A Reply to Gérard Depardieu and a Few Others, Concerning the Case of Frêche

The Frêche affair is, all the same, incredible.

Here we have a Socialist authority, head of a major region of France, who calmly explains, in reference to his fellow party member, Laurent Fabius, that "to vote for this guy in Haute-Normandie" would "be a problem" for him, because "he has a mug that's not Catholic."

And an entire sector of public opinion, Socialist and non-socialist, rises to the defense not of the insulted, but of the insulter. There's no danger here, they explain, we have to stop seeing evil and--case in point--antisemitism everywhere. It was just a turn of speech, a joke, a play on words. Even Gérard Depardieu, yes, the great Gérard Depardieu himself, whose political interventions we can count on the fingers of one hand, takes up his pen to demand that we "lay off" Monsieur Frêche, for Monsieur Frêche has "done great things for the region" and is "more genuine and likeable than Martine Aubry and company." And, he adds, Monsieur Frêche has done nothing more than say out loud what, in Depardieu's family, as in all families where no one "knew how to read or write" and where the father "drank," was always whispered.

The trouble is, dear Gérard Depardieu, Monsieur Frêche knows how to read and write, and he knows that one capable of both is responsible for what he says.

The trouble is, when one is Monsieur Frêche, in other words an elected representative of the Republic, alcohol is no excuse for antisemitism, racism, or obscenity.

The trouble is, the truth is that it is better to say nothing at all and not to dabble in politics, than to accept that politics be reduced to this zero degree consisting of the affirmation of one individual or another as more "genuine" or "likeable" in character than the next, as you seem to do. This is the way people once spoke of Jean-Marie Le Pen; for the naïve, this was his strength and his asset. "At least he says what he thinks, at least he speaks bluntly," people said. "We're sick and tired of this sanitized language, this cant, this refined language that's the mark of the establishment he, at least, had the merit to break with. Yes, that's what people said, and it was enough to assure him a "likeable" place on the stage and in their hearts. Really, must we go back to that? Must a man like you fall into the trap of a platitude so crass?

For the truth is, if we let such a remark pass, if we allow a leader of this calibre to express himself like any old drunken brute or, as you declare, the "humorist" that he, alas, clearly is not, if we allow an official who has, perhaps, done "great things" for "his region" to speak of Laurent Fabius as Charles Maurras spoke of Léon Blum or Georges Mandel, then, dear Depardieu, we are contributing to a decline in the public mind that has not for a long while been so evident as it is these days. I do not wish to dramatize, nor to use overblown words, nor to lend this affair more importance than a simple case of verbal incontinence on the part of an old man that reminds us that foolishness and populism are no more exclusive to one camp than to the other, but one cannot let it pass.

The Socialist Party already should have expelled Monsieur Frêche in 2006, when he insulted a group of Harkis of Montpellier by calling them "subhumans." 

It should have parted with him when, in February and in November of the same year, he used, word for word, Jean-Marie Le Pen's description of the French football team, which had become, in his eyes, a bunch of "cretins" who "don't know how to sing La Marseillaise" because they are nearly all "Blacks." "Normality," the mayor of Montpellier delicately explained, "would be for there to be three or four!" But there, with "nine Blacks out of eleven," we've gone past the threshold and it's the soul of France that is lost!

He should have been driven out, this man, the year before, when he explained that his setbacks at the polls were due to the fact that his city was «an advanced post for the Tsahal» when it wasn't a «fief of veiled women» with connections with Al-Qaeda. Of his constituents of North African origin, he said, "They won't want to impose their religion upon us now," but "the major problem is not the religion, but the number." This was followed by, "I'm sick of seeing France feel guilty about colonization," and too bad for the "academic assholes" who will find fault with my brilliant idea to create a "museum of France in Algeria", in the region where I have accomplished so many great things.

They are doing so today.

I was going to say only today.

But it's never too late to do the right thing.

And the Socialists must know that the effect of the least prevarication or accommodation, the least manœuvre or contortion in the face of Martine Aubry's decision will be to disqualify in advance all they may have to say about this debate on national identity or that blunder on the part of Messieurs Hortefeux or Besson.

The Frêche affair is not an affair, it is one of those markers--Michel Foucault would have said one of those "secretions of the times"--where the essential is at stake, and where, in this case, politics reclaims its honor, or loses it.