Cultural Revolutions

Le Pen's Loose Langue

In late February, the presidential candidate of France’s Front National (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen, received widespread press coverage for saying, in an interview with La Croix, that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was merely “an incident,” adding that the 3,000 who died should be seen in the context of current events in Iraq, where roughly the same number of people have died each month since the U.S. invasion.  He went on to say that the number of fatalities that day in New York was far lower than those that resulted from the World War II bombings of Dresden and Marseilles.

Le Pen is no stranger to controversy; au contraire, one has the feeling he positively enjoys being anathematized.  He and his party arouse pathological hatred whenever they appear; even when the FN opened an “office” in the virtual internet world called Second Life, opponents organized a virtual uprising to close it down, including virtual bombs and gunfire—clearly a longed-for real-life activity for some “liberals.”

For a shrewd politician, Le Pen also has a habit of making sweeping historical observations, even though he must know that these are, at best, unhelpful to practical politicking.  In 1987, he said, “I’m not saying the gas chambers didn’t exist.  I haven’t seen them myself.  I haven’t particularly...

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