France/USA and their press (#6)  (credit)
 France in the U.S. press   The media in France : misc. facts & figures

France and the French, as seen by the U.S. press : zero, except for clichés (fashion, food, strikes) or sensational happenings. Conversely, whether you read about the USA as a superpower, an economic giant, or a place where everyone's running amok with guns, you READ about the U.S.A. every single day ! Criticizing France and the French in the press is NOT, of course, French-bashing, but when the same themes come back over and over, it becomes common wisdom for French-bashers. Read more about French-bashing and the US press. Read the results of a survey (published by the L.A. Times in 2005) about the adjectives associated with the French : wow !

The New York Times (NYT) gives an excellent example of a systematically anti-French editorial policy, but it is not the only one : The International Herald Tribune (IHT), now International New York Times (INYT), can be very patronizing as well, and The Wall Street Journal pretty manipulative too (see below).

Among the most shocking examples :

  • Misleading/prejudiced headlines :

    • "France : police kills a Muslim" (NYT Oct.18 2020) : the real fact is that a high school teacher who had given a lecture of freedom of expression giving as an example the case of the caricatures of Mahomet was killed and beheaded by an Islamic terrorist who escaped and resisted the police with the knife he had used for the beheading. Read about the Charlie-Hebdo murders.

    • "France's Burkini Bigotry" (NYT Aug.22, 2016) is an example of sheer ignorance of what the use of burkini really means in France today : not an innocent fashion but a not-so-innocent political campaign. Read my column about it.

    • The headline of the cover story in Time Magazine (Time, Nov.21, 2007) was "The Death of French Culture" when the article itself illustrated, on the contrary, what was new about it, especially coming from young artists from minorities.Read more about it.

    • "France and the United States are at War" (read a quote from it), "The French, Now Sniffing at Themselves" (NYT Nov.28, 1998 on hygiene), "Easygoing, Not French and Formal" (NYT Feb.3, 1999 on American restaurants), "Anxious French Mutter as Envoy Tries to Sell Globalism" (NYT Dec.2,1999), etc... (NYT Sept.19, 2003).

    • See another example about France being anti-Semitic.

  • Wrong facts :
    • On January 15, 2015, after terrorist attacks in Paris, Nolan Peterson, a Fox News self-proclaimed "expert" who spent some time in Paris in 2004, showed a map of Paris including eight zones "where non-Muslim are not allowed", "where the police forces do not dare go and where the only applicable law is the Islamic law". After a roar of protest, he admitted that "he went a little too far" and "he was not the author of the maps of NO-GO zones". Later, Fox News apologized.

    • In a column of the INYT' (April 8, 2014), "Not Yet Rolling in the Aisles", Pamela Druckerman writes : "When I arrived in France 10 years ago, stand-up comedy did too ..." and further "Stand-up is so new in France ..." and other comments illustrating that the only humourous shows that ever existed in France are the shows she attended. This is just a joke ; stand-up comedies existed even before poor Pamela was born. To mention just one, let's evoke the immensely popular Coluche who died in 1986 and who would have loved this column ... In fact, what this column means is : "the French have no sense of humor and the proof is that theyr do not have US stand-up comedies. Everything, including humor, would be much better if the French were American". Congratulations to the columnist who, after 10 years in Paris, knows everything about this country!

    • In July 2010, the NYT (and IHT) wrote that "French preparatory classes are expensive" : in fact some private classes are but the public ones are free!

    • In March 2003, the NYT (and the IHT) published two editorials by William Safire, "The French Connection", in which it was said that France, China and Syria have one common reason not to want the US and British troops in Iraq : they would make clear to the world that these three nations have supplied Saddam Hussein with illicit products for his missiles, etc... ; Barry Lando, a former CBS journalist, checked the facts and established they were wrong ; the NYT refused to publish his article, arguing that they never publish articles which criticize their editorials and that editorials contain opinions and not facts ; therefore, you will not read anything about all that in the US press and to learn more, you have to read "Le Monde" (March 26, 2003) ; read a quote from the National Journal

    • More to come
  • Patronizing :

    • About the French economic stimulation program : "America is 6 months behind ; it has wasted a lot of time", said Mr.Devidjian, the minister in charge of the French "relance"... "by the time Washington gets around to doling out most of its money, the crisis could be over". "Gallic arrogance aside, Mr.Devidjian has a point." (IHT, July 4, 2009). My comments : who is arrogant ? The French minister, who only reports a fact, or the journalist for whom it is inconceivable that the French could do something faster than the Americans ? What would you say if he had written "Jewish arrogance aside" ? See what American journalists mean by "Gallic".

    • "Having persuaded themselves that cinema should be about art, not money, France's educated elites have never disguised their disdain for much of what reaches French movie and television screens from the United States...." (I.H.T., Sept.13, 2002)

    • More to come

  • Manipulative ("were you victimized by the French ?") :
    • a reporter (Paul G.) asked me (WSJ, Feb.20, 2003) "...anecdotes about incivility toward Americans in Paris...." ; for anybody who ever set his/her foot in France, the question does not make any sense ; I am sure it will make a "balanced" article with 50% of the article about Americans ill-treated in Paris, and 50% of other stories. What was the Editor looking for ?

  • The French read more magazines than comparable countries ; the most circulated are L'Express or Le Point (like Time or Newsweek), Le Nouvel Observateur (more Left-wing),VSD and many others ; contrary to the USA, they are sold much more by copy than by subscription. Read Paris Diary about kiosques. Every Wednesday, the entire political class reads, anxiously,Le Canard Enchainé(the Chained Duck), a very well-informed political newspaper..

  • The French read less newspapers than comparable countries : Ouest-France (regional, 800,000), L'Equipe (daily, sports only, 500,000), Le Figaro (center-Right, 400,000), Le Monde (center-Left, 300,000), younger and more left-wing people read Libération, business people read Les Echos or La Tribune ; many commuters read one of the free newspapers (Metro or 20 Minutes).

  • As in the USA, there are hundreds of TV channels through cable or satellite, but the most watched (free) channels are TF1 (private, around 30% of the audience), Antenne 2 (state-owned, similar audience), France 3 (regional, state-owned, number 1 outside Paris), M6 (private), etc ; there is also Canal + (private, by subscription, sports and movies) ; in France, the national news on TV is at 8pm. See facts & figures about French TV channels.

  • The French press belongs to the richest people in France ! After WW2, it had been established, particularly thank to the access to German secret sources, how dangerous it was to let very rich people or foreign governments own the press. Several legal provisions and State watchfulness made it more difficult but progressively, under the pressure of European legislation and of the market-oriented globalization, big fortunes and major companies became more and more interested in the Press (see figures)
    •   Daily newspapers : Le Figaro (Serge Dassault, 4th wealthiest person in France), Le Monde (Xavier Niel, 7th), Les Echos (Bernard Arnault, 1rst), Liberation (Patrick Drahi, 6th), Metro (Martin Bouygues, 20th) or Direct Matin (Vincent Bollore, 10th), weekly magazines Le Point (Francois Pinault, 3rd), Le Nouvel Observateur (Xavier Niel, again) etc. (Source : Canard Enchaine July 9, 2014).
    • It is also true with TV channels, mostly privately owned : TF1, the first TV channel in France,  and a dozen other TV channels (Martin Bouygues again), a few TV  channels (Vincent Bollore, again) etc.
  • See French radio stations and French Internet (to be completed). 
  • About the freedom of the press, contrary to what many Americans think, France is not very different from the USA and France ranks #31 in the RSF ranking (USA #48)

  • More to come....

Certain subjects are recurrent in the French press and represent some problems of the French society which are not being addressed adequately and/or on which the country is deeply divided; they include :

  • Corsica : discussions with leaders who are pro or against more autonomy, bombings by autonomists, etc (in 2015, at the regional elections, Corsicans elected an Autonomist and Independentist majority)
  • The privatization of major state-owned utilities : EDF (Electricité de France), France Telecom, GDF (Gaz de France), La Poste, etc
  • Immigration : how to limit it ? Often linked with serious problems in the poorest suburbs : crime, unemployment, problems in schools, controversy about the islamic veil, etc
  • Social Security : its increasing cost and how to control fraud and waste
  • How can France join Europe and still keep its traditions, its social system and remain different ?
  • More about the most frequently covered events in the French press
  • More to come

Some specific aspects of the French press (compared to the US press)

  • The reader or the TV-viewer is not shocked when the journalist expresses his/her own view (that is democracy...) instead of presenting only facts (that is considered boring...). Nobody seems to be impressed by the classical concepts of distinguishing reporting and commenting : they are often considered sheer hypocrisy....

  • Most French journalists lean to the Left Wing ! It is not prejudiced to observe that a large majority of French journalists and the editors of French TV (whether public or private) and of most newspapers lean very distinctly to the Left. Of course this is not the reason which explains why the general French mood is so negative and depressed but it could contribute to it. According to a poll published by the weekly magazine Marianne, only 6% of French journalists declare they feel closer to the Right Wing (this figure must be considered with caution : it is an old poll -2001- and its methodology is not clear). Just an example to illustrate it. On Sept.6, 2010, the day before huge demonstrations against a governmental (Right-Wing) project of reforming the retirement system, I watched the News on two state-owned channels. On France3 (regional), 10 man-in-the-street interviews : ALL of them against the reform, that's all. On France2 (national) : 4 man-in-the-street interviews : 3 against the reform, the fourth one who is very moderate ("maybe there is no other solution…") is (of course) a banker with suit and tie, then comes an interview of the leader of the major union and finally a report on how difficult the life of a worker impacted by the reform will be. If you come from Mars, you conclude that everybody in France, except maybe the President, is against this reform (but according to several polls, a majority of the French approve the reform, but it seems this is not an interesting fact for TV reporters....). If you want to form our own opinion, just watch TV or read the headlines.

  • French journalists are close, very close, to the power and in a way fascinated by top political leaders. By American standards, they are far too respectful with them and often hesitant to ask embarassing questions, which make many interviews and press conferences absolutely absurd and theatrical for foreign journalists, but French journalists like it. During his term, former president François Hollande (2012-2017) spent probably several hours a day with newspeople and directly inspired several books (which turned out not very flattering for him...).

  • Editorial policy :

    • French concepts and particularly the concept of laïcité are looked downupon when they are different from the American vision : this is typically the case of "laïcité" (secularism) : read about an incident when the the President of France had to call the YT to protest (November 2020) !

    • "His (Sarkozy's) party leader in Parliament wants to pass a law that bans women wearing burqas and niqabs from the street. The Talibans would be pleased. The rest of the world should declare its revulsion". (NYT Jan 26, 2010). Read my column "Talibans in New York".

    • The campaign about "anti-semitism in France" in Spring 2002 did not correspond to real facts in France at this time but it caused a lot of damage in the US public opinion. Read a letter to the International Herald Tribune, by an American living in France. The theme of the "French anti-Semitism" is recurrent in the US press and the articles are always very biased : read my opinion about it. (Winter 2018)

    • Just remember the campaign of all US media in 2003-2004 about France denying the existence of Weapons of Massive Destruction in Iraq..... ("the cheese-eating surrender monkeys", etc?) No apologies were ever published.

    More to come

  • Choice of words :
    • "The French surrender again" (about cigarette ban in restaurants) (Herald, Everett, WA Jan.2008)

    • When the police forces dispersed troublemakers with water canons after a huge student demonstration (March 28, 2006) with nobody seriously injured, CNN said it was "like Tienanmen" (with hundreds injured or killed by tanks).

    • During the riots in November 2005, many US media (and CNN systematically) headlined "Muslim Riots in Paris" which was totally and doubly wrong : there was nothing religious in these riots. Any other term would have been acceptable for these riots : urban, youth, jobless, black and arab, desperate, violent, etc.. but "muslim" was a deliberate bias to the truth ("Muslim Riots" is as ridiculous as "Masculine Riots" although they're all males...). In addition to that, the riots took place in distant suburbs and not in Paris, which is a second bias.

    • "Where a friend would be described as "steadfast", for example, France is "adamant". Her spokesmen "snipe" at our position, where a friend would merely "criticize", writes John L.Hess, former correspondent of The New York Times in Paris, in his book, written in 1968 and which could have been written in 2003 ! Read more about it.

    • "Germany and France, whose economies are moribund and where unemployment is high..." (International Herald Tribune, Sept.10, 2004, Front page article). According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, "moribund" means "at the point of death". A little exaggerated, isn't it ?

  • Biased presentation ("avoid anything positive about France") :

    • An Editorial (International New York Times, March 19, 2014) criticizing France and insinuating its alleged complicity in the Rwandan genocide : "It took 20 years for France to take to court a Rwandan refugee suspected of genocide". The same article mentions that a Rwandan refugee was recently taken to court in the US and another one in Norway while a resident in Britain has been interrogated. Apparently, it took 20 years for everybody but only France is criticized. A note for US readers who are not familiar with colonial history : Rwanda is NOT a former French colony (read more about French colonies).

    • Can you write a 5-page article on fast trains worldwide (Japan, Germany, Spain and of course USA, where they do not exist...) without mentioning France and its TGV network operating since 1981 with more than 100 million passengers/year ? It looks difficult, but Scientific American did it, in its May 2010 issue. Not a word. Of course whenever we do something stupid, which happens quite often, the US press reports at length about it, but when we do something better than Americans, it is considered less interesting....

    • When the World Health Organization ranked France's health system 1rst and the USA's 39th out of 191 countries (see : Sick in France), the NYT headline (June 21, 2000) was "Europeans Perform Highest in Ranking of World Health", it mentioned France as ranking "in the top five" and indicated the American ranking only in the tenth paragraph... (this is quoted by Edward C.Knox, in a well documented article : The New York Times Looks at France, The French Review, N°6, Vol.75, May 2002).
    • Abstaining from mentioning news if favourable to the French is widely used about anti-semitism : see my editorial about it.

America in the French press

  • To be develop
  • The French state helps the press financially. In France, the press is significantly subsidized. This is a good example of the French conception of Democracy. A free press is vital to democracy and when it becomes financially too difficult to survive it is too tempting for the press to become too dependent on business and big money and lose its independence. Therefore, it is the role of the King (i.e. the State) to protect it from temptation. One has to recall that in the 1920s-1930s the French press was highly corrupt and expressed the views that were expected by its sponsors (big business and the fascists states) and it left a major trauma in the public opinion and this is why nobody is against substantial financial help to the press. This includes : a reduced VAT rate (2.1% instead of 20%), a very important discount on postal fees (compensated by the State), the quasi-suppression of corporate tax, to name a few. The State has a word on everything and, for example, it considers that a large variety of magazines is good for democracy, therefore a new magazine has the right to be seen by the public : this is why the newsstands ("kiosques") in Paris MUST offer a complete choice, including magazines they'll never sell, and always look jammed with the weirdest magazines!

  • More to come ....


Do you know the "Chained Duck" ?

  • The Canard Enchaine (literally the Chained Duck) is probably the most influential French newspaper.
    It was founded in 1915 and its name is a pun about "canard" (slang for "newspaper") and "enchainé" (a reference to the censorship it suffered in WW1).
  • It is a 8-page newspaper format, with many drawings, many briefs, no picture, no color. It is famous for its puns in the headlines and its devastating humor. It is not partisan but clearly somehow on the Left,with an old tradtion of anticlericalism. It is published every Wednesday and read with anxiety by all the French politicians and decision-makers.
  • A classical comment everyone in contact with somebody powerful has already heard about something confidential is "I do not want to read that in the Canard Enchaine". Why ? The newspaper policy is to disclose facts, however embarrassing they can be for anybody (Left Wing, Right Wing, Big Business).
  • The newspaper has zero advertising income, is very profitable and publishes its detailed accounts every year. Its circulation is over 400.000, sometimes more depending on the current events.Over the years, the newspaper has unearthed several major scoops, some of them having ruined a political career, others having taken a major corporation to court. Of course, politicians, business leaders, show-business stars often take the Canard Enchaine to court ; most of the time, they lose, since the facts are quasi-always accurate.
  • The Canard prides itself on being totally independent from all powers and from the government and there is an old story about one of its journalists who was awarded the Legion of Honor. He was immediately fired. He complained to the publisher :"I did not do anything to get it" it and the answer was "You should not have deserved it".
  • In 1973, the newspaper moved to a new address and shortly before they moved in, a cartoonist, member of the board saw a light in the future office : secret service people were installing microphones in the editorial conference room ; they pretended they were checking the plumbing but of course everybody laughted. It became the "plombier"s or "Plumbergate", in reference to the Watergate and it contributed to strengthen the image of the newspaper among French media even more.
  • Among its most famous scoops :
    • it destroyed the political careers of J.Chaban-Delmas (1974), V.Giscard d'Estaing (1979), J.Cahuzac (2012), F.Fillon (2017) and many others
    • it unveiled past misbehaviors or even crimes of M.Papon (1981), P.Beregovoy (1993), J.Chirac (2002), etc...
  • More to come ....

DID YOU KNOW THAT .... ? In the US, TV News programs are at 6:30 pm. In France, they are at 8 pm (i.e. 20 o'clock) and are called "Le Journal de 20 heures".

Visit, the authoritative site on French-bashing, with appalling quotes and links to racist and hate sites. See a few examples and more about French-bashing.

Hate the French ? See a list of a few anti-French books...


The French "Godwin Point"

  • You know the Godwin Point : when, in a discussion, someone raises the image of "nazi" or "holocaust" to counter your argument, this is the end of any reasonable discussion.

  • In the American political debate, France is often a sort of "Godwin Point". When a politician says "It's like France", it means "socialism", "addiction to the State", "despoilment of those who work to the benefit of the lazy", etc… and this is the end of the discussion....

  • See a few quotes to illustrate it to attack Obama

  • To be developed

To related pages : intercultural (#1), more intercultural (#2), intercultural management (#3) and the image of the USA (#4), irksome France (#5), typical French values (#7) and favorite US artists (#8), American writers in Paris, America and the world (#10), etc...

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  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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