Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Our Special Correspondent: Letter from France

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

Our Special Correspondent: Letter from France

Article excerpt

The most popular television show in France these days must be Les Guignols de Info-"the evening news puppets"-who do a ten-minute turn every night on the cable channel "Canal Plus. Their humor is excoriating, and they are as hard on Princess Caroline of Monaco or businessman Bernard Tapie as they are on President Jacques Chirac-who is never referred to as "Chirac" or "the president" but as supermenteur, "super liar." Increasingly, however, America is the target of these pitiless puppets. There is a George W. Bush guignol, a perfect copy, who stumbles rhetorically and shouts the gaseous platitudes that the French associate with America: "We want to make the world a better place .... We are working for freedom and democracy in your land and ours." Robespierre was the last Frenchman to utter incautious statements like these, and he lived more than two hundred years ago. Sometimes the guignols gather to sing, as the American ones did-in extraordinarily bad taste-near the one-year anniversary of 11 September. The song was "We Are the World," except that the puppets' refrain was "we fu---- ze world," and the rest was no less disturbing (considering that this satire was playing to millions in French prime time): "we fu ze world / we fu---- ze children / we fu----ze forests and the sea." Each time Bush stepped in to the mike to shout the refrain in a Frenchified Texas accent, French subtitles drove the point home, with prurient twists best left to French speakers: "On encule le monde ... on emmerde le monde." Plainly, America is soiling and defiling the world in every imaginable way. Bush is but a marginal object of this French humor; Canal Plus reserves its very best barbs for that true archetype of America, "Commandant Sylvestre," a beefy American in black beret and fatigues who looks just like Sylvestre... Stallone.

To the sleek, urbane French, Sylvester Stallone-uneducated, unrefined, undiscriminating, inarticulate, muscle-bound-is the United States. Rambo, far better than Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, or even Donald Rumsfeld (who occasionally "appears" on Canal Plus to do a convincing Joseph Goebbels imitation), encapsulates every American stereotype. He is colossally ignorant, which is regrettable, since he is the single-handed Police du Monde. Well, not quite single-handed-in a tribute to American powers of science and engineering, Canal Plus recently cloned Commandant Sylvestre. There are now two of them, and what a team they are (they conclude "we fu----ze world," crooning into the mike together: "We make ze world a better place for me and ... me"). In an episode that aired in July 2002, the two Sylvestres flew in a C-130 Hercules to the relief of starving Afghans. While one Sylvestre heaved out food packages, the other dropped five-hundred-pound bombs. Food-bomb-food-bomb ... bomb. Panic! The one Sylvestre glances inquiringly at the other, who had been late with his food package, then shrugs indifferently: "It doesn't matter. . . . Food-- bomb-food-bomb.... On another night, they cruise in a bomber over Kandahar, one flying the aircraft, the other with his eyes glued to a bombsight. "You missed," the Sylvestre in the pilot's seat shrieks. The bombardier Sylvestre looks up from his work, his eyes glazed and cross-hatched like the lens of a bombsight. They are killing machines, these Americans.

In another episode, the two Sylvestres hunker in the desert sands around a map of the Middle East. "We must execute a surgical strike against Afghanistan," one grunts to the other, who agrees, pokes a blunt finger through the map, and rips out the entire country of Afghanistan. Dim Neanderthals that they are, the two Sylvestres are just clever enough to play their part in the great conspiracy that some French truly believe unites Osama Bin Laden and the United States. In June, Figaro, the most respected conservative French daily, ran a story titled "Why the Americans Let Bin Laden Escape." A few days later, the anchor (also a puppet) of Les Guignols picked up a phone in the studio and called Bin Laden's cell phone. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.