Richard Landes has a translation of an article from the French weekly news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur up at Augean Stables. Because I am unfamiliar with the naval-gazing world of the French Elite (they invented the word!), at first I thought that “Nouvel Observateur” must be some kind of French Idiom for Lunatic Asylum. The thing is such a monument to un-self conscious self-deification and denial of reality that it reads most readily as either parody or the ravings of the insane. If you read it sentence by sentence and really listen to what they are implying, it really sounds as if it was written by a group of loonies- some who think they are Napoleons, Louis XIV, a few Richelieus and a Robespierre or two- sitting around in the day room of a French mental hospital. I searched some of the names of the signatories and to my surprise, most of them appear to be out on the streets and without psychiatric “paperwork”. So, I guess, it turns out that we were meant to take it seriously.
This, then, is another and much more frightening story. Richard, who has now posted a brilliant analysis of the political and cultural implications in addition to the original translation, has summed up the demopathic thrust of it very well. I looked back at his translation of the original document, though, and I feel compelled to off my own version of it. Richard, as usual was at great pains to get meanings and tones right. As a result he was able to preserve much of the delusional veneer of reasonableness that holds the piece together.
I was so taken by the absolutely delusional arrogance and self-congratulatory tone I just had to do a re-translation of my own. I have tried to open up the text so that we can see what is going on in their minds and hearts. Richard’s translation is below in black and mine is interspersed in red.
Seven years. It’s now seven years that a obstinate and hateful campaign has tried to tarnish the professional dignity of our colleague Charles Enderlin, correspondent for France2 in Jerusalem.
Seven years! Mon Dieux! These Jews have long memories! This is getting serious; people are actually starting to pay attention! That’s why, in this entire mewling, deceptive screed we will never once mention the scabrous nature of the libel that Charles Enderlin committed and we are denying. We really don’t care about the anguish it cased the Jews. Let’s not mention all the bloodshed suffered in Israel either. Forget the civil war and deprivation in the Palestinian territories. Who cares about the terror it inspired all around the world. So what if when we finally get to the end of this great steaming pile of rubbish we will have done nothing but shown that we are more concerned with issues of false dignity and personal honor than we are about the accuracy and honesty of what we actually do and our effect on the world. Maybe if we keep talking about dignity and professionalism, though, they notice we are all basically a bunch of pompous, venal, lazy, opinionated fools too… It shouldn’t be a surprise- as our resident Napoleons have said, “Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.”
For seven years the same individuals have attempted to present as a “hoax” and a “series of staged scenes” his report showing the death of Mohammed al-Doura, 12 years old, killed by fire coming from the Israeli position on the 30 of September 2000 in the Gaza Strip during a confrontation between the Israeli army and armed Palestinians.
We are not going to name the people who are “persecuting” our friend Charles because, frankly some of them have more reputable jobs than we do and we want to make them look like a small group of fringe nuts. This is a little trick we learned in journalism school, just one of the reasons we feel superior to ordinary people and immune to their ridiculous desire to “understand what really happened”. We have no intention of playing their game and looking honestly at the evidence they have put together. We will simply re-assert the same hideous libel that got Charles in trouble in the first place. We do this because it is so obviously untrue that now, after seven years of supporting it blindly, we could not possibly bear to do what Enderlin and the rest of us should have done in the beginning: look at all the evidence as objectively as possible. Here is the equation; Enderlin accuses the Jews unjustly because he believes he is doing a greater justice for the Palestinians. Then the Palestinians, who started the hoax in the first place, use the unjust accusations against the Jews to rationalize terror, intransigence and murder. Enderlin, instead of being horrified by the libel and bloodshed he has helped to create, becomes horrified by the possibility that he might be exposed as a lazy repeater of lies and a tool of the propagandists, decides that among the tough choices he had that it would be a higher benefit for all of humanity for him to defend his squalid career and fight the truth coming out- right down to the last Israeli. We agree! Because if Enderlin can loose his credibility just because he told lies that resulted in thousands of deaths, we might be vulnerable too!
On the 19 of October 2006, the correctional tribunal of Paris had judged the principle animator of this campagne, Philippe Karsenty, guilty of defamation.
On the 19 of October 2006, the cause of arrogant dignity won the first battle. It was a great victory, really. It should have ended, once and for all the amusing notion that Charles had anything to “explain” to these people. The judge in that trial was our kind of jurist! He ignored the existence of evidence that showed it really was a hoax. It should have been a lesson to everyone! Charles said it happened, why should it matter if it happened or not? Louis XIV over here (actually there are a few of him here) used to say “the state is me” (L’etat c’est moi )back in the old days. That was before he was an august French journalist now we all live by his revamped motto “the truth is me” (la vérité c'est moi).
The decision rendered on the 21 of May by the appeals court of Paris, invoked by Philippe Karsenty recognizes that the claims made by him “unquestionably struck at the honor and professional reputations of the information professionals” but admits, curiously, that the “good faith” of Philippe Karsenty, who “exercised his right to free criticism” and “did not transgress the limits of free speech.” This decision which exonerates Philippe Karsenty both surprises and worries us.
Speaking of the good old days, whatever happened to the times when you could say anything you wanted to about the Jews and they would just be so glad you weren’t beating them with whips they would take it and say “thank you”. But noooo, this guy Karsenty appealed his conviction! They feel they have the right to ask questions and to see proof- what an insult this is to the dignity of a true journalist- an information professional! OK, so on the appeal the court said that Karsenty “did not transgress to limits of free speech,” but they did say that his claims “unquestionably struck at the honor and professional reputations of the information professionals”, (Oh, wait, that must mean that the judges thought that it was accurate enough to warrant questioning his honor and professional reputation. Sacre Bleu,! I’d better steer away from the part of the judgment where the judges agreed with Karsenty that the preponderance of the evidence was in support of Karsenty’s claims)
We are surprised, because it grants the same credibility to a journalist known for the seriousness and rigor of his work, who exercises his profession in sometimes difficult conditions, and to his detractors, engaged in a campaign of negation and discrediting, who ignore all the realities of the terrain and have no experience of reporting from a conflict zone
We are surprised and shocked! How could the court do this? Don’t they know that each journalist is like a little Richelieu whose every word is the emerging truth and whose dignity is as sacred as it is transparent and undeserved. Have you ever seen The Killing Fields or All the Presidents Men, or The Year of Living Dangerously? Well we are now, with transparent cynicism, going to try to imply that Enderlin is that kind of journalist. Besides, you have no idea how serious and rigorous it is sitting on ones’ flaccid behind in comfortable salons in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and sipping Merlot and sorting through the crap that whatever contacts from the Palestinian Propaganda Ministry have weaseled their way into your confidence send by.
It worries us, because it gives permission in the future for a “permission to defame” journalists, which would permit anyone, in the name of “good faith” and “the right of free criticism,” to strike with impunity at the “honor and reputation of information professionals.”
It worries us because, just as the first Richelieu believed that nothing trumped the power of the State, we believe that the authority over what is and is not true must rest in the hands of the Information Professionals. I mean, if we allow any schmoe whose only authority is “good Faith” or “the right to free speech” to question with impunity what we say and write, that’s going to lead to chaos. Zut allors! the next thing you know, facts will become known, debates will break out and people might even try to think for themselves.
At a time when the freedom of action of journalists is the object of repeated attacks, we invoke our attachment to this fundamental principle, pillar of democracy and we renew our support and solidarity with Charles Enderlin.
These are tough times for Journalism. First the Jihadists, and Palestinians intimidate us with violence, loss of access and even kidnapping so that we are terrified not to repeat all the stuff they stage and write. Then the Israelis show us up for the pusillanimous humbugs that we have allowed ourselves to become- its just not fair! We still want you to believe that we are still a pillar of democracy, even while we have allowed the Islamists to turn us into a weapon against democracy. But our highest allegiance is to our pathetic selves and the cynical pose of mock nobility to which we pretend. That’s why we are with Chuck! We’ll do anything to preserve our position and privilege. That’s why we want Enderlin to keep pursuing Karsenty and his supporters. We need to destroy them all. As Richelieu once said, “If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him”. To us, there are things that are more important than honesty, accuracy and free speech. Oh, Robespierre wants us to say, “Omelettes are not made without breaking eggs”