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Thread: Newsweek's biased, musty vision of France

  1. #1
    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Thumbs down Newsweek's biased, musty vision of France

    Newsweek has published a article describing a very clichéd and short-sighted picture of modern France. The title itself, Plus Ça Change, is not correct French (it doesn't mean anything) and shows that the author, who pretends to unravel the secrets of France to millions of readers worldwide, does not even have a basic command of the French language.

    Judging from the opening line ("Seventy years ago, the Nazis conquered France. Since then, the country has changed less than you might think."), the purpose of this piece of writing is to demonstrate that France hasn't changed much in the last 70 years, at least compared to the USA. Oddly, the arguments all point at the exact opposite.

    The author, David A. Bell, writes that France was much more rural and religious in 1940 than now. That is a clear sign of change. American society was much more stable in these regards over the same period.

    I disagree with he writes that France was "homogeneous" in 1940. What now constitutes the territory of France has never been a homogeneous place. It is and has been since the late Antiquity Europe's most heterogeneous region in terms of ethnicity, languages and local cultures. Mr Bell believes that France has become multicultural because of post-war immigration. This is doubly false.

    First of all, French society itself has become much more homogeneous thanks to the greater mobility between region and especially because of the nationwide media (radio, TV, Internet) that have created for the first time a true sense of common identity between Alsatians, Provençaux, Bretons, Parisians and Basques, among the multitude of other cultural entities. The French have lost most of their dialects and minority languages in everyday life, and now speak overwhelmingly standard Parisian French. Lifestyle has been harmonised too. When Northerners once exclusively cooked with butter and Southerners with olive oil, modern French cuisine, in the homes and restaurants alike, has transcended these borders. There are still marked differences between North and South, but far less than 70 or 100 years ago.

    Secondly, France has not become an immigration country after WWII. Again, Mr Bell provides the evidence himself when he explains that "between 1918 and 1945 France actually welcomed more immigrants—measured as a percentage of the population—than any other Western country, including the United States." Why would he say that France was culturally or ethnically homogeneous in 1940 then affirm in the next paragraph that it was not ?

    The bottom line is that France has a deep-rooted heterogeneity in its regional diversity, AND a immigration-induced cosmopolitanism going back at least to the early 20th century. It's wrong to say that France was homogeneous in 1940 and multicultural in 2010. Only someone who doesn't know much about French society could write such a thing.

    There are other signs that Mr Bell is just an English-speaking tourist in France. He writes : "... and in some areas of Paris, asking for "baguettes" in a restaurant will not produce the familiar long loaves of bread, but the other food-related item to which the French word refers: chopsticks." If asked in French, one would say "Je voudrais une baguette" for the bread, but "Je voudrais des baguettes" for the chopsticks. There is no way this could cause confusion to French speakers. So my guess is that, if it happened to him, he didn't ask properly.

    The changes over the last 70 years in France are not peculiar to France. The same trend can be observed in any Western country. The world evolved, technology progressed...

    So what is it that hasn't changed in France since 1940 ? The taste for good food, intellectual debate and luxury items ? These are essential elements of French culture, just like owning guns or going to church are central elements of American life. It is these aspects of society, which survive over centuries, that make up a country's culture. I don't understand why someone would write about a country to say that its modern culture is the natural continuity of its culture 70 years ago. It's self-evident.
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    I'm not familiar with the ends and outs of France, but concerning bias, many Americans agree with you that Newsweek holds a slant. Because of that readership is down. Last week it was announced that Newsweek is for sale. With a little luck a better magazine will emerge.

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    Regular Member Wilhelm's Avatar
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    well, it is true that France was homogeneus racially , nothing compared to what is now Paris.

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    How can any globally recognized news magazine publish such codswallop?

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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilhelm View Post
    well, it is true that France was homogeneus racially , nothing compared to what is now Paris.
    The French are a melting pot of European ethnicities, but if by race you only mean the broader divisions between Europeans, Africans and Asians, then yes.

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    Regular Member Wilhelm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    The French are a melting pot of European ethnicities, but if by race you only mean the broader divisions between Europeans, Africans and Asians, then yes.
    Melting pot of ethnicities (like most european countries) but not melting pot of races ; This writer was surely talking about homogeneus race , not homogeneus ethnicity. ethnicity is not the same as race. France was homogeneus 'white' (europids) , before the mass immigrations post-WWII.

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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilhelm View Post
    Melting pot of ethnicities (like most european countries) but not melting pot of races ; This writer was surely talking about homogeneus race , not homogeneus ethnicity. ethnicity is not the same as race. France was homogeneus 'white' (europids) , before the mass immigrations post-WWII.
    Actually he wrote that modern France is "multicultural", which is devoid of racial connotation. It was already multicultural before 1940, and not just because of Iberian and Italian immigrants, but also because many regions of France have (or had, back then) independent cultures of their owns (e.g. Alsace was more German than French, while the Bretons and the Basques were almost different nations within France). The pluriculturalism that faded with the homogenisation of French society and the integration of immigrants was equilibrated by the arrival of new immigrants. In that way France has changed, but traded a cultural diversity for another one.

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    Newsweek
    At least it was not so simple as "Cheese eating surrendering monkeys", as it was some years ago.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Wikipedia: "Anti-French sentiment in the United States".

    Anti-French sentiment in the United States is the manifestation of Francophobia by Americans. It signifies a consistent hostility towards the government, culture and people of France that employs stereotypes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Fr..._United_States

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    stupid yanks

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    Well, as an American who has traveled fairly extensively in France I can understand why some Americans feel the way they do about France.
    Most Americans that go to France go to Paris, they see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and other sites around Paris. They also experience some of the rudest people in Europe. Parisians are generally seem very rude to middle aged Americans from Ohio and Kansas.
    However if those same American tourists would get outside of Paris and explore the country of France they will find some of the kindest, helpful and pleasant people on Earth. They only place in Europe where I felt more at home was the Netherlands and that was probably because everybody I ran into spoke English or could understand my rather poor German.

  11. #11
    Regular Member Cambrius (The Red)'s Avatar
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    Newsweek has never been a big fan of France...

  12. #12
    ^ lynx ^
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    Well, Newsweek was property of Washington Post by then (the most conservative newspaper of the USA)... so this is not really a surprise.

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