Posted by: sean | June 21, 2007

Le Monde Diplo

I used to subscribe to Le Monde Diplomatique. It would come at the end of each month, and I’d open it up and give it a read. Some of the articles were really, really interesting, others not at all. After a while, I started realizing that the name was sort of a misnomer, because fully a third of each issue’s content was about the US and how terrible it was. I began thinking to myself that it should be called Les Etats-Unis Diplomatique instead.

Then I read a couple of articles in succession. One was about Scorsese’s film “The Gangs of New York,” and spent several pages explaining how violence was an American characteristic and how even since the beginning of the country that violence had been a part of the American landscape. All of this based not on violent crime rates or the second amendment or gun ownership, but rather on “The Gangs of New York,” a film that was so loosely based on Herbert Asbury’s book (which itself was sexed up and shows many “journalistic liberties” —  a better book is Sante’s Low Life) that it was nominated for “best original screenplay” rather than screenplay adapted from another work. Oh, and the author noted that Thomas Jefferson was the first president of the Republic. This was what was passing for intelligent criticism of the US in Le Monde Diplo?

That article really, really annoyed me, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was an article on China. It was a super-long article that went into a lot of otherwise interesting aspects of the Chinese economy and the country’s place in the world today. A lot of noise was made, over and over again, about how China was a counterweight for the US and how that was a good thing considering American behavior in Iraq and human rights violations and whatnot. How much of this article was devoted to China’s record on human rights? None. Don’t get me wrong, anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m very hard on the US, and in particular American foreign policy in the Middle East and eroding domestic civil rights. But to talk about Guantanamo Bay and Iraq but not mention Tibet, Inner Mongolia or the Uighurs in Xinjiang (or for that matter, Sudan) when talking about how the US and China behave in the world is absurd. It’s the same kind of attitude that discredited so many European leftists when they refused to condemn Stalin while he was committing genocide in the Ukraine and occupying Eastern Europe with an iron first. It’s intellectually dishonest.

So in the end, I stopped reading Le Monde Diplo, because I found much of it to be trite and couldn’t get past its enormous blind spots, especially concerning France herself. So that’s why I was wary to start checking out the magazine’s blogs. I thought maybe I’d be pleasantly surprised, but this Letter from Lebanon and its subtle finger pointing (in the form of a quote, to be sure, but without any explanation or caveat) and not-so subtle comment section where the ramblings of Franklin Lamb are taken as the gospel truth so long as the US is guilty, has made me realize that I was better off (as was my blood pressure) not reading Le Monde Diplo at all.

Note: I do, however, still enjoy reading some of Alain Gresh’s stuff, because he’s much more nuanced and actually knows the region very well.

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