Dieudonné is not an ordinary racist. He is a talented racist. Sometime ago he shared the stage with a Jewish comedian Elie Semoun, making fun of Blacks and Jews in a good spirit with a healthy self-mockery. It is quite difficult to understand why Dieudonné is playing with fire now.
Look back in Anger
Anger is so easy to trigger, it is easy to fan the flames of hatred in a crisis when people are unhappy and frustrated. Recent surveys show that the feeling of happiness in France is lower, than in any other country in Europe. The need to find an enemy is more acute when the enemy is impalpable, and that is what stand up comedian Dieudonné is doing.
Eating pineaple and pussy
It may sound like a funny joke as in Brian de Palma, « Scarface movie » when mafioso Tony Montana (Al Pacino) interrogated by the policeman says he has been eating « pineaple » for « pussy ». Dieudonné dubiously named « show Ananas (pineaple) », with a play on words « Shoah nanas », nana meaning girls in French, implying sex and Shoah, when he qualified the Shoah as a « memorial pornography ».
Dieudonné went one step beyond when he invited Robert Faurisson, a well known negationist, denying the gas chambers ever existed, to give him an extra presence on stage. In his show, participants are invited to do the « quenelle » a mix of the nazi salute and of the French bras d’honneur ( a French version of the « up yours » with the arm).
God lies in the details.
The stand up comedian, whose first name Dieudonné is the same as Louis the XIV’s, literally given by God, has become good friend of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the Front National, who have his opinion a long time ago that the existence of the gas chambers was« a detail ».
The last straw that broke the camel’s back and enticed the minister of Interior, Manuel Valls to ask for a ban on the show, was when Dieudonné said publicly as a new bravado, that he regretted gas chamber did not exist for Patrick Cohen, a French Jewish journalist working on the national radio, France Inter.
What is this about ? Dieudonné’s quite vicious point is the Holocaust victims are « over rated » compared to the too long forgotten victims of slavery, and other ethnic atrocities and that the Jewish victims are getting the best coverage, hence his antisionnism which according to him should not be confused with antisemitism. Officially Dieudonné is just against the system.
What Dieudonné calls the « system » is quite close to what the extreme right calls the « establishment » « l’établissement ». And here comes the usual story, with the media, the finance and the Jews running the system...
As French comic writer, Pierre Desproges, stated cleverly : one can laugh at everything, but not with everybody ( on peut rire de tout mais pas avec n’importe qui). Mohamed Merah the young islamist who killed 7 people including three children in a Jewish school in March 2012 was a great fan of Dieudonné. Recently there were young people doing the « quenelle » in front of the flat of the killer. When in 2006, young Jewish Ilan Halimi was tortured to death by psychopath Fofona and his « Gang des barbares » ( Barbarian gang) because of being Jewish, the kidnappers assumed the rich community » would pay for the ransom. Short cuts are dangerous…
Antisemitism is no longer the prerogative of the extreme right.
In France, once the country of Enlightement, antisemitism used to be a nasty decoration that some « Men in black » – the notorious « chemises noires » from the extreme right - used to wear discreetly on their lapel. It is now fashionable, in some French intellectual left wing circles, to wear the button of antisemitism hidden in an antisionnism rose petal -on the left lapel « thanks » to the stand up comedian, Dieudonné, who happens to be black. It is a pure chance ?
What looks like a minor phenomenon, just a cynical comedian looking for attention, making money playing on people’s frustration, may be deeper than this. It could be the prelude of the remake of the big tensions between Jews and Blacks that started in the late 80’s in the States.
In the US, relationship between Jews and Blacks were quite good in the 1960’s when the empathic Jews took side with the Blacks in the Civil right movement. Jewish landlords were at the time the only ones to accept black people - Martin Luther King noted that they were too many « Jewish owners and shopkeepers ». Reciprocally Black Africans felt empathy with the Israeli state, for they also dreamt of going back to the promised land of Africa. That was until the six day war in 1967 in Israël when some Blacks started identifying with the Palestinians, expelled from their own land. That was an anger that the reverend Jesse Jackson, candidate for the President election easily exploited, nurturing existing tension between Blacks and Jews in the 1980’s.
In France, universalism protected us from defining someone by its race and origin, sometimes hypocritically. Even though racism was latent, it remained inside the Pandora box until President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Minister of Interior, Brice Hortefeux, raised the question of « French national identity » as a national topic. This was done so that the UMP, the right wing party of the president, would get the votes of the extreme right National Front at the next election. But the result was further dividing the French people.
The « poor whites » started to express their discontentment openly. I remember one of my UMP friends of Algerian origin working for the right wing (UMP) leader Jean-François Coppé, telling me how distressed he was when, in spite of his presence, one citizen said « We are fed up with Arabs and Blacks »
The problem with free speech is that it often turns into logorrhea, with the consequence that it transforms fantasy into reality. Another consequence of too much talking is that following the Godwin’s law, one always ends up blaming the Jews.
For the last ten years, the web has been has been working as a particle accelerator that can hardly be stopped now. That is, unless Google, Facebooks and other carriers, become responsible and prevent, as Twitter has started to do, these nauseous wildfire from propagating so easily.
There is also a need for a political gesture and a strong reaction from the French government. But to ban Dieudonné show in France would be a total mistake, inefficient first and it would just reinforce the victim he wants to be.
There is a need just to apply the law. Dieudonné has been convicted 10 times for some 65.000 euros en France and 75.000 euros in Québec and has always managed to get away, by dissipating his assets. The comedian is clearly a tax delinquent as Truman Capote was. So the task of the governement is to find a way to make him pay for his fines - if only for for the sake of democracy.
Because another danger would be to see the emergence an anti black racism in the Jewish community, as it happened in the States. For the Jewish community of France has always been very active on the anti-racism field, helping people like Dieudonné to have a voice and to speak out. That would just be a pity.
I remember Los Angeles in the late 80’s with the gangs proliferating everywhere; that sounded very exotic to me. But suddenly in 2005 cars started burning around Paris.
The United States are always decades in advance, for the best and the worst, a lab for the old Europe. Wouldn’t it be nice, knowing what we are to expect, just for once not to import this … System . Are the French condemned to be copycats ?
If you understand French listen to Brice Couturier’s excellent column podcast on France culture 4th JanuaryAnd to Caroline Fourest’s column 7th January.