I understand why NickM, for instance, complains about all the people waving Je Suis Charlie signs at the recent Charlie Hebdo demos just over a week ago. But at least there were demos (Hebdemos?), and big ones. Whatever the finer points of the relationship between Islam and the rest of us, thousands upon thousands of people, in France millions, disapproved of cartoonists being killed, no matter how offensive anyone might think they had been, just because of various cartoons they had done. I agree that disapproval is not much. Ooh, they disapprove. But it’s a start. I mean, would you rather that all those millions of demonstrators had just shrugged their shoulders, stayed indoors and forgotten all about it?
And yes, there was plenty of hypocrisy involved, on the part of public personages who, only weeks or days before the attacks, had been saying more like: “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie”, and who will be saying much the same as that in a few days or weeks time. But I prefer hypocrisy and inconsistency to brazen wickedness. If you demand consistency from public figures, you are liable to get consistent stupidity and consistent wickedness. The public attitudes that public people feel they need to strike, even if they strike them very insincerely or in a way that contradicts other things they have earlier said and done and will later say and do, still count for something.
I attended the demo in London’s Trafalgar Square, and I made a point of photoing signs that said other things besides Je Suis Charlie, of which this was my favourite:
For the benefit of those with no French, that means (unless my French is letting me down badly) something along the lines of: “Down With The Tyranny of The Offended”. Good one. See also the earlier posting here, in which our Prime Minister is reported as standing up for the same idea. And, see my paragraph above (which I had already written before that earlier posting had appeared) about how the public attitudes of public people do matter, however occasionally and inconsistently they may be expressed.
This next sign might have been my favourite. But, that T for Team looks too twiddly, and not clear enough and assertive enough. It’s like the guy who wrote the sign was just taking dictation and didn’t really mean it.
Or, it could just mean that here were some people demonstrating who had not done any such thing before. Because, this was not your usual demo, the sort of demo perpetrated by the demonstrating classes, so to speak. Which was another big plus, from where I was standing, photographing everything I could see.
You can view other photos that I took of signs that afternoon here.
The latest edition of Charlie Hebdo has a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover. This is when we see who are the men, and who are the boys, so… well done to all the various newspapers who have shown some defiance to those who urged submission, and republished the image.
Satirical publication and well known needler of radical Islamists Charlie Hebdo has been attacked in France, with many people murdered. I wonder if there will be a wave of publications in Europe and elsewhere republishing Hebdo’s cartoon of Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to show solidarity against this civilisation-level attack? That would be nice but I am not going to hold my breath.
Yes, here’s another Happy New Year to everyone, this time from French National Treasure Jean-Paul Belmondo, snapped by me (in amazement at how he looked – I think I last saw him in Borsalino) straight off of French TV (no idea which channel), at or around midnight on Dec 31/Jan 1:
I thought Belmondo had died several years ago. After seeing him on TV, I still suspect that maybe he did die, and that the museum where they keep all the dead (human) French National Treasures has a highly sophisticated animatronics department.
Via Jim Miller on Politics, I found this:
EU court orders France to pay thousands to Somali pirates
The EU’s top human rights court on Thursday ordered France to pay thousands of euros to Somali pirates who attacked French ships for “violating their rights” by holding them an additional 48 hours before taking them before a judge.
The Somali pirates were apprehended on the high seas by the French army on two separate occasions in 2008 and taken back to France for trial.
(The report is incorrect to call the ECHR an “EU court”. Judgements and precedents may mesh with EU law in ways I do not fully understand; but the ECHR is the creation of the Council of Europe, not the European Union.)
I sometimes think that this sort of judgement can only be the result of a deliberate strategy to discredit the words “human rights” in the eyes of the peoples of Europe. But why would anyone want to do that? Perhaps because it suits the immediate self-interest of the individual “human rights professionals”, and the future be damned.
By the way, it is possible to defend the Somali pirates on quasi-libertarian grounds; that they only do freelance what states regularly do without arousing condemnation. One of the commenters to the MSN piece appears to take that view. I don’t, although I do accept (make that “passionately proclaim”) that states continually get a pass on evil deeds just by calling themselves states. Even so, states that have acted as the pirates do – kidnapping and murdering passing holidaymakers – do not escape condemnation, and nor should anyone else.
When I read this story…
A former French intelligence officer who defected to al Qaida was among the targets of the first wave of U.S. air strikes in Syria last month, according to people familiar with the defector’s movements and identity. Two European intelligence officials described the former French officer as the highest ranking defector ever to go over to the terrorist group and called his defection one of the most dangerous developments in the West’s long confrontation with al Qaida.
…I started to wonder who gets to play what role in the inevitable Hollywood ‘based on real events’ feature length movie (which will of course change everything and make it a CIA defector, because everyone knows France is a place deep fried potatoes come from, not secret agents).
Ben Macintyre argues in the Times that the proliferation of road signs that order, warn, chide, and harry drivers, not to mention giving involuntary Welsh and Gaelic language lessons to those navigating busy roundabouts, has become a danger in its own right. “We’ve lost our way when it comes to road signs”. I suppose that link should have been preceded by:
…but I thought it would be more fun to place the warning where it was too late for you to do anything about it.
Now, where was I? (as the actress said to the bishop coming on to the M6 from the A38(M)). Oh, that’s right. I did enjoy this exchange from the comments:
Sometimes I think there aren’t enough signs. Such as when negotiating an unknown town and directions to your destination just disappear. So you drive in circles until you pick up the relevant signs. I never have this problem in France.
I also never have this problem in France.
It is one of the many advantages of not going there.
When my father first went to France, he disregarded the road signs. He relied on his map and the fact that he was sitting in the turret of a tank.
Earlier this week I got back from a week in Brittany. During the first few days of my stay, I and the friends I was staying with visited the island of Belle Ile. Their daughter is my god-daughter, and she was singing (very well) in a classical singing festival that happens in Belle Ile every year.
While in Belle Ile we also enjoyed other sorts of music making. In particular, at midday, in the fish market of Belle Ile’s biggest town, La Palais, we listened to a small beat combo called, as I later learned from the small print in some of my photographs, Les Gadgos. Les Gadgos are a bunch of blokes, but they have engaged a lead singer for their latest clutch of songs and their latest CD, a blond chanteuse named Mélody Linhart, who looked weirdly matter-of-fact in her days clothes. But she sang very well, in English. She did various venerable American standards, like St James Infirmary, and slightly more recent American movie tunes, including I Want To Be Like You. She made the latter piece of froth sound almost as profound and existential as St James Infirmary.
But take a look at this other Les Gadjos person, who I now know to be called Clément Lenoble:
A classic French type, I think you will agree. But that cigarette was actually quite a surprise, because Clément Lenoble was one of the very few people whom I observed during my week in France who was smoking. There were a few. He wasn’t the only one. But the basic news is, those Frenchies are no longer fumer-ing. Not the sort who live in or summer in Brittany, anyway.
Instead, this business is on the up and up:
That was just a clutch of e-cigarettes in the window of a shop that also sold other stuff. But later, I came across an entire shop devoted to this one product:
French smokers are a dying breed. No doubt, anti-smoking fanatics would reply that they’re a dying breed because smoking is killing them all off, and I do agree that this change of habit is probably a good thing. But even so, I miss guys like this, singing their gravel-voiced chansons in bars, with their whiskey glasses on the piano and their gauloises hanging down from their creased and lived-in faces. Or maybe I just miss the idea of such people, being around, in France.
Smoking is now illegal in most public places in France. I just wish les pouvoirs-that-be had been content to let the habit die away of its own accord. But that is not how such people think.
I also photoed many other more fun things.
→ Continue reading: Some Brittany holiday snaps
Today is the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. It is easy – way too easy, in fact – for a Brit to make some sort of snide comment about the bloody awfulness (literally) of the events of that time, the Revolution, the terrible example of, well, the Terror, and so on. But, but trying to rise above all that obvious “god those Frenchies made a right pig of their revolution” sort of line, I am going to ask readers the following: What were, in your view, the good things that flowed from the Revolution?
About a month ago, I was at the Institute of Economic Affairs to hear a talk given by Antoine Clarke to the End of the World Club. The audience was larger than usual, and of a very high quality. It listened, fascinated and engrossed, and with some rueful laughter at the intense relevance of a seemingly rather obscure slice of history to our own times.
The talk was about French investment, private but egged on by French politicians for their own foreign policy reasons, in pre-revolutionary Russia. This investment was huge, and for a while it provided a healthy income to French savers, by French standards. But then, because of events which the French media of the time somehow neglected to inform their readers about, it all started to go wrong, and wronger and wronger, and then of course very wrong indeed. Collusion and corruption on a huge scale among and between politicians, bankers and journalists is not, said Antoine, anything new.
Antoine has now gathered his spoken thoughts from that night into a blog posting at the Cobden Centre.
The first Russian bonds sold in France were in 1867 to finance a railroad. Others followed, notably in 1888. At this point the French government decided on a policy of alliance with Russia and the encouragement of French savers to invest in Russian infrastructure. From 1887 to 1913, 3.5% of the French Gross National Product is invested in Russia alone. This amounted to a quarter of all foreign investment by French private citizens. That’s a savings ratio (14% in external investment alone) we wouldn’t mind seeing in the UK today!
A massive media campaign promoting Russia as a future economic giant (a bit like China in recent years) was pushed by politicians. Meanwhile French banks found they could make enormous amounts of commission from Russian bonds: in this period, the Credit Lyonnais makes 30% of its profits from its commission for selling the bonds.
In 1897, the ruble is linked to gold. The French government guarantees its citizens against any default. The Paris Stock Exchange takes listings for, among others: Banque russo-asiatique, la Banque de commerce de Sibérie, les usines Stoll, les Wagons de Petrograd.
The first signs of trouble come in 1905, with the post-Russo-Japanese War revolution. A provisional government announced a default of foreign bonds, but this isn’t reported in the French mainstream media or the French banks that continue to sell (mis-sell?).
During the First World War, the French government issued zero interest bonds to cover the Russian government’s loan repayment, with an agreement to sort out the problem after the war. However, in December 1917, Lenin announced the repudiation of Tsarist debts.
Boom, bust. And surprise surprise, French governments of the twentieth century were neither willing nor able to provide anything like the kind of compensation for disappointed French savers that had earlier been promised.
Antoine Clarke is fluently English thanks to his English father and fluently French thanks to his French mother, and he has lived and worked in both countries. As long as I have known him I have urged him to make maximum use of this bilingualism, in connecting us Anglo libertarians to French stories and writings, and vice versa. This talk and his subsequent written version of it is a perfect example of the sort of thing I had in mind, and I thank and congratulate him for it. How many non-French libertarians already knew this story? Some, certainly, a bit, but certainly not me.
If you are going to f**k the whole of France, that is not a bad place to start.
– Schrödinger’s cat, a commenter at Guido Fawkes
Oh yes, I have put my house in London on the market too! I live close to a large French language school and there are many shops near there aimed at French clientele, so when I read the latest news from France, I increased the asking price by about ten percent. I am sure that splashing sound in the distance is the waves of wealthy French businessmen swimming across the Channel, clutching their chequebooks in their teeth and feverishly looking to spend their dosh while they still can.
– heard at Samizdata HQ in London, pertaining to this.