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France

Eye on France: Conservative complaint and junk journalism

media Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, reacts during a news conference in Paris, France, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

More advice for French president Emmanuel Macron. And a new twist to the Carlos Ghosn affair in Japan, with the Renault boss himself asking to be brought before a Tokyo court.

The chaps and chapesses at conservative paper Le Figaro do not appear to be in the best of form.

Today’s editorial in the right-wing daily is headlined "Stop pulling the wool over our eyes", and is addressed to the French political class, specifically President Emmanuel Macron.

The problem, as Le Figaro sees it, is that the yellow vest protests have punched a hole in the democratic façade, meaning that the politicians’ claims to be the elected representatives of the people no longer fool anyone.

The people don’t want more explanations, more discussions, more dictats from on high, says Le Figaro. They want to see politics being useful in their daily lives, and not just used to impose new regulations or increase taxes.

Then the right-wing paper gets into its stride, painting an apocalyptic picture of a France “crushed by taxation, wracked by criminality, fearful for the future of its culture, haunted by the spectre of decline.”

Emmanuel Macron’s monstrous task, according to the conservative daily, is to concentrate on a few crucial themes, each one of them dear to the cold, conservative heart: the president must ensure everyday security, curtail state spending, reduce the tax burden, and protect us from uncontrolled immigration.

Would you buy information from the news merchants?

On its features pages, Le Figaro talks to Ingrid Riocreux, author of a book called The News Merchants is which she is harshly critical of modern media in general, and of us journalists in particular.

Riocreux starts the interview by saying that the current public distrust of journalism is an excellent thing. Intelligent criticism proves that the readers, listeners or viewers are awake and that can only force those inside the profession to try harder.

The basic problem is that we journalists are all subject to what Riocreux calls ideological uniformity. We have our own language and our own opinions, and we impose those on our readers. Despite being a tiny closed shop, we claim to speak for the entire world.

The media are planning to take over the world!T

he subtitle of her book is The Totalitarian Ambition Of The Media. We’re not doing it on purpose. In fact, that ambition is driven by an unconscious, almost instinctive, desire to conform to professional orthodoxy. As a group we are allergic to divergent thinking, except in so far as we can use those who reject the orthodox viewpoint to boost our audience and give the impression that we are being objective.

Journalistic objectivity is a well-walked sock as far as Ingrid Riocreux is concerned. It’s a key part of our professional hypocrisy. What we really need, she says, is honest subjectivity.

All our problems as a profession have been multiplied by the advent of continuous news coverage. Too few journalists are forced to feed the voracious public appetite for more and new, and they don’t have the time to check their sources, re-read their reports, think about the underlying reality.

Did we overdo the yellow vest coverage?

The yellow vest protests in France saw several incidents where journalists were targeted as members of the ruling elite. And yet the movement would not have had the same impact without the media coverage.

Ingrid Riocreux makes the point that the yellow vest movement got an awful lot more coverage than it was worth, by simple numerical comparison with other social upheavals.

And even the language we used was interesting, she says, since violence is normally described as taking place “on the fringes of” trade union demonstrations, for example, but was generally presented as an integral part of the yellow vest movement.

Finally, says Ingrid Riocreux, our task as journalists is not to tell the truth, but to realize that there are many different ways of presenting the same truth. They’re just not all worthy of being called journalism.

Carlos Ghosn asks to appear in court

The troubled boss of the Renault motor company, Carlos Ghosn, will appear before a Japanese court next Tuesday. That’s when he’ll be told why, precisely, he’s been in a Tokyo jail since 19 November last.

Ghosn used to be the boss of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi consortium, until someone noticed that he might not have been declaring his entire income in company accounts.

That alleged oversight, and the suspicion that he might have dipped into the Nissan kitty to cover personal stock-market losses, have kept him behind bars for the past six weeks.

He has not yet been charged with any crime. At Tuesday’s court hearing, convened at Ghosn’s personal request, the chief prosecutor will be obliged to justify the duration of the Renault boss’s imprisonment for questioning.

Centrist daily Le Monde says that further charges, involving the allegedly fraudulous payment of 40 million euros of Nissan money to Ghosn’s family in Lebanon, could see his stay in prison extended.

The Japanese press says the prosecutor has at least two sets of suspicions still to present, with Ghosn likely to spend 22 more days behind bars for each allegation. It's tough at the top.

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