By Andrew Dittmer, who recently finished his PhD in mathematics at Harvard and is currently continuing work on his thesis topic. He also taught mathematics at a local elementary school. Andrew enjoys explaining the recent history of the financial sector to a popular audience
Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, was denied travel over France, Spain, Portugal, and (purportedly also) Italy, and then forced to land in Vienna, in response to suspicions that Edward Snowden was being sheltered on the plane. France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, expressed his “regrets” over the “accident,” citing “delays in the confirmation of flight authorization over [French] territory for President [Morales’] plane.”
The title of this article is excerpted from this rather typical reaction of a subscriber to the French newspaper Le Monde:
It looked like France was indignant about Snowden’s revelations. But they act like the lackeys of the U.S. once they have an opportunity. The French are like chihuahuas. They yap loudly but they don’t bite!!!
Although the incident occurred several days ago, the responses among French readers were so extraordinary that they merit further attention. For many, the incident represented an unmistakable turning point:
There is a certain concept of the world that is disappearing definitively.
And so I have selected a representative sample of these responses, both from Le Figaro (center right) and Le Monde (center left), and formed them into a conversation:
– So that’s Hollande’s excuse? They didn’t know it was Morales’ plane! They really take us for imbeciles.
– Our President has even declared on television that he didn’t know if there were one or two airplanes [...]
– Regrets?! Who is going to buy that???
– His “regrets” only matter to those who believe that they’re real.
– If the [governing] Socialist Party is Washington’s doggy, he might as well just say it. Should we get ourselves ready to lick Obama’s hand? Bravo, Hollande. Bravo.
– It’s clear that not only do the Americans listen to what the French are saying, the French also listen to what the Americans tell them to do, like blocking Morales’ flight path.
– What Hollande is saying sounds very much like a straight-up lie.
– M. Hollande: “As soon as I knew that it was the Bolivian president’s plane, I immediately authorized its flying over [French territory].” A little reminder, the airplane was stuck in Vienna for 13 hours! It is absolutely necessary to buy M. Hollande a cell phone and stop using messenger pigeons [...] What does [he] take us for?
– Who is he making into a joke, anyway? People who believed in him and voted for him and who are discovering today how low he has fallen. It’s pathetic.
Consequences for French Politics
– Obviously France is a subordinate nation and its President Hollande has no balls.
– All the Americans have to do is snap their fingers and he lies down.
– The Americans must have discovered something tremendous about Hollande if he gets on his belly like that before them.
– I’m a socialist and I am really, really disillusioned !!!!
– The PS [Socialist Party] and Hollande would do that?! I’m hurt by… not by France. I’m hurt by the PS. They shouldn’t do that! Let Sarko or some other jerk do that. But not the PS!! Bootlickers! When you don’t have pride in your own ideas, you are nobody. They protest at being spied on but then they give in! I am VERY disillusioned!
– Personally, I expected nothing out of Hollande… and thinking things over, I believe I have received even less than nothing.
– Tony Blair was Bush’s poodle, does our “socialist” president aspire to becoming Obama’s? Is France, home of the Rights of Man, worthy of such behavior?
– Daddy [Hollande] dances around with mommy Merkel who has no more depth than he, and [then] bows his head before “Yes We Can” [...]
– Everybody’s ready to pound their fist on the table against the American spying, and on the other hand, when it comes time to submit, everybody’s ready to do that, too… What a disgrace for France.
– Our status as a vassal is almost worse than that of the Eastern European countries relative to the USSR. They were under military occupation. For Hollande, the servility is in his head.
– Hollande is a socialist. He claims to be a defender of freedoms and of the oppressed. And he just acted like Washington’s rug.
– I can no longer discern anything socialist in this gang of social climbers. [...] This head of the government deserves to be on trial for high treason [...]
– The little clique of social-traitors [wordplay on social-democrats] in power besmirches the tradition of France as a land of welcome. They’re a band of diplomatic eunuchs! What a disgrace…
– Hollande had plenty of chances, he wasted them all.
– Hollande: the man who has failed in his rendez-vous with history.
– Excuses are not enough to remedy this offense to President Evo Morales. It would be appropriate to require the Minister of Foreign Affairs [Laurent Fabius] to resign.
– It’s pretty obvious that Fabius is taking orders from the U.S…. and if Snowden had been in the plane, would France have turned over this idealistic and courageous young man over to Obama’s police?
– If Hollande isn’t responsible, he should exercise his authority and punish [his subordinates]. If he’s responsible… he should leave. This act is an insult of all of Latin America and it tarnishes the image of our country.
– But the problem is, I’m worried that they [Hollande and Fabius] could care less about France. What they want is power.
– Hollande, resign! Go to the U.S., given that you’re their servant! I’m ashamed of my country.
– Next everyone will be astonished that the extreme right is attracting more and more supporters.
– I voted for the socialists. It will probably have been the last time since I don’t see much of a difference between Nicolas [Sarkozy] and this guy on anything.
– To think that I’ve always defended Hollande against wind and tides, even when my wallet suffered as a result. But this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A French socialist that is the United States’ poodle, who would have thought!
– [...] I believe France has finally understood that after deceiving itself the first time by choosing Nicolas Sarkozy, it deceived itself a second time by electing François Hollande; the goal is not to choose the worst of the French, but the best [...]
– As for me, it’s over. O. V. E. R.
– Never again will I vote for Hollande, a reactionary who turns himself into America’s rug. No matter what the cost.
– In the space of a few minutes, France has lost all of the interest and sympathy that many countries in South America felt for her. It will take decades to win them back, given that a monstrous incident of these dimensions is not forgotten.
– The U.S. acts like a thug, and we pamper it. Bolivia, more polite and not spying on us, gets treated the way we treat criminals.
– Bolivia doesn’t deserve this – it’s one of the poorest countries in South America, and its people are charming, full of hospitality, and friendly to the French.
– If any Bolivians are reading this – we are horrified by what just happened.
– All of our apologies, Monsieur Morales.
– Long live Bolivia. Shame on Europe that protects the American looters and tries to attack those who want to protect it from spying.
– Solidarity with the Andean peoples!
– Please, Bolivians, forgive our wretched government!
– Did this happen because Evo Morales is an Indian?
– I hope that this incident will have consequences and that the insult to the Bolivians will be paid dearly! It is worthy of the worst banana republic imaginable!
– The Bolivian president is completely right to be outraged; putting myself in his place, I’m outraged, too [...]
– Maybe he should count himself lucky. What if France had received orders from the U.S. to send Rafales [fighter planes] to destroy his aircraft?
– Isn’t it nice [of Hollande] to say he’s sorry? I scarcely dare imagine [what would happen] if François Hollande had been stuck on a flight and forced to sleep in a hotel because of a decision of the Bolivian state.
– Why doesn’t Hollande entertain himself by doing the same thing to a plane transporting Putin? If he has the courage…
– [in response to pictures showing the French flag burned in Bolivia] It is shameful to see France cast down, the flag burned – and justly – by a foreign country.
– HOLLANDE made it legitimate for a Bolivian with any self-respect to burn the French flag. I will never forgive that effete reactionary for this crime.
– It is appropriate for the Bolivians to react like this!
If I were the Bolivian President, I would demand for my ambassador in France to return to Bolivia!
If I were the Bolivian President, I would immediately send the French ambassador back to his own country!
If I were the Bolivian President, I would break every relationship with all of these boot-waxers in the pay of the Americans.
If I were the Bolivian President, I would grant Snowden political asylum without hesitation. It’s a question of honor.
– [in a center-right newspaper] One should read the reactions of our friends on the Left [...] seeing the incompetence of their president taking orders from the U.S. [...] Take comfort, Monsieur Morales, this president [Hollande] doesn’t stand for very many people in France.
The Place of France and Europe in the World
– How is it possible that four European countries clowned around in such a dramatic, pathetic, shameful way? Europe didn’t say anything when it was flown over by American airplanes carrying prisoners off to be tortured in countries that it considered as “friends.”
– Some questions: Did France become this week a new state in the U.S.A.? Did Hollande become the new governor of this state? Is he under the authority of Obama and his administration?
– What little dogs we have become! Freedom and independence of sovereign states no longer exist outside of South America or what? [France is the] “Land of the Rights of Man” yeah rrrright… [... no, it’s] a vassal country that doesn’t even have ambition.
– It was already clear that, after the Iraq war and Monsieur Tony Blair, England had become a protectorate of the United States. Too bad for them. But I supposed, naively perhaps, that Europe was still made out of countries worthy of that name.
– It was evident that France was in a subordinate position vis-à-vis the U.S.A., but with this insult towards another country, it has shown that it is its forearm in Europe.
– The General [de Gaulle] must be jumping within his tomb!
– The Rights of Man???? Well, I guess it’s true that we’re trying to buy drones from them…
– There’s nothing surprising in seeing European governments following [American] orders – the European Union was created by Schuman and Monnet, two odd-job men of the Americans [...]
– Our rapprochement to the U.S.A. is pulling us further and further downwards, we sink into mediocrity: from the financial/subprime crisis to the debacle in Afghanistan, from the flirting with Al-Qaeda in Syria to the crude behavior towards Morales, it’s all quite ugly.
– At least this incident has shattered the fiction of national sovereignty – the U.S. is the master of the world, and when it commands, the lackeys obey, in despite of all of their own rules. The U.S. will perhaps manage to get its hands on Snowden through its mafia-style methods, but it will lose its honor and credibility in the process.
– The whole atmosphere makes one think immediately of the worst moments of the Cold War, but the bear isn’t on the same side any more!
– Obama has revealed his true nature, and he has already lost much of his luster. He as well will not come out of this business with his stature increased.
– They [the Americans] are led by their paranoia to behave like actual enemies and Obama is no better than his predecessor. Oh crap, I’m going to get myself noticed by Prism, Echelon, and other liberty-killing filth!
– Prism: Affirmative!
– The greatest contribution of this great Monsieur, Snowden, isn’t so much to have revealed the thuggish tactics of the U.S. empire [...] – these were already known. No, it is above all to have demystified this gang of lackeys of the U.S. and of ultraliberalism who govern us, and these commissioners of the supposedly European instituion.
– All of this is indicative of a great solidarity [that they feel] for [those] spying on us.
– Voluntary servitude. That’s what we have, docile slash servile elites. And we elected them.
– The Master spies on us, strips us naked, and our only reaction is to display zeal in trying to please him… In psychoanalytic terms, it’s the syndrome of the consenting battered woman.
– There’s no point in trying to please the neoconservative bosses in Washington. The U.S. hyperpower doesn’t have friends, only vassals.
– The U.S.A. isn’t our ally. It is our master.
– This episode is in a final analysis trivial, because it reflects the true impact of this country upon the struggles of nations: Zero.
– The Americans can truly do what they want…
The Upcoming Trade Negotiations
– And that is promising for the [upcoming] negotiations on free trade…
– Now [Hollande] will go perform his little circus, threatening to break off his negotiations with the U.S.. As if we had a say in the matter!
– [...] after a “simulation of indignation” [... one] then begins to negotiate with people who respect nothing and no one…
– The free trade accords reduce to eliminating all of our protections against GMOs, against the large firms that want to steal away public contracts and the systems of data collection. In short, they are an iron curtain around the U.S. colonies in order to guarantee their possession of their market.
– Why don’t we accept all of the American positions in the negotiation over a single market? Particularly let’s make sure that we are even more deluged by debased cultural products aimed at the mentally retarded.
That would be perfect!
– We could save a lot of money if we just let the U.S.A. write [the accords] on its own. All we would have to do is sign. Even better, we could give a stamp with the European signature to Obama and he could use it as he pleases.
– This episode confirms the great value of the information in Snowden’s hands, considering that sovereign European states are ready to fold to commands of the U.S. [in order to suppress that information.]
– We should definitely send to Guantanamo someone who has revealed the tactics of the NSA and forced HOLLANDE to “speak more vigorously” with our new Masters…
– The Snowden affair has shown that [...] a gigantic web of surveillance is being put into place on a planetary scale, from which no citizen will be able to escape. [...] M. Snowden should instead receive a Nobel Prize for the defense of freedom!
– France, or at least those who are its leaders and who are termed its elites, is upset with Snowden for having created a problem for them by telling them what they already knew and were pretending not to.
– [And so,] a young idealist who reveals to the world the cynicism of his own country is treated like a pariah by all of the consenting, servile victims.
– It was to be expected that the French would not have the balls to welcome Snowden. France has its own surveillance programs. But that it stops him from obtaining political asylum… Pathetic.
– We must save soldier Snowden. France should offer passport, asylum, and protection to Snowden the Freedom Fighter.
– Snowden in France? Do you want him to die?
– Not only should we have (and perhaps we still can) grant political asylum to Snowden, but we should decorate him with the Legion of Honor. Here is a man of courage! Monsieur Hollande, I voted for you but you could learn from his example, your indecision shames me.
The Curiously Quiet Reaction
– Imagine if a right-wing government had done this… There would have been demonstrations, the press would have found it scandalous…
– In France, there is radio silence…
– In the American media? Radio silence.
– Not a word on the subject on the 7-8 TV news on France 3 yesterday. As if it were a triviliaty.
– At 1pm on that day, France 2 consecrated 35 seconds to the Morales affair, obviously without mentioning Hollande’s role (the obligatory Soviet touch).
– I saw and noticed the same thing. Lies by omission: the way the mainstream media manipulates the news.
– The silence of the politicians on this topic is completely deafening. It adds shame to the shame.
– Thanks for having pointed out this cowardly silence that dishonors them. Only the Party of the Left of Mélenchon denounced this scandal this morning [...]
– [in a center-right newspaper] No one on the Right is denouncing this incredible violation of individual freedom and this blow to the rights of man.
– The gulf between the treatment of this incident in the media and the reaction of individual citizens (for example the comments of the subscribers to Le Monde, or on the social networks) is extremely significant. The abyss between the “powerful” and the population becomes enormous, the gulf is just as big here as in Egypt, in Turkey, in Iran, or in Brazil.
– I have just finished reading the comments in der Spiegel, Zeit, Sueddeutsche, Figaro, Monde. Not a single comment favorable to our governments, none! For the first time, the European people seem to be speaking unanimously. Was such a disgrace really necessary in order for this to happen?
Discordant Voices, and Reactions to Them (actually, only about 99% of readers were critical of the government, but in the interest of balance..)
• It isn’t appropriate for French diplomacy to defend ideals, but rather the interests of France. Here it was clear – the GDP of Bolivia is half of that of Wyoming. In the process were international conventions about heads of state trampled on? Again, Bolivia has a GDP half as big as that of North Dakota. Calling [Morales] a “head of state” is exaggerating a bit.
– And honor and dignity, how is that measured in GDP?
– Your comment inspires deep contempt, equal to what you feel for small GDPs. Your theses are ignoble.
• No one will welcome, or help Snowden to flee, given that he is an employee of the CIA who turned and who has behaved like a traitor to his country.
– Traitor to his country! Easy enough to say, right in line for your petty Americanophile Atlantico-Guantanamism. Let’s hope that the listening ears follow your every indiscretion, that the camera explores your daily life, and that a large folder follows you from the CIA to the FBI detailing whatever minor faults you happen to commit!
• The CIA could care less about what I say, write, and think, and of any indiscretions I might commit… Meanwhile all of you keep saying “Shame, shame” and it’s comical [...]
– [...] I will remind you one more time of Lenin’s expression for Western intellectuals who supported Bolshevism: “useful idiots.” Our Western system has them too…
Real and Formal Democracy
– It is entirely clear that the legume-like people who claim to govern us have decided that we are neither sovereign nor independent. Without even going through the pretext of asking for our advice [...] The strange defeat, wrote Marc Bloch a long time ago. [“The Strange Defeat” is a book about how the French defeat at the hands of the Nazis was first and foremost an intellectual defeat.]
– Here is a subject for a philosophical essay: [...] When voting differently no longer changes the substance, but only the form of state politics, are we then still in a democracy? Is the people still master of its destiny, or is it only a spectator, regardless of its vote?
– I am sick of a “Democracy” in which, after the elections, it is necessary to endure all sorts of corruption without the citizens having the legal instruments to intervene and make corrections. [...] LET’S CREATE A MOVEMENT ENLARGING OUR CIVIC RIGHTS!
– They have tried to sell us a pseudo – “clash of civilizations,” a clash between Islam and the West [...] Now we can see where the real rift is, the States under domination on one side, their peoples on the other.
– The more we go forward the less I support this government, even though I voted for it in hope only one year ago. Perhaps the Egyptians are not wrong! They are rebelling for bread and freedom. We should pay attention to their example.
– I agree with you: the entire government needs to go up in smoke, and Hollande with it. Where are we heading with a team like this of sinister clowns?
– Against this president who uses hypocritical double language, killing freedom, against this Interior Minister on his knees before the U.S., I am ready to participate in Toulouse in any demonstration against this Left government that I voted for.
– I’m with you… In Toulouse or elsewhere…
– As with everything else, one imagines that this disgraceful, wretched incident shall be swept away, erased by the waves of the informational ocean that saturates our spirits. But something tells me it will remain in the memory of the peoples. Of the Bolivian people, without any doubt. And perhaps also of the French people, whose reputation has been so gravely tarnished by an unworthy government.
The two source articles: