The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Jacques Chirac, the New York Times - and 95% of what?

The Quota Prince, Jayson Blair, and his claque may have gone, but the Grey Lady still struggles with the smallest details when it comes to quality control.

Take the big interview yesterday with the Chief Weasel: one of those prestige projects that helps a newspaper of record puff out its chest with pride - I suspect it figured on page 1 (though, unlike the WaPo, its online articles don't include a note their position in the hard copy rag.) Bush v Chirac at the UN was always a good bet for a punch-up (each way rather, than on the nose - despite the involvement of a cheese-eater...), and a nice long interview has a sort of coffee-table book function for a rag, even if - as, I think, is true with the Chirac piece - it adds little of substance to the sum of human knowledge.

But, either way, it's something that, unlike, say, an agency piece about the coup in Bongo-Bongo Land, you'd have thought the Times would have produced with some attention to detail.

Wrong. For a start, in the sixth paragraph down, we get beleive. Is that just rank carelessness, or a Jaysonesque flipping of the bird?

But then something truly bizarre: the interview mentions Chirac's Algerian experience - he served in Algeria during the 1954-62 war - and Chirac takes up the point:
In Algeria we began with a sizeable army and huge resources and the fellaga [independence fighter] were only a handful of people, but they won. That's how it is.

Then, he goes on:
When the Germans invaded France, 95% of the French were… But there were people who said no. They came from different cultural and political backgrounds, from the extreme left wing, the left, the right, the extreme right, and they said no...

What was Chirac about to say 95% of the French were? Patriots?

Now, the interview, the piece says, was conducted in French [1]. The text of the original is not provided by the Times. But there is elsewhere a French text of the interview [2] which could well be the original (rather than a translation of the Times translation).

The French text corresponding to the passage quoted is this:
Quand les Allemands ont envahi la France, il y a eu des gens qui ont dit non. Ils étaient de différentes origines, culturelles, politiques. Il y en avait d'extrême gauche, de la gauche, de la droite, de l'extrême droite. Et ils ont dit non...

No 95%, no incomplete sentence, no guessing game invited.

What gives? I've drawn the attention of the Times corrections people to the point - let's see.

  1. Chirac speaks English - he spent some time in the US during the 60s, I think - but is bound to be rusty. Besides, it's always good practice to speak business in one's mother tongue.

  2. The Réseau Voltaire site looks at first glance like a haven for the saner end of the groupuscular French Left. Caveat lector as ever.

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