Last week, Emmanuel Micron, I mean Macron, visited Washington, had dinner at the White House, and gave a speech on Capitol Hill in which he referred to Hemingway's memoir A Moveable Feast as a novel, identified the French architect of Washington, D.C., whom Americans know as Pierre L'Enfant, by his middle name, Charles, and attributed a famous line by Ronald Reagan to Teddy Roosevelt. The line in question was the one about how freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.
There was, in fact, a good deal of rhetoric in his speech about freedom – and the threats thereto. Given what's going on in France these days, that would only make sense. But his approach to his country's – and the West's – current travails was, to say the least, curious. On 9/11, asserted Macron, “many Americans had an unexpected rendezvous with death.” How poetic! How French! And how inappropriate a way to refer to thousands of people being evaporated one fine Tuesday morning. He made it sound as if death by jihad had been their divinely ordained destiny – as if the hijackers of those planes had been instruments of some cosmic will.
Macron went on to mention the “terrible terrorist attacks” that have struck his own country in recent years. “It is a horrific price,” he pronounced, “to pay for freedom, for democracy.” Meaning what? In what sense are such attacks the “price” we “pay for freedom”? Did Macron mean something like what London mayor Sadiq Khan meant when he said that living with terrorism is “part and parcel of living in a big city”? I'd say the people who died on 9/11 were paying for American leaders' blithe indifference to the existential danger of Islam – and that those who've died in more recent terror attacks in Europe were paying for their own leaders' cowardly irresolution (or outright defeatism) on the subject.
Macron might have said something gutsy about his fellow politicians' culpability in the violent deaths of terrorist victims. But no. Like every other European-establishment political hack, he posed as a hero of freedom. Some hero: he didn't dare breathe the word Islam or Muslim or even jihad. But what else to expect from a man who, as French author Guy Millière noted in March, has called for Arabic to taught in every French high school, for “cathedral mosques” to be built in every major French city, and for enhanced measures to be taken against critics of Islam?
In any event, Macron's grandiose Gallic gush about freedom – and about the cherished centuries-long friendship between the American and French people (yeah, tell that to the cab drivers in Paris) – was really just throat-clearing before he got around to the Paris climate-change accords, the Iran deal, and trade.
Yes, there was this, somewhat later in his oration: “Both in the United States and in Europe, we are living in a time of anger and fear because of these current global threats, but these feelings do not build anything....Closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse but inflame the fears of our citizens.” Qu'est-ce que c'est? The French claim to love logic. But where's the logic here? By “current global threats,” Macron presumably meant jihadist violence and Islamization. But what was Macron telling us to do about them? Nothing. Fear is bad. Anger is wrong. And stronger border controls? They won't work, because they won't stop the world's “evolution.” Is evolution his euphemism for Islamization?
Macron proceeded to denounce “extreme nationalism.” Clearly, he wasn't talking about actual far-right fascists. No, he meant “America first.” He meant Brexit. “Personally, if you ask me,” he said, “I do not share the fascination for new, strong powers, the abandonment of freedom, and the illusion of nationalism.” In short, he was equating “freedom” with rule by the EU and UN (for which he worked in a plug) and indicting ordinary folks who actually think their countries belong to them. During his rant about climate change, Macron proclaimed that we need to save the Earth because, as he put it, “there is no planet B!” Well, I couldn't help thinking, there's no France B, either. And the fact is that his own country is going down the tubes – and fast. But if you believed his speech, the only threat to liberté, égalité, et fraternité in the West isn't Islam but “fake news.”
Yes, he actually used those words. Unlike Trump, however, he wasn't referencing the left-wing distortions of CNN, the New York Times, and their European equivalents. Here's what he said: “To protect our democracies, we have to fight against the ever-growing virus of fake news, which exposes our people to irrational fear and imaginary risks.” Irrational fear? Imaginary risks? Plainly, here was yet another craven European pol who, even as Rome is burning, insists that the problem isn't the arsonists or the fire but the firefighters. How many of the House and Senate members applauding him on Capitol Hill knew that Macron recently called for a law in France that would summarily close down online sources of “fake news” – by which (he's made clear) he means news sources critical of Islam?
Macron's Washington speech, as it happened, came only days after the release of the most comprehensive study yet of Islam in France. Co-sponsored by the Sorbonne, it concluded that the country's second- and third-generation Muslims, who make up seven or eight percent of its population, are increasingly Islamized. Most have no respect for French law and culture; most approve of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Researcher Olivier Galland said his results were, “to put it mildly, harrowing” – reflective of community values in stark contrast with those of la belle Republique.
France's mainstream news media reacted to the study with outrage. Galland and his team, charged Le Monde, were “stimatizing Muslims.” But for those not interested in whitewashing Islam, the study only affirmed a grim reality that has been reported worldwide for years in what Macron would call “fake news” media – a reality of no-go zones, mass car burnings, large-scale gang riots, police who are scared to arrest Muslims, firefighters who hesitate to enter Muslim neighborhoods, anti-Semitic attacks that are driving Jews from France, historians who feel compelled to write “Islamically correct” textbooks, and high-school teachers who (as Millière puts it) “go to work with a Qur'an in their hands, to make sure that what they say in class does not contradict the sacred book of Islam.” Oh, and a tiny cohort of brave fools who are put on trial for daring to speak the truth about all this.
Another recent document is of interest here. On March 19, Le Figaro published a statement signed by about one hundred French intellectuals, among them Alain Besançon, Pascal Bruckner, Alain Finkielkraut, Bernard Kouchner, Robert Redeker, Pierre-André Taguieff, and Ibn Warraq. “Islamist totalitarianism,” they warned, is gaining ground in France by, among other things, representing itself “as a victim of intolerance.” It has demanded – and received – “a special place” in French society, resulting in an “apartheid” that “seeks to appear benign but is in reality a weapon of political and cultural conquest.” The signatories declared their opposition to this silent subjugation and their wish “to live in a world where women are not deemed to be naturally inferior....a world where people can live side by side without fearing each other....a world where no religion lays down the law.”
On the one hand, it was a powerful manifesto – nothing less than a j'accuse for the twenty-first century – whose power lay in its courageous candor about the real threat facing the Republic of France. On the other hand, my response upon reading it was: Well, good luck with that. Some of these intellectuals have been saying these things for a long time; others have joined the chorus more recently. All praise to every last one of them. But nothing will change in France until public proclamations by intellectuals give way to meaningful nationwide action by ordinary citizens – who, alas, in the second and deciding round of last year's presidential election, gave Macron, this would-be Marshal Pétain, twice as many votes as the woman who, whatever her imperfections and her unfortunate parentage, is the closest their poor broken country has to a potential Saint Joan.