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The Shame of Le Monde diplomatique

PARIS – Le Monde diplomatique, which has no editorial connection to the newspaper Le Monde, is not well known outside France. In a way, that is too bad, because it is typical of the French intellectual and journalistic scene – typical, too, of the brand of populism checked by Emmanuel Macron’s election, but which remains deeply rooted in France.

This article came about because of the recent appearance on the website of Le Monde diplo, as the monthly is known in France, of a “dossier” containing “20 years of archives,” “freely accessible,” concerning me. But “me” as Don Corleone, oligarch, mystifier, the devil incarnate, and a “significant” representative of the French “system.”

I will not dwell on the details of this trove of obscure articles, which, for the most part, I had not seen before.

I will not attempt to correct – at least not right now – the mind-boggling falsehoods, nonsense, and petty insults that make up this grotesque and pitiful affair, which has caused a minor uproar in France.

But I will not forgo sharing my opinion of this monthly, to which, during the 1974-1975 Portuguese revolution, I submitted one of my first dispatches, but which today retains nothing of Le Monde except shareholders, nothing diplomatic except the word, and nothing respectable except the memory of its distant founders.

One should know, for example, that Le Monde diplo is one of the last places in France where Tariq Ramadan, ideologist of the Muslim Brotherhood, who sees the hand of the intelligence services behind the Islamist attacks in Toulouse and Brussels, is still considered an authority. In a piece dated April 3, 2016, a former Le Monde diplo editor, Alain Gresh, and others, called Ramadan’s voice one that “carries weight in poor neighborhoods” and to which “young people listen.”

One should know that all manner of conspiracy theories are often uncritically echoed. In a talk to the Friends of Le Monde diplomatique in Montpellier, in May 2010, Professor Annie Lacroix-Riz endeavored to prettify the fascistic myth of the synarchism of the secret elite. Holocaust denier Jean Bricmont was long responsible for Le Monde diplo’s reviews of anti-American and anti-Zionist books. Frédéric Lordon, a sort of younger clone of Marxist thinker Alain Badiou, offers a chic variant, maintaining that it is no more absurd to see plots everywhere than not to see them anywhere, and that there is indeed a conspiracy of “the dominant” to blind the “dominated.”

One has to read to believe the sycophantic review of Paul-Éric Blanrue’s 2009 book Sarkozy, Israël et les juifs, in which Blanrue wonders whether France has not become “a Zionist country” and whether former President Nicolas Sarkozy might not have been recruited by the Mossad; or the November 2004 review of Alain Ménargues’s ignominious Le Mur de Sharon (Sharon’s wall), which explains Israel’s security barrier in terms of an atavistic “Jewish separatism” derived from Leviticus.

One has to read, if only to laugh, the article that a former director of Le Monde diplo posted, in September 2016, on an affiliated website. The fawning article was devoted to one Donald Trump, in whom the author found a thousand virtues because of his supposed hostility to “the system,” the likelihood that he would abandon the West’s “liberal orientation,” and his willingness to attack “media power,” “economic globalization,” and “Wall Street’s arrogance” (and that’s not the half of it).

And, only for the record, I recall how these consummate “anti-imperialists,” 40 years after Castro’s tyranny was fully exposed, embraced the Cubans’ cartoonish protégé, Hugo Chávez. The young people of Venezuela are enslaved by a grotesque regime; they despair of the future; and they are hungry. And Le Monde diplo? After years of swooning over Chávez’s military get-ups, it continues to worship his zombie successor, Nicolás Maduro, who is even crueler and more reactionary.

There are, of course, other forums like this in France and elsewhere: dark magnets, attracting the worst ideas of the era. But they are usually found on the far right, whereas Le Monde diplo persists in claiming the radical tradition of the left, which sought a historical rupture, in order to free the human race from the idols and ghosts of the past.

Some of us recall the appeal of that project very well. The contributors to Le Monde diplo’s trifling dossier, however, no longer have any idea about that project whatsoever. They are clueless and deluded practitioners of an alternative journalism whose idea of boldness is to go after an independent writer. One day, these self-appointed commissars really should find the time to thank me for the fury that I inspire in them, which seems to have become their last tether to reality.

But it is not that simple, because their febrile stupidity does not prevent them from being dangerous. And I would continue to treat them with contempt, as I have done for 20 years, were I not persuaded that with them the red line – or red-brown line – is being crossed.

If the extremes of the political spectrum meet, it will happen through outlets like Le Monde diplo. If, by one of those political cross-breedings of which the last century gave us such infamous examples, the academic owls who savor their wads of rejection and rancor should form a hybrid with the vultures of far-right populism, Le Monde diplomatique will have been the laboratory.

I speak out now because we may not be far from that point.