Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Controversy? No Controversy...

The ability of France2 to continue using its Mohammed Al-Dura footage as if there was no question about its authenticity (see previous post), thus ignoring the public revelations of Luc Rosenzweig, Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte regarding the content of the rushes, reflects the sad fact that in France these revelations have, in effect, not provoked any particular controversy - at least not as far as the major media are concerned. The NYTimes article on the matter was titled "Photo of Palestinian Boy Kindles Debate in France". But even this title - like so much in the article - is misleading. There has not been any debate. Since the Jeambar and Leconte article appeared as an op-ed in Le Figaro on January 25, to my knowledge there has been no further reference to the affair in any major French print or traditional electronic (television, radio) media - apart that is from the response of France2 reporter Charles Enderlin which appeared in Le Figaro two days later, but addressed none of Jeambar's and Leconte's factual charges. This observation concerns also the influential French newsweekly L'Express - which, however, is edited by none other than...Denis Jeambar. In his interview with the Parisian "community" radio station RJC (Jewish Community Radio) which I cited in my first post on the Al-Dura affair, Jeambar offered various implausible excuses for failing to cover the affair in his own magazine. Nothing could illustrate more clearly the spirit of intimidation that must be presumed to reign in the French media.

Several French-language websites have sought to highlight the affair and to keep the pressure on France2: among them acmedias, media-ratings, and, of course, the website of the Metula News Agency (MENA), which has been the organization most responsible for exposing the inconsistencies in the Mohammed Al-Dura story. But the efforts of these sites has had virtually no echo in the major media - other, that is, than occasional efforts to demean and disqualify the sites' authors. Indeed, if one is to judge by the results of searches conducted with the usual tools (google, technorati), even the French blogosphere has remained remarkably silent on the Al-Dura/France2 affair.

One of the phantasms about America which has been most carefully cultivated in the mainstream French media in recent years suggests that the American media is characterized - apart from a few heroic upstart organizations like the NYTimes - by a suffocating uniformity of opinion and that consequently American political culture suffers from a lack of debate. The recent bouts pitting the blogosphere against the MSM in the US have exposed, even for the French public, the untenability of this myth and hence its contours are bound now to change -which is not to say it will be abandoned. In any case, the Al-Dura/France2 affair demonstrates that the shoe is decidedly on the other foot.

(Note: I would be grateful for comments or e-mails to, in case there has been some uptake of the Al-Dura/France2 affair in major French media that I have missed.)