Protecting French at the Expense of the French

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Awhile back, in TIA Daily, Robert Tracinski often commented on the difficulties posed to our Islamist enemies by the "invasion" of that part of the world by American culture. The below paragraph comes from a column of his on the subject written soon after the September 11, 2001 atrocities, upon Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi making the "mistake" of noting the superiority of Western culture. It conveys this point.

The real phenomenon that the phrase "cultural imperialism" refers to is the voluntary adoption of ideas, art and entertainment produced in civilized countries. It refers to the most benevolent kind of "empire" that could be imagined: an empire of common ideals and attitudes; an empire spread purely by voluntary persuasion; an empire whose "conquest" consists of bringing the benefits of civilization to backward regions. Western "cultural imperialism" is the march of progress across the globe. [all bold added]
Today, via Arts and Letters Daily comes an interesting article that shows the unintended consequences for France of resisting the free exchange of ideas. In this case, the excuse for government-imposed airwave content quotas was to "protect" the French language.
For more than a decade, French rap has been the voice of the banlieues, the poor suburbs, and it has long been full of warnings of violence [or "incitement to"? --ed] to come in those areas. The tensions - and the musical culture - of these estates were briefly brought to international attention by the 1996 film La Haine ("Hate"), but it is the hip hop world that has kept the issues uppermost in the minds of French youth.


Also, with an irony that must make the French government wince, the music gained an incalculable boost from legislation introduced in 1994 to "protect the French language". This enforced quotas on all radio stations, obliging them to play at least 40 per cent Francophone music. [bold added]

As a result, home-grown rappers found that they received as much of a platform as megastar American acts. Their music is now massive, with an act that sells fewer than 100,000 records considered "underground" - even high-profile British rappers would be thrilled to shift 20,000 units.
So we now have a negative example in favor of Tracinski's thesis. A civilized, modern country refuses transfusions of Western culture from other (more culturally vigorous) Western countries, and instead injects the poison of the banlieues directly into its veins. Its poor, as a result, can't even escape the spiritual desolation of the slums when they turn on the radio! The very people who need to see that there are alternatives in the world to their immediate surroundings do not.
The French rap scene is varied, but universally politicised. From the melodic, philosophical approach of internationally known stars such as MC Solaar and Saian Super Crew, through the avowedly leftist Assassin, the fierce Islamic discipline of Rohff and the cold gangsta style of Booba ("the French 50 Cent"), every act has its own take on the poverty and segregation of the banlieues.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a crew worth its salt which hasn't been warning of the volatility and violence of the suburbs," says Rupert Davies of Virgin Records, who has lived in Paris and written academic studies on the roots of French hip hop.

"But it's not a racial or religious thing, however much it might be presented as such in the media outside France. It's entirely about poverty.
Leaving aside the fact that what leftists usually mean when they say something is about poverty, is their quack diagnosis and snake-oil cure for same, wouldn't it have been nice for the poor to have heard something about, say, success, or initiative, or character. Maybe they would have gotten this or maybe not without this legislation, but the government unwittingly sealed their doom in that respect.

-- CAV


Adrian Hester said...
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Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, that bit about the French radio law is something I've come across before, though from the other side of it, you might say. The restriction really cut into the album sales of many of the leading African pop singers from such countries as Mali, Senegal, and the Congo; the singers are francophone (coming from former French colonies) but most of their songs are in their native languages. They are superstars in their home countries and throughout west Africa, but a tidy bit of their market was among their countrymen resident in France (especially Paris), who would hear the latest hits on the radio, buy their albums, and provide venues for concerts. (And quite a few French youth liked it too, apparently.) And that's some good stuff--Salif Keita, Youssou N'Dour, Baaba Maal, Mansour Seck, Wasis Diop, Kanda Bongo Man, Papa Wemba, Franco, Koffi Olomide, and so on. As a result, many of the musicians have been trying to break into the American market (with limited success), and the French have been inundated with crap.

jamal said...
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