Bernard-Henri Lévy: The Poverty and Shame of Le Monde Diplomatique
Le Monde diplomatique, which has no editorial connection with Le Monde, is not well known outside France.
In a way, that is too bad, because it is very typical of the French intellectual and journalistic scene — typical, too, of the brand of populism of which the election of Emmanuel Macron checked the progress but which remains deeply rooted in our nation’s ideology.
The article you are reading was occasioned by the recent appearance on the website of Le Monde diplo, as the monthly is known in France, of a “dossier“ containing “twenty years of archives,” “freely accessible,” concerning … myself. But myself as Don Corleone, as oligarch, as mystifier, as the devil incarnate, and as a “significant” representative of the French “system.”
I will not dwell in detail on this treasure trove of obscure articles that, for the most part, I had not seen before.
And I will not attempt to correct — at least not at the moment — the mind-boggling quantity of falsehoods, nonsense, and petty insults that make up this monomaniacal and really rather pathetic compilation.
The more so because the editors’ manner of introducing the dossier was reminiscent of the Marquise de Sévigné announcing the marriage of M. de Lauzun: “I am going to tell you something most astonishing, most surprising, most miraculous, most triumphant, most bewildering, most unheard of …” — in other words because this affair, which has caused a minor uproar in France, is really rather grotesque and pitiful.
But since I have been given the opportunity, I will not forgo the pleasure of saying what I think about this monthly, to which, in the course of the Portuguese revolution of 1975, I submitted one of my very first dispatches, but which today retains nothing of Le Monde except shareholders, nothing diplomatic except the word in the title, and nothing respectable except the memory of its distant founders.
One has to know, for example, that Le diplo is one of the last places in France where the likes of Tariq Ramadan, ideologist of the Muslim Brotherhood and icon of the brosphere, the man who is proud not to be Charlie and who sees the hand of the intelligence services behind the Islamist attacks on Toulouse and Brussels, is still considered an authority: a former Diplo director, Alain Gresh, and others went so far as to say in a piece dated April 3, 2016, which appears in the dossier, that his voice remains one that “carries weight in poor neighborhoods” and to which “young people listen.”
One has to remember that at Le diplo all manner of conspiracy theories are, often uncritically, echoed, whether it is the hard brand of conspiracy of Professor Annie Lacroix-Riz, who, in a talk to the Friends of Le Monde diplomatique of the city Montpellier, endeavored to prettify the fascistic myth of the synarchism of the secret elite; or the hardly less hard brand favored by Holocaust denier Jean Bricmont, who was long responsible for Le diplo’s reviews of anti-American and anti-Zionist books; or even the chic variant of Mr Frédéric Lordon, a sort of younger clone of Marxist thinker Alain Badiou who, while half-heartedly disavowing the embarrassing excesses of oafish thugs in the mold of neofascist Alain Soral, maintains that it is no more absurd to see plots everywhere than not to see them anywhere and that there is indeed a conspiracy of “the dominant” to blind the dominated.
One has to read to believe the sycophantic review (reprinted in the dossier and dated August 2009) of Paul-Eric Blanrue’s Sarkozy, Israël et les juifs (2009) in which Blanrue wonders whether France has not become “a Zionist country” and whether former President Nicolas Sarkozy might not have been recruited by the Mossad; or the review (November 2004) of Alain Ménargues’s ignominious tract entitled “Le mur de Sharon” (Sharon’s wall), which explains Israel’s security barrier in terms of an atavistic “Jewish separatism” derived from Leviticus.
One has to read, if only to laugh, the article that a former director of Le diplo posted, in September 2016, on a website affiliated with Le diplo. The fawning article was devoted to one Donald Trump, in whom the author found a thousand virtues because of his supposed hostility to “the system,” the likelihood that he would abandon the “liberal orientation,” and his willingness to attack “media power,” “economic globalization” and “Wall Street’s arrogance” — and that’s not the half of it.
And I raise only for the record the way in which these consummately French “anti-imperialists,” forty years after Castro’s tyranny was fully exposed, embraced the Cuban’s pitifully cartoonish remake. The young people of Venezuela are enslaved by a grotesque regime; they despair of the future; and they are hungry. And Le diplo? After years of swooning over Hugo Chavez’s military get-ups, it continues to worship his zombie, Nicolas Maduro, who is even more cruel and reactionary.
There are forums like this, in my home country and elsewhere.
Attractors of the worst.
Dark magnets, magnetizing the most calamitous products of an era.
Except that machines of this sort are usually found on the far right, whereas Le diplo persists in claiming the radical tradition of the far left.
The far left, unfortunately for Le diplo, knew great days, great nights, and great metaphysical elation, the appeal of which a few of us still recall very well.
The far left decreed universal insurrection and sought to break in two the history of the world, in order to bring about a sort of bodily assumption of the human race into the heavens of post-history and so free it from the idols and ghosts of the past century.
These are things about which the contributors to Le diplo’s trifling dossier no longer have any idea whatsoever: they are just professors preserved in their own devotion, clueless and deluded practitioners of an alternative journalism whose idea of boldness is to go after an independent writer, and self-appointed commissars who one day really should find the time to thank me since the fury that I inspire in them seems to have become their last tether to reality.
But it is not that simple.
Because being senile and stupid does not stop them from being vicious.
That they are baboons who brood on their resentment does not prevent them from being dangerous.
And I would continue to treat them with contempt, as I have done for twenty years, were I not persuaded that with them the red line — or red–brown line — is being crossed.
If the ends of the political spectrum meet, it will happen through outlets like Le diplo.
If, by one of those interbreedings of species of which the last century gave us such infamous examples, the academic owls who chew over, spit out, then ingest again their wads of rejection and rancor should form a hybrid with the vultures of far-right populism, Le Monde diplomatique will have been the cutting-edge laboratory.
We may not be far from that point.
Bernard-Henri Lévy is one of France’s most famed philosophers, a journalist, and a bestselling writer. He is considered a founder of the New Philosophy movement and is a leading thinker on religious issues, genocide, and international affairs.