The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, March 10, 2003

i fart in your general direction!
Those pesky French! How dare they get in the way of Dubbaya's little Iraqi Adventure? It's darn near enough to hit 'em with a highly symbolic boycott of all things (obviously) French and French-ish.

Of course, in an increasingly globalized world (at least the developed part of it), where corporate and macroeconomic concerns are so intertwined that it's hard to tell if most products even have a national origin/identity, boycotts like this are not at all effective. I'm betting not one of the pinheads in this piece is even considering boycotting, say, any of Vivendi Universal's media properties, which consist (at least for now) of a big hunk of American popular culture.

But of course, that's not the point in actions like these. It's all about symbolism--you target those things that are obviously, distinctly French. Even when they're not. To wit: I especially like the renaming of French fries to "freedom fries"; very reminiscent of the "victory cabbage" moniker given to sauerkraut during World War II. (Note that that didn't last.)

I really like how this referenced article sets this latest division between America and France within the context of the entire history of Franco-American interaction:

To historians, however, these sorts of jibes are as old as the two republics themselves. Born from the same intellectual ferment of the late 18th century, they are at once closely intertwined, yet radically different... Both see themselves as models for new nations — America's ideal of a democracy unencumbered by government vs. France's notion of a state as the central and active agent in society. Both see themselves as leaders of the new global statecraft — America's might vs. France's consensus...

"French culture is influenced by aristocratic images," says Jean-Philippe Mathy, author of French Resistance: The French-American Culture Wars. "That clashes with the popular culture of the U.S."

When you get right down to it, the French just make such tempting targets, cheese-eating surrender monkeys that they are. Much more satisfying to attack than the Germans or Russians, who of course are just as opposed to an Iraq war.