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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

First there was the Haaretz interview. Then, following threats and legal intimidation, there was the Haaretz story that Alain Finkielkraut had recanted and apologized for what he said.

But today, writing in the NY Sun, Hillel Halkin says the French Philosopher didn't actually recant, but merely weasled about a bit and had his "apology" accepted, and that it was really a smear by Haaretz to say he had withdrawn his words. Here's Halkin in a piece worth reading in full for the rest:

Finkielkraut's Plain Talk On Race

...This interview appeared on November 18. On November 23, excerpts from it were published in the French liberal daily Le Monde in an article slanted to make Mr. Finkielkraut appear anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, and racist. A public outcry ensued and the prominent French civil rights organization MRAP threatened to take Mr. Finkielkraut to court for violating France's anti-racism laws. Mr. Finkielkraut then chose to defend himself in two more interviews, one to Radio Europe and one to Le Monde, in which he accused the November 23 article of selectively distorting his views. As he put it to Le Monde:

"The person portrayed by the [Le Monde] article would cause me to feel disdain and even disgust for him ....To my stupefaction, however, ever since [the article's publication] there are now two of us with the same name."

Although Mr. Finkielkraut did not recant his opinions - on the contrary, he made it clear that he stood behind what he had said in Haaretz - these remarks were taken by MRAP as an apology and the threatened lawsuit was dropped. At which point, Haaretz decided to get back into the act. On November 27, it ran a front-page article with the headline, "After Threats, The Philosopher Finkielkraut Apologizes." There followed a news story explaining that, faced with a lawsuit and vociferous criticism, Mr. Finkielkraut had expressed "disdain and disgust," not for Le Monde's distortion of his views, but for those views themselves. The clear - and false - implication was that he had buckled ignominiously under pressure.

Of all the parties involved in l'affaire Finkielkraut, Haaretz undoubtedly comes out looking the worst. For the sake of a sensational and incorrect story, it vilified a man courageous enough to accept an invitation to be interviewed in its pages and express unpopular thoughts there...

To the wider issue:

...True, many social commentators have been smeared as racists in America, too, for arguing, as does Alain Finkielkraut, that it is not so much prejudice that keeps disadvantaged youngsters from escaping the ghetto as it is their own anger and sense of victimization, which cause them to turn their backs on the education and job training that might enable them to get ahead in the world.

Yet in America such propositions are nevertheless legitimate subjects for debate; one certainly does not face court proceedings, let alone a possible conviction, for advancing them. In France, on the other hand, virtually the whole subject of ethnic minorities is taboo. No one in France has even the vaguest idea of what, say, the average per capita income of a North African immigrant family is, or how immigrants from Mali do relative to immigrants from China, because astonishingly enough, it is illegal to compile government statistics on such things...

As one emailer tells me:

"I listened to a two hour interview on French culture last night. Everyone rambled. Not good."

4 Comments

The Sun article is an excellent article.
Well written and a good read.

Of all the parties involved in l'affaire Finkielkraut, Haaretz undoubtedly comes out looking the worst. For the sake of a sensational and incorrect story, it vilified a man courageous enough to accept an invitation to be interviewed in its pages and express unpopular thoughts there...
My impression from reading the entire article was that Haaretz was trying to take the most critical or worst of what he said because I thought that they believe what he is saying is accurate and that the French paper wa tried to make him look bad as well and then over hype the value and breadth of his apology... which Haaretz then tried to
make sound that he caved due to the "mob pressure".

However, from reading this 1 paragraph I think maybe Haaretz did not agree with him and was trying to embarrass him -and/or- hype the story for attention?

I mean if it were Israel wouldn't Haaretz go after someone and try and make them be PC when discussing minorities in Israel yet in France are they trying to stir the pot and go after the out of control French PC nonsense?

It is true I assume that these Draconian PC anti-hate laws do not exist in Israel?

What was your take?

Yeah, I found that a little vague.

It was LeMonde that took the most damaging parts of the original Haaretz interview, leaving F to complain that it was LeMonde that had created a false image -- one he didn't recognize. For whatever reason, Haaretz then reported that he had recanted, even though, according the Sun, he didn't in substance.

I'm a little vague as to how it makes Haaretz look THAT bad, other than possibly getting the story wrong, but then I'm also a little vague as to what any nefarious motives on their part may be. Maybe they were anxious to turn him into a PC figure or something. Insufficient data for a conclusion from what I can see.

i listened to the two hour interview. they did ramble. af was very defensive (you cd hear him roll his eyes). it was not good. it's like they managed to avoid even addressing the issues. lots of epistemological and methodological asides. but one thing is clear. when af says he doesn't recognize himself in the article and he rejects the "af" therein, he means the Le Monde selection of his comments, not the Haaretz interview.

the nasty thing that Haaretz did was to refer to him as holding a "very deviant" opinion, which went into the headline of the Le Monde article.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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