Voltaire Network
The betrayal of the French Libertarians

Selling the “clash of civilizations” to the Left

After having built their libertarian identity and gotten an audience among left-wing electors, satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo and feminist association Prochoix have decided to relay the neoconservative theses about the “clash of civilizations”. This rapid turn allowed them to get institutional and media support while maintaining part of their audience. Nowadays, they sell Washington and Tel Aviv’s policies and attack the anti-imperialist movement.

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(from left to right) Caroline Fourest, Philippe Val and Fiammetta Venner

The fact that concepts, as well as democracy and freedom, could be changed to serve an imperialist policy was already known [1]. With his speeches, George W. Bush has become a master in changing the meaning of these words. But when it comes to the concept of laicism [2], the Bush Administration has decided not to use it to promote its policy due to the hatred it feels for it [3]. At most, they talk about the development of “secular” societies as one of the minor goals of the “democratization” of the “Great Middle East.”
However, for a sector of the European population, and especially in France, laicism is a deciding factor for the approval of a policy. Above all, it is a model of social organization used to block the “clash of civilizations” [4]. This is the reason why, today, the European supporters of the Bush Administration have stolen this concept and have changed it.

Changing the meaning of words

Laicism is a form of social organization in which the Law is the result of reasonable debate in which one’s convictions are excluded. This system guarantees the freedom of conscience for everyone (which includes the right to apostasy and blasphemy) and the civil peace for everybody. Not too many States profess this model; therefore, France is an exception. However, in this country, the political-media discourse is presenting “laicism” with a different meaning. The case “about” the Islamic veil in France has evidenced this [5].
At that moment, we witnessed the development of a discourse that used laicism as a way to punish a specific sector of the population, the Muslims, and with them, the French of Arab origin, and not as a guarantee of the coexistence among all citizens, whatever their religion might be. The French ruling class refuses to share the political and the economic power with this part of the population. Consequently, attacking Islam is a way to prevent the inclusion of French of Arab extraction in the highest circles. These attacks become more virulent when linked to the discourse of the “clash of civilizations” [6]. The “defense of laicism” thus became the defense of the so-called Judeo-Christian identity of France [7]. This discourse presents Muslims as people who are intrinsically hostile to laicism and affirms that preventing the political participation of Muslim and the reaffirmation of the Muslim identity is the only way to defend an already endangered laicism.

For a whole sector of the European Left, the discourse that opposes the Judeo-Christian world to the Muslim world is meaningless. With an education based on internationalism and secular feelings, it does not believe the cultural and religious identity of a geographical area can justify a clash. However, the manipulation of the meaning of “laicism” or “Republic” is presented in certain “Left” circles as a way that makes Washington and Tel Aviv’s policies acceptable. Therefore, we are witnessing the increasing development of a discourse in which the Arab-Muslim world, allegedly hostile to Human Rights, laicism and women rights is opposed to a Western world that claims to be democratic, where Human Rights and laicism are respected and allegedly threatened by Islam.
This discourse can be seen as an adaptation of the concept of the “clash of civilizations” to a certain language so that that lead left-wing electors and protest movements can be sensible to such problems. On the other hand, by demonizing Islam Muslim organizations are shown as associations no contact should be kept with. Thus, the construction of an anti-imperialist alliance is being prevented.

In the past, Washington showed its particular interest in controlling the anti-establishment movements. That control was implemented through the financing of organizations of the alterglobalist movement [8], but usually, the subtlest way is to present the problem, its vocabulary and to establish the limits of the debate within the very same heart of the anti-establishment movements. This way of doing things has found allies in France, voluntary or not, but important ones in publication, Charlie Hebdo and the Prochoix association.
Charlie Hebdo is a weekly of reference for a whole sector of the French radical left. Founded by Philippe Val in 1992, it can be proud of its similarity with Hara-Kiri and Charlie, satirical publications of the 60s and the 70s. Its editor in chief, Philippe Val, is a former “chansonnier” and humorist recognized by the alternative media. During the 90s, he participated in the foundation of ATTAC France and Voltaire Network, where his job as manager was very ephemeral. However, he gradually distanced himself from the anti-establishment organizations. His magazine still has a certain influence in these circles, though.
Prochoix is a feminist organization founded in November 1997 by Fiammetta Venner, Caroline Fourest and Moruni Turlot. Focused at first on issues related to women’ and homosexuals’ rights before the extremist and religious movements, this organization published a magazine aimed at promoting the works of Fiammetta Venner and Caroline Fourest who were its main encouragers. Gradually, this magazine and the very same association started to fight “Islamism”, a definition they have extended so much that a great number of Muslim organizations have been included as part of this concept. [9]. Fourest and Venner have been working for Charlie Hebdo since 2004.

In Charlie Hebdo, Prochoix and the publications that promote Val, Fourest and Venner’s works we can find now an essentialist interpretation of Islam opposed to a truncated view of laicism, the Republic and the Human Rights. According to these three authors, the Muslim French want to undermine the secular model by means of successive provocations and many Muslim French organizations are related to terrorist and Islamist movements. Therefore, left-wing organizations should avoid all contacts with them.

The appearance of the “Islamist danger"

Charlie Hebdo began to focus on the alleged threat Muslim movements represent at the end of year 2003. Before that, this was not quite clear and it was all mixed up with a global animosity towards all kinds of religious beliefs.
However, on October 23, 2002, an article surprised the readers of the weekly. Philosopher Robert Misrahi, a regular author of the publication, described the book La Rage et l’orgueil in highly favorable terms. This book was an anti-Muslim racist pamphlet written by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. Despite the fact that she compared the reproduction of Muslim living in Europe with that of rats, the philosopher affirmed: “The book and the author have been calumniated: Oriana Fallaci is not a racist.” [10]. And he added: “She also opposes the European opinion’s common denial of reality, whether it is Italian or French, for instance. They don’t want to notice or openly condemn that it is Islam which is launching a crusade against the West and not the other way around. They don’t want to see that the countless attacks everywhere in the world show a common project and will, obviously.” [11]. It is about presenting an aggressive Islam (not only an aggressive Islamism) at war against the West and joined in a common project of unknown plans. These are words that could be written by Daniel Pipes [12], a man famous for being on the other side of the political spectrum. During the following week, the weekly published the readers’ protests and the answer of the editorial department led people to think that some of its own journalists were not pleased with the publication of that report. Robert Misrahi quickly left Charlie Hebdo and it seems that was not casual.

Everything changed since October 2003, and more exactly, when the European Social Forum (ESF) of Saint-Denis took place. It was characterized by a polemic about the participation of Muslim organizations. As the first meeting of this kind after the American invasion of Iraq, the forum gave the alterglobalist and Muslim movements the opportunity to meet in order to have a debate about imperialism. Since the previous summer, the known presence of Muslim organizations had been denounced by Atlantist circles. The protest focused on the possible arrival of Tariq Ramadan after the publication of an article written by this intellectual with regard to the communitarian attitude of certain French-Jewish intellectuals who defended the Israeli policy at all costs. [13].
In his November 5, 2003 editorial, Philippe Val openly opposed the presence of Ramadan in the ESF [14]. From that moment on, his magazine was gradually oriented towards a systematic denunciation of the Islamist threat and quite often published caricatures of bearded Muslim battering women, anti-Semitic and inciting people to do suicidal acts of terrorism, something that had been only seen in the extreme-right wing media.

It was also during this period of time that Caroline Fourest and Fiammetta Venner published Tirs Croisés [15]. On the cover of the book one can read: “Since September 11, 2001, the world has lived in fear of Muslim terrorism. Such trauma hasn’t triggered a deep reflection about the origin of this terrorism: fundamentalism. But when it actually thought about the issue, the Western world tried to convince itself only Islam could engender such barbarity. Which has the merit of comforting people and giving credit to the “clash of civilizations” thesis.. (…) [Caroline Fourest and Fiammetta Venner] have undermined this illusion by proving that, in many aspects, (…) the world dreamed by Muslim fundamentalists is very similar to the one preached by Christian and Jewish fundamentalists.”. This editor’s note was deceitful. Far from being a speech in defense of laicism, Tirs croisés is aimed at leading the readers to believe that, in all aspects, Muslim fundamentalism is much more dangerous than Christian and Jewish fundamentalism. Thus, every chapter is aimed at proving this thesis and more than half of the book is completely devoted to Muslim fundamentalism. The authors don’t even hide their beliefs: “To affirm Muslim fundamentalism is not an important and growing risk would be false. Islamism is very common among fundamentalists. Nowadays, it is on its best position to impose its dictates and terrorize those who resist. But this strength has nothing to do with its Jewish and Christian counterparts. This harmfulness has nothing to do with religion but with the use of religion as an instrument. ” [16], “If we compare Muslim fundamentalism with Jewish and Christian fundamentalism, these two seem to be rather marginal phenomena with no consequences.” [17].
If Islamism is the most dangerous kind of fundamentalism, it is because of its specific nature. Even when it does not have the monopoly of violence, “it is the only one to have an arsenal of human bombs ” [18]. The fact that Jewish fundamentalists are supported by Tsahal to develop its colonies in the Palestinian territories is not even considered. The same happened with Billy Graham’s spell whose NGO arrived in Iraq with the American troops with the purpose of converting the “liberated” peoples. For the authors, Islamism has the means to be more dangerous than the others too because: "Its fundings have no limits” [19], and therefore it can “serve the interests of a terrorist venture.” [20]. Even when Jewish and Christian fundamentalism have plenty funds, these come from the legal economy and are within the framework of the legal system, which is not the case of the Islamist funding whose origin is not clear and seem to be the international crime.
Actually, according to the authors, the real problem of Muslim fundamentalism has to do with the fact that it is the extreme form of a religion that, contrary to Christianity and Judaism, has not adapted itself to the evolution of today’s world because the Arab world is incapable of evolving: “The lack of of development of certain Arab and/or Muslim countries is related to their incapacity to [accept] secularism. These two phenomena maintain themselves.” [21], “Due to the rejection of Western hegemony, the only social and real popular movements find their source of radicalism in the Muslim fundamentalism and are not led by the spirit of Lights , even when it means maintaining the archaism and the underdevelopment that helped the West to consolidate its hegemony over the East.” [22]. Thus, we went from denouncing Islamism to denouncing a whole civilization.

Months after the publication of this book, Fiammetta Venner began to collaborate actively with Charlie Hebdo, whereas Caroline Fourest wrote sporadically for this weekly. Both had then the opportunity of applying to the daily information the point of view they defended on Tirs croisés and wrote regular articles in which they denounced the threat that, according to them, Islam represented to the French secular model. Immediately afterwards, they wrote two books individually: Frère Tariq [23] and OPA sur l’Islam de France [24].
In these two books, they made their denunciation against Islamism more evident. Focusing on Tariq Ramadan and on the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, they both showed an image of a conquering Islam willing to destroy the French laicism and destroy the Republic to impose its own rules. Thus, in these two essays (that have identical paragraphs in some parts) they affirmed French-Muslims were the ones who reintroduced the debate about the veil with the purpose of destroying the Republic by means of a patient work. Despite facts, they affirmed that the legislation on the veil was not the result of Nicolas Sarkozy’s manipulation to reintroduce the matter [25] and importing the “clash of civilizations” to France, but a law that was passed in France when this country noticed the Islamists’ work against it: “At the beginning, 80% of the members of the Stasi Commission were against the idea of passing a law, but hearings soon made them change their minds. During weeks, the media and the public opinion discovered, astonished, the magnitude of the damages: women who did not want male doctors to treat them in emergency services because of “Islamic decency”, students who protested when people talked about Voltaire or evolutionism, a girl who in the middle of a class wanted to know the direction of the Mecca to pray.” [26]. Both authors criticized Nicolas Sarkozy for being too indulgent with “Islamism” and not for reintroducing the debate.

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This presentation of facts was obviously picked up by Charlie Hebdo, who did not miss a chance to show “bearded men” that forced women to use the veil and transgress the laws of the Republic. This is the thesis Philippe Van has defended in his editorials: «After all, the veil is nothing but a strategic tool to fight equal rights in the schools of the republic by humiliating women.” [27].

To this vision of Islam in France should be added, of course, the image of the Muslim terrorism that Fiammetta Venner, Philippe Val and part of the editorial department of the weekly has denounced in each and everyone of its columns. This new orientation would be one of the reasons mentioned by sociologist Philippe Corcuff when he abandoned the satirical publication: «Charlie Hebdo has devoted itself to the manufacture of “conspiracies” with the articles of Fiammetta Venner about Islam. By reintroducing the repetition of the amalgam between Islam as religion, the different trends of the political Islam, fundamentalism and terrorism, Charlie Hebdo –unlike some brave people that resisted through subtlety and complication- got involved then in a crusade of the (“European”) Civilization against (“Muslim”) Barbarity” [28].

Fighting against France’s Arab policy

By keeping this image of the Muslim world, Charlie Hebdo launched frequent attacks against the policy of France towards the Arab world. For Fiammetta Venner, this policy was designed by the French-Muslims. She even accused the French population of North-African origin of having contributed to the defeat of Lionel Jospin during the first round of presidential elections in 2002 as a reprisal for reviewing that policy: “On May 5, 2002, Jacques Chirac was reelected President of the Republic with more than 82% of the votes. (...) That night, in the Plaza Republic, tens of thousands of French gathered to express their relief and joy before Chirac’s platform. Many were originated from North Africa. Cameras immortalized that support for the Right wing candidate, a man known for his pro-Arab foreign policy whereas his socialist opponent, Lionel Jospin, was stoned in Palestine for calling Hamas [29] a terrorist movement.” [30].

Since the Arab world is full of theocrats and terrorists and is atavistically anti-Semite, France would be dishonored by having cordial relations with the countries that are part of it and with the Muslim religious groups. Such interpretation of the French diplomacy was meticulously analyzed in two articles devoted to the kidnap of French journalists in Iraq.
To begin with, Charlie Hebdo was completely convinced the said kidnaps were perpetrated by Islamists. [31]; often, they were considered to be members of the Iraqi resistance. Thus, during the whole time reporter Florence Aubenas of Libération was in captivity, some drawings were published by Charlie on its front page and they recalled the kidnap of the journalist in which, usually, the Islamist’s caricatured image (beard, the typical Arab robe, knife or belt with explosives, the smile of dissolute persons). With regard to the cases, Charlie usually wandered about the role of the French Muslim organizations and the contacts France had to make to obtain the freedom of the journalists.
Philippe Val then expressed his worries regarding the mobilization of Muslim groups in favor of the liberation of the hostages: “It’s curious, at least, that the most radical “Islamist authorities” made a call to release the French hostages. (...) Tariq Ramadan, obviously, took advantage of the opportunity to intervene and perhaps he should be thanked. The Iranian Mullah, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, fundamentalist theorists like the very influential al-Qaradawi, very popular among the Muslim Brothers and the host of a program in Al-Jazira, the salafistas of the Council of Sermons, their leader, Mehdi al-Sumeidai, one of the leaders of the Sunnite fundamentalist movement, fakri al-Qaissi, they all acted, sent emissaries, implemented an intense secret activity aimed at saving the two French journalists. All these people did nothing when other kidnaps took place. ” [32]. At least, it is curious that the “Islam authorities” plus the list of all these leaders and the way of presenting and mixing them, even when they were sometimes members of different movements, is very similar to the articles and books written by Fiammetta Venner and Caroline Fourest. Summing-up, Philippe Val wandered: “The fact that the main defenders of the shariah, that follow different hierarchies and tendencies, and some of which are even encouragers of suicide attacks they have never criticized, have agreed to condemn this holding of hostages has, at least, forced us to think...” [33]. For the editor in chief of the satirical weekly, the fact that kidnappers presented as Muslims rejected the liberation claim of all these Muslim authorities, whatever they might be, is not surprising and deserves no questions at all. What seemed really important is what the groups mobilized for the liberation of hostages were going to demand in exchange. What counts is what France might accept in this exchange: the Muslims are guilty, and those who are not can only be accomplices and take advantage of the situation to get some political gains.

After the liberation of Christian Chesnot and George Malbrunot, the French diplomacy was no better, according to the view of Charlie Hebdo and its editor in chief. After the happiness for the return of the French journalists alive, the worries about the commitments France might have accepted came back to surface again: “Why the payment of a rescue would be less honorable than who-knows-what-kind of secret negotiation that will make France accomplice of who-knows-what Islamic army who-knows where? Who are these people seduced by France’s Arab policy? Maybe those that kill as easily as they breathe? ” [34]. Therefore, it made a call to all French not to trust the official discourse of their own State: “As if Chirac and Raffarin has nothing but one purpose: that all France suffer the Stockholm syndrome and welcome the existence of Islamic terrorists kind enough to free our reporters and appreciate our foreign policy.”. Then, the liberation of hostages and the circumstances of the kidnap were not important. The only important thing is that France should have no contact with those the Atlantist circles present as terrorists or terrorists’ allies. The editor in chief went even further the following week in an alleged analysis of the vision the alterglobalist trend has about the kidnap of Ingrid Betancourt. By mentioning the differences between the kidnap of the Franco-Colombian senator and that of the two French journalists according to the viewpoint of those he tried to stigmatize, Philippe Val denounced anti-Semitism, which for him is inherent to the Arab countries: “[Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot] were kidnapped by Islamic terrorists that love to slit Westerners’ throats, unless they are French because the Arab policy of France has deep roots that go back to the Vichy regime whose anti-Jewish policy was already, by default, an Arab policy.” [35]. The Arab policy of France would then be based on an old anti-Semite tradition. Even worse, through this policy, France would be actually collaborating with what the United States and its booster of public diplomacy present as the worst threat of our time: the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists: “Thanks to Iran which owes us its nuclear technology; thanks to Iraq which owes the same thing, and thanks to a bunch of Arab countries to which we have given all the necessary military materials to advance towards democracy, we have friends in almost all places in which Bin Laden’s networks are trying to open new gas stations.” [36].

As can be seen, the analysis of the Arab policy of France made by Charlie Hebdo is based on a pejorative vision of the Muslim Arab world and on the directions of the Bush Administration foreign policy. This is not strange, for Philippe Val was already a zealous NATO propagandist during the Kosovo war. Therefore, the fact that Washington and Tel Aviv’s imperialist policies are judged with ambiguity in the columns of the weekly and Prochoix is not surprising.

My enemies’ enemies are my friends

First of all, a clarification has to be made. I am not saying that those responsible for Charlie Hebdo or Prochoix had written articles that implicitly supported Ariel Sharon’s policy or that of George W. Bush. Both leaders are repugnant to the eyes of the Western opinions and Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists have often published caricatures which were very hard on them. Besides the satirical weekly has several resolutely anti-Zionist editors [37]. However, it may be noticed that very often, when they are not applauded, or sometimes criticised, both leaders appear justified, ignored or the main guidelines of their propaganda are adopted. As such, in Charlie Hebdo’s reports, the same violence is not found when it comes to denouncing the crimes committed by the Coalition in Iraq and those of Tsahal in the Palestinian territories, as when it comes to “Islamic danger” or the French diplomacy towards the Muslim world. The same thing happens in Prochoix, which devotes most of its articles to stigmatize the anti-semitism of the Islamic Palestinians [38] rather than the enthroned racism by the State of Israel.

The editors of Charlie who are loyal to Philippe Val, Fiammetta Venner and Caroline Fourest, usually integrate in their analysis the main elements of Zionist propaganda. In their articles, the central regional problem is the absence of an Arab counterpart with which peace may be achieved. This orientation is also one of the reasons that quoted Philippe Corcuff to explain his resignation from Charlie Hebdo [39].
So, according to the founders of Prochoix, the leaders of the Arab countries use Israel to remain in power or avoid introducing reforms in their regimes and open to modern age: “For most of the peoples of Mashreq or Maghreb, the fact that Israel occupies territories in Palestine is often used as an excuse to delay the adjustment of Islam to world evolution. This is, in any case, the argument given by certain dictatorial governments to reject democratization in their countries.” [40]. In this regard, the Arab countries have no interest in achieving peace with Israel. This is the reason why they urge Palestinian terrorism under the Palestinian Authority: “The Israeli government may boast about deactivating the bombs (of the Jewish fundamentalists) before they go off (…) the Arab States and Palestinian Authority do not show the same determination to dissuade their fellow citizens from turning into human bombs.” [41]. Apart from its inability to prevent the attacks, the Palestinian Authority is accused of being an accomplice of the organization of the attacks: “By educating entire generations in the cult of martyrdom, either at school, family or burials, constantly promising a dream life after death, the Palestinian Authority is increasingly facing suicide attacks among children” [42].
We find this denunciation once more against the Palestinian Authority by Philippe Val, who launched various savage attacks on Yacer Araft’s attitude, even before the major anti-Muslim change in his magazine took place late in 2003: “Today, the whole press and French media support Arafat, sort of like José Bové was supported (…) Sharon and Arafat are two complementary mechanisms of the machine that fabricates fear upon which the voluntary subjugation of the peoples is based. If Sharon is to be blamed for being drawn into irreparability, Arafat is to be blamed for having wished and premeditated such tragedy.” [43]. Take note that in this fragment, although Sharon and Arafat are in the same class, it is the Palestinian who appears to be held responsible for the situation. The Israeli prime minister only makes the mistake of reacting inappropriately. Fourest and Venner, for their part, do not hesitate in presenting the Palestinians as responsible for triggering the second Intifada [44]. By doing that, they ignore that the first Palestinian violent actions during the second Intifada were a reaction to Ariel Sharon’s provocation with the Esplanade of the Mosques.
Finally, and in classic style, these authors describe all criticisms against Israel as anti-Semitism. Philippe Val, for example, felt it was unacceptable that a survey conducted at the request of the European Commission showed that 59% of the EU citizens considered that Israel posed a threat to world peace [45]. And, taking up again one of the main axis of the Zionist propaganda, it accuses those who criticize the Israeli colonial policy of cryptonegationism: “We have come to the absurd moment in which the emotion caused by an attack that has to be condemned – by the Israeli army in a Palestinian area – allows to ignore the memory of the Nazis’ victims” [46]. The editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo was cautious, however, about quoting the least illustrative phrase from his point of view, but does it mater?

On a general basis, since Islam is considered in the international area as the major threat, all policies that announce as a target to fight against Islamic terrorism, would find extenuating circumstances. Such is the case of president Ben Alí, according to the administrator of Prochoix. Contrary to other States, the authors would not present Tunisia as a dictatorship but as an “official democracy achieved with iron hand by the army” [47]. Actually, the army in Tunisia dos not play a main role and power is rather vested in police. But this political situation seems to be a necessity since the “Islamic movements still threaten the poor process of modernization” [48]. This has made Caroline Fourest and Fiammetta Venner to condemn Reporters Without Borders, which is blamed for having launched a campaign for the release of Mohamed El Hachmi, a Tunisian journalist condemned for opinion crime, whom they accused, as well as the Tunisian regime, of making a statement justifying the Shariah. However, although the authors have become very good friends of Antoine Sfeir [49], which do not go that far as this latest one, that presents Tunisia as a democratization model to the Arab world [50].

In view of the adversary, even the crime of the occupation of Iraq has to be portrayed. By referring again to the kidnapping of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, Philippe Val launched an attack on what he considered as a French ingratitude towards the Coalition forces that agreed to play a role for the release of the French journalists: “Neither there was a word about the Americans and British, although they are occupying Iraq. We went there, negotiated, made go and come car motorcades, land and take off planes, but do the Americans not have anything to do with that and failed to see anything?” [51]. Actually, what really seems to worry Philippe Val is that the West may divide in light of the Islamic threat. Never mind the Coalition crimes or excesses committed in the name of war against terrorism. The important thing is for Europe to continue being a U.S. allied. So, after a tape attributed to Osama bin Laden, one voice stated that it would offer a “truce” to the United States for the promise to stop the attacks on Muslims, the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo got upset: “He addressed first to the European populations that he despises. Counting on his cowardice, he wants to convince them to have governments that would remain passive while he kills, for example, Americans. He will take care of us later. But he does not say that. He expects that the average stupid prefers to believe the contrary, to do as if he believed the contrary, while waiting for his turn.” [52]. That is, if Europe does not choose governments that get involved in Washington’s war against terrorism, it would be an evidence of “cowardice”. We are in the same thinking than the hawks who denounced the victory of the Spanish Socialist Party in the elections that followed the Madrid attacks on March 11, 2004.
Charlie Hebdo even got to the point of denouncing as defectors the Europeans who dared to refuse to see the geopolitical matters through the same perspective as Washington. After being a libertarian publication in another time, the weekly even demanded a more strictly policy control on the borders to fight terrorism. As such, under the prudent and subtle title of “Barnier a-t-il fait entrer Ben Laden en France?” [Has Barnier allowed Ben Laden to enter France?] [53], the journalist of Charlie Olivier Boulens complained about the entry on the French territory of 6 000 pilgrims who had come back from Mecca and, in his opinion, did not go through the proper controls at Riad airport: “In the middle of the Vigipirate plan and at moments in which France advised its citizens to abstain from staying in the Wahhabi country due to a “high risk of terrorist attacks”, the government felt it was not convenient to demand more assurances about those planes that could then land in France despite the enforced security measures. Obviously, Paris considered that the passengers were protected by their bottles of holy water of Zemzem...”. Since the danger was big, the means to fight it had to be important. Equally worse if it goes against public liberties. That is why, Caroline Fourest, for her part, denounced the attitude of the International Federation of Human Rights (IFHR) when she expressed that concern in view of the antiterrorists procedures resorted by the French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière [54], methods which are, actually, extremely reprehensive: “The IFHR has been struggling for years to cancel the 14th antiterrorist of Paris section by the judge Bruguière, which he denounces as “a machine to fabricate “guilty” Muslims, thus holding them as would-be terrorists”. It has to be pointed out that it is not about denouncing some excesses, but blaming the war against terrorism as a whole of being a huge hunting based on the appearance…Words published after September 11.» [55].
It is just about one of the attacks against the IFHR or League for Human Rights that appears in Frère Tariq. Both organizations are accused of paying too much attention to the cases of violations of rights of Arab origin, an obsolete struggle since September 11, 2001, in the author’s opinion.

The IFHR is not the only target of the anger of the founders of Prochoix or the articles of Charlie Hebdo. Joining Muslim organizations, or questioning the imperialist policies of Bush administration hidden behind the war against terrorism, is being exposed to be considered as an enemy, as a “left wing Islamist”, a “red pardo” or another epithet detrimental to the credibility of who receives it.

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My enemies’ friends are my enemies

Based on Islamic terrorists, Prochoix and Charlie Hebdo have got to present the Islamists as people incredibly dangerous and, then, all anti-imperialists Muslims as accomplices of that hypertrophied fundamentalist movement. This method of accusation through consecutive assimilations is also used with the non-Muslim groups which are against the atlantist and Zionist policies, and which join Muslim groups. The consecutive demonization of these organizations enables to ridicule any political adversary without even having to take into account their arguments or speech. This technique is well known by Voltaire Network since it has suffered it itself.
Due to our vision of international policy and importance of great future strategic manoeuvres, it was obvious that Voltaire Network would become a target of the attacks by Prochoix and Charlie Hebdo. The book L’Effroyable Imposture committed, in fact, the sin of “partially [rehabilitating] the Islamics since, as it said, no aircraft had crashed against the Pentagon and the list of kamikazes on board the plane had been later added by the FBI (…). One gets the impression that the U.S. government is extremely manipulative and at the end almost more dangerous than Islamism” [56]. Philippe Val went even further during a debate on the TV channel Arte on April 13, 2004 because he presented those who question the official version of September 11 as “criminals” comparable to negationists [57].
Putting the “Islamic danger” into perspective and dismantling the dominant speech about the September 11 attacks and policies that such crime enabled to justify, would turn us into an enemy to be eliminated. Therefore, Voltaire Network and its president, Thierry Meyssan, were given an exclusive treatment: accusation of negationism, paranoia, and anti-Semitism through caricatures and several articles, so many that the list would be too long, and even the publication of a book whose objective was to tarnish the reputation of Thierry Meyssan by offering a novel-like reading of his biography [58]. However, it seems interesting especially to analyze the accusations about the Islamic sympathies attributed to Voltaire Network, since those attacks showed how the method of consecutive assimilations works and is used by Prochoix and Charlie Hebdo.

Mohamed Bechari is an elected member of the French Council of the Muslim Cult. During the captivity of the hostages Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, he made a tour around the Arab and Muslim world to collect as many commitments as possible from Muslim leaders in favor of the release of both French journalists. During such tour, Bechari had a meeting with the leader of the Algerian Islamic Front for Salvation, exiled in Qatar, Abassi Madani. The latter had gone on a hunger strike in solidarity with the French hostages and, in this context, Bechari kissed him on the forehead, a gesture that was photographed and which Caroline Fourest condemned in her book Frère Tariq [59], something that also Philippe Val did in Charlie Hebdo. Eventually, the context in which the photo was taken was forgotten and Bechari was already presented as the man who kissed Abassi Madani. To the extend that when Voltaire published a platform about Bechari, Prochoix felt it was an evidence of the Islamic sympathies of Voltaire Network: “Mohamed Bechari, president of the French National Federation of Muslims, has just published a platform in the daily of Voltaire, ran by Thierry Meyssan, the man who ascertains that no plane crashed against the Pentagon. In 2004, Mohamed Bechari shocked the public by being photographed kissing the FIS leader, Abassi Madani.” [60]. Since Abassi Madani is an Islamic, Bechari is necessarily an Islamic and Voltaire a pro-Islamic publication. One thing is proven by the other. The only problem of that notion is that Bechari signed in Voltaire a platform in favor of laicism, that he represents as the true cultural foundation of Europe [61].
This is the way, without taking into account what is said, that Prochoix and Charlie Hebdo have come up with a list of people with whom no relations should be kept and whose involvement in a project may discredit it as a whole. The list includes Voltaire Network, Tariq Ramadan, the members of UOIF, FNMF, the visitors of the website Oumma.Com and many others [62]. This absurd method for analysis leads sometimes to laughable denunciations since the journalist of the Zionist website Proche-Orient.Info, Sylvain Attal, was recently included in a list of people who, according to Prochoix, must be condemned for having participated in the website Oumma.Com when what he did was to publish an answer [63].

However, these practices point out first of all to the alterglobalist movements that approach Muslim organizations in order to build an anti0imperialist coalition. Personalities from the alterglobalist movement were therefore ridiculed for having debated with figures previously demonized by the administrator of Prochoix or in the columns of Charlie. Since these organizations cannot be stigmatized as Islamist, they are accused of gullibility or anti-Semitism. Philippe Val resorts again to the image of a big and manipulative Islamic movement that operates with a sole objective, deceiving the silly alterglobalists: «Islamic [intellectuals] analyze very well the phenomenon of loss of memory of the Western society and the next disappearance of the living memories of the Nazi era. They feel that the time has come. That maybe they are going to be able, through Islam, regroup the resentment felt by the third world, including all those who, in the Western societies, feel excluded. The alterglobalist clowns (…) make one think of those who followed with fascination the speeches of the Ayatollah Khomeyni during his exile in Neauphle-le-Château.”. [64]. But, although it denounces a great part of credulity among alterglobalists, the cement of the alliance among Muslim organizations and rebellious movements is the anti-Semitism, a point of view shared by Prochoix. And they state, referring to the UN conference in Durban: “Focused in principle on racism, Durban World Conference of August 2001 will be recorded as a moment in which certain members of the extreme left wing approached the Islamists in the name of the struggle against the American-Zionism. During the speech by Fidel Castro, in the NGO forum, some activists heard clearly some “Kill Jews” after the “Free Palestine”.” [65].

This tactic of demonization has worked well sometimes. According to the website TouTEsEgaux.net [66], several militants could have refused to participate in the great anti-racist rally on November 7, 2004, due to a warning by Philippe Val, who had stated three days before that “those who rally on Sunday, whether they want or not, will rally for the defense of communities, their habits, traditions, beliefs. Those who refuse to rally will remain in their homes because they defend a universal human status” [67]. The rally responded to the call made by the LDH, from MRAP [68], of the CFDT, CGT, UNAS, FSU, G10 Solidaires, Federation of Council of Parents of Students and Teaching League. LICRA and SOS Racisme were the only ones who failed to collaborate. To Philippe Val, participating in that rally against all forms of discrimination would be assuming the “defense of the freedom to exhibit community symbols and, mainly, the veil –because it has to be called by its name– [that] is actually defending at the same time an oppression of women and importation of an ethnic vision of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ” [69].
Acting for the defence of the Muslims and against discrimination of which they are victims, would be to forget that the real problem is anti-Semitism, and therefore, to prove the complicity with the Islamics that disseminate it: “The fact that a Muslim anti-Semitism expressed in Europe is merging with an old European anti-Semitism is a phenomenon that has taken us by surprise, to which our regular counter-poison –the different anti-racist organizations- find themselves unarmed to the extend of being on the brink of implosion. One of the consequences is the desire of some Jewish to leave Europe, if the phenomenon expands. ” [70].

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And if the accusations of anti-Semitism were not enough, there is still the possibility of resorting to pure disinformation. For example, witnessing rumors about a possible super-deployment of Islamics at the European Social Forum (ESF) in London. That was what Fiammetta Venner did in a hypothetical visit of Yussef al-Qaradhawi, in an article entitled “FSE: un autre jihad est possible” [FSE: Otra jihad es posible] [71]. Based on that rumor, the journalist prophesied the total infiltration of Islamics in the alterglobalist movement: “ In the midst of the avalanche of debates organized in association with the ESF of London there was a colloquium entitled: “The Islamic movement: associated or enemy?” As things go by, it is possible to imagine already the question mark about the next ESF: “The secular movement: friend or enemy?”” This article will be widely criticized by the alterglobalist movement and Charlie Hebdo will be obliged to justify, with great difficulties [72].

This matter is not really more serious than the rest of slanderous campaigns launched by Prochoix and Charlie Hebdo, although it does reveal the existence of a new trend. When Charlie Hebdo was in the hot seat, received the support of part of the mainstream press, assistance with which surely would not had some years ago.

Legitimacy in the “information sector”

When Charlie and Fiammetta Venner were attacked due to the article about ESF in London, the publication and the author were backed by Claude Askolovitch, figure of the Nouvel Observateur and solid support of the administrators of Prochoix since the publication of Tirs croisés. Invited together with Philippe Val to the program France Culture, Le Premier pouvoir, on October 2, 2004, Claude Askolovitch congratulated the editor in chief of the satirical weekly because of the excellent investigation made by Fiammetta Venner. On October 21, 2004, he signed in his weekly an article entitled “the left wing of Allah” where, as well as Fiammetta Venner, denounced the influence of Islamism in the alterglobalist movement. He also launched an attack on the presence of Tariq Ramadan at the ESF quoting the book Frère Tariq by Caroline Fourest, that has just appeared in bookstores. He is paying back in kind since his own article “L’encombrant M. Ramadan» [73], written the previous year during the ESF of Saint-Denis the book appeared quoted several times as reference.

Claude Askolovitch did wait for Philippe Val, Caroline Fourest and Fiammetta Venner to denounce the “Islamic danger” and left wing “anti-Semitism”. The journalist had denounced before the supposed “anti-Semitism” by the researcher Pascal Boniface after he left the leadership of the French Socialist Party having recommended to such Party, with no success, to get away from Israel policy. Later, he denounced the “anti-Semitism” by Bernard Langlois, founder of the magazine Politis, in the Nouvel Observateur of August 14, 2003, when the later supported Boniface [74].
He attributed such anti-Semitism to the approach of the alterglobalist movement towards the Muslims organizations. [75]. The issue of Islamic infiltration was taken up and expanded as of October 2003 and participation of Tariq Ramadan in the ESF of Saint-Denis [76].
The release of Tirs croisés will come right on time for that campaign and Claude Askolovitch will multiply the references to both authors in his articles. On January 7, 2004 he made a two-pages interview of Fourest and Venner in the Nouvel Observateur, on February 22 he relies on their job to attack the “left-wing Islamism” and presented them as archetype of the secular left wing that is struggling against the Islamic infiltration and made, on May 27, 2004, a eulogistic portrait of the two administrators of Prochoix.

However, Claude Askolovitch is a strong mediatic support of both authors, though he’s not the only one. The reorentation of the problems of Prochoix has given Caroline Fourest and Fiammetta Venner an aura that they could expect before [77]. Philippe Val also benefited from the reorientation of the style of his weekly. Since then, he is frequently invited to TV to attack on the “Islamic threat” and serve as a left wing justification to the condemning of rebellious movements. Things that were not expected some years ago, Philippe Val saw that his words were applauded by the former prime minister Raymond Barre during a TV debate [78] and his argument in favor of the referendum about the European Constitutional Treaty was taken up by Bernard Henri Levy in his Bloc Note of Le Point [79]. A recognition that the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo wanted very much that in February 2005 he stated to the TOC magazine: “The second thing I tried to do was to legitimize the title to the eyes of the people who built the sector of information and with whom I have cordial relations. The real danger for a publication is to be marginal. You may have big sales but be marginal. On the contrary, a daily may be sold with limitations but be important. The notion of being a minority and reject being marginal has to be accepted. Obviously, you will only be part of the minority for a while, otherwise the market will kill you.”.

As shown by that new media echo, Charlie Hebdo and Prochoix have become today the vectors, the centers of rebellious movements, prejudices and geopolitical orientations of the dominant media, greatly influenced by Washington’s problems. Their articles and work could dissuade the rebellious movements from joining Muslim movements and establishing a coalition opposed to the atlantists and Zionist politicians. The geopolitical evolutions of the last ten years have brought about a reorientation by a sector of the French left wing. Failure to realize that and preserve those groups as reference is delaying the establishment of an anti-imperialist movement.

[1] “La démocratie forcée”, by Paul Labarique, Voltaire, January 25, 2005.

[2] In France, laicism represents the exercise of power based on reason only, and excluding personal beliefs. What is known as « secularism » in anglo-saxon countries is the exercise of power including personal beliefs, as long as they don’t offend other people’s personal beliefs. Therefore here we will use the term « laicism » in its French understanding.

[3] “Elliott Abrams, le “gladiateur” converti à la “théopolitique””, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire, February 14, 2005

[4] With regard to the invention of the said concept, see “The "Clash of Civilizations"” by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire, June 4, 2004.

[5] “Nicolas Sarkozy agite le voile islamique”, Voltaire, January 19, 2004.

[6] See our articles about this topic: “Choc des civilisations

[7] “Aïcha et les “gros tas””, by Mona Cholet, peripheries.net, October 30, 2003.

[8] “Pourquoi la Fondation Ford subventionne la contestation”, by Paul Labarique, Voltaire, April 19, 2004.

[9] This evolution of Prochoix has been analyzed in a several articles published in Les mots sont importants and gathered in a collection titled “Le cas Prochoix.

[10] “Courage politique”, Charlie Hebdo, October 23, 2002

[11] Id.

[12] “Daniel Pipes, expert de la haine”, Voltaire, May 5, 2004.

[13] “Critique des (nouveaux) intellectuels communautaires”, by Tariq Ramadan, Oumma.Com, October 3, 2003.

[14] “L’antisémitisme n’est pas une marchandise, Charlie Hebdo, November 5, 2003

[15] “Tirs Croisés, la laïcité à l’épreuve des intégrismes juifs, chrétien et musulman”, Caroline Fourest and Fiammetta Venner, Calmann Lévy, October 2003. This work was widely analyzed by Sadri Khiari in Les mots sont importants: “Quelques commentaires à propos de ‘Tirs croisés’”, January 2004.

[16] Id. p. 404

[17] Id.

[18] Id. p. 370

[19] Id. p. 391

[20] Id. p. 392

[21] Id. p. 336

[22] Id. p. 339

[23] Frère Tariq, discours, stratégie et méthode de Tariq Ramadan, Caroline Fourest, Grasset, October, 2004

[24] OPA sur l’islam de France, les ambitions de l’UOIF, Fiammetta Venner, Calmann-Lévy, April 2005.

[25] “Nicolas Sarkozy agite le voile islamique”, Voltaire, January 19, 2004

[26] Frère Tariq, op. cit. p. 362 and OPA sur l’Islam de France, op. cité. p. 213.

[27] “Rien n’est plus dangereux qu’un ignorant ami. Mieux vaut un sage ennemi», Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo, January 5, 2005

[28] “Philippe Corcuff quitte Charlie Hebdo”, letter published in Bellaciao.Org, December 3, 2004.

[29] In that famous speech, actually, Lionel Jospin did not present Hamas as a terrorist organization but the Hezbollah, something very different. In fact, even when the European Union recognizes Hamas as a terrorist organization, things are different with the Hezbollah.

[30] OPA sur l’Islam de France, op. cit. p. 193.

[31] This analysis, quite common in the French media, has nothing to do with ours. In the case of Florence Aubenas, all tracks lead to mafia groups. The kidnap of Christian Chesnot and George Malbrunot had many question marks and we wrote a group of articles about it: “Dossier spécial: les otages français en Irak”, Voltaire, September 2, 2004.

[32] “Rien n’est plus dangereux qu’un ignorant ami. Mieux vaut un sage ennemi”, Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo, September 8, 2004.

[33] Id.

[34] “Le syndrôme de Stockholm de Chirac», Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo, December 29, 2004.

[35] “Otage, certes ... mais sans chauffeur syrien!”, Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo, January 5, 2005. This op-ed was replied to by Maurice Lemoine, from Le Monde diplomatique, that Charlie Hebdo refused to publish and was circulated in Acrimed: “Quand Philippe Val, analyste “complexe”, prétend soutenir Ingrid Betancourt”, April 29, 2005. This exchange is an example of the increasing tensions between the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo and a movement it constantly attacks. We’ll talk about it later.

[36] “Otage, certes... mais sans chauffeur syrien!”, art. citado.

[37] like Siné, a historical figure of he publication, who devotes most of his weekly report to defend a point of view contrary to that of his editor in chief.

[38] Fourest and Venner like to recall that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, spurious document written by the czarist political police to justify the anti-Semitism, has readers and even admirers in the Arab world. According to them, the said book is “the preference of a certain Palestine alternative”, Tirs Croisés, op. cit. p. 385

[39] “It should not be forgotten, contrary to what is frequently done at Charlie Hebdo, that the Palestinians are, in the current situation, the most oppressed and therefore, we cannot be happy about stigmatizing them unilaterally.”, “Philippe Corcuff quit Charlie Hebdo”, article quoted.

[40] Tirs Croisés, op. cit. p. 329.

[41] Id. p.393. Later, the authors take even further the accusation of complicity: “To justify the suicidal attacks, Hamas happily states that it resorts “to that means due to the lack of effective military means.” But why, instead of investing their petrodollars in Palestine, the Arab dictators and Saudi princes prefer to urge the Palestinians to blow themselves up?”.

[42] Id. p. 389

[43] Charlie Hebdo, April 3, 2002.

[44] This is what they write, referring to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, that such crime “severely affected the peace process, which was used as an excuse for a second Intifada.”. Tirs croisés, op. cit. p. 369

[45] “The fact that a European institution had published a study that backed such idea is something terrifying. This not only triggers anti-Semitism that is unnecessary but also reinforces the legitimacy and popularity feeling of the Islamists.”, “Israël et Palestine, futurs États de l’Union européenne”, Charlie Hebdo, November 11, 2003.

[46] “L’antisémitisme n’est pas une marchandise”, Philippe Val, quoted article

[47] Tirs croisés, op. cit. p.330

[48] Id. p. 329.

[49] Caroline Fourest worked with Antoine Sfeir on the book Frère Tariq. This time, she makes a eulogistic portrait of the Lebanese analyst and frequently refers to the publications of Cahiers de l’Orient, that he runs. Recently, they published together a platform in Le Monde to lash once more a Tariq Ramadan’s initiative that demanded a moratorium for corporal punishments in the Muslim world: “Pour un "moratoire" sur Ramadan”, by Antoine Sfeir and Caroline Fourest, April 19, 2005. Such platform was analyzed in Voltaire, on April 22, 2005.

[50] “Discours américain et méthode tunisienne”, by Mezri Haddad and Antoine Sfeir, Le Figaro, March 28, 2005. This platform was analyzed in Voltaire, on March 29, 2005.

[51] «Le syndrome de Stockholm de Chirac», quoted article

[52] “Bons baisers de Ben Laden”, Charlie Hebdo, April 21, 2004. This editorial, which urged for unity of the Western world in view of the Islamic danger is obviously fundamental for Philippe Val, since he decided to publish his compendium of editorials under the same title: “Bons baisers de Ben Laden”, edition Le Cherche-Midi-France Inter, 2004

[53] Charlie Hebdo, February 16, 2005

[54] “Jean-Louis Bruguière, un juge d’exception”, by Paul Labarique, Voltaire, April 29, 2004.

[55] Frère Tariq, op. cit. p. 346.

[56] Tirs croisés, op. cit. p. 388

[57] The critical balance of this debate will be available on the website of Acrimed: “Arte et la théorie du complot (suite et fin): un “débat” à sens unique

[58] L’Effroyable Imposteur, Fiammetta Venner, Grasset, February 2005.

[59] op. cit, p. 227

[60] Blog de Prochoix, April 5, 2005.

[61] “Quelle sera la place de l’islam dans la nouvelle Europe?”, by Mohamed Bechari, Voltaire, April 1st, 2005.

[62] like Jean Ziegler, Xavier Ternisien or Alain Gresh and those in charge of Le Monde diplomatique, who are all to be blamed for having worked with Tariq Ramadan or refused to demonize him

[63] “Attentats de Londres: incrédulité des islamistes français”, Blog de Prochoix, July 8, 2005.

[64] «L’antisémitisme n’est pas une marchandise », quoted article

[65] Tirs croisés, op. cité. p. 388.

[66] “SOS Charlie Hebdo: Retour sur un éditorial de Philippe Val et sur la manifestation antiraciste du 7 novembre 2004”, by Bernard Dreano, November 21, 2004

[67] “SOS Antiracisme”, Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo, November 3, 2004

[68] The latter is condemned on a regular basis by the Zionist media for supporting the Palestinians, something that is represented as anti-Semitism. The philosopher Alain Finkielkraut labeled therefore the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) as “Movement Against Racism and Anti-Semitism between the Peoples”. Caroline Fourest does not go that far, although she makes an analogical hint when she writes: “[MRAP] whose A no longer means what struggle against anti-Semitism since that term has been replaced by the title, more imprecise than “friendship between the peoples”” (Frère Tariq, op. cit. p. 384.)

[69] “SOS Antiracisme”, art. cité.

[70] “Bons baisers de Ben Laden”, quoted article

[71] Charlie Hebdo, September 29, 2004.

[72] About this issue, see in the website of Acrimed: “Elle court, elle court la rumeur”, by Alain Thorens and Élizabeth Moineau, October 25, 2004.

[73] Nouvel Observateur, October 10, 2003

[74] More recently, Philippe Val described Pascal Boniface as a collaborator of “Islamic fascism” for having tried to analyze on TV (“Si l’on supprimait les victimes il n’y aurait plus de bourreaux”, Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo, August 3, 2005). The chief editor of Charlie Hebdo took up again the well-worn version of Bush which indicated that the Islamists attack the West because they hate democracy

[75] Notice that it was not the first time that the journalist attacked the alterglobalists. In November 2002, he had written in his weekly a number of articles criticizing the “violence” of that trend during the ESF in Italy. He then recommended the French Socialist Party not to try to approach them. Remember that Claude Askolovitch is also author of an hagiography of Lionel Jospin (Lionel, Grasset, 2001).

[76] On October 10, 2003, Claude Askolovitch wrote “L’encombrant M. Ramadan” [The Modest Mr. Ramadan] in a special set of works of the Nouvel Observateur that includes, among others, an article of André Glucksmann where the French philosopher, close to Freedom House, denounced “the anti-Semite obsession” of Tariq Ramadan. On the same day, in Le Point, Bernard Henri Levy wrote in his Bloc Note about the issue in similar terms as the published work in the Nouvel Observateur: “Tariq Ramadan et les altermondialistes”. It should be noted that Claude Askolovitch is published by Grasset publisher, of which Bernard Henri Levy is the director. Later Grasset would also publish Frère Tariq by Caroline Fourest and L’Effroyable Imposteur by Fiammetta Venner.

[77] The press magazines of Tirs croisés and Frère Tariq available on the website of Prochoix are eloquent. L’Effroyable Imposteur and OPA sur l’Islam de France, the later has been recently published, have not met the same echo. Notice, however, that the first pages were published in Le Point on March 3, 2005 and six pages of the second one were published in L’Express on May 2, 2005.

[78] Culture et dépendance, France 3, June 1st , 2005

[79] “Climat fétide, suite...”, June 9, 2005

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