by Rachel Marsden
Coverage of Hollande Displays Media's Misplaced Priorities
The most disappointing thing about the news that French President Francois Hollande allegedly has been rendezvousing with an actress in the privacy of her apartment is that it's a testament to how pathetic and petty some segments of French society are allowing public discourse to become in a country historically renowned for grand ideas and debate.
You might ask: So the nation that produced scientists such as
No. Wrong. Thankfully, much of the French public still doesn't care. The media and rival politicians do, and the foreign media does, but a large percentage of the French population has been critical of the media for making this personal matter an item for public discussion.
In the run-up to the president's traditional January press conference this week, the French media speculated about how Hollande would address the alleged affair with French actress
The mainstream French media have been reduced to competing with tabloids and social media for eyeballs. In the "old media" days, newspapers had limited real estate, which meant that when faced with editorial decisions between items related to, say, the French economy and a politician's extramarital affairs, the prurient voyeurism didn't make the cut as actual news. Nowadays, the migration of traditional media to the Internet affords ample space for all sorts of nonsense that doesn't belong outside of coffee klatches. And with the competition for online audience share, one might imagine the kind of iron will required to maintain higher editorial selection standards than the "anything goes" social media cesspool.
Previously, French privacy laws prohibiting the publication of details related to anyone's personal life served as a red line. But in the past few years, simple business math has rendered this deterrent moot. French publications have come to realize that they can set aside some cash for the inevitable legal action -- which Hollande has already threatened in this case -- and still make a profit if enough buzz exists to drive sales.
Opposition politicians are suggesting that Hollande is a hypocrite because he had promised during his campaign to be "irreproachable." Yeah, so? One would hope that even "irreproachable" people have consensual sex. If you're a politician using this as your hammer to bash your rival, then you're the laziest cat in a political jungle that's never short of ripe, low-hanging fruit, and you should relinquish your place at the public trough to someone who can better fake basic competency.
Opposition leader Jean-Francois Copé of the center-right UMP party -- a politician whose ideas and initiatives I've generally supported -- said in a French TV appearance that the situation was "disastrous for the image of the presidential function," and that it's what the international media is talking about in relation to
Someone please hand dear Jean-Francois an empty paper bag and tell him to breathe deeply. If the international media is talking about this, and only this, in relation to
It's not as though the international media would be talking about other things related to
I hope that all the self-appointed gatekeepers stop with the finger-wagging before they somehow manage to make me feel truly sorry for a Socialist.