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Boycott the French? Let’s not

Woody Allen has been hired by the French government to encourage Americans not to boycott France when going on holiday. In a promotional video, he says:

I don’t want to have to refer to my French-fried potatoes as freedom fries and I don’t want to have to freedom-kiss my wife when what I really want to do is French-kiss her.

I am of the same opinion. Disagreeing with Jaques Chiraq’s opposition to the freeing of the Iraqi people isn’t the same as hating French people. In fact, I really quite like France. It may sound odd to some neo-cons, but France has many positive aspects to its culture.

Don’t get me wrong: I like the go-getting, entrepreneurial, play to win culture that America brings to the world. I like the ideas of Jefferson and other founding fathers. But it is a mistake to think that any culture cannot benefit from other ideas. For a start, the Paris approach to fashion and marketing is chic – often much hipper than America’s. Readers in Britain will most probably have seen the recent adverts by Orange, the French-owned mobile phone company. They have a boy, aged maybe twelve, dressed up in a suit advertising their products. But it’s not just any old suit. Oh no. It’s a suit that oozes of fashion. The shirt and tie combination are spectacular. It’s so, so French, and it’s very appealing advertising.

Yes, I’d like the French government to learn from America’s lower tax economy, but there’s French culture that’s valuable too. Oddly, French culture is actually less statist than American culture in some respects. There aren’t any speed cameras on the road. There aren’t proposals, as far as I can tell, for banning smoking in bars. Nor do they have America’s puritanical laws against drinking by under 21s. There is an element of social libertarianism that is really quite refreshing.

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115 comments to Boycott the French? Let’s not

  • The most direct and immediate way that the average American (and British) person can slap the French government is by not buying French products and services.

    They’re just using what seems to them as the most appropriate tool in their box and you have to admit that its deployment has been noticed.

  • Richard Garner

    Yep, JB Say, Courduroy, Bastiat, Molinari, Voltaire; should we boycot them?

    The really ironic thing, though, about the ridiculous extent of this “boycot france” thing is this thing about french fries and kisses. The french fries and french kisses that Americans consume are American products and not french ones. Do they really think that Macdonalds imports fries? That the man or woman they are kissing is secretly French? Just like many people out there who are accused of hating America actually love America and hate its government, these pro-boycot people are confusing the french country and its people with its government – Like france, hate its government.

  • G Cooper

    Alex Singleton writes:

    “Readers in Britain will most probably have seen the recent adverts by Orange, the French-owned mobile phone company.”

    Curious. The common opinion I’ve heard filtering through from the advertising fraternity is that the recent Orange advertisements are considered a major disaster – ending a long line of sometimes brilliant, innovative ads from that company.

    Certainly Orange’s founder is on record as despairing at the way France Telecom has mangled ‘his’ company.

    Yes. I suppose they must be the French influence.

    So very French – so absolutely pretentious and howlingly incompetent.

  • S. Weasel

    Don’t boycott France because it’s hip?

    Jesus.

  • Toni

    To boycott private firms for what a government has done is not my idea of defending freedom or laissez-faire!

  • Spoons

    I’m with S. Weasel. This is a pretty specious argument.

    FWIW, I think it’s typically a mistake when defenders of a country try to separate “the people” from “the government”, as in “the french government may be bad, but the people don’t deserve a boycott.” Especially in a democracy, that’s a hard separation to make. All available evidence is that the French people are significantly anti-American, anti-semitic, and pro-appeasement of terrorists. That strikes me as pretty good reason for Americans to want to hurt the French — as I do.

    As for “Freedom Fries” and the like, sure, it’s silly symbolism. Just like putting up yellow ribbons or flying a flag at half staff. Sometimes people take symbolic actions to express their views. I don’t see any harm in it.

  • I know someone who owns part of a vineyard in France. Should I stop purchasing his wine because I dislike the French state? If so, why?

    I dislike the British state… in fact I am really not that keen on any state. Should I stop purchasing US goods because of the Waco Massacre and the fact Janet Reno and a host of BATF agents were not slung in jail for murder and conspiracy to murder? What would that achieve?

  • Tony H

    Agreed, Toni. (Should I boycott or rename my french windows..?) “So very French…pretentious and howlingly incompetent” – ? A baffling judgement based, perhaps, on limited experience of France? Say what you like about the French State and its attitude to free trade, once across the Channel it is remarkable how many things seem to be run rather more competently than they are here, whether it’s the roads, the railways, or the retailing of patisserie.

  • Tony H

    Just seen Spoons’s comment. I disagree: surely it’s essential to separate “the people” from “the government”. Otherwise, do I carry the can for whatever Blair (or, God forbid, Prescott) says & does? I bloody well hope not. I didn’t vote for them, don’t like them, don’t accept any responsibility whatsoever for any of their actions. My life is separate – in so far as the law permits – from the government’s. I want to make it even more separate, but the electoral system is somewhat stacked against people like me.

  • Della

    I agree with Woody that it’s very silly to talk about freedom-fries and freedom-kissing. Instead we should the proper words for these things, i.e. chips and snogging.

  • James Dudek

    “I know someone who owns part of a vineyard in France. Should I stop purchasing his wine because I dislike the French state? If so, why?”

    Private corporations have a massive amount of influence to change government policy. Hurting the French private sector will send lobbyists scurrying to the government to change it’s policies. Plus corporations pay taxes – reduce their profit and you reduce the revenue that supports the French government.

    Is it the private companies fault that they are caught up in this? No, but they are legitimate targets.

  • Sylvain Galineau

    No speed cameras on the roads ? uh ?

    When were you there last ? 1952 ?

  • Kelli

    Two comments. First, the French Government should reconsider using Woody Allen as a spokesman. Get real. Not only have his last five or six movies been abysmal productions (some would argue, of course, everything after “Sleeper” should be burned) but his public image has NEVER recovered from the episode in which he married his own (ok, adopted, still…) daughter. When he talks of wanting to French kiss her something turns in my stomach and I hate France all over again.

    Second, whatever your position on the boycott, you have to acknowledge that it is completely a grassroots movement–there are no government officials urging you not to buy French products, no big movie stars taking out full page adverts, no organized movement of any kind really. It just is. And why are so many people participating? Because it feels good and is easy to do. Why does no one point out the (obvious) fact that behind this boycott is a bedrock foundation of American resentment toward France? And from whence did this resentment spring? In many, many cases from actual contact with France and French people. In my European travels I had some wonderful encounters with French people, but I still hope there is a special corner reserved in hell for waiters who spit out “It is pronounced ‘un’ cafe, NOT ‘une cafe’.” Sheesh.

    And I have to say, while I love you guys, it is a bit rich of you to be lecturing Americans on their excessive Francophobia. When I lived in the UK practically the only sentiment that was shared by all was a common loathing of “Frogs.”

  • S. Weasel

    Otherwise, do I carry the can for whatever Blair (or, God forbid, Prescott) says & does?

    Of course you do! That’s one of the reasons getting a Clinton or a Blair in office is so distressing – we have to take a measure of responsibility for letting our politicians get where they get and do what they do when they get there. Otherwise – what’s the point of this samizdata exercise? One serf bitching to another about the lash?

    Of course, you have infinitely more responsibility for politicians you did vote for and do approve of – as all indications are the French people, by and large, approve of Chirac.

  • The most ridiculous aspect of all this is the bad judgement used by the French tourism board to have Woody freakin’ Allen trying to sell their country to Americans; the guy might be considered a genius in France, but his popularity in the US has taken quite a hit since he hooked up with his partner’s daughter. The image of old man Allen snogging the face off Soon-Yi Previn isn’t exactly going to have my fellow Yanks booking their flights to Paris.

  • Becky

    It is certainly refreshing to hear something positive about France from someone with a right-wing perspective. So many right-wing rants seem to be underpinned by total ignorance of the country. I’m also puzzled why it is only France that attracts so much opprobrium. Surely Germany, Italy, Spain et al. have similar welfare state set-ups? I suspect it’s some sort of acceptable outlet for repressed xenophobia. If you’re going to boycott French products, why not German products? Or New Zealand products, for that matter? It’s absurd.

    I think Alex has got a lot right. I live in France, and yes the government bureacracy is atrocious. But socially, it’s nonetheless a breath of fresh air when you get off the Eurostar. You can get a drink whenever you want. You can find a restaurant to serve you dinner at midnight. The attitude towards sex is refreshingly unpuritannical, unjudgemental. There’s a certain swagger on the streets that you don’t see in London.

    The other point that people miss, and I think goes hand-in-hand with this sense of social liberty, is the French attitude to the state. Yes, the state is huge and bureacratic, but people are much less scared of the state here, and far more ready to confront it or simply ignore it. That, I think, is healthy.

  • Not only do I not like France-the-State, unlike Becky, I don’t particularly like France-the-country. Oh I quite like a few bits of it, like St. Emilion and its environs… in fact Aquitaine is generally to my taste and I would love to see its small seperatist movement gather some steam… but France generally leaves me cold.

    However I have nothing against a great many individual French people and I still fail to see how my chum, who owns part of a tiny family vineyard, who can quite everything Bastiat ever wrote in three languages and who votes for Alain Madelin, is a ‘legitimate target’ to show my disapproval of the collectivist crap that dominates that nasty self-righteous racist sinkhole called France.

  • …And Becky, people in France generally only ‘confront’ the state in order to preserve their looting rights within it and to challange any attempt to narrow their snout room at the trough of appropriated tax money. The reason French people are not as ‘scared’ of the state is that civil society is so domonated by the state that people cannot imagine life without Le Grand Frere protecting them from reality.

  • James Dudek

    I would suggest that your chum also enjoys the protectionism of the French government via farm subsidies.

    French wine = support for Europe protectionism.

  • Kelli

    Apropos of my comments above about the deep roots of American Francophobia, check out Den Beste’s latest.

  • G Cooper

    Tony H writes:

    ” A baffling judgement based, perhaps, on limited experience of France?”

    No. The judgement of someone who doesn’t share your enthusiasm for things French. The fact that the trains run on time was, if I recall, one of the things much appreciated about Mussolini.

  • Joz

    As an American, I’ve very happy for French/European taxpayers to pay for part of my cheese. It’s not a reason to boycott the French, it’s a reason to buy it.

  • James Dudek

    “As an American, I’ve very happy for French/European taxpayers to pay for part of my cheese. It’s not a reason to boycott the French, it’s a reason to buy it.”

    Way to stick it to your countrymen from California and Wisconsin who have to compete with protected industries.

    At any rate everyone knows that protectionism means poorer quality in the long run, so enjoy your second rate cheese chum(p).

  • James Dudek: so what do you think he should do? Torch his vineyard?

    And let’s interject a little realism here… French cheeses are of extraordinary high average quality, at least now. I used to buy French cheese when I lived in the USA because it was simply better, not on the basis of price.

  • Russ Goble

    Kelli’s post about the grass roots of the French boycott is really important. People are doing it on their own and it’s not a really an organized campaign. Not to say, it’s always done intellegently (French’s mustard has had to take out advertizements that they are an American company) and the freedom fries thing is just plain silly. But, it’s individuals making their own little political statements. Really, there’s nothing wrong with that is there?

    On boycott’s in general, I’m not a big fan, but to each his own.

    I have 2 small small beef’s with the thrust of Alex’s column:

    “Oddly, French culture is actually less statist than American culture in some respects”. While, I think he’s referring to a perception he holds that French culture is more dynamic, it also has some problems. After all, the French actually have a Ministry of Culture. The French have state mandates about how and when the French language is used. In fact, one of the tenants of the French government is to “protect” and “preseve” French culture. I mean, de Villipan believes that the way they do foreign policy and run their government is the French way. It’s distinctly French. Basically, it’s statist government is so very French. So, French culture may not be static, but it is most definately statist.

    The other beef: Alex says we should separate French companies from the French government. Fair enough. But, aren’t a lot big French companies partially owned and certainly subsidized by the French government? So, the distinction between the two isn’t as clean cut. I mean, French corruption has everything to do with the sordid relationship between the French government and it’s private industry.

    Anyway, as usual, I have the longest post. Sorry about that. Fun discussion. I wish Homer Simpson could chime in.

  • Ooh, I really love those Chinese style coats. They are so incredibly stylish, so Matrix-like. And don’t get me started on Chinese food. I could murder for a Peking duck…

    In fact, let’s stop this silly opposition to China’s human rights record and their tendency to ‘rid’ themselves of baby girls. After all, they respect their elders and venerate their ancenstors.

    Perhaps, they should hire Keanu Reeves as their ‘spokesperson’.

    This is a much truer picture of France.

  • Liberty Belle

    Tony H – “A baffling judgement based, perhaps, on limited experience of France”? OK, here’s an equally baffling judgement from someone who lives here: The French are pretentious and they are breathtakingly incompetent in business.

    Their commercials are infantile, their TV programmes are worse. Their news coverage consists of an anchorperson reading a headline then a cut to an appropriate French person holding a mike up to his own mouth and talking, talking, talking. No background, no questions, no analysis. I am not surprised that that bastion of free enterprise France Telecom buggered up Orange. They are the world’s worst phone company with absolutely no, zero, nil concept of customer service. Interestingly, none of the service companies, like banks, understand customer service, either. They have no commercial sense because there is no entrpreneurial spirit in France. No one starts a company. No one strives to get ahead. They know their place on the ladder, learn the rules, keep their heads down and reach pension age without ever having made a single decision at work during their entire career.

    This is not to take away from the wonderful TGV. It is great. And their health service is very well managed and delivered. No question. But Tony H, for those of us accustomed to the buzz of living in a capitalistic society … it’s not enough.

  • Orange were well known for the brilliance of their advertising and for their excellent management when owned by Hong Kong interests. All their advertising from the start to the present has been handled by British agencies though. They did change agencies a year or so ago, so you might be able to blame the French for a bad decision, if indeed they made one.

  • T. Hartin

    This “separate the people from the government” thing is only appropriate for non-democratic countries. The French people keep electing anti-American socialists, so why should they not reap the full fruits of their folly? It would be odd to attack the French boycott on the grounds that France is not really a democracy.

    Why should I not steer my business to countries that are not hostile to my interests and not trying to propagate what I regard as a number of noxious ideas (socialism, transnational progressivism) across the globe? If I want to buy Australian wine because I like Aussies better than Frogs, why shouldn’t I?

    I buy as little as I can that is made in China. I enthusiastically patronize the local Chinese restaurant. There is no contradiction, The family that runs it made the laudable choice to leave that Communist hellhole and come to the home of the free and the land of the brave (no, not Scotland, the US!). I’m not going to boycott them because of their ethnicity, but I do avoid Chinese made products whenever I can because of the fact that the revenues will find their way into state-controlled firms and go to support the state.

  • The French should be glad that a modest boycott is all that’s happening after the deceiptful and obstructionist behavior they displayed in the run-up to GWII. While I personally have not actively taken part in any boycott of French products, I haven’t gone out if my way to order “Cote du Rhone” when “Goats do Roam” will suffice. To those who are participating, more power to you. If you’re not (i.e. Perry), well again, that’s your choice and good luck with it. It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to me. But to tell my friends who are participating that they should heel to the admonishments of Woody Allen is downright degrading and misses the mark entirely.

    The French dug this hole some time ago. They continue to look down their snotty noses at us “cowboys” as if we were the most pathetic creatures on earth. Pretending to be the power counter-balance to the USA (when we almost entirely subsidize their military defense) and then actively seeking to undermine the very efforts in the UN they goaded us into taking has only gotten France what it deserves — our scorn. Some French companies may take a hit for that and that’s a shame. But hopefully the country will learn: don’t ever … EVER … pretend to be our friend and then turn around to cut our legs out from under us. Disagree if you want, but two-faced, back-stabbing liars and scoundrels do not fare well in our world. The next time France will beg for boycotts.

  • Guy Herbert

    Perhaps a better way to punish the French is to send them lots of extra US tourists…

    However, I’m at least as much against collective punishment–possibly more–as I am against collective governance.

    If you prefer a prudential argument to a moral one, people can’t persuade, or learn from, each other if they aren’t talking.

  • Jeff Skirvin

    Becky wrote:

    “also puzzled why it is only France that attracts so much opprobrium. Surely Germany, Italy, Spain et al. have similar welfare state set-ups? I suspect it’s some sort of acceptable outlet for repressed xenophobia”

    No, Becky- France holds a special place amongst the countries you listed: it is the only country within which America fought two wars (and from which it inherited a wretched third) of liberation. Lots of us have relatives that fought there, and more than a few have relatives who died there. On the other hand, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. were all at one time or another defeated by America, and we ‘Yanks’ seem to expect those whom we defeated to talk smack about us. It is expected, almost.

    France never misses the opportunity to hector and take the pose of the moral authority. This irritates and annoys, more than a little. I personally have only spent time in France’s Alsace region, which one could argue is not really historically ‘French’. One thing that really cheered me was the inscription in the Strasbourg cathedral:

    “In Memory
    Of the American Officers
    Non Commissioned Officers
    And Soldiers Who Gave
    Their Life
    To Free Alsace”

    Maybe the best part was that the inscription was in French, too.

  • What is the evidence that Orange’s recent adverts have not been successful? Orange itself is happy with them, saying that they are five times as memorable as previous advertising campaigns. OK, so Hans Snook, the former boss, doesn’t like them, but so what?

  • Will

    Re: “Appealing” French TV advertisements. The French and French-style ads we typically receive in the UK leave me very cold. The obviously intentionally humorous ones (such as this latest Orange series) have not yet forced me to crack a smile, let alone chuckle, and the remainder are unimaginative bores (think of just about any bottled water commercial – Evian’s latest ‘adults singing with the voices of tone-deaf children’ is cringeworthy). French car adverts are stylish but dull and pretentious, and none in recent years have even come up to the modest standard of vacuous Nicole’s scamperings-around.

    That said, adverts for British products aren’t what they used to be. I fear further European integration will make things much, much worse…

  • S. Weasel

    Alex: you mean the “vice president of brand marketing” – who presumably is responsible for the thing – is defensive about them. From the article you cite:

    Mr Snook saved his greatest ire for Orange’s recent six-week TV campaign, which featured a so-called hard-nosed businessman dreamed up by the company’s fashionable new agency Mother.

    “It was the only campaign they have run since I left where I had people ringing me up and saying ‘you must be really upset’. It was completely off the rails and insulted the business people they were targeting.”

    Jeremy Dale, vice president of brand marketing for Orange UK, which launches a fresh £10m campaign aimed at consumers today, defended the adverts, saying: “This was a disruptive communication that worked. It has cut through five times as strongly – in terms of instant recall – than any of our ads in the last three years.”

    One assumes “instant recall” isn’t necessarily a good thing.

  • mark holland

    “It was the only campaign they have run since I left where I had people ringing me up and saying ‘you must be really upset’. It was completely off the rails and insulted the business people they were targeting.”

    As my girlfriend will testify, I said exactly the same thing. The ‘hard nosed businessman’ adverts basically said, “you’re an asshole, please buy our product”. I briefly considered giving up my Orange phone and going to another phone but as I only use about £5 a year on pay as you go it isn’t really worth the trouble.

  • Rebecca Harris

    Basically, I’m indifferent to any boycotts or lack thereof of France and its goods. Just as I’m indifferent to France itself. But I think it’s absolutely creepy that they chose Woody Allen of all people to be their spokesperson. It just goes to show that the French just don’t understand Americans at all.

  • Mark: Are you saying that (a) you’re a business user of Orange phones and that (b) you only use £5 on pay-as-you-go a year?

  • James Dudek

    James Dudek: so what do you think he should do? Torch his vineyard?

    There will come a time in the future when he will be better off torching his vineyard rather than reaping a harvest. The demand for lower quality, higher priced French wines has been dropping dramatically, even before the current boycott.

    Perhaps he should consider selling his stake to an Australian wine company who are much more efficient at running French vineyards and have been buying them up for the last few years.

  • Tony H

    Well, G.Cooper and Liberty Belle, we could go on all night listing the particular elements of French society that we think are good or bad, and on some things we’ll have to agree to differ. I’d point out two things. One, it doesn’t help when my point of view is wilfully distorted, like suggesting that I have an “enthusiasm for things French” (actually no more than I have an enthusiasm for things American or German) when I simply offer a correction to crude sweeping condemnations of that country – and a crack about fascist dictators’ fondness for punctual railways suggests that you’re struggling a bit… Two, I’m getting reminded here about a weird discussion list I found a couple of years ago, called “Free Britannia” or some such, populated by an unappealing bunch of nutters and proto-fascists whose supposed support for British conservatism was just thinly disguised xenophobia – especially where the French were concerned.
    I hasten to add that this list is vastly more intelligent & useful, and there are hardly any nutters or proto-fascists… But I do get cheesed off by the reflexive tendency of some to engage in dumb Frog-bashing at the slightest opportunity. It’s not conducive to adult discourse.

  • Orange is rated the UK’s number one mobile network for customer satisfaction (among contract phones) and it also has the biggest number of users of any UK mobile network. Its revenues keep on increasing, as do its subscriber numbers. So, as you can see, in the three years since France Telecom bought Orange, the French have really messed it up.

  • Kevin L. Connors

    Perry wrote:

    “And let’s interject a little realism here… French cheeses are of extraordinary high average quality, at least now. I used to buy French cheese when I lived in the USA because it was simply better, not on the basis of price.

    I suspect, Perry, that you haven’t sampled our more exclusive California cheeses. Are you aware we have the only real water buffalo mozzarella in the US?

    Admittedly, I am not extremely familiar with French cheese. But if it’s anything like their wines, there’s a few suberb products mixed in with a whole lotta’ dreck.

    Alex wrote:

    “There is an element of social libertarianism that is really quite refreshing.

    No, Alex; what you have observed is libertine socialism.

  • mark holland

    No Alex, as you probably realise, I’m not a business user but that doesn’t mean I can’t get annoyed with their rotten adverts.

    As it happens I’d never use the company that produced this bag o’shite for reasons you can probably work out.

    What was Andy Duncan saying about a chip on the shoulder!

  • Dave O'Neill

    Hmmm… it is always worth pointing out that these incompetent French have just overtaken the UK as the 4th largest economy again. Of course, one could argue that that is largely due to exchange rate issues – however, it was pointed out when the UK shifted into 4th that that was also due to exchange rate issues.

    Not bad for an economic “basket case”.

    As for Californian Cheese. When I lived in the Bay Area I would drive long miles to fine stores which sold cheese that was edible. No American Cheese I’ve ever come across qualified except when melted onto things. There may be dreck in French cheese but there is, at least, variety.

  • Personally I find it strange that right-wing collectivists hate France even more than Iraq, or Serbia, or any of the other countries the US has actually gone to war with.

  • FWIW: Over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of dealings with Orange on a strategic alliance my employer was working to establish with them. It’s obviously a huge company, and I was almost exclusively working with their legal team and alliance teams in the UK and Switzerland, but the Orange employees gave the distinct impression that they were very unhappy with the way things had been run since the French took over.

  • I’m with Kevin on French wine. The French make some superb wines, and they make some absolute dreck. I don’t find their cheeses like that though. IMO the French really do make the best cheese in the world.

  • Chris C.

    So how is this different from any other boycott, at least at the national level or above? Disney champions legistlation that significantly restricts free use, so people call on a boycott of Disney products (movies, Disney store, et al). Yet this is mostly felt at the local level, by the store clerks and stockboys at Disney store or the local video store. Those areas where the boycott really takes hold will cut staff or cut stores. Yes, Disney as a company is hurt and may reconsider, but those at the bottom get hurt as well, and have little input on management decisions. Soa re you advocating that boycotts never be used on anything beyond a local level, where the targeting can be fairly specific?

    Personally, I’m apathetic on the whole thing. I don’t go out of my way to not “buy French,” but if I notice, I’ll probably think twice.

  • jk

    The trouble with Woody Allen’s spokespersonship is that the people who like him aren’t boycotting France. They should have found a sports figure or someone with more diverse appeal.

    I’m anti-boycott as I believe it harms wealth creation but the French really went out of their way to obstruct freedom in Iraq. I don’t mind seeing them pay a little.

    And I am sorry for the friend with the vineyard if he is hurt, A boycott is not a precision-guided economic munition — another reason for caution.

  • James Dudek wrote:

    “As an American, I’ve very happy for French/European taxpayers to pay for part of my cheese. It’s not a reason to boycott the French, it’s a reason to buy it.”

    Way to stick it to your countrymen from California and Wisconsin who have to compete with protected industries.

    In this case protectionism goes both ways, as U.S. “health regulations” are used to “protect” American consumers from the best French cheese.

    Needless to say, this dangerous unpasteurized French cheese kills millions of French people yearly, which is why American consumers who would love to buy it must be prevented from doing so. None of this has anything to do with protecting American makers of inferior, overpriced bland cheese. Of course not.

    WRT the broader topic of punishing France: if it makes you feel good not to buy French products, go ahead. I don’t blame you. But don’t kid yourself that you’re doing much good. The odds are that the people you want to harm will have insulated themselves quite well from most feedback. The people who will feel the effects will tend to be small-business people like Perry’s friend, many of whom are probably on our side of many issues.

  • James Dudek

    Well for the record I am against protectionism and “protectionism” of any kind French, US or otherwise.

    I think the point of the boycott is to hurt the people of France into lobbying their government to change policy. So if a small business man is hurt by a boycott of products, he should think to himself ‘do I really want this Chirac going around pissing Americans off? No, it is hurting my business, so I will vote for someone else. Not only that but I am going to convince all my friends to vote for someone else.’

    Multiply that across all the small businesses who have been hurt by American boycotts and you would have a pretty powerful voting bloc.

  • Mark

    First, the boycott of French products is motivated by a disgust with French state conduct in opposing the US over Iraq. French state conduct was supported overwhelmingly by the people of France, animated by a viscious and irrational anti-Americanism. So it is no use trying to argue that we should separate French state conduct from the conduct of private French citizens. Nor is it relevant to point out that some aspects of French culture are worthy: the disgust with the French has to do with their political conduct, not their social conduct.

    Second, let us be clear about just what was disgusting about French policy over Iraq. The French opposed liberating Iraq for 1) French self-aggrandizement and 2) the creation of a counter-weight to US power. (The French government attempted to argue that there were moral reasons to oppose the war, but these arguments were both insincere and unpersuasive: the French had knowledge of Saddam’s inhuman brutality against his own population, and knew his removal would only be effected by military force.)

    The French position effectively sold Iraqis into further slavery, torture and genocide in exchange for greater French geo-political influence. The French did this knowingly, deliberately and openly. As I was told by one Frenchman recently, the French were justified in acting as they did because such was in the interests of France, and “the torture and death of Iraqis is of no concern to France”.

    There is no strength left in Old Europe. It does not value liberty because it has paid nothing for it; others have defended it for more than half a century. As a result, France has become cynical, effete and petty, content to gnaw the bones of old plots.

    I doubt the French are honest enough to recognize their own decline. But surely the US is entitled to show their contempt for French conduct by punishing them for their behaviour, if for no other reason than to discourage such displays in future.

  • Kevin L. Connors

    While the balance of trade has swung some 700 million dollars in recent weeks, nothing to be sneezed at. The majority of Dollar flow to France comes from French ownership of popular American brands. This is something the average American consumer is quite unaware of.

  • D2D

    Sheesh. The French, or anyone else for that matter, have no right to expect Americans to buy their products. America’s citizens are free to buy products they like from countries they wish to buy from. The pro-France argument sounds like the Hollywood crowd’s crying of blacklisting. The old it’s unfair for you to be angry with us, you shouldn’t hold us responsible for a government we elected, and agree with. In Russia they call this tough shitski.

    I do find it amusing that excel in two products, cheese and bad personal hygiene, that stink.

  • Liberty Belle

    Tony H – I didn’t suggest that you have an enthusiasm for things French. I don’t know you. I also didn’t say anything about trains running on time. Nor am I culpable because you are reminded about “a weird discussion” you once read on something called Free Britannia. It’s not the fault of anyone posting here that this site exists and is judged xenophobic. How can we be to blame for a site we’ve never heard of? Why not just answer the points I made and G Cooper made?

    I’m so xenophobic I live in France. I do not mix with very many Brits at all, so I don’t live in a little air bubble. The French sense of humour is, by and large, nursery level, as is the level of their TV advertising (and programmes). I know French people who will agree. I don’t know why Orange buggered up their French advertising, except maybe they were trying to get down to the French level. (I know nothing about any of this, but if they were running an ad in Britain that was designed to appeal to the French, they may as well have put on a little hari-kari helmet and screamed “Banzai!”) Please get the message. This is not an entrepreneurial society. This is a bureaucratic, structured, obedient (except when their public sector pensions are at stake) society whose needs do not necessarily mesh with businesses which operate in a capitalist environment.

    I am not a Frog-basher and G Cooper may not be either, although he doesn’t need me to speak for him. You will just have to accept that there are many very disagreeable, interfering, bossy and controlling elements in France and that some people recognise, and comment, upon them. These tendencies are also noted by bilingual French bloggers.

    Please do not instruct me on what is “conducive to adult discourse”. This assumes that you know.

  • MB

    How better for average citizens of one democracy to protest the actions and policies of another than by participating in a boycott? What alternatives would you suggest? Should we simply ignore those acts we perceive as treacherous by a country which publicly proclaims itself an ally and friend, but whose actions belie those claims? In a democracy who ultimately bears responsibility for the decisions of their freely elected representatives? Do the actions of a democracy not have consequences? Should not a democratic people have the prerogative to provide economic rewards to other democratic peoples who support it while on the other hand remove economic support from those who actively oppose it?

  • George Peery

    Condi Rice (we are told) famously said, “Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia.”

    I don’t think France is worth the trouble of an organized boycott – I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of playing victim. For decades now, conventional wisdom in the US has held that France is our ancient ally, even though sometimes she gets a bit prissy. Horsefeathers! Not only is that not true now, it wasn’t true four decades ago. France takes every opportunity to stick a thumb in the eye of America, just as she has since at least the time of De Gaulle.

    France is an adversary of the United States. France surely sees things this way, and it’s time America did too. Our relations with France should differ in degree (perhaps) but not in kind to those with, say, China.

  • MB

    George Peery writes: Our relations with France should differ in degree (perhaps) but not in kind to those with, say, China.

    I consider Malaysia to be a more appropriate analogy. For one, Dr. Matahir’s and Jacques Chirac’s opinions and policies vis-a-vis the US are more or less consistent with each others. Secondly, there are some issues (economic, political, security) where the US and Malaysia have had strong cooperation in the past and will continue to do so. Thirdly, Dr. Matahir likens himself as spokesman for the developing world using the Non-Aligned Movement as his forum much as Chirac does using the UN and other forums where France has a high profile position.

  • Spoons and T. Hartin,

    There is a fundamental difference between state and society. Democracy does not justify seeing the two as one. Civil society is made up of voluntary interactions among individuals. The state is the monopoly on the use of force. Just because 51% of the population vote on some particular act does not mean that the remaining 49% are as guilty as the balance. The ‘people’ are not a monolithic entity, no matter what the public schools teach these days.

    The difference between society and state is the principle underlying the entire notion of rights. It is the reason civilians are not targeted in any ethical war. It is the reason the market works better than central planning. It is the reason I hate the US govt but love America.

    When you make the society and the state the same thing, you get socialism.

  • Gomtu

    Ken Hagler: Personally I find it strange that right-wing collectivists hate France even more than Iraq, or Serbia, or any of the other countries the US has actually gone to war with.

    Not strange at all.

    (1) The problem with Serbia was Slobo. The problem with Iraq was Saddam. Remove the problem and we’re fine with them; no “hate” at all. The problem with France is France.

    (2) A friend who betrays you is more bitter than any enemy.

    BTW, what’s a “right-wing collectivist?”

  • nigel tufnel

    the kid orange ad is okay, but that hard-nosed businessman one has got to go.

  • Gomtu

    Becky: So many right-wing rants seem to be underpinned by total ignorance of [France]

    Some of the boycotting may be carried out by Americans ignorant of France, but some of the boycotting is being carried out by Americans who are extremely knowledgeable about France. I have military & diplomat friends stationed in and near France who support the boycott and who do their best to avoid French goods.

    As for me, my personal boycott has diverted approximately US$15,000 away from France (food & wine, travel) and US$50,000 away from Germany (auto). And counting. Let France’s new friends make up the difference.

  • George Peery

    Gomtu says, “The problem with France is France.” Precisely.

    Above, I suggested that France should properly be viewed as an “adversary” of the US, somewhat like China. MB believes Malaysia would be a better example than China.

    Perhaps, but — other than for diplomatic policy wonks — Malaysia is off the American radar screen. (I shudder to think how few Americans could even find it on a map.) My analogous use of China was intentional: China really is important; so too (alas) is France.

  • S. Young

    I’ve got to admit that I’ve been actively boycotting the French for the past few months. As many have pointed out, it may not be fair to judge the whole country based on the actions of its government.

    But my challenge to those who oppose the boycott is this: Tell me that the vast majority of French citizens don’t support their government’s back-stabbing of the U.S. Tell me that anti-Americanism isn’t just as common among the people of France as it is in the French government.

    I will admit that I have limited personal knowledge of France (never been there). I have a few acquaintances and one friend who are French — all are extremely rude and arrogant, even the one I’d count as a friend. All portrayals of the French public in the media (both US and international) appear to suggest that the generations-old French distaste for America is at a high point, and that the people of France were largely elated by the actions of their government. If all of this is true, then why shouldn’t I respond in the only way I can when confronted with French goods in the store? And if any of this is not true, please point it out. Telling me that French fashion is chic isn’t going to help any.

    P.S. I truly can’t imagine what they were thinking when the hired Woody Allen. Due to the who Soon-Yi thing, my wife, who was a major Woody Allen fan years ago (much more so than I was), will not even consider watching anything that has him in it. Not exactly the spokesperson to win over America, I would think.

  • It always amazes me that anyone who does not like France must be ignorant. I have spent a decent amount of time there, am part French and well aware of their history & culture. I am well aware of their overt Anti-Americanism/Anglo, as well as their anti-semitic instincts (as well as their enthusiastic exportation of Jews during WWII) which is showing itself again.

    Up until their behaviour before Iraq II, I drank French wine and decent French cheese. I no longer will, I have made a personal decision not to buy French products. The thing about the boycott, which is indeed having an effect on the French economy is that it has been consumer led. It is not a government sponsored effort, its consumer led.

    While the Freedom fries and Kiss thing is daft in extremis, that does not distract from the fact that the boycott is a very good way of sending a message to France. The selection of Woody as their spokesman is amazingly amusing.

    Pro-France bleaters going on about ignorance about France are getting very tiresome. There are a lot of highly educated, well-read, well-traveled people who find the French and France loathsome. I count myselt amoungst their number.

  • Catherine

    Oh, whatever about the boycotts.

    My only comment is WOODY ALLEN? The man who married the child of his wife? 40 years younger? I guess this is just me being an unsophisticated American and this may be acceptable in France (and Hollywood who still wax about his “genius”) but not to most people. To most he is a weirdo. A pariah. He is worthy of Jerry Springer. To hear the sound bite on the radio (played as a gag, not as an ad) turned my stomach.

    France is also the country that gave refuge to Roman Polanski who had sex a 13 year old when in his 30’s.

    France is also the country that adores Jerry Lewis.

    Yet I am told they are culturally superior.

    OK….

  • Tony H

    Liberty Belle, you may personally be the soul of reason and the fount of tolerance, but I defy you to deny that a disturbing proportion of comments on this list relating to France amount to gratuitous Frog-bashing. That – in addition to my being clumsily misinterpreted, though perhaps more by the other party than by you – is what I was, rather mildly I thought, protesting about. I think I know what adult discourse looks like, and I certainly have the right to point out its too-frequent absence from the present discussion.

  • C. S. Froning

    Are any of those horrified by the “freedom fries” actually posting from the U.S.? Cause, ya know, everyone I’ve heard use it did so because they thought it was damn funny.

  • JSAllison

    Wisconsin or New York Cheddar, Aussie or Okie wine, heck Aussie beer’ll do instead, so who needs France? Ooops, oh yeah, they have the only [mostly] intact Martin B-26 in a museum, mebbe we can buy it back?

  • D2D

    People who support this consumer led boycott do not have to justify their actions to those who do not support the boycott. I personally do not care what the French think about us. I do care when they insert themselves into the defense of our nation out of some deluded sense of self-importance.

    No, the boycott of French goods may not change the French attitude, but it does wonders for mine.

    Also I’m not a Francophobe. I do not dread or fear the French. It would be more accurate to say that I detest them.

  • john

    It’s very difficult to hate a nation that could produce the girl playing tennis on the court at Samoens last summer. French kissing – I’m all for it.

  • George Peery

    It’s not “gratuitous Frog-bashing,” Tony H.

    “Gratuituous” implies “without reason.” Quite the contrary, France has given her “friends” multifarious reasons for concluding she is categorically perfidious. (Anyway, I’m uncomfortable with slurs like “Frog.”)

  • charlie cat

    we own a coffee house/wine bar in texas and just diverted over $30,000 a year from France. My sister is a dairy and beef farmer in England and her business gets nailed by the French and the EU at every opportunity. We should have made this decision a long time ago, our last batch of Beaujolais Nouveau was complete swill. French self aggrandising politics and Villepins’ toadying “elder statesman” antics make me nauseated. So we increased our orders on California wine and English and American cheese. To those who think that US cheese is only good for cooking with, I suggest that you try Wiscinsin brie, Humboldt Fog and our award winning Texas goat cheese!

  • George Peery

    For the lastest on Villepin’s “antics”, check this out.

  • Mark L

    As an American, I really do not much care what the British, French or other Europeans think about where I choose to buy or not buy. That is my choice, not theirs.

    And yes, it is very Jacksonian of me to choose to spend my dollars buying products from countries that supported the United States rather than countries that did not — or rather, actively supported Saddam Hussain, to the detrement of my friends and relatives in the US military. But that is the way it is. After all I know more people in the US military than I know folks with shares in French vineries, and I care more about my friends in the military, anyway.

    No one — not the French, not my friends, not the US government can force me to spend one penny on French goods if I choose not to. And I do not view it as cutting off my nose to spite my face. There is not one product that comes from France — or Germany, either — for which I cannot find a satisfactory substitute elsewhere.

    It’s no different than choosing to go to a new restaurant if the one I patronized before gives bad service. And guess what — the folks at the old restaurant who did not piss me off don’t deserve to lose their jobs any more than the individual French citizens who get hurt economically by my decisions “deserve” to get hurt. But why should I suffer rude service at the hands of either a restaurant or a nation just because of that?

    I doubt I am alone in my views. I don’t care who approves or does not approve. The glory of being American is that you have the autonomy to do such a thing if you choose to do so.

    If you do not like it — too bad. Whatcha gonna do? You cannot eat me and you cannot kill me. And you cannot even cost me my job.

  • Spoons

    “Spoons and T. Hartin,

    “There is a fundamental difference between state and society. Democracy does not justify seeing the two as one…. When you make the society and the state the same thing, you get socialism.”

    Actually, you’ve got that exactly backwards, Jonathan Wilde. In a democracy, the people are the government (of the people, by the people, for the people, etc). Socialism is what happens when you separate the two, and place the government “in charge of” the people.

  • Joe Bob

    Can we PLEASE dispense with the notion that Americans suddenly developed an antipathy for France over the Iraq situation? Reality is that popular perception of France in the states has long been that of an arrogant and annoying relative who is tolerated, treated with respect, but not at all taken seriously. That’s not a neo-con perception. Its a recurring theme in everything from the Simpsons to late night talk show jokes. They are seen as effeminate, effete, condescending and wholly reliant on the long sweep of history to be of any cultural relevance at all. They crossed the line into malicious territory vis a vis Iraq, and American antipathy towards them is not going to fade quickly.

    And your admiration for some advertisement notwithstanding,France is considered the joke of the advertising world. I’ve been in the business as a writer for ten years, and nobody wants to work in the Paris offices of multinational agencies because their advertising is so fey and superficial. It rarely if ever garners any respect in international competitions.

  • Joe Bob

    Can we PLEASE dispense with the notion that Americans suddenly developed an antipathy for France over the Iraq situation? Reality is that popular perception of France in the states has long been that of an arrogant and annoying relative who is tolerated, treated with respect, but not at all taken seriously. That’s not a neo-con perception. Its a recurring theme in everything from the Simpsons to late night talk show jokes. They are seen as effeminate, effete, condescending and wholly reliant on the long sweep of history to be of any cultural relevance at all. They crossed the line into malicious territory vis a vis Iraq, and American antipathy towards them is not going to fade quickly.

    And your admiration for some advertisement notwithstanding,France is considered the joke of the advertising world. I’ve been in the business as a writer for ten years, and nobody wants to work in the Paris offices of multinational agencies because their advertising is so fey and superficial. It rarely if ever garners any respect in international competitions.

  • Those wishing to see French tolerance in action my do so by following the above link. There has been an interesting discussion of the differences between the French and the Americans, between French, Americans, Canadians and a few English folks.

    If you think there is Frog-bashing on this thread (none of what has been posted is not in fact true), you ain’t seen nothing yet…in reverse.

  • Spoons,

    Actually, you’ve got that exactly backwards, Jonathan Wilde. In a democracy, the people are the government (of the people, by the people, for the people, etc). Socialism is what happens when you separate the two, and place the government “in charge of” the people.

    Disagree. In a democracy, the govt is emphatically not the people. Rather, the govt is the mob. If 51% of the people decide to take your property, somehow that makes it right? It sure does in a democracy. I prefer to use rights as a standard for justice, not votes.

    In socialism, civil society, which is the sum of all voluntary relations among individuals, slowly erodes away. Every exchange is regulated by the state. Morality is determined by the state (banning of religion). Free association has to be approved by the state. Ideas have to be approved by the state (censorship). In short, in socialism, civil society is the state.

    Democracy does not solve this problem. The mob becomes the state. Whatever the majority decides is ‘bad’ becomes illegal, including voluntary relationships. Luckily for Americans, the US was not founded as a democracy.

    Only in a society where rights are secured is civil society placed at the forefront of human interaction.

  • John J. Coupal

    Alex,

    The stultifying rules and regulations issued from Paris via Brussels only alienate US citizens even more from France.

    Woody Allen’s attempt to gain the French a little respect in the US is having the same effectiveness as Dubya’s attempt to get American Democrats to begin thinking of themselves as Americans.

  • Mark Rosenbaum

    If the French don’t change their ways, and soon, their society is likely to collapse, and this may perhaps result in an insurrection by their Moslem fanatics. There won’t be a rescue by the US this time, either — the attitude will, I think, be one of ‘let the SOBs stew in their own mess.’

    A hostile Moslem France armed with nuclear weapons would be viewed as a clear and present danger to US physical security. Action, doubtless brutal, possibly nuclear, would be taken to eliminate the threat. I do hope that everyone downwind of France has access to a good fallout shelter.

  • I hate France like poison… because they are socialists, because they tried like hell to keep Saddam in power, because of their fecklessness in the Congo, because they are always lending undue credibility to Arafat and Hamas, and because they always seem to be on the wrong side of history.

    Whether they make good cheese or not doesn’t really matter to me.

  • mike

    Boycott the French? YOU BET!!

  • mike

    Boycott the French? YOU BET!!

  • Liberty Belle

    Tony H – How do you figure that the Frog bashing on this thread is “gratutitous”? Surely it was earned?

    G Cooper’s comment that the French are “absolutely pretentious and howlingly incompetent” is illuminated by the fact that they demonstrated such mind-boggling ineptitude when picking Woody Allen as their American spokesman. OK, Allen once had a reputation as an intellectual, a respected career choice in France. He hasn’t had a successful movie in at least 20 years. OK, unappreciated intellectual is also a respected career choice in France.

    While not, as some posters have mistakenly commented, having married “his daughter” (Soon-Yi Previn – Andre Previn’s her adoptive father – was one of 11 adopted third world children in Mia Farrow’s ramshackle household – from which Allen always distanced himself by living in his own apartment), his marrying this very young girl he’d watched growing up in his girlfriend’s household, in tandem with his year-long pursuit through the courts on charges of molesting his own child, was still unsavoury enough to turn the national stomach.

    Allen is beyond discredited in the United States. Yet out of 300m Americans, this is the one the French government chose to be their defender. Unquestionably, he will turn more people off France than Jacques Chirac has managed to do unassisted. How pretentious and howlingly incompetent is that?

  • G Cooper

    Tony H writes:

    “I think I know what adult discourse looks like, and I certainly have the right to point out its too-frequent absence from the present discussion.”

    Busy out earning my living, I wasn’t around to address your original remarks (though I applaud what Liberty Belle said in her response). However, as you’ve come back for a second bite, I’ll make the following observations.

    Thinly veiled accusations that people are “nutters and proto-fascists” if they dislike much about French government policy, culture and society hardly qualifies you as an expert on “adult discourse”.

    As someone else remarked, I, too, am growing increasingly sick of the patronising attitude that it is impossible to be broadly critical of the French without being an unsophisticated, untravelled, uneducated, crypto-fascist oaf. That is neither an adult, nor even intelligent, argument..

    Returning to the theme of boycotting French goods, surely the mature libertarian attitude is that people should feel free to do what they damned well please? And if that includes boycotting French goods, so be it. Personally, convinced that French national policy since WWII has been to undermine Britain and British interests at every turn, I have boycotted French goods (with the exception of champagne – and I have a bottle of an English fizz in the fridge as I type, having been told its East Sussex vineyard produces a wine “as good as” – we shall see) for many years. I do not, however, spit at every Frenchman I meet.

    I stick by what I originally said. ‘Incompetent’ and ‘Pretentious’ are two words which experience has taught me to associate with much that comes out of France. That it is different from your experience or opinion does not entitle you to use words like ‘xenophobic’.

  • A_t

    “nobody wants to work in the Paris offices of multinational agencies because their advertising is so fey and superficial.”

    err… as opposed to all those deep, deep, life-changing adverts you get elsewhere? 😉

    Maybe I’m just not sufficiently involved in the advertising world, but i always got the impression adverts were pretty much all about superficiality, however much they might try to disguise this fact.

  • erp

    Call me age-ist, but I don’t get technical information from 12 year olds no matter how chic their attire.

    If that concept doesn’t epitomize French thinking I don’t know what would.

  • Shane

    If you’re gonna hire Woody Allen as a spokesman, he might as well be standing there with Roman Polanski and Michael Jackson. Americans don’t dig child rapists-get it?
    I guess it helps explain Orange’s choice of a twelve year old boy to sell their telecom wares. France, what’s the kiddie obsession? Across the pond that qualifies as sick, and the marketing department would have a scandal on their hands in this hemisphere.
    I think the reality is that all people with a rational voice and legitimate standards, both French and American, are relegated to sharing their opinions in this fashion. The most disturbed, depraved individuals on both sides seem to be our politicians and those with all the money. The least we can do is keep it civil among those truly in the know about the way things are set up and keep the dialogue fresh and positively directed.

  • Tony H

    Busy out earning my living, I wasn’t around to respond as quickly as I might to G.Cooper…
    Well, G, we have to wonder where the boundary lies between being “broadly critical” of things French, and making sweeping statements that condemn an entire nation – one with a considerable history & culture whether anyone likes it or not – as “pretentious and incompetent”. I think as soon as we get into making national reflections (the Japs are cultivated hard-working sadists, Italians are un-martial spaghetti-eating opera lovers, whatever) we deviate from, to coin a phrase, adult discourse. Be realistic: this sort of thing belongs in the school playground. Some of the posts following our initial exchange prove my point even more strongly than before: criticising the French because they allegedly are fond of Jerry Lewis? Good grief! What next: criticising America because it spawned Jerry Springer?
    Second, for an intelligent person you do tend to misread things, though maybe this is selective – I dont know. If you read my post again carefully, it is clear that I do not say people are nutters and proto-fascists because they criticise the French: I was referring in a general way to many of those who populated the other website I’d mentioned.
    This is in danger of becoming tedious. What I sincerely suggest is that people who dislike the EU, the French State, aspects of French foreign policy etc, do their arguments no justice by going in for crass slurs and name-calling. It’s too easily interpreted as, yes I’m sorry to say, childishness at best, and xenophobia at worst. Unfortunately it appears that some people dislike France so much that they cannot discuss anything to do with that country without their bile getting the better of them. Pity.

  • S. Weasel

    What next: criticising America because it spawned Jerry Springer?

    What do you mean, next? It’s done again and again, gleefully, (not entirely without justification, of course…but it would be more accurate if he were considered part of a big ol’ entertainment mix, rather than the mascot for American intellectual achievement).

    But, I must say, I’m alarmed at the number of times I hear the word “xenophobia” crop up around these parts. Who came up with that one, and when did it become the worst sin on the menu?

    Yeah, sure, a knee-jerk dislike of foreigners is an unattractive personal characteristic. But not so unattractive that I’d do anything or say anything to avoid the appearance of it. (“Mustn’t complain! Wouldn’t want to be accused of being a xenophobe, would we?”).

  • Liberty Belle

    S Weasel – I am also irritated that the word xenophobe has started popping up on this thread, as I get annoyed when arguments are answered with the word racist. It is the fascist (there’s another one for you!) instinct behind the use of these words that is disturbing. The desire to silence those whose arguments you cannot address rationally. It’s a childish urge to control and fashion the world according to one’s own tastes.

    Tony H – Your lofty, lecturing tone reveals that you don’t have any positive arguments to put forward with regard to the French. By the way, it’s not the fault of the United States that Jerry Springer hails from there. It *is* the fault of the French that they think Jerry Lewis is a comic genius. Their sense of humour is infantile. You can see it at work in their mind-bogglingly poor TV commercials. You can see it in their “comedies”. They are spine-tinglingly, toe-curlingly awful. It is not xenophobic to note this. Living in a country that doesn’t have a sense of humour – and that takes itself so seriously – is a real drag.

    I don’t like being termed a xenophobe, Tony H. My over all lack of empathy with France is based on my experience of having lived here, not on a historical point of view. And even though I don’t like it much, I have continually recognised and ceded its good points.

  • Tony H

    OK, let’s avoid the word “xenophobe” if people are sensitive about it. Actually, I haven’t said that either GC or LB is one of those – just called attention to a tendency that I think is bordering upon xenophobia (yep, Weasel, most civilised people tend to think it’s a bad thing) among some people here, whenever or especially when France comes up. For someone who actually lives in France,LB, you have a curiously ethnocentric viewpoint, on comedy and perhaps on other aspects of culture too: surely you’re aware that comedy is something that highlights cultural differences more than most other things? Sure, French TV comedy is dire; so is German, Portuguese, Scandinavian – and most American TV comedy too, from my experience. But I’m English: I laugh at different things, for different reasons. To castigate the French for their allegedly poor sense of humour (especially in the context of what was originally a political discussion) is frankly laughable, considering how badly most American humour travels… And I write as a pro-American, more so than most of my friends.
    Liberty, you work hard at persistently failing to appreciate my point of view, one that I have tried several times now to explain quite clearly, with examples: some people, especially Americans regrettably, cannot discuss France and the French rationally. Every time the subject comes up, reason goes out the window. It’s an emotional reaction, and from your increasing indulgence in ad hominem flings at me (“lofty, lecturing tone” etc), one you appear to share to some extent, even though you say there are aspects of French life you find OK. To interpret disagreement as opposition is just childish, and I think a few people here are guilty of that. Enough!

  • S. Weasel

    some people, especially Americans regrettably, cannot discuss France and the French rationally.

    My dear Mister H, if I could vote which participant in this conversation is not discussing France rationally, I certainly wouldn’t cast my ballot for la Belle.

    France has been very explicit in its desire to be a cultural and political counterweight to the US. It is arguable that France’s entire vision of the EU is to create the antiAmerica. The recent political posturing of Chirac has met with the near-unanimous approval of his people.

    Why on earth wouldn’t the target of this policy find it offensive and resent it?

    And why, for that matter, is a xenophile not every inch as contemptible as a xenophobe, and for exactly the same reason?

  • A_t

    “France has been very explicit in its desire to be a cultural and political counterweight to the US. It is arguable that France’s entire vision of the EU is to create the antiAmerica. The recent political posturing of Chirac has met with the near-unanimous approval of his people.”

    … i’d question the *anti* bit; certainly some of it’s driven by hostility, but it’s probably more just wanting to feel like your nation has some power. The UK government seems to think they can attain the same goal by being the US’s bitch… fair enough.

    You guys seem to revel in being citizens of the most powerful nation on the earth. Why castigate others quite so viciously when they desire a bit of the same feeling?

    And on the cultural front; the movie quotas etc., you may personally feel that free markets should rule everything, and that’s a perfectly valid philosophical position, but i think if, for instance, Mexican soaps entirely dominated prime-time US television, & american kids were getting socialised into a mexican way of life, the legislation would be quick to arrive, by popular demand. The people of the US would be no less protective of their culture than the French are presently being. It’s very easy to be casual about such things when no-one’s about to do it to you.

  • A_t

    “And why, for that matter, is a xenophile not every inch as contemptible as a xenophobe, and for exactly the same reason?”

    Because there’s a big difference between love & hate, and they are not morally equivalent.

  • S. Weasel

    Because there’s a big difference between love & hate, and they are not morally equivalent.

    Of course they are! In the abstract, they’re both morally neutral. In practice, their moral character is entirely derived from their object.

    And, of course, what makes xenophobia and xenophilia equal, and equally wrong, is that both are collectivist and unthinking.

  • A_t

    you’re losing me (and most people, i should imagine) here…. so me loving my girlfriend is morally equivalent to, and as reprehensible as, me hating my neighbour?

  • S. Weasel

    No, I suspect most people are following this just fine. There are those who love things reprehensible and those who hate things which richly deserve to be hated. The former are not the moral superiors of the latter.

  • A_t

    … are you therefore suggesting that entire peoples can be reprehensible in order to justify your hatred of all things French?

  • S. Weasel

    Not at all. We were discussing whether love was morally superior to hate. ‘Member?

  • A_t

    hmm…. ok, fair point on loving things which are reprehensible then, but weren’t we originally discussing xenophobia vs. xenophilia?

    imho, xenophilia is relatively non-harmful, as populations of people are rarely reprehensible as a whole, so by your standards it doesn’t seem to present a moral hazard.

    Both xenophobia & xenophilia are irrational emotions. Irrational love is acceptable in my book, provided the object of this love is not reprehensible, which a population of people isn’t. Irrational hatred on the other hand, is not acceptable in any intelligent human being, for exactly the same reason, & certainly should not be presented with a “yeah, so what?” attitude if you wish to be respected as a rational being.

  • Jake V

    The people who state that a large majority of French people opposed the war in Iraq are correct.

    Opposition was the will of the people, not just the will of the government, so it makes sense to protest against the country as a whole, if you feel like protesting.

    But if that’s the reason to boycott, then those people should also be boycotting Italian and Spanish goods, because the people in those countries opposed the war by just as wide a margin. The only difference is that in those countries the governments went with the US, and not with the wishes of their own people (thus apparently gaining honorary admission to “New Europe”).

    For this reason, I have difficulty understanding the logic behind the boycotts of France. Why aren’t the boycotters beating up on the Spanish and the Italians also?

  • S. Weasel

    Well, I dunno. There are tribes in North America that ceased to exist because they welcomed the colonists too enthusiastically. We just…absorbed them and rolled on. The ones that fought back didn’t do hugely better, but at least most of them are still around.

    I suppose whether you’d consider xenophilia a dangerous irrationality would depend on whether you value a world with distinct cultural variations. By which I mean genuine multiculturalism, not one-world monoculture with interesting restaurants and textiles.

  • Bart

    “french fries/freedom fries” & “french toast/freedom toast” was a good start – but we now we need to change “chicken-fried steak” to “french-fried steak” just to round out the menu.

  • triticale

    …we now we need to change “chicken-fried steak” to “french-fried steak” just to round out the menu.

    And of course we will also change “chicken-fried rice” to “french-fried rice”.

    I somehow acquired the notion thirty years ago, after talking to friends and relatives who had travelled there, that the French had additude issues such that I would never choose to go there. For those occasions when the local Amish blue cheese is not sufficiently excellent, I find the Spanish Cabrale far more to my taste than Roquefort. I looked into boycotting the French, but couldn’t find anything they make or own on my shopping list.

  • M A

    I don’t get why should Americans boycott French products… just because the French didn’t want to go on a war that wasn’t supported by the UNO???
    I think WE should be boycotting American products afeter the slanders about “the old Europe” and other things, too many to mention (kyoto agreement, steel industry protection by US, etc etc)

  • Cobden Bright

    Every single country in the world is run by a government which perpetrates a vast array of highly immoral acts on its citizens, actions destructive of liberty and contrary to the rights of man.

    Therefore, if one believes in boycotting the goods of citizens of a country whose government is in the wrong, then one must boycott the goods of every citizen of every sovereign state in the world. The only legitimate people to buy anything from are inhabitants of areas with no effective government e.g. Somalia outside Mogadishu, the Afghan hinterland, Antarctica, international waters, and so on.

    To do otherwise would be to act in a grossly inconsistent manner, and reveal the boycotter as either a moron or a hyprocrite.

    So would the boycotters care to enlighten me – do you only buy from stateless individuals, and if not, how do you justify supporting immoral governments by purchasing the goods that their citizens offer for sale?

  • Tom the Friendly Ghost

    Folks, it’s been real interesting reading all of your intellectual reasons why the U.S. public should or shouldn’t buy French goods. But it’s real simple why people ain’t buying things made in France. When the U.S. was about to go to war with Iraq, the French government and the French people were seen to side with Saddam Hussein. Whether you were for or against the war, people wanted to support the troops. The easiest way to do that was to stop buying French products. The more the American people learned about Saddam’s regime, the more disgusted people became with anyone seen to support Saddam, so the boycott continues.

    There is one other possibility for the boycott continuing. Is it possible that, once people have tasted/used alternatives to French products, that they like the replacement products better? That would mean it’s not really a boycott, but a massive switch in attitudes aided by French foreign policy.

  • JB

    I think in parroting the postmodernist French line about “disagreements” the author here reveals his frankly shallow understanding of the existential issues involved here. The bottom line is, the French will go to great lengths to in effect undermine American national security, as they did in trying to actively obstruct OIF. The American people instinctively understand this, and they also understand the deep denial inherent in much of France’s current attitude towards America. Hence, they feel the need to deliver a message the best way they can. And they are right. Most of the argument rests on a bunch of weak irrelevancies.

  • A_t

    “When the U.S. was about to go to war with Iraq, the French government and the French people were seen to side with Saddam Hussein.”

    I think the operative term here is “were seen to”. If you genuinely believe the French people were supportive of an a***hole dictator, you have some f***ed up ideas about who the French really are. They just didn’t (along with much of the world, including the population of the UK) like the way the US was cajoling the action along towards war, & didn’t believe the principal reasons it gave for the war (which it has notably still not produced any significant evidence in support of).

    “Whether you were for or against the war, people wanted to support the troops. The easiest way to do that was to stop buying French products.”

    🙂 yeah, i’m sure our boys were helped enormously on their walkover route to Baghdad by the falling sales of camembert. Man… just think, they might not have made it otherwise. This boycott didn’t have shit to do with ‘supporting the troops’ in any real sense at all; just about individuals feeling good about themselves. I’m not in any way denying people’s right to indulge in it if they like; you’re free to do as you like, thanks to living in one of the nicer countries on this earth, but don’t fool yourself.

  • Michel Bellégo

    **** If you genuinely believe the fRench people were supportive of an a***hole dictator, you have some f***ed up ideas about who the fRench really are. ****

    The fRench were not against the idea of overthrowing Saddam. They were against the idea of the USA doing the job. The fRench knew no one else would do it, but they did not care about the plight of the Iraqis, the WMD threat, or the need to put the Middle East on a right course. Instead of pondering real issues (what would be the human cost, what would be the benefits) the fRench decided it was a great opportunity to foil the United States. We are used to irrational anti-americanism among loony lefties, but it is disturbing to see a European government take it up as a foreign policy. It makes me think of the cold war period. While the US army was protecting western Europe from the Soviet Union, many people in the fRench governement argued it was a good thing to have the Soviet Union as a counterweight to the United States. (The fRench government did not care about human rights in eastern Europe).

    As a European and a Breton suffering under fRench domination, I am glad anti-fRench feeling is rising in the USA. I could never understand anti-americanism at all. It is something irrational, except when it comes from the fRench government. Coming from the fRench government, jealousy and pettiness simply show that Paris has not relinquished its imperialistic ideals, and its delusions of grandeur. Many fRench see the USA as a competitor. This may sound ridiculous to an American, but not to me. Inside fRench-controlled territory, fRench imperialism has never ceased to exist.
    – First there is the centralization in Paris. Public policy is aimed at developping Paris. Tax money is pumped into the Paris area. Foreign investments are concentrated in Paris. Television is made in Paris only. fRench cinema is made in Paris. Politicians are holding several posts concurrently, one in Paris and
    others in what they call the province.
    – Secondly, Paris keeps on trying to wipe out our languages: breton, basque, corsican, tahitian, creole, and so on. Breton is allowed about 40 minutes on television per week. It has to be subtitled in fRench. New laws have been voted in 1992 and 1994 to suppress our languages:
    1992 : Le français est la langue de la république (fRench is the language of the republic).
    1994 : La langue de l’enseignement est le français. (The language of teaching is fRench).
    These laws are being used to oppose the teaching of our languages.
    Fifty years ago, in Brittany, fRench oppression was so strong that people stopped raising their children in their native language. Now, the oppression has relaxed somewhat, but we have two generations who can speak only fRench. So we need the support of the schools to save our languages. But Paris keeps saying Non !
    fRench people who support attacks against McDonald outlets and specialize in USA bashing are the same who violently oppose any teaching of the Breton language. They lament American imperialism, but remain busy crushing the breton language. The same fRench people who oppose any autonomy being given to the Bretons, the Basques or the Corsicans, are the same who keep saying Iraq must be kept in one chunk, and Iraqi Kurdistan should not be given its independance.

    It seems that Chiraq is going to keep barking at the United States for some time. Be ready for more arrogant posturing, this time through the Unesco (cultural branch of the UN, based in Paris).
    Last February in the newspaper Le Monde, I read an article titled: “Jacques Chirac célèbre la diversité culturelle”. (Chiraq celebrates cultural diversity). Chiraq had made a speech in favor of cultural diversity. He made the proposition that the Unesco should vote a convention proclaiming the equal dignity of any culture or civilization. Of course, this is largely aimed at the USA. The official position is that fRench culture must be protected from the American fast food culture. But while making these recommendations, Paris keeps on trying to do away with the breton language (as well as the Basque, Corsican, Tahitian… languages).
    The next Unesco general conference will take place between next September 29 and October 18.
    Last month the fRench prime minister (Raffarin) made a trip to Quebec and I saw a press dispatch titled “fRance and Quebec unite to protect cultural diversity”. It may sound like a joke to you, but I don’t think it is really funny. Unless I get a visa for the USA, I think I am going to commit a few murders before long.

    PS: concerning the case of the vanishing WMD :
    I think the main WMD was Saddam himself.

  • M A

    Anti-Bush = Anti-American? I think this is a dangerous equation to make, both by Europeans and Americans. I am in opposition to the war in Iraq and about the “Old Europa” rubbish and the senseless boycotts, not against America.

  • Kodiak

    Reply to Michel Bellégo,

    …………………………………………………………………

    1/ INTRODUCTION: I find it rather farcical to see a Britannic nationalist (if this notion can be rendered at all…) quibbling about French nationalists quibbling about Unitedstatish nationalists quibbling about nonsense…
    …………………………………………………………………
    2/ The fRench were not against the idea of overthrowing Saddam

    So we are not members of the axis of the evil? Sad… I thought we were…
    …………………………………………………………………

    3/ We are used to irrational anti-americanism among loony lefties

    Do you need a full regular rationale?

    …………………………………………………………………

    4/ As a European and a Breton suffering under fRench domination

    Well drop your Fr passport & opt for a Unitedstatish one. May be you’d feel less isolated.

    …………………………………………………………………

    5/ Many fRench see the USA as a competitor

    Many Fr are just more focused on more simple matters like getting a life as I hope most US people do.
    …………………………………………………………………

    6/ This (THE PREVIOUS QUOTE) may sound ridiculous to an American, but not to me

    Don’t worry >>> it seems ridiculous to everybody here.

    …………………………………………………………………

    7/ fRench imperialism has never ceased to exist

    Even in your skull?

    …………………………………………………………………

    8/ Television is made in Paris only

    So Breizh TV (eg: Britanny TV, for our Anglo-Saxon guests) is just a demoniac fabrication originating in Strasbourg, Lille, Bordeaux, Marseilles or Lyons?

    …………………………………………………………………

    9/ Paris keeps on trying to wipe out our languages: breton, basque, corsican, tahitian, creole, and so on.

    I offer you an inivitation: come to my place where almost all languages of the Earth are spoken; ranging from Arabic, Mandarin, Mandchourian, Hebrew, English, Spanish, Yiddish, Bantou, Swahili, Italian etc. I could be that even Britannic is spoken…

    …………………………………………………………………

    10/ Fifty years ago, in Brittany, fRench oppression was so strong that people stopped raising their children in their native language. Now, the oppression has relaxed somewhat, but we have two generations who can speak only fRench. So we need the support of the schools to save our languages. But Paris keeps saying Non !

    Kenavo!!

    (you see it’s a Britannic word uttered by a Fr speaking Fr forced not to learn Britannic).

    …………………………………………………………………

    11/ Unless I get a visa for the USA, I think I am going to commit a few murders before long.

    I sincerely hope you’re joking.

    The audience shall rate your attendance with the very consideration you are due.

    Kodiak.