French satirist or a racist?

Dieudonné a stand-up artist has been condemned and forbidden to run his show “Le mur” (the wall) in this land known for its freedom of expression.



Racism or freedom of speech?

Extremist right-wing groups have been getting stronger and stronger in France. One of their idols is a stand-up comedian – orator – called Dieudonné. He and his fans use a common sign “quenelle” – a denomination known to me until recently only as a fish dish! – which bears a strong reminiscence of the Nazi-salutation but in reverse: with the arm stretched downwards instead.

These groups seem to encompass anything from adherents to the anti-gay marriages (allowed since only a few months in France and that caused a stir among the conservative, deep Catholic wings), anti-Semites, anti-Arabs, anti-Romanists… They spread their messages via the Internet as well as on the streets. The last drop for the government (and the opposition alike) came when the Minister of Justice – Christine Taubira – was called a “monkey”!

The popular Minister of Interior, Manuel Valls, finally decided to put down his foot. Dieudonné’s openly anti-Semitic show “le Mur” has been stopped. Thousands of his fans have demonstrated against what they say is censorship. Who are these people then?IMG_4166

Dieudonné’s fans:

His public are mainly young men from the suburbs, clad in sneakers and hoods that clearly aren’t put off by the deeply anti-Semitic messages “Dieudo” as he’s commonly called, shouts out during his mega-shows. On YouTube some of his shows have been viewed by as many as 2,5 million people.

For his show “le Mur” the Paris scenery was simply decorated with a portrait of Dieudonné and another of Che Guevara, a chair, a table and a wall in cardboard: “that’s the wall of Lamentation” he explains. “Behind it you’ll find the media, the banks, showbiz… the shit!” Then he stands in front of it, legs apart, and pretends to take his trousers off: “Je pisse dessus” (I pee on them!). The public roars.

He’s already been condemned a few times but despite that his vulgar shows go on… If the public hasn’t had enough, they can buy DvDs with names like “anti-Semite” on them.

Despite lawsuits and stopped shows, he’s amassed a small fortune. Anti-Semitism and obscurantism seem to have become a lucrative business in France.


Analysis by an expert:

The political scientist Vincent Tiberi has studied statistics related to racism since twenty years and has come to the conclusion that the general level of tolerance in France has decreased these past two years.

However it’s mostly directed towards the Muslim minority though. According to Tiberi, anti-Semitism – despite the popularity of people like Dieudonné (and the right-wing party Le Pen) anti-Semitism isn’t on the rise. It’s worse for the Gypsies that the French in general seem to abhor.

72% of the French asked thought that Romanians in France mostly live out of illegal commerce and theft (although the rest of the European countries don’t fear much better in those scores…)!

The explanation to this increased intolerance isn’t to be found in the recession according to Tiberi. However the mainstream politicians have added to people’s fear of the “unknown” by their discussions about the burka, halal, public praying sessions… The change of government from the right to the socialists haven’t changed the French suspicions against “the other”.  Renewed demonstrations against gay marriages, adoptions and abortions makes me wonder why on earth what’s supposed to be based on love apparently threatens so many people while nobody demonstrate against the wars ravaging that France take part in?

However, maybe some politicians start to wake up from their slumber and start to attack this worrisome social phenomenon of racism? Valls might be looking for votes but it’s about time that somebody puts his foot down the majority of Frenchmen seem to think, despite all talks about “freedom of speech”. In the meantime however individuals like Dieudonné get way too much media attention!

Anne Edelstam, Paris.IMG_4173


Pictures from the Belgian African Museum – about their colonization in Congo. 







About Anne

Swedish journalist, photographer, editor and writer. Based in Paris, France.