The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, May 03, 2002  

His New York Press Column Comes to an End

We will say one thing for Taki: He's not afraid to speak his mind. That's one of the benefits of being independently wealthy, we suppose.

In his latest column for the weekly New York Press, which incidentally will be his last contribution to that paper, Taki takes on the subject Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front Party in France, surely a dicey topic of discussion these days and one about which the greater punditocracy has fallen rigidly in line, not only in the U.S. but in Europe as well.

Make no mistake: There are no Le Pen symphathizers at TRR. However, we have been frustrated of late by our fruitless search for an dispassionate assessment of Le Pen and his political movement within the wide spectrum of French, German, Italian, and British newspapers and magazines we review on a regular basis. Universal condemnation is fine where it is deserved, but the lack of perspective, context, and analysis on both sides of the Atlantic has been truly breathtaking.

Taki, however, provides at least the start of the unemotional evaluation for which we have been searching, and despite more than a whiff of sympathy for Le Pen, we would be fascinated to read a more thorough dissection of this issue from the Greek aristocrat.

According to Taki, the issue isn't "fascism," it's immigration. And more specifically, immigration from North Africa and the Middle East.

"Here’s what Le Pen is all about. He’s against immigration," writes Taki, pointing out that France has a Muslim population estimated at 5 million, representing eight percent of the country's population. A similar proportion in the U.S. population would imply a Muslim population of 24 million, probably about six times the current level, and yet a population that we are certain is more prosperous and less radical than its counterpart in France.

Moreover, France, with an area of roughly 213,000 square miles has a population density of 293 persons per square mile, roughly that of the state of Florida (296 persons per square mile), the eighth-most densely populated state in the U.S. The density of France is more than three times that of the entire U.S. (excluding Alaska), which stands at 95 per square mile. Even if we were we to knock off the 20 most sparsely populated states, most of them in the Rocky Mountain region and the Upper Midwest, we would still arrive at a figure of 171 persons per square mile, 1.7 times that of France.

Thus, the French live in far closer proximity to their immigrant Muslim population than Americans could possibly imagine. Moreover, Muslims living in France are more likely to be poor and unemployed than the rest of the population, and many of them are drawn to crime and violence, the latter sometimes expressed in the form of primitive anti-Semitism. Surely one cannot expect that working- and middle-class French who cannot afford the cushy enclaves of France's more expensive cities would not be at least willing to listen to the positions of a politician like Le Pen.

So what to make of the hysteria that has gripped France? Not too much in our opinion. Given that the unions and the universities, among others, gave the French yet another of their seemingly endless days off. Adding to the inclination to hit the streets was the favorable weather Paris has experienced in recent days.

But let's face facts, it doesn't take much to get the French -- a populace that has had a collective chip on its shoulder since at least 1945 -- to devise an excuse to gather for a mass session of complaint and self-flaggelation.

Thus, we are inclined to believe that the "threat" posed by Le Pen is minimal at best. His recent success at the polls, however, may have provided a much-needed spark to the lethargic banality and lack of differentiation that characterizes most French political parties today.

"[N]ot to worry," Taki writes. "Le Pen will get a terrific drubbing in the second round, but a warning shot has been fired across the parasites’ bow." [Ed.: "Parasites" here referring to the leading French politicians.]

"There will be more Le Pens, as long as the crooks disregard the very people whose taxes keep them living the high life. One can ignore the working poor, the farmers, and the small-business owners, but one day soon the little people will be a-comin’," Taki adds.

Granted, this is an argument we have heard many times before, though, when it comes to Europe, the argument has been made with respect to the improving prospects of communist and socialist parties, most of which have been eating dust for nearly twenty years now. So we'll take that observation with a grain of salt.

"Vive Le Pen! " Taki concludes.

A strange way to end one's tenure at the New York Press, but what the heck, it's truly in keeping with Taki's spirit.

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