Reflections on the French: Kline Responds to my fisking

In response to my fisking, Brett Kline has written an interesting comment which he kindly has permitted me to turn into a post.

Dear Mr. Landes:
Thank you for taking the time to criticize my paper for JTA. First, you should have posted the updated paper, which includes the Paris judge’s order (request or order?) that France 2 furnish the raw footage for screening.

I still can’t find this.

Then, several points, not necessarily in order of importance. This whole affair has left the arena of Israel-Palestine politics, and has a life of its own as a French media scandal, that probably should be taught in journalism school as an example of manipulation. However, it will never be taught in French school, because the French sincerely do not give a damn about this.
Displaying any emotion in an intellectual debate is a sign of weakness in France. The facts or possible facts do not matter here for the French; what matters is the personalities involved.

For those who read my ramblings about honor-shame culture, this is a signature description of an honor-shame culture. As Henry Higgins put it: “The French don’t really care what they say, actually, just so long as they pronounce it correctly.” Makes the Dreyfus affair, where people passionately cared about what they and others said, even more of a mystery. And of course, it raises the question, can the French rise to occasion this time? If they don’t the consequences are a lot worse than merely condemning an innocent man to Devil’s Island. Their society is at stake.

As for the comment on how it should be in the curriculum of Journalism schools… I not only agree, I’ll go further and say that if it is not, then the future of journalism and a free society will be in jeopardy.

Enderlin is respected as a journalist, so whatever he says is true. Karsenty is seen, for the few who bother to look, as a fringe case, so whatever he says cannot be taken seriously. That is French [honor-shame – rl] logic.

Karsenty did tell me that he believes Enderlin was a part of the staging with the cameraman. That is where I disagree with him, because I respect Enderlin’s work in Israel and Palestine. I think Enderlin was taken for a ride, along with France 2, but the public TV powerhouse will never ever admit that.

How can you think Enderlin ran staged footage of such explosive nature, and still respect his work? Doesn’t this give you pause about the rest of his work? My impression is that he’s “gone over,” not so much to the Palestinian side, but to the Palestinian style. (Upcoming post on that shortly.)

As for Karsenty’s opinion of Enderlin, he tells me he never said anything of the sort, and he has never taken that position in my conversations with him. He’s also smart enough not to say it publicly even if he believes it (many do: Enderlin is not known as “scoop Enderlin” for nothing). And certainly, in the article that got him in trouble, Philippe’s quite explicit that he thinks Enderlin “se trompe.”

Debate here in general is not about content, it is about style, because nobody gives a damn about what really happened, in any affair. The best weapon that French media has is not debate, it is simply to ignore the issue at hand.

Which is why, if it forces itself into the public sphere, they lose. A very fragile position to try and maintain… something of an “honor Maginot line.” Only by burying it can France2 survive this one.

And manipulation is rampant, by editing or by omission, in the US as well. In all the footage of September 11 in New York, have we ever seen one dead body? The tragedy happened; people died, but the order went out, no dead bodies on the screen, and the media went along.

I don’t consider that manipulation on the same level as the dishonesty we see. For the longest time the Israelis didn’t show pictures of terror victims, a form of self-“censorship” that seeks to spare the viewer’s sensibilities. Contrast this with the lurid interest of Palestinian TV with the most ghastly pictures of wounded children, etc. I got some 100 hours of tapes from PATV news and was going to ask my daughter if she’d look for Pallywood material. But when I saw how revolting and brutalizing it was, I couldn’t ask her to.

Maybe the attempt to frame the smashing of Saddam’s statue after the US troops took Baghdad is a better example.

In Paris, it is much worse. Nobody cares what is being said; what matters only is who is doing the talking. Everything is in the “rapport de force”. The French never return phone calls, unless you threaten them.

This is a perfect description of the corruption of power-relations. It’s also classic in-crowd behavior from high school.

Do I like this? No… It is difficult to take seriously the moral outrage of some of my American colleagues and certain American Jews over Israel-Palestine issues and their handling in the press.
I do believe almost 100% that the Al-Durah affair was staged, but I know that aside from the media parties concerned, nobody gives a damn.

Here’s where I can’t follow your logic. On the one hand you tell me you can’t understand the moral outrage of Americans, and on the other, that you think the footage was staged. If the footage was staged, it’s a catastrophe for everyone — Palestinians included — that this icon of hatred got mainstreamed as real. It’s a travesty of journalistic ethics, and it’s an outrageous failure of due diligence that the MSM has not done it’s work on this. Your yawn is French; your comment that “aside from the media parties, nobody gives a damn,” is straight out of Clément Weill-Raynal’s playbook.

I think lots of people do give a damn — both ways: those who want it exposed and those who don’t want to lose the icon of hatred. By being blazé about this, you’re playing the game the way France2 wants it.

During that Paris demonstration in 2000, the photo in your posting, the Magrebi Arab associations doing all the screaming about death to Israel provoked reactions only from Jewish groups here. When they beat up the Hashomer kids on the rue Saint Claude that day, Jewish media went nuts, and rightfully so, but nobody else reacted, nobody, not even the police.

But that’s precisely the problem. The French “progressives” were there as chants of “Death to Jews” rang out and they were silent. Talk about by-stander behavior… and from the very political group that claims to represent the conscience of humanity. The French may not think sincerity and authenticity is important — after all, their favorite philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, was the patron saint of mauvaise foi — but I can assure you that civil society (with its precious freedoms) rises and falls on commitments to such quaint notions as honesty and integrity. “Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbour (Leviticus 19:16)” is a key component of healthy solidarity in a civil society.

Hypocrisy and cowardice — which are the best explanation for the French left’s failure to denounce the sudden explosion of anti-Semitism in their very midst — is deeply corrosive. 2000 is a moment of great shame for the “left,” and their only defense is the kind of lassitude that puts the lie to their moral outrage over Israel’s “crimes against humanity.” From moral corruption to hysterical indignation. These are not healthy developments.

The French do not hate Jews; they are jealous of Jews and what is perceived as their success in Paris; they are jealous of other people’s money. But the French above all hate Arabs and Islam in France, though they do not admit it, because that would be a show of weakness. their hatred of Arabs here is active…few good jobs go to Arab young man with masters degrees. With Jews, they simply ignore them, and criticize Israel, because it is far away, and they have decided that Palestinians are the victims, and the French love victims.

I agree more or less. It is close to the comment I made that if anti-Judaism (zero-sum invidiousness) is like wine, and anti-semitism (paranoid hatred) is like high-grain alcohol, then since 2000, the Europeans have been sipping Merlot while it’s an open bar for enraged (“humiliated”) Arab youth. And don’t forget that this anti-Zionism is not merely based on envy and distance, but also on scapegoating: befriend the very Arabs whom you treat like dirt, by encouraging them to hate someone else. Anti-semitisim is the socialism of fools.

But a debate on Al Durah in Paris? No one gives a damn. Sincerely.

Brett Kline, Paris

We shall see. I actually think that many more people give a damn — even among the elite — than are willing to admit it (given the prevailing climate of cynicism), and that as Europe wakes up to the terrible dilemma they’re in with their Eurabian policies, more and more people will give a damn.

As far as I can make out, the Europeans are caught between the Scylla of their cowardice before Islamic aggression on the one hand, and Charybdis of the envy and resentment of more robust cultures (ones committed to values and capable of moral outrage) like the US and Israel on the other. As the Arabs have learned much to their chagrin, in the fight between modernity and honor-shame cultures, the modern, self-critical, self-correcting culture will win. The French have to decide whether they want to go down, cynicism all the way, or they want to get serious, and survive.

7 Responses to Reflections on the French: Kline Responds to my fisking

  1. Rudi says:

    If I can add one comment on your essay, Richard, then it is the fact that imho ALL media outlets in Europe and particularly in Belgium know for years the whole Al Dura story is probably an hoax. We came to that conclusion after several discussions and email exchanges with the press. However they refuse (a non-written consensus?) to report anything about it until it is proven by justice that it is an hoax.

  2. […] what integrity is. And to judge from Clément Weill-Raynal’s comments and those of Brett Kline, this problem goes far beyond the […]

  3. Richard Landes says:

    Rudi: this is a fascinating dimension of the case. i have heard similar things from people who know personnel at France2. everyone knows, no one will admit.

    it reminds me of when the Boston Globe did an expose on pederast priests, and a french friend noted to me that the American church was pretty sleazy (any excuse to stick it to americans). when i asked him if he thought it was because that stuff didn’t go on in europe, or americans had a more courageous media, he apparently had never even thought of that.

  4. RL says:

    note Karsenty’s denial that he ever told Kline that Enderlin staged it. i don’t know anyone, not matter how disgusted with Enderlin (and there are many), who think he staged it. the real issue is: did he know when he got it that it was staged?

  5. fp says:


    kline’s point is that the PUBLIC does not care about the whole thing. and since you admit that’s a societal characteristic, your arguments imply that this will change french society: it will get it to care.

    i seriously doubt it, to understate the case. the french media and society were lost a long time ago.

  6. […] French: Kline Responds to my fisking
    September 24, 2007 on 1:23 pm | In Style |
    Eric wrote an interesting post today […]

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