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Let’s save time and outlaw humour entirely

This video clip (which has English subtitles once you eliminate the advertisement at the bottom) shows the left wing French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon behaving unpleasantly.

I know. The jokes write themselves. But I was a little surprised to see a man often called “The French Jeremy Corbyn” display such un-PC (and to be fair to Mr Corbyn, un-JC) contempt for a journalist, particularly a female journalist, merely for speaking with a less prestigious regional accent. Reuters has an account of the exchange here, and this is a slightly longer version of the video with some French subtitles that shows the build up to Mélenchon losing his temper with Veronique Gaurel, the journalist in question. His claim that he does not understand her question does not convince. It looks a lot more like he understood it all too well and was desperately casting around for any excuse not to answer it.

Did you catch how he imitated her? Mr Mélenchon has shown a haughtiness that pokes a hole in his claim to represent the ordinary people of France against the elite. There has been an outpouring of support for Ms Gaurel, with many saying that his outburst was a reaction to her doing her job well and asking him a pointed question that remains unanswered. He will lose votes. That should be punishment enough.

But it never is enough for some people. France 24 reports,

French MP seeks ban on ‘glottophobia’ after Mélanchon mocks journalist’s accent

A French member of parliament has proposed that mockery of accents be outlawed, after an irate politician derided a journalist’s southwestern pronunciation before asking if anyone had a question in “understandable French”.

Laetitia Avia of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party said she was proposing a bill that would classify such mockery with other forms of prohibited discrimination such as on grounds of sex or race.

At this point we in the Anglosphere might be tempted to laugh in a smug way and say those Frenchies might submit to the abolition of a tradition of laughing at other people’s funny accents that goes back millennia, but we will never say goodbye to our ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Don’t count on it. How often have you laughed about the latest daft PC proposal from an obscure intellectual, a student union, or a minor politician, home-grown or foreign like Laetitia Avia – only to find five years later that it is a law you must obey?

14 comments to Let’s save time and outlaw humour entirely

  • Bruce



    instantly sprang to mind, for some reason.

    Bruce from the sheep dip.

  • George Atkisson

    I thought that mocking the outre accents of the provinces was the sport and privilege of Parisians. Surely they will refuse to give that up. To the Barricades! Strike up the Marseille!

  • pete

    I don’t think we need to wait five years for mockery of an accent to become an offence. If anyone complained to their local police about such ridicule I have little doubt it would already be classed as a ‘hate crime’.

  • the other rob

    How often have you laughed about the latest daft PC proposal from an obscure intellectual, a student union, or a minor foreign politician as here – only to find five years later that it is a law you must obey?

    Less often since I said “You may all go to hell and I shall go to Texas”, certainly. I’ll grant that that’s not a solution for everybody, of course…

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I slightly changed the wording of the final paragraph to make it clear that the “minor foreign politician” I was referring to was Laetitia Avia, not Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)


    I think you are right. So did “Nihm”, one of the commenters to the longer video I linked to, who said:

    1 week ago
    Imaginez UNE SEULE SECONDE la même situation avec un accent africain, ça serait un scandale sans nom, mais là ça va passer comme une lettre à la poste

    (Imagine for ONE SINGLE SECOND the same situation with an African accent, it would be a scandal without name, but this will pass over like a letter to the post office)

    In a sense Laetitia Avia, who is black and very probably has experienced mockery of her form of French, is seeking to level the playing field for whites who are also scorned for their accent. I just wish she wasn’t levelling the playing field in the sense of “protecting” everyone equally by denying everyone free speech.

  • Philippe HERMKENS

    The French MP who has propposed this ban on “glotophobia” is saying now it was a joke.

    Jean-Luc MELENCHON allied with the communists and a member of the very hard left is very well known for his intemperance and his threats for people who doesn’t share his political views.

    A trostkyst is a MP member of his group, la France Insoumise. He is himself a former trostkyst.

  • Paul Marks

    Outside the United States Freedom of Speech does not really exist – the so called “free speech protections” of other nations (such as France or Britain) are basically “freedom of speech – apart from speech the state does not like” “protections”.

    Even inside the United States Freedom of Speech only means a person is protected from legal punishment – people can be (and often are) forced out of their jobs for expressing non P.C. opinions – even if they did NOT express these opinions at work.

    Essentially we are moving into a POST Freedom of Speech age – in the new age we all have to watch every word we say, and there are informers everywhere.

    “But Paul you speak with great frankness” – that is because I have no wife or children to think about, and I do not care whether I live or die. Most people have to watch every word they say – because they want to continue living in this despicable world.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Leg-pulling is how civilised people deal with difference and it is older than recorded text – outlawing it is not just uncivilised it is dangerous.

  • Nico

    Isn’t his provenance and accent a reason that so many in the UK media treat Tommy Robinson so badly?

  • Nico

    I had the distinct “pleasure” of attending a French school as a child. Melançon’s behavior here is really quite standard, at least going by the teachers I had at that school. I’m not at all surprised. Melançon was clearly a good student, though my teachers would have been much more witty in their snarkiness, so I’d not say he was a very good student.

  • Surellin

    “She’s from Barcelona”.

  • bobby b

    World-wide phenomenon. Remember the old schtick about U.S. President G.W. Bush supposedly being stupid, mostly based on his speech patterns and accent from Texas. Turned out his measured IQ, and his school grades, placed him above John Kerry, the Democrat’s supposedly much-smarter opponent.

    Such bigotry, anywhere, is simply willful blindness, and a failing in its practitioner. This incident indicates that Mélenchon is a poor choice for a leader.