11. N00man says:

    I would never go so far as to say that the UN as a whole, especially the UNCHR, has treated the conflict in an even-handed manner, just that the document itself seems fair-minded insofar as it represents a commitment to a just, equitable solution and long-term peace. Whether such a solution is possible in the terms the author conceives is another question, as fp rightly points out.

  12. Eliyahu says:

    two political scientists, Abraham Yeselson & Anthony Gaglione, wrote a book back in the early 1970s, A Dangerous Place, about the UN as a dangerous institution. I recommend it.
    They pointed out that in practice the UN promotes war rather than bringing peace.
    And then Professor Moynihan stole the title of their book for one of his own.

  13. fp says:

    nooman,

    justice and equitability from the un, huh? you mean, like this?

    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=25891_UN_Hits_Bottom_Digs&only

    looks like you may have the same concept as the un, in which case i urge you to get some serious education on the subject.

  14. N00man says:

    Thanks to you folks for the links and book recommendations. I’m already aware that the General Assembly (and several committees) is a viperous pit of jew hate where mob rule hijacks the UN’s authority to make declarations on behalf of the global community. I wasn’t aware of the degree of inequity in its administrative practices re: the conflict.

    Nevertheless, I have strong affection for the ideals enshrined in the UN charter, just as I believe in the ideals of the US constitution. Neither UN nor US successfully embody these ideals, but one must hope they aren’t corrupt beyond repair. I’m a young father, and my family is going to see a lot of this century still, G-d willing. I can’t countenance cynicism.

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