Have you ever noticed that the French are the only ethnic group that Americans can pick on and get away with it? Canadians might come in as a close second, but the French get the brunt of all the bashing. For instance, several years ago, some idiot at my college wrote an article titled American Misinformation: What the French Knew that was basically a laundry list of stereotypes with a byline at the top.
I hesitate to call the aforementioned article an "opinion column", since I've always been under the impression that to write such a column, one had to actually have an opinion. When your "opinion" consists of nothing but stereotypes thought up and perpetuated by other people, it is time to seriously re-evaluate your effectiveness as a writer.
The United States has more than its fair share of home-grown conspiracy theorists--what's so wrong with a foreigner weighing in with his opinion? Let's face it: if L'Effroyable imposture, the book that triggered the article, had been written by anyone other than a Frenchman, this column would not exist. Would the columnist have been able to write such things about an African-American, a Mexican, or a Jew? Of course not! That would risk arising the wrath of a veritable swarm of activist organizations. The letters and phone calls would be pouring in. What happens when the target is a Frenchman? Absolutely nothing.
There's no support network for the French. When they get bashed, there is no massive boycott; there is no Franco-American community support. Maybe that's because there really isn't a Franco-American community, period. There was no French diaspora, which I guess is good for them, since they didn't have to leave their country en masse to avoid poverty and disease...but this has created a real problem for them in the present day. Of course, the French in France are very big on activism. Strikes and demonstrations (manifestations or, simply manifs to keep things short and sweet) are the norm--one would be hard-pressed to go an entire month in France without encoutering a national strike or half a dozen smaller ones protesting various human rights issues. So I know the problem isn't general apathy...I think the French can be picked on simply because they don't have the numbers it would take to effect real change in the American attitude.
During the ludicrous "freedom fries" fiasco, I carried out my own boycott. I refused to patronize any business that took part in the free publicity stunt, which is what the whole thing ended up being. Maybe I was the only one doing it, but with Jeanne d'Arc as my alter-ego, I guess have a lot to live up to.
Needless to say, I wrote The Pitt News a letter about the column. I understood that the columnist was attempting to be humorous, (and to prove that I am able to have a sense of humor about these things, I closed the letter by saying "I fart in your general direction!") but it turned into pure stupidity from about the second paragraph. The only real way to get away with writing this kind of stuff is if you happen to belong to the group you're bashing. If you're going to insult the French, at least stick to insulting things that are actually of French origin! Hockey is Canadian. French fries are Belgian. Do a little research next time you want to write an anti-French column!
That, my friends, is more effroyable than a controversial book.
Ben Rubin, if you're reading this, I've said it before and I'll say it again: You're so Jewriffic, you make me want to convert right here and now!