Friday, January 27, 2012

A Battle Of Ideas, Not Sound Bytes

l'image de la semaine
This image appeared in last weeks Le Nouvelle Observateur, one of France's most prominent popular cultural and political magazines. The image of course referred to the loss of an "A" in the nations Standard & Poor's credit rating. The allusion is very clear to the sunken Italian luxury cruise ship, Costa Concordia and the floundering presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy.
What was most interesting about this image and what made it all the more powerful was the sub text. The day after the disaster, The UMP Party Minister of Defense, Gerard Lonquet made the unfortunate attack on Francois Hollande, the Socialist Presidential Candidate by comparing him to the Captain of the Costa Concordia. It was a totally inappropriate and embarrassing attack by an undisciplined "sniper" trying to smear Hollande. 
Basically, the Socialists have been out of power since Mitterande. There was a cohabitation with Lionel Jospin during the Chirac years, but the bluster at the helm of the french economy for almost a decade now has been solely the Conservative ever drifting more right UMP Government.
Wisely, the Socialists never even acknowledged the comment. The UMP pretended like it never happened. The normally verbosely belicose Lonquet has been strangely silent. In fact the only reference I have seen in the French press to the remark was this very powerful image which I feel was directly inspired by Lonquet. But, the methods that Sarkozy used against Segolene Royal five years ago which were inspired by the American Republican Party attack tactics have gotten old fast here. There still are many political parties that cover the full range of the political spectrum. The UMP has wasted a lot of time and energy in trying to woo the extreme right and in the process has only empowered them. Meanwhile, the Left has really regrouped and has learned a lot from the cyber organization of the American Left. The biggest difference is that though lobbying has a role in the political process, the actual funding of campaigns is strictly regulated. The media time is strictly monitored. Ads are banned. Only the far right clandestinely puts up their hate filled  illegal posters in discreet locations, usually under the same railroad underpasses out in the country or shopping cart shelters in budget food market parking lots.
There is a lot of debate, but nothing to do with the sideshow circus of the media debates now playing as the most painful reality television series ever on American TV. There is no audience.
Last night was the kick off. Francois Hollande was on France2 for 2 and a half hours from about 8:30 to 11 pm. That's Prime Time folks and it was the highest viewed program. Hollande was grilled by political reporters, foreign affair and economic experts on the platform he had unveiled for the Socialist Presidential campaign. Then he debated Alain Juppe, the present Minister of Foreign Affairs and ex Prime mInister under Chirac who is still presently Mayor of Bordeaux. Juppe is considered the intellectual of the party, but he tried to make the debate into a personal assault on Hollande accusing him of arrogance and trying to exploit Hollandes perceived weaknesses rather than the actual issues.
Holland, for much of his public life has had the image of a slightly chubby joker. He always has been a highly intelligent deadly debater and you would think that his recent past might be a handicap. He was the companion of Segolene Royal, the candidate in the last election. I have to admire Hollande, in the last 2 years, he physically transformed himself and is looking very hard and fit these days. He has a new girlfriend who is a very glamorous, intelligent journalist with her own popular program on the M6 Network.  He was totally focused and used his wit and sarcasm to its fullest advantage last night. Today, even his critics are looking at him with new eyes and talking about his armor plating. He went into the debate with some very positive polling numbers, If the Second Tour of the election was held today, he would have won it with 60% to Sarkozy's 40%. The new numbers haven't been released yet. The election will be in May. This is not a painfully drawn out process like in America. There is an air of despair on the Right.
My thoughts last night as I watched the program was how could this ever go down in America? A battle of ideas and complicated concepts having to be argued and explained in detail, rather than tasty amphetamine flavored testosterone coated jingo filled sound bytes for an attention deficit afflicted audience who would rather see Chaz Bono Dancin With The Stars........?

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