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Media (Mis)perceptions

by afew Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 09:08:31 AM EST

Norwegian Chef asked some tough questions in a diary about Ségolène Royal's attitude to the appallingly stupid, murderous attack on the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior carried out by French Special Ops (Dirty Tricks) in 1985, and in which her brother Gérard Royal was involved as a frogman (need I say sic?). It seems clear from what Norwegian Chef says that there is considerable ill-feeling in the southern hemisphere in general, not just (understandably) about the attack, but because Ségolène Royal is perceived as

  • having been involved in the attack at the time, since she was then working at the Elysée Palace and because her brother was on active duty in the attack;
  • having pretty much flipped off complaints or requests for information.

Let me say this is not a knee-jerk defend-Ségolène response on my part, but I was surprised by Norwegian Chef's vehemence and the somewhat distorted view it revealed. See the comments in that diary for a discussion of some of the points at issue. Norwegian Chef pointed out the apparent absence of a clear statement from Royal. It seemed to me she had been fairly clear, so I did some checking and found she'd gone into the question in some detail on 4th October on the Evening News on TF1, France's biggest TV channel. (Video here (in French)).

Below the fold, my full transcript and translation of that interview.

As I pointed out to Norwegian Chef, the 8 pm news on TF1 is the top exposure slot in French politics, so this was a high-profile announcement. Royal is interviewed by Number One newscaster Patrick Poivre d'Arvor (PPDA). PPDA is urbane but practised in the art of courteous curveballs and politely-dropped banana skins. He works for a channel that is run by conservatives and owned by Martin Bouygues, close friend of Nicolas Sarkozy. Royal is therefore here in Sarkozyland.

Before getting on to the subject of the Rainbow Warrior (from about 32:30 mins in the video), PPDA starts a chapter on the trip-ups and low blows of the campaign. How does she manage, will she be strong enough to face them down (subtext, she a weak woman)? He quotes former Education Minister [and patented idiot, note by afew] Claude Allègre, who declared she didn't have what it took to be a president. On which Royal calmly takes the high road and says it's up to the French people to decide if she's got what it takes. Then PPDA chucks out the next banana skin:

PPDA: Do you situate among these personal attacks the polemic that arose from your brother Antoine's account about your other brother Gérard who, according to him, placed the bomb that killed in the Rainbow Warrior affair?

PPDA: Est-ce que vous mettez au niveau de ces attaques personnelles la polémique qui est né de la relation de votre frère Antoine concernant votre autre frère Gérard qui selon lui aurait posé la bombe qui aurait tué dans l'affaire du Rainbow Warrior?

Royal: It's true I was astonished by the new outbreak, or the re-appearance of this piece of information, this polemic... I have a brother who, twenty years ago, was a soldier, a frogman, whom I admire a lot, who was in fact involved in a detestable act, but he had received orders to do it... and today... fortunately the nuclear tests have stopped...

PPDA (interrupts): But did he speak to you about it at the time?

Royal (continues): in spite of... evidently, unfortunately, someone died...

(answers question) No, no, of course not, because in the departments involved, secrets are kept. It's a major public service that has rules, and those rules were abided by.

Royal: C'est vrai que j'étais étonnée par la recrudescence ou de la ressortie de cette information, cette polémique... J'ai un frère qui, il y a 20 ans, était un soldat, un nageur de combat, pour lequel j'ai beaucoup d'admiration, qui a été en effet engagé dans une action détestable, mais il avait reçu des ordres pour cela... et aujourd'hui... heureusement que les essais nucléaires sont arrêtés ...

PPDA (interrompant Royal): mais il vous en a parlé sur le moment?

Royal (poursuit): malgré que manifestement, malheureusement il y a eu mort d'homme...

(répond à la question): Non non bien sûr parce que dans les services concernés , on garde le secret. C'est un grand service public avec des règles et ces règles ont été respectées...

PPDA (interrupts): And afterwards, did he tell you about it?

Royal (continues): The irony of the story [or of history, translator's note] is that I was in favour of Greenpeace's campaign against the nuclear tests, and, what's more, history has shown they were right. So there are sometimes, when the State misfunctions, disproportionate orders, and when these orders end up involving a person's death, and putting soldiers in danger, it is in fact entirely regrettable, and it mustn't happen again in the future.

PPDA (interrompant Royal): Et après il vous en avait parlé?

Royal (poursuit): L'ironie de l'histoire c'est que j'étais favorable à l'action de Greenpeace contre les essais nucléaires et d'ailleurs l'histoire leur a donné raison. Et donc il y a parfois, quand l'Etat fonctionne mal, des ordres disproportionnés, et lorsque ces ordres aboutissent à mort d'homme et à mettre des soldats en danger, c'est tout à fait en effet regrettable, et il ne faudra pas que ça se reproduise.

PPDA: And he never told you anything about his assignment... He never told you what he did?

Royal: No, because he stood by the rules of his (military) service.

PPDA: Et il ne vous a jamais rien confié sur sa mission -- il ne vous a jamais dit ce qu'il a fait?

Royal: Non parce qu'il respectait les lois de son service.

PPDA: And is that the reason for which you turned down a trip to the South Pacific, precisely to protest against those nuclear tests?

Royal: Ah no, not at all. That too belongs to the...

PPDA: A legend? [meaning false story, translator's note]

Royal: A legend. There are plenty of legends, you know, in electoral campaigns. So you have to, at one and the same time, keep a sense of humour but also set the record straight.

PPDA : Et est-ce la raison pour laquelle vous avez renoncé à un voyage dans la Pacifique Sud, justement pour protester contre ces essais nucléaires?

Royal : Ah non, pas du tout. Ca, ça fait partie aussi des... des...

PPDA: D'une légende?

Royal : D'une légende. Il y a beaucoup de légendes, vous savez, dans les campagnes. Donc il faut à la fois garder le sens de l'humour mais savoir aussi rétablir la vérité.

So -- I hope this will be of some use in, precisely, setting the record straight. OK, she still says she admires her brother. I don't think that's unreasonable. She's standing by him personally while saying the policy, the politics, the "statecraft" involved in the Rainbow Warrior episode were all wrong.

This episode seems to me yet again symptomatic of a certain misrepresentation of France -- not necessarily a lack of interest for what goes on there, as Norwegian Chef's comments show -- but cavalier treatment by the English-language media. If something's wrong about France, count on it, it will be prominently discussed. So, it would seem, a lot of people are aware of Royal's brother being involved in the attack. On the other hand, her point of view doesn't seem to have been transmitted.

Does this have anything to do with the international media being English-language dominated, conservative-capitalist owned, and often Murdoch-inspired?

  • to afew for providing this transcript and this translation, and for having explored the issue in detail in the earlier diary;

  • to Norwegian Chef for the willingness to provide and discuss the facts (or articles) that generated your concern, and to take into consideration the additional facts provided by others.

  • to DoDo for chipping in with additional facts.

That constructive dialogue is much appreciated and shows ET at its best, as a civil place for discussion.

Thank you all.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 07:33:55 AM EST
This is a great diary afew and you characterize my initial perceptions, the root of my initial anger and the problem of disinformation very well. My vehemence did come from a combination of being very close to Greenpeace and from what I thought was a lack of willingness from Royal to even address the matter in any substantive or contrite way as seemed to be the case from much of the reportage in Australia and New Zealand and on the web (all English Language).

As it turns out, she had in fact addressed it in detail as noted by afew in the TF1 interview on October 4th, but this is not being widely reported outside of France. With all the articles that have been published in the USA, Australia and New Zealand about this matter since early October, I can only find one (the one noted by afew in the NZ Herald on October 5) that even noted her comments from this interview.

I am very grateful that you,afew , Jerome, Dodo took the time to respond and set the record straight in this matter.

In light of this information, I am very willing and even glad to admit my error and ignorance in this matter and as penance am happy to try to rectify the situation as much as I can.  To help set the record straight, I will be happy to post these exact quotes on those English Language sites that are putting out disinformation about Ségolène Royal in relation to the Rainbow Warrior Affair.

I will also seek to amend the English Language Rainbow Warrior and  Ségolène Royal Articles on Wiki to include her express quotes so that there is no longer any lack of clarity about her exact position.  I will also post a diary on Daily Kos to correct my own wrong information there.

I will also send this diary to my good friend in Greenpeace who runs the Eastern Mediterranean Office and get him to circulate it around the various Greenpeace offices in Europe and Australia/New Zealand. The fact that she has unequivocally stated on French TV that she was actually in support of the Greenpeace Action will definitely impress them.

So thanks again. I really enjoyed the debate and learned a great deal.  

I like the silence of a church, before the service begins better than any preaching. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

by Norwegian Chef (hephaestion@surfbirder.com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 07:41:31 AM EST
I second you and Jérôme; and repeat myself from the earlier thread that I am happy that ET could be of this much help.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:07:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks to you, Norwegian Chef, for being so open to dialogue.

I admit I thought you were having an unfair shot at France on reading the diary, but you quickly showed your good faith in the comments. Thank you.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:09:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You people are going crazy with the bold... Is this the new vogue? Anyway. ET communication at its best. Applause.
by Nomad on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 09:57:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you Nomad!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 11:37:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's one of the few things I do well ;-) I don't have to go and look up how to do it every time.

Italics are handy too

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 09:36:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's nore headline focus than deeper media mis-representation that is at work here.

NZ Herald reports Ségolène calls the attack detestable:

Rainbow Warrior bombing 'detestable', says Royal

...The Associated Press news agency today quoted Royal as saying: "I have a brother, who 20 years ago was a soldier, a frogman, for whom I have a lot of admiration. He was indeed involved in a detestable act. But he had received orders for that."

She added in an interview on the TF1 television channel: "Fortunately, the nuclear tests stopped. But clearly, and unfortunately, a person died."

Royal said she did not know of her brother's secret role at the time.

"The irony in this story is that I favoured Greenpeace's action against the nuclear tests," she said.

Another bit of info from the original Antoine Royal interview, as reported by NZ Herald:

In the French Le Parisien newspaper yesterday, Antoine Royal, another brother of Segolene, claimed that Gerard was a member of the French intelligence sabotage squad who put bombs on the Rainbow Warrior.

"...My sister learnt that he was present during the operation from a recent article in the press."

NZ Herald reports counter-claim on what Gérard really did:

...Xavier Maniguet, a doctor and French Navy reservist, helped to smuggle into New Zealand the explosives...

Maniguet said Royal did indeed pilot the Zodiac inflatable that took two divers to a dropoff spot and picked them up after they had attached the mines to the Rainbow Warrior. Royal's brother, Antoine, had said Gerard had been one of the divers.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 07:59:55 AM EST
However, as Norwegian Chef points out, the NZ Herald report is apparently the only one.

So it still seems to me there's a way of dealing with "stories about France" in the English-language media, and it ain't fair and balanced.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:07:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh, indeed. No other paper quotes that AP wire (though maybe some paraphrased it).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:22:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That particular article seems to have the facts, and to have a correct headline. but it's the only one. Meanwhile the other line seems to be peddled with abandon.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:21:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One additional thing that makes me scratch my head at how Greenpeace works is that Ségolène is the first major candidate to state that France should lower the share of nuclear in its energy production, a major goal of Greenpeace.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:25:17 AM EST
As I wrote in the other diary, Ségolène has been no issue for Greenpeace International, France and Germany, so you shouldn't scratch your head that much.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:26:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She apparently said something on two more pressing issues, the EPR go-ahead and secrecy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:31:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, what is her energy policy? Is she proposing that France stop exporting electricity, or producing a larger share of it from fossil fuels, or using biofuels, or conservation, or renewables?

By the way, what play are biofuels getting in France as a political issue? What do the farmers think?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 08:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Biofuels, farmers, etc: I have a diary planned on this. For when I can.

Briefly, it isn't a big political issue. There's quite a lot of soft propaganda on it, in which journalists "inform" the public of stuff that is way off the real issues. And agri-industry, local authorities, and farmers are gearing up for forking choice morsels out of the pork barrel.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 09:04:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While on the topic of energy policy, I know everyone is too busy, but are we going to try and "Energize Europe" before or after the EU's white paper comes out in December?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 09:07:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It needs someone to take the lead on it - in an admin sense. Who has the time?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 09:16:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh screw it, I have the time to provide a project lead on it. Coming up ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 09:17:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Read the article. She wants 20% renewables by 2020.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 09:19:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France is already at 15% renewables, msot of it hydro, and its EU targets are 21% for 2015, so either she's talking about "new" renewables (other than hydro) and it's a nicely ambitious plan, or she's full of shit. The article doesn't say here, I'll need to check. I expect she means the former.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 20th, 2006 at 12:34:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say it is typical of the North Atlantic English Press that they don't care what happens in other language debates.

The classic of course was the debate in UK and US papers on 'monetarism' at the start of the Thatcher and Reagan administrations which managed to avoid any mention of the discussion in the Spanish-language press on exactly this. Even more disgracefully, the academic debate avoided citing a wealth of Spanish-language papers detailing the actual impact of monetarism on Latin-American economies.

The Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University had a late -1980's special issue of its IDS Review on exactly this anglophone blindness. (Cant find my copy alas and it is not on line).


by saugatojas on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 09:46:38 AM EST

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