The Man Who Exposed French Media's Anti-U.S. Bigotry on Iraq
LONDON â€“ The French media were guilty of gross distortion in their coverage of the war in Iraq, and of systematically misleading the French public, says a journalist who has been sacked for exposing Franceâ€™s anti-American, anti-war bias.
Alain Hertoghe, 44, a writer with French national daily La Croix, was so incensed by the collective misreporting of the French media that he decided to publish a paper highlighting the way the French press misled the French public in their reporting of the Iraqi war and the events that led up to it.
Hertoghe claims that the press repeatedly provided coverage and reports that were â€œsystematically contradicted by the facts.â€
The media in Paris were driven by anti-American, anti-British feelings and a shared hope that the Iraq war would end in defeat for President Bush and his allies.
In pursuing such an agenda the media were dancing to the tune set by President Jacques Chirac, who unashamedly launched repeated tirades against â€œthe Anglo-Saxonâ€ policy against appeasement.
The French leader claimed at the time to enjoy the unquestioning support of the French public. Now Hertogheâ€™s analysis indicates that the French people were duped by an irresponsible French media that deliberately provided misleading reports and accounts.
His book, "La Guerre a Outrances: comment la presse nous a desinformes sur Lâ€™Irak" (The War of Outrages: how the press misled us on Iraq), published in October, has caused such an upset his bosses have dismissed him from his post as deputy editor of their paperâ€™s Internet site.
La Croix claims that by publishing the book, the journalist damaged the interests of the newspaper, and so breached his terms of employment.
Hertoghe, a former foreign correspondent, says his analysis was an objective look at an important event that divulged nothing confidential about his paper.
His book points out that a look at the five leading dailies in France â€“ Liberation, La Croix, Le Figaro, Ouest-France and Le Monde â€“ shows that during the critical three weeks of the war these papers carried 135 anti-U.S./U.K. headlines and only 29 headlines hostile to dictator Saddam Hussein.
As the first whistle-blower, Hertoghe has ruffled many feathers in the French elite. France's media have ostracized the publishers of his book, Calmann-Levy.
One 'Blind' Paper Sees the Light
In a bizarre twist, one of the papers much criticised by the journalist, left-leaning La Liberation, has now rallied to Hertogheâ€™s support.
In a recent editorial, Daniel Schneiderman wrote in La Liberation: â€œThis pamphlet will remind journalists cruelly how we can be blind in the heat of the moment.â€
Schneiderman himself was sacked from Le Monde last October, after apparently raising questions about Le Mondeâ€™s coverage of the war.
The French elite are only slowly adjusting to the reality that 25 million Iraqis were liberated by the U.S.-led war and that Saddam Hussein is behind bars.
Intolerance of American- and British-Style Dissent
Outsiders suggest the time is ripe for the French media to re-examine how they behaved during the Iraq war and the period leading up to it. Many foreign commentators noted during the conflict just how little time or space was made available to alternative or dissenting views in the French media, in contrast to the British media and the American media.
Hertoghe says that as a Belgian who came to France in 1988 he felt the pre-war debate was not conducted as openly or fairly as it should have been.
Double Dose of Extreme Arrogance
In part this was a result of an unholy mixture of French arrogance and journalist arrogance, which at the time created a frenzy of patriotic fervor in France, where nearly everyone seemed drawn into the anti-war campaign.
Now it seems that the French people were force-fed a limited diet of information that cynically produced a synthetic consensus for the tough anti-American line of Chirac.
Hertoghe says the media â€œrecounted nonsense but have never explained to the readers why we recounted nonsense.â€
Ties to Chirac and Thus to His Ally Saddam
Also, unnoted in Hertogheâ€™s report but undeniable, approximately 80 percent of French media is owned by the countryâ€™s two large military contractors, who obviously have close ties to the government. So much for an independent press in the land of liberty, fraternity and equality.
Another news story about it:
French Paper Fires Reporter for Exposing Anti-U.S. Bias
There are media even more biased than ABC's Peter Jennings: A French newspaper has fired a journalist who revealed the quisling French media's Saddamite bigotry against the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Alain Hertogheâ€™s "La Guerre a Outrances" (The War of Outrages) slaps the French media for continually and falsely predicting the war would end badly for the coalition that cowardly France refused to support.
"Readers can't understand why the Americans won the war," Hertoghe told the Associated Press. "The French press wasn't neutral."
The book notes that French "reporters" were more jingoistic than journalistic in writing their lies.
Hertoghe, a Belgian, examined daily coverage by five major dailies: Le Monde, Le Figaro, Liberation, Ouest-France and his employer, La Croix. Over three weeks, the rags printed only 29 headlines condemning the genocidal dictatorship of French ally Saddam Hussein but 135 attacking President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"As soon as there were a couple of wounded, of dead, they were talking about Vietnam, Stalingrad," Hertoghe said, whereas journalists who actually did their jobs and traveled with the troops to report reality observed that "the war was advancing well."
France's poor excuse for journalists, he notes in his book, "dreamed of an American defeat."
La Croix fired Hertoghe on Dec. 15 after the embarrassing book was published, AP reported today.
The five rags, taking a cue from the New York Times, have refused to mention the book exposing them.
"The silence is deafening" in France, though there have been rave reviews in Belgium, said Ronald Blunden, editorial director of Hertogheâ€™s publisher, Calmann-Levy.