Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy Bastille Day -- now go eat yer cheese and surrender

Tomorrow is the 218th anniversary of the French conquest of a near-empty prison. The reason to remember Bastille Day is not that it's a celebration of the French Revolution; instead, it is a reminder that those who admire the French Revolution are fools or worse. After all, the list of people who drew inspiration from the French Revolution includes Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot -- a who's who of the most ruthlessly evil people to walk the earth in the 20th Century.

In honor of that fine accomplishment, here's the post I ran on July 14, 2005, with links to the best in French-bashing ever written: the 1999-2002 Bastille Day columns by Jonah Goldberg:

Happy Bastille Day, and don't let your butt bump the lily pads whilst you're hopping about with the rest of your French friends.

Anyway, today's the day that the French salute their biggest conquest of the last three centuries: a jail with no prisoners and some underequipped guards. As I said last year:
In the US, we celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence -- one of the most important documents setting forth a concept of the rights of man and an ideological cornerstone of our freedoms. In France, they celebrate opening an empty jail and killing its guards.

Last year I provided some cuts to the oft-imitated and never duplicated Jonah Goldberg's once-annual Bastille Day French-Bashing columns (1999-2002). This year, by popular demand (read: because I bloody well wanted to), here is once again a round-up of Goldberg's previous mastery of the reality of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

From Goldberg's 2002 column:

The Dutch . . . have a saying, "It took no more effort than casting a Frenchman into hell." The Italians: "Attila, the scourge of God; the French, his brothers." The Germans have innumerable phrases about the French . . . "The French write other than they speak, and speak other than they mean," goes one German saying. "The friendship of the French is like their wine — exquisite, but of short duration," goes another. "May the French ulcer love you and the Lord hate you," is an old Arab curse. The Russians noted long ago, "A fighting Frenchman runs away from even a she-goat," though I suspect this sounds better in the Russian.

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When you think about it, there are four possible explanations for why American leftists love France so much (aside from France's historical love affair with Communism and Stalinism). First, the French are trying to outlaw hard work and, perhaps eventually, work entirely. Government agents stake out companies suspected of working their employees more than 35 hours a week. Some exiting employees are searched to make sure they don't bring any work home with them. If you believe that requiring work is a form of discrimination against those who want to live well without working, then you've got to love France.

Second, the only sexual preference France doesn't celebrate is heterosexual monogamy.

Third, France has always treated its intellectuals like celebrities, a seductive practice for American academics forced to drive around in old VW buses and live next door to men who actually work with their hands.

But, finally, the most important reason American leftists love France is that French elites say bad things about America. French intellectuals call us racist, stupid, imperialistic, simplistic, etc. — and that alone is proof of their intellectualism. So long as you call America "racist," you could add that an enema is as good as a toothbrush and some professor of "communications theory" would applaud.

From his 2001 column:

Now, as we all know, there are many good reasons to hate the cheese-eating surrender monkeys — as groundskeeper Willie and all longtime readers know them. Survey after survey reveals that raccoons bathe more than the average Frenchman. They stuck us with Vietnam and took credit for liberating Paris after they spent most of World War Two chastising the chef for not serving Herr General a Fresh brioche. They made intellectual racism popular — Paul Johnson once wrote, "the French have always been outstandingly gifted [at] taking a German idea and making it fashionable with superb timing." And of course, they are constantly complaining about us, and nobody likes a whiner (See "Europe on the Whine."). In fact, Napoleon once observed, "The French complain about everything and always." But then again he was a Corsican.

Goldberg's 2000 column trashes the French Revolution itself, and includes nasty statistics about French hygiene:

The French Revolution was a disgusting affair of tyrannical ego, greed and power-lust, made all the worse because it took a good idea [freedom, equality, brotherhood] and corrupted it, like making a BMW into a low-rider. Hey, speaking of ruining German innovations, Paul Johnson once observed that "the French have always been outstandingly gifted [at] taking a German idea and making it fashionable with superb timing." Then again, they were probably just following orders.
* * *
It wasn't just the murder and destruction that was so awful, it was their attitude toward human nature. The Revolutionaries weren't really democrats. Average folk were reluctant to change their lives to fit the boutique-intellectual theories of a few sissified scribblers. The man in the street still wanted to worship God, use the traditional calendar, or surrender to Germans — on his own terms. Alas, the radicals asserted that the people suffered from false consciousness (though that's a term coined by that German schmo Karl Marx whom, apropos of Johnson, the French still consider the intellectual equivalent of Jerry Lewis). So, they re-opened the churches, only this time they called them "Temples of Reason" where the average Joe — or in this case the average Jacques — could worship the atheist deity "Lady Reason" or one of her appointed Saints, like maybe Voltaire or perhaps an algorithm of some kind, or maybe later Ayn Rand (oh, boy; now I'm gonna get it).

Now, since that great triumph of human liberty, the French have changed Republics more times than the average Parisian changes his underwear in a week. Now you might think this is an unfair potshot. Well, here are the results of various studies culled from news accounts, including Le Figaro. I am not making these up:
• 40% of French men, and 25% of women, do not change their underwear daily.
• Fully 50% of the men, and 30% of women, do not use deodorant.
• Average British citizen uses 3 pounds of soap annually. The German uses 2.9 pounds, and the average Frenchman uses 1.3 pounds. This means the average Frenchman uses four or five bars of soap a year. Since this is an average, that means some French use more soap than that, but some use a lot less.

His first column on Bastille Day, in 1999, showed just why the French Revolution was an historical disaster:

Bastille Day is no day for celebration. Mikhail Gorbachev was fond of calling the French and Russian Revolutions the two great revolutions of the twentieth century . . . The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution flowed inexorably from one to the other the way my lifestyle leads inexorably to my belly. After decades of revisionism in the wake of World War II, French historians are only now revisiting the truth of how they initiated the world into utopian slaughter.
* * *
Paul Johnson said of the French Revolution that it was the "classic demonstration of the capacity of words to kill." Robespierre and his merry band of murderers brought on the era of total politicization. No aspect of human life was beyond the touch of politics after the French Revolution. The state was granted a right to destroy institutions and traditions which protected the family and the individual from the violence of the state. Throughout the world, the French Revolution became an inspiration for men and women to rationalize their actions in terms of their purported ends. As Johnson puts it "every would-be plunderer or ambitious bandit now called himself a 'liberator'; murderers killed for freedom, thieves stole for the people."

Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, all admired the French Revolution and found within it precedents for their own contributions to world history (though most of them found the American Revolution utterly useless). In the region of western France called the Vendée, a royalist uprising resulted in the sort of cleansing that would have made Slobodan Milosevic proud. Estimates range from the high tens of thousands to over a half million people. Many were killed by means of forced drowning. Barges full of undesirables were floated into the Loire and sunk.

* * *
The French Revolution gave us so many things we can despise today, why fight for the victims long since buried or drowned. "False consciousness," "denial," radical egalitarianism, various and sundry movement-builders, blaming inconvenient facts on bad motives, political utopianism, and of course Oliver Stone, Jane Fonda, and Hillary Clinton can all be laid in one way or the other at the feet of Robespierre.

Happy Bastille Day.

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