Publisher's Note — June 8, 2016, 2:31 pm

The Leftist Line

The French left self-destructs

A version of this column originally ran in Le Devoir on June 6, 2016. Translated from the French by John Cullen.

I rarely sign petitions or statements of solidarity. Readily offering one’s signature has a tendency to devalue it, whatever the declared urgency of the cause may be. And apart from that, in the heat of the moment, you run the risk of being fooled—I’m thinking about the unfortunate leftists who, without knowing it, followed the Stalinist line at the time of the Spanish Civil War.

That having been said, I didn’t hesitate on May 23, when I received an appeal to support Aude Lancelin, formerly second-in-command at the prominent French newsmagazine L’Obs. She was fired by the weekly after a political disagreement that, oddly enough, proved to be of benefit to the editor-in-chief, Matthieu Croissandeau. The petition deserves attention not only because Lancelin is a top-notch journalist of great integrity but also because her case underlines a growing crisis in the French left, as well as in the entire French press, no matter its political orientation.

To summarize what happened: According to the daily newspaper Libération, Aude Lancelin was “labeled as being on the left of the left” in her preferences for articles and interviews, which was not to the liking of Claude Perdriel, co-founder of the magazine and one of its four shareholders. Perdriel is said to have observed aloud that Lancelin was “out of compliance with the covenant she signed when she came to L’Obs” two years ago. In this “social-democratic” periodical, he declared, Lancelin “publishes anti-democratic articles.” Apparently, therefore, she deviated from a “line” that up until then had not been entirely obvious.

The authors of the petition offer an analysis: “We read…that there’s supposed to have been a conflict between Mr. Croissandeau’s so-called line, said to be the line followed by `all sectors of the left,’ and the one followed by Aude Lancelin…. Reading the said editor-in-chief’s editorials is all one need do to realize that `all sectors of the left’ are, in fact, just the sectors embodied in [President] Hollande, [Prime Minister] Valls, and [Economics Minister] Macron.”

As a matter of fact, Croissandeau’s columns generally appear favorable to the government and contemptuous toward the unions—unions that are currently engaged in mass protests against the draft legislation known as the El Khomri law—a reform that would allow, among other things, lower pay for overtime work.

That the French Socialist Party has moved more and more to the right is undeniable. That the left, such as it is, is in trouble, abandoned by now-unemployed workers and outstripped by the FN (the right-wing National Front), is likewise beyond discussion. That there’s a political crisis in France created by the split between “two irreconcilable left-wing camps,” to borrow Manuel Valls’s words, could not be more obvious. To see how far along “the left” in France is on the path to mutual slaughter, all you have to do is read the interview with left-wing presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the April 28 issue of L’Obs. Mélenchon calls Valls “a right-wing republican” and says that Macron is “a pin-up produced by the system to make the left explode from within.” As for Hollande, he has “made the word ‘left’ mean the poor lying thing that’s currently in power.”

As a journalist and the president and publisher of a magazine, I recognize in all this an important political confrontation conducted by proxy. At the same time, what troubles me even more about Aude Lancelin’s dismissal is the rise of a journalistic orthodoxy at L’Obs similar to what I see more or less everywhere in Western journalism. The caricature of Lancelin as a promoter of extreme left-wing positions has been justly ridiculed. But it’s Matthieu Croissandeau’s blandness, not his “political line,” that bothers me the most. In his writings, I hear the committee’s voice – smooth, mild, and dull. When he responded to his accusers, Croissandeau denied having a political agenda: “Mine is a managerial decision. The editorial staff wasn’t working well…”

I don’t doubt it. The managerial approach is precisely what’s killing journalism. “There’s a growing demand on the part of media outlets and news businesses for journalists trained in the realities of management,” wrote Nicolas Beytout, former director of the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro.

Aude Lancelin personifies intelligent heterodoxy in the press. For example, when she worked for the weekly newsmagazine Marianne, she encouraged the left to lift its taboo on the subject of the euro by presenting the dissenting opinions of Emmanuel Todd. Now, the euro is sacred to the Socialists. Even the arch-rebel Jean-Luc Mélenchon hesitates to advocate a French exit from Europe’s single currency for fear of insulting “the European dream” of the French elites, the same elites whom Mélenchon denounces as an oligarchy. I don’t even know whether Aude is pro- or anti-euro, but I do know that she defends freedom of expression. Yes, she’s a leftist, but she doesn’t hew to a leftist line.

If Hollande’s popularity and L’Obs’s circulation are both in decline, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Share
Single Page

More from John R. MacArthur:

Publisher's Note July 12, 2019, 10:47 am

American Greatness

Publisher's Note June 10, 2019, 12:05 pm

My French Side

Publisher's Note May 8, 2019, 5:36 pm

Suicidal Strategy

“The Times has used every opportunity to present Sanders as an obstacle to Trump’s eventual overthrow.”

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2019

The Call of the Drums

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Brutal from the Beginning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Alps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Last Frontier

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Play with No End

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Last Frontier·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The San Luis Valley in southern Colorado still looks much as it did one hundred, or even two hundred, years ago. Blanca Peak, at 14,345 feet the fourth-highest summit in the Rockies, overlooks a vast openness. Blanca, named for the snow that covers its summit most of the year, is visible from almost everywhere in the valley and is considered sacred by the Navajo. The range that Blanca presides over, the Sangre de Cristo, forms the valley’s eastern side. Nestled up against the range just north of Blanca is Great Sand Dunes National Park. The park is an amazement: winds from the west and southwest lift grains of sand from the grasses and sagebrush of the valley and deposit the finest ones, creating gigantic dunes. You can climb up these dunes and run back down, as I did as a child on a family road trip and I repeated with my own children fifteen years ago. The valley tapers to a close down in New Mexico, a little north of Taos. It is not hard to picture the indigenous people who carved inscriptions into rocks near the rivers, or the Hispanic people who established Colorado’s oldest town, San Luis, and a still-working system of communal irrigation in the southeastern corner, or a pioneer wagon train. (Feral horses still roam, as do pronghorn antelope and the occasional mountain lion.)

Article
A Play with No End·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When I caught up with the Gilets Jaunes on March 2, near the Jardin du Ranelagh, they were moving in such a mass through the streets that all traffic had come to a halt. The residents of Passy, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Paris, stood agape and apart and afraid. Many of the shops and businesses along the route of the march, which that day crossed seven and a half miles of the city, were shuttered for the occasion, the proprietors fearful of the volatile crowd, who mostly hailed from outside Paris and were considered a rabble of invaders.

Article
The Call of the Drums·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Kurultáj, an event held annually outside the town of Bugac, Hungary, is billed as both the “Tribal Assembly of the Hun-­Turkic Nations” and “Europe’s Largest Equestrian Event.” When I arrived last August, I was fittingly greeted by a variety of riders on horseback: some dressed as Huns, others as Parthian cavalrymen, Scythian archers, Magyar warriors, csikós cowboys, and betyár bandits. In total there were representatives from twenty-­seven “tribes,” all members of the “Hun-­Turkic” fraternity. The festival’s entrance was marked by a sixty-­foot-­tall portrait of Attila himself, wielding an immense broadsword and standing in front of what was either a bonfire or a sky illuminated by the baleful glow of war. He sported a goatee in the style of Steven Seagal and, shorn of his war braids and helmet, might have been someone you could find in a Budapest cellar bar. A slight smirk suggested that great mirth and great violence together mingled in his soul.

Article
Brutal from the Beginning·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Celebrity sightings are a familiar feature of the modern N.B.A., but this year’s playoffs included an appearance unusual even by the standards of America’s most star-­friendly sports league. A few minutes into the first game of the Western Conference semifinals, between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston ­Rockets—the season’s hottest ticket, featuring the reigning M.V.P. on one side and the reigning league champions on the other—­President Paul Kagame of Rwanda arrived with an entourage of about a dozen people, creating what the sports website The Undefeated called “a scene reminiscent of the fashionably late arrivals of Prince, Jay-­Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna.”

Article
The Alps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Toyota HiAce with piebald paneling, singing suspension, and a reg from the last millennium rolled into the parking lot of the Swinford Gaels football club late on a Friday evening. The HiAce belonged to Rory Hughes, the eldest of the three brothers known as the Alps, and the Alps traveled everywhere together in it. The three stepped out and with a decisive slam of the van’s side door moved off across the moonscape of the parking lot in the order of their conceptions, Rory on point, the middle brother, Eustace, close behind, and the youngest, ­Bimbo, in dawdling tow.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

“What’s the point?” said Senator Tim Scott, who is paid at least $174,000 per year as an elected official, when asked whether he had read the Mueller report.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today