June 19, 2003

Boycotting the French, etc.

Over at Samizdata, Alex Singleton in London has called for the Americans to stop boycotting French goods and services.

In his remarks, Mr Singleton argues that there is really a lot of nice stuff to French culture -- although about all he can come up with is their fashion sense and minor nod towards social libertarianism. A commenter, who gave her name only as Becky, agrees with Mr Singleton's argument:

I'm also puzzled why it is only France that attracts so much opprobrium. Surely Germany, Italy, Spain et al. have similar welfare state set-ups? I suspect it's some sort of acceptable outlet for repressed xenophobia. If you're going to boycott French products, why not German products? Or New Zealand products, for that matter? It's absurd.

Well, it could be that France, by virtue of its seat on the United Nations Security Council, did far more damage than any other nation to the American war effort. They led the European condemnation of our efforts to free the Iraqi people. As such, Americans ought not purchase products from such a country if at all possible.

Besides -- and let's be honest here -- it's a heck of a lot easier to avoid French products than those from say, Germany. (We can't think of anything that New Zealand makes off the top of our head, so never mind). When you look at French imports to the U.S., you see that for the average consumer, the key products such a consumer would buy are: wines, cheeses, perfumes, films, and automobile tires.

For the average American, the first four goods can be easily substituted with domestic goods or products from Ideologically Sound Nations. The fifth less so, because the French do make very good automobile tires, and you don't want to put cheap tires on your car.

But my point is clear: even if you can't avoid buying all French products and services, you should substitute wherever you can. So why not substitute the Roquefort with a bit of domestic bleu cheese, or substitute the French red with the California red?

I think Alex has got a lot right. I live in France, and yes the government bureacracy is atrocious. But socially, it's nonetheless a breath of fresh air when you get off the Eurostar. You can get a drink whenever you want. You can find a restaurant to serve you dinner at midnight. The attitude towards sex is refreshingly unpuritannical, unjudgemental. There's a certain swagger on the streets that you don't see in London...

OK, let's see. You can get a drink whenever you want, you can find a restaurant to serve you dinner at midnight, no one cares about sex, and there's a certain swagger on the streets. Say! Becky's just described Southern California. As the song goes -- sorry, sayonara, try tomorrow. You're going to have to do better than that to convince me the French have discovered some great secret formula to life.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 19, 2003 11:46 AM | TrackBack

This reminds me of some advice I got a while back. I was lamenting the fact that I no longer felt welcome to visit Europe as I'd wanted to do for a while. Someone told me the answer was the International Pavilion at Disney World--all of the flavor with none of the Eurotrash.

I recently bought - and returned - a French-built product. It was a Thrustmaster analog PC gamepad. Those wanting to boycott should choose PC products other than those made by Guillemot or Thrustmaster, and no games published by UBI SOFT.

In fact, if you go to http://www.metrospy.com/boycott_brands.htm you'll see a list of some of the French companies in question. I have to admit, I subscribe to Road & Track magazine and intend to continue that. Vivendi is a huge media conglomerate; don't buy Half-Life 2 or World of Warcraft, they're both going to be published under the Vivendi umbrella.

Yoplait yogurt was one of my staples... so I thought I might switch to Dannon. Doh! It's on the list, too. How about RCA, Red Roof Inns, MP3.com, Nissan, Motel 6, and BIC?

The best entry on the list is the Jerry Springer Show. Who would have thought?

Posted by: Kevin White at June 19, 2003 05:59 PM

Why do people in this country pay so much heed to the French? As much as I hate to admit it, they do make a lot of great things, and it is a great place to visit, minus the dishwater serving waiters......If you care about being cultured and take an interest in history, it is hard to make a case for pretending France doesn't exist. Hey, I'm of German descent, but that doesn't make me a Nazi. Same with the French; sure they hate us, but we're actually very similar, and we spat and fight like brothers. I don't think its so horrible that someone actually had the balls to disagree with us. France would, right or wrong.

People visit China, Japan, buy their superior electronics and cars, despite their horrible war atrocities (latter) and Communist tendencies (former).

I'm rambling. I guess my point is, most French people are just people, like our country. I just think it makes us look childish and stupid to spend so much time worrying about the French. Meanwhile, they are smirking at their televisions, waiting for us to finally find one of those weapons of mass destruction, our excuse for bystepping the UN.

They don't care that we hate them. They see themselves as bigger people. We won't prove some half-thought out point by not buying Grey Goose Vodka and getting some third rate country singer to pen an idiotic ode like, say, "If I was French, I'd shave my a-- and learn to walk backwards."

We ignored the French, like we always do, and, again for better or worse, we did exactly what we wanted to do, regardless.

Note: We also shouldn't forget one of our biggest allies in the early days of OUR country. WIthout them, we wouldn't be sitting, staring at our computer screens....

Posted by: Simon from Jersey at June 20, 2003 09:40 AM

The "fighting like brothers" part does not seem to be remembered as well in France, where they desecrated the graves of soldiers from outside France who died defending that land. If we must acknowledge every positive thing that France has done, why is so wrong to also acknowledge the negatives, as well? Anything else is hypocritical.

Also, continuing political opposition to the US and its true allies (i.e. those that work to support common ideals) is a much more telling sign of French intent than remembering events from decades to centuries ago. Before the actions by France in the UN to oppose the US, you would find many more people proud to say that they admired that country.

Posted by: Jon at June 20, 2003 01:33 PM

I know they don't care that we hate them. I don't care that they hate us, either. But hey, I've known about that since ninth grade French class.

I don't think France's obstruction had much to do with conscientious objection or a concern for Iraqi civilians. I think self-interest motivated them, and then solidarity with Schroeder, Putin, and others strengthened their resolve--it wasn't so much the stand they were making as the fact that they were making it at all.

Posted by: Kevin White at June 20, 2003 02:49 PM