April is the cruelest month–for jokes, that is. There’s something about that collision of gullibility and manipulation that is instantly demoralizing, and puts me on edge. If my wife says, “I love you,” I wait a beat to make sure “April fool!” isn’t the follow-up. You just never know.
At least I’m not alone. In fact, the whole planet’s had more than a few fast ones pulled on it this time of year. Here’s a little list. See if you fall for any of these:
‐There’s a new French government! Of course, every day’s a fool’s day in France. But last weekend, the glorious French went to the polls for a second round of regional elections in which the Socialists–leaderless, directionless, hopeless at any other time or in any other place–swept everything in sight, proving that the French hate Jacques Chirac more than we do, and that they hate Chirac’s prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin even more. Why? Because he’s the man Chirac put in front of the effort to implement some desperately needed financial reforms, and the French aren’t interested in reforming anything. When it was suggested that a few spending cuts might stave off economic collapse, even the mimes went out on strike. So to mollify voters, Chirac accepted Raffarin’s resignation, then set about building a new government–by reappointing Raffarin as prime minister. After the June elections, when the left again triumphs, Raffarin will be fired once more. He’s not a prime minister: He’s a bungee jumper. Even the French press could see through this charade. Le Monde warned Chirac of the dangers of “scamming the voters.” To the editorialist at Libération, it was “the end of Chiraquisme.” Eursoc wraps it all up neatly. The good news for us? Dominique de Villepin has been moved from the foreign minister’s slot to the interior ministry, where he can win the hearts and minds of the angry Muslims who’ll burn down their squalid suburban ghettos as soon as they can find enough money to buy a match. That will put Villepin in line to become the next prime minister, at which point the unions will tear him apart–poems, hair, pomposity, and all–even if it takes them a 35-hour week to do it.
‐“Young, white European” guys are the EU’s new anti-Semites! Remember the special report by the EU’s European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia on the rise of anti-Semitism? And how it said crazy Muslims were the culprits, especially in France? And how the EU tried to suppress the report because they didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, unless they were Jews? And how the report was released in “preliminary” form because the EU looked stupid by trying to hide it? This old Daily Telegraph report will patch all your memory holes. Well, the final version of the report is out. (It was released as the EU Observer was reporting that the European parliament finally began to admit that its money is going to bankroll Palestinian terrorists; a subsequent Observer story shows the EU external-affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, continuing to block the investigation, as he has for months, worried about losing EU influence among Arabs in the Middle East.)
According to the Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, the perpetrators of anti-Semitism are angry white men. Why are white European males angry at Jews? The center says it’s because of the injustices inflicted by Israelis on the Palestinians. The Independent, of course, reported this as if it were the truth. The headline? An irresistible “White men blamed as attacks on Jews rise.” The Telegraph remained dubious. In France, the press remained silent, for the most part: There was a bigger anti-Semitic problem looming…
‐Releasing The Passion in France will only fuel violence by anti-Semites! The release of The Passion in France is a matter of grave concern. Le Monde, perhaps the only paper in the word able to rival the New York Times in clueless pretentiousness, is worried that once those peace-loving Muslims in the banlieues spend a matinee with Mel, they’ll become so enraged at the Sanhedrin that they’ll go out and commit anti-Semitic acts. In the French press, there weren’t many kind words for The Passion, which has just opened in France. Libération said Gibson had “created a monster” while the Nouvel Observateur reported that French bishops found the film “problematic” and violent; its film critic thought the film was a good example of “proselytism in the service of Christian sado-masochism.” At La Croix, the Catholic daily, there was more concern–but in that paper’s grand tradition of passive-aggressive hand wringing, it merely wondered if the film was “obscene or mystical” but reported the finding by the Catholic weekly, La Vie, that the film was “a pure Hollywood product” with “subliminal” anti-Semitism. The only interesting comment on the film appeared in Libération from Daniel Schneidermann, who wrote that the movie pretty well explained what Raffarin was going through. The International Herald Tribune, mirroring the mama-paper’s obsessive hatred of any unambiguous statement of Christian religious conviction, gave its op-ed space to two views of the film. One was by Michael Lerner. He hated it. The other was by Fr. Thomas Hopko. He hated it, too. But the film opened anyway. According to a melancholy TF1, it’s the most popular film in France. That of course will explain the anti-Semitic acts that will follow. Good thing this isn’t a problem in Germany, where, as David Kaspar reports, Euro-Muslims, not fired-up Catholics, might become a problem one of these days.
‐The BBC is a fabulous news organization! There’s a lot of posturing in the Brit press–including this heartfelt piece in the Guardian by Timothy Garton Ash–about how now is not the time to say unkind things about the BBC because it’s the last of the truly great British institutions. At least he had the good sense to skip the monarchy and the Church of England, where, the Telegraph notes, the eyebrow-laden archbishop of Canterbury is encouraging the teaching of comparative atheism in his churches. So in the spirit of atheist charity, let’s let the BBC say kind things about the its new czar. His name is Michael Grade, and he’s described by Torin Douglas, the BBC’s own crack media correspondent, as a man who “believes in audiences watching and listening to programmes.” That perhaps is why he was chosen over so many others. It’s spending hundreds of millions of pounds to uncover those kinds of subtle truths that makes the BBC a great British institution, right up there with cross-dressing comedians. Yesterday, Judy Swallow, on the World Service, allowed, without comment, a guest to explain the atrocity in Falluja as a case of U.S. “brutality begetting brutality”–and then urged him to expand on those views.
‐We just can’t figure out how atrocities like Rwanda could happen! It’s the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, in which nearly a million people were killed by their own government in a relatively short span of time. That’s an example of state efficiency on a continent where efficiency isn’t actually very common. To commemorate the hideous event, the EU is trying to figure out how such a thing could happen. Here’s my hunch: It happened because African politics are generally tribal; and because, as François Schlosser, writing in Le Nouvel Observateur admits, the French continued to arm the killers rather than lose influence in the world (yet another example of how deadly French megalomania can become); and because, as this report in The Guardian shows, the U.S. didn’t feel like standing up to them; and because the U.N. was mired in corruption and incompetence, as the U.N.’s commander in Rwanda, Gen. Roméo Dallaire, told a Paris press conference in February, and as Kofi Annan admitted to Le Monde last week. As Dallaire noted, there would have been more of an outcry if people had been shooting mountain gorillas, instead of 800,000 humans. It’s not often that politically correct views are actually true, but the politically correct view of Africa says you can tell a good guy from a bad guy because the bad guy is the white guy. That was certainly true in Rwanda, where the white guys spoke French and sold guns. But the French are going to make amends: According to this item in Irish Politics, the EU is funding the establishment of a big African army to the tune of $300 million. Here’s an idea: They can use the money to buy guns from France.
–Denis Boyles writes the weekly EuroPress Review column for NRO.