Editor’s note: The following is a translation by Ibn Warraq and Robert Kerr of Michel Onfray’s L’Art d’Etre Francais (The Art of Being French, Bouquins, 2021), published here for the first time. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here. Part 4 is here. Part 5 is here. Part 6 is here. Part 7 is here.
This essentialization finds its theory in long discourses on “the Other” (p. 141) with a capital letter… One can’t do more essentializing than with this hollow, empty, pretentious concept, redolent of the philosophical jargon of phenomenologists! What is this Other that some people who quote Levinas go on about? What though is the ‘Other’ than the ‘same entity’ (Même), repeatedly recast from the same mould, duplicated ad nauseam for the particular needs of the cause on hand. The Other is nonexistent, just an idealized figure, a notion, a Platonic ideal that can never become manifest because there are only multiplicities, diversities, otherness. Plenel writes at one point: “This Other who, in our societies, has taken the figure of the Muslim” (p. 143). There can be no better proof that this Other is nothing but a ‘Sameyness’ (Même) conceptualized as an archetype, allowing for all possible journalistic and pamphleteering variations.
Plenel is a realist, in the medieval philosophical sense of the term, in other words someone who believes in the reality of ideas more than in the truth of multiplicities. He does not believe what he sees, but he sees what he believes. And there is little difference between the realist in this sense and the ideologue, for whom reality never materializes because the idea imposes the law in its place. Plenel’s Muslim does not exist, except as an allegory by means of which all ideological variations are possible.
Secondly: godwiner. I propose this neologism based on Godwin’s observation which describes the tendency of people to invoke the Holocaust [or Nazis] to prevent any subtle analysis in order to preclude any complex reflection. This criminalization of the interlocutor forbids us to debate with him. He is de facto a monster comparable to the Nazis.
Edwy Plenel’s title is not by chance: Pour les musulmans. Since Émile Zola published Pour les juifs (p. 67) during the Dreyfus affair, Edwy Plenel, in response to this new Dreyfus affair, namely the assertion that there is “a problem with Islam in France” (p. 39), must take up the torch and be the Zola of his time.
Muslims are allegedly stigmatized, despised, hated and persecuted in France, just as the Jews were in the course of the 20th century. They are seen as an “enemy from within (the Jew yesterday, the Muslim – or, indiscriminately, the Arab today)” (p. 54) – the upper and lower case letters are the author’s.
If today’s Muslims are yesterday’s Jews, then where are the Drumonts and Maurras of today? Finkielkraut, answers Plenel… Where is the media in which hatred against Muslims is spewed out every day? Plenel can produce no culprit worse than France Inter, specifically the Matinales program of this radio station, which by all accounts supports most of his theses – the book opens with a denunciation of this state broadcasting station, as it serves “lark’s pâté” every day, inviting an Islamophile horse and [what offends Plenel] a lark critical of Islamophilia (p. 39). There was even a time, on France Inter, under the leadership of Patrick Cohen, when there was a blacklist of people not to be invited, most of whom could have played the role of the lark in a pâté that was then frankly more horse, with the blessing of the management of this public service that lives on taxpayers’ money and that declined to comment when this became known…
Is there a newspaper that would be the equivalent of L’Action française? Yes. It’s Libération… No laughing matter… First, Edwy Plenel points out “the responsibility of the media” (p. 60), which itself is then essentialized, he claims that they construct, convey, and trivialize “the stigmatization of a population of men, women and children, on the pretext of their religious, spiritual or community identity” (p. 60). Libération? Le Monde? L’Humanité? L’Obs? L’Express? France Inter, France Culture, France info? France 2? Media that propagate a bad image of Muslims – yea right, get real.
But where then are the anti-Muslim laws, such as those passed by Vichy on October 3, 1940, antisemitic laws which prohibited Jews from being judges, teachers, doctors, civil servants, soldiers, journalists, film-makers, directors, administrators or theater managers? What is the counterpart of the law of June 2, 1941, which racialized Jews on the basis of their ancestry? Which forbade them from receiving decorations, including the Legion of Honor? Which expanded the work bans to [Jewish] craftsmen, merchants, industrialists, librarians, bankers, advertisers, real estate agents, traders, brokers, foresters, publishers? Which civil service is working to concretely discriminate against Muslims, as did the General Commissariat for Jewish Questions created by the law of March 29, 1941?
The proposal to revoke nationality (of Muslims) following the attacks was indeed foolishness intended to produce a media effect, but that is not enough to conclude that the Muslims of today are the Jews of yesterday. To which I should not be so presumptuous to add that, even among the most vehement opponents of Islam, Jean-Marie Le Pen, no one has envisioned or proposed the equivalent of the Vel’d’Hiv Roundup, of a mass deportation of Muslims to concentration camps, let alone extermination. Just as one would look in vain for a massive plan to destroy Europe’s Muslims in gas chambers, which, need we remind you here? alas yes, remains synonymous with the Jewish people. That is why this moment in history should not be invoked or referred to so lightly.
 Godwin’s Law (also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies) is a saying made by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states: “As a discussion on the Internet grows longer, the likelihood of a person‘s being compared to Hitler or another Nazi, increases.” That means that as more people talk on the Internet for a longer time, it becomes more and more likely that someone will talk about Hitler or the Nazis.”
 Édouard Drumont [1844 -1917] was a journalist, writer and right wing politician, who was an antidreyfusard and antisemite.
 Charles-Marie-Photius Maurras [ 1868 – 1952) was a French author, politician, poet, and critic. He was an organizer and principal philosopher of Action Française, a political movement that was monarchist, anti-parliamentarist, and counter-revolutionary. Maurras’ ideas greatly influenced National Catholicism and integral nationalism.
 Alain Finkielkraut [born 1949] philosopher, whose parents were Polish Jews, defines himself as being “at the same time classical and romantic”. Finkielkraut deplores what he sees as the deterioration of Western tradition through multiculturalism and relativism.
 “To make a lark pie, take a horse and a lark …”. In this list of ingredients, the size disproportion between horse and lark is striking. The contrast makes us say that it would have been intellectually more honest to name such a dish (if we had to find a name for it), paté of horse with lark.
This exaggerated imbalance between two substances “packaged and sold” together under the same name, a disparity that the lark pie idiom perfectly highlights. Lark pâté is a Machiavellian trap in the place of a product or a proposition that has been misleadingly highlighted. The recipe is well known to advertisers and politicians. It consists of highlighting one of the secondary characteristics of a product, a law or a proposal, in order to present it in its best profile; the goal being to make up, minimize or even make people forget the dominant, uninteresting, harmful or liberating characteristic of the object in question.
 Action française is a French far-right monarchist political movement. The name was also given to a journal associated with the movement. The movement and the journal were founded by Maurice Pujo and Henri Vaugeois in 1899, as a nationalist reaction against the intervention of left-wing intellectuals on behalf of Alfred Dreyfus. Charles Maurras quickly joined Action française and became its principal ideologist..
 The Vel d’Hiv Roundup (an abbreviation of Rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver) in Paris was a mass arrest of Jewish families who were herded into this stadium, used for cycling tournaments during the winter, by French police and gendarmes on the orders of the German authorities in July 1942. Over 13,000 Jews were arrested, including more than 4,000 children. They were all later sent to Auschwitz.
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