The Dictatorship of the Politically Correct: No, France Is Not Racist

Politically correct has long been scorned in French political debates as an Americanism that shrouds the truth with a veil of well-meaning but misleading euphemisms deployed by the “caviar left,” the French equivalent of limousine liberals.
Now comes “anti-racism,” a word that apparently has come to mean much the same thing, at least as defined by Alain Finkielkraut, a prominent French intellectual who, in his latest book, called it “an unrelenting battle against reality.”
So what exactly does that mean? Some years ago, Mr. Finkielkraut elaborated by saying that “anti-racism was the communism of the 21st century,” suggesting that only brave free-thinking dissidents could raise their voices against the reigning ideology.
This could be an empty semantic debate were it not for recent slurs aimed at Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, a black woman who has been compared to a monkey in a photo on a politician’s Facebook page and on the cover of a right-wing magazine, and taunted with bananas at public demonstrations.
These ugly insults have been condemned across the political spectrum: The politician had to withdraw from the list of candidates for the far-right National Front party; the magazine, Minute, has been taken to court; and a petition against racism has collected more than 100,000 signatures.
But the question of racism — and anti-racism — in France lingers, casting a shadow on an ongoing debate about immigration, as poll after poll shows a deepening resentment of new waves of foreigners arriving in France from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
“One can observe a very clear hardening of French public opinion on the question of immigration,” said Jérôme Fourquet, a director at the polling company Ifop, commenting on poll results published in the magazine Valeurs Actuelles that showed the percentage of French people who think immigration to be a good thing for the country dropping to 37 percent in 2013, from 49 percent in 2007.
The publication of the poll was a key element of a riposte by Valeurs Actuelles, a right-wing magazine with a growing circulation of almost 100,000, to the anti-racist campaign set off by the attacks against Ms. Taubira. The headline: “The Dictatorship of the Politically Correct: No, France Is Not Racist.”
Inside, the magazine circled back to anti-racism, in an article titled “Omerta.” “Anyone who dares to question the credo (that immigration is a bonus for France), repeated in chorus by most of the French media, is thought to be a racist,” the article concluded.
Those are strong words, for which Yves de Kerdrel, editor of Valeurs Actuelles, makes no apology. “There is an evolution of an ideology of anti-racism,” he said. “It is the genes of the French left to use any pretext of racism to get itself out of difficulty.”
He called the Minute cover “a stupidity” that the current Socialist government turned into a “national event.” At a time of high unemployment and record low popularity ratings, “the Socialists have nothing else to rally around,” he added.
That’s why he chose the word “dictatorship” for the magazine’s Nov. 14 cover. “We had to react,” he said.
But react to what? A swift condemnation of obvious, and odious, racism? What does that have to do with a debate about the real problems of integrating immigrants, which, in fact, is aired almost daily in the French media?
Mr. de Kerdrel, whose magazine has recently run a string of strongly worded headlines (“Roma, The Overdose,” and “The New Barbarians: The Foreigners Who Are Pillaging France”), says he is appealing to the “invisible France,” readers who are worried about the changes taking place in their country.
It’s no surprise that in difficult economic times, those anxieties should take a nasty, xenophobic turn, and many commentators, including Ms. Taubira, have warned against breaking barriers that inhibit racist rhetoric.
“A dike has been breached,” she said in the newspaper Le Parisien. “People today don’t have any complexes about making scandalous statements.”

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