• France edition
 
Hollande 'echoes Bush' in tough anti-terror talk
French president Francois Hollande standing to attention for 'La Marseillaise' in Abu Dhabi, UAE on January 15th. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

Hollande 'echoes Bush' in tough anti-terror talk

Published: 17 Jan 2013 08:48 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Jan 2013 08:48 GMT+01:00

As French warplanes carry out airstrikes and French troops clash with Islamist rebels in the West African country, Hollande and his ministers seem to have taken a page from former US president George W. Bush's playbook on war-time communications.

This has led some critics to accuse the government of carrying out a propaganda war alongside the fighting on the ground.

Hollande and his chief lieutenants - Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius - have been ubiquitous on French television and radio, giving regular updates on France's military progress.

Their language has been simple, direct, and clearly designed to portray the conflict in black-and-white.

"The use of language is calibrated: the cause is just, a fight against terrorism, us/them, good/bad. These are the fundamentals of war-time communication," said Francois-Bernard Huyghe, a researcher at the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Relations.

In a speech during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Hollande pulled no punches in describing France's mission, saying: "What do we plan to do with the terrorists? Destroy them."

His words seemed to echo not only Bush but also Russian officials who have repeatedly vowed to "liquidate terrorists" in their fight against insurgents in Chechnya and other parts of the volatile North Caucasus region.

"Hollande is being simple and soldierly," Huyghe said, noting that the communications effort has so far been largely successful, with a poll
Wednesday showing three-quarters of French supporting the intervention.

"Faster even than the outbreak of the war, France's propaganda war was launched at supersonic speed," noted influential French media critic Daniel Schneidermann.

'Hollande copying Bush'

French media reported that ministers have been banned from using the words "Islamist fighters" in statements on the conflict and must always refer to rebels as "terrorists".

Officials have often gone further, with Le Drian referring to "jihadi terrorists" and Fabius to "terrorists and criminals". "This is approaching Bush's rhetoric and it's bizarre from the mouth of a Socialist", Huyghe said, noting that "excessive use of the word 'terrorist' is aimed at presenting the opponent as evil and inhuman."

He said branding the rebels "terrorists" was a simplification of the situation of Mali, where at least three distinct Islamist groups - Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) - are fighting.

"Reducing them simply to terrorists is too easy, it erases the complexity of the problem, obscures the reality," Huyghe said. Critics said the branding operation could eventually hurt peace efforts by making it impossible for France to justify negotiations with any of the Islamist groups.

Hollande "is condemning himself to exclusively being able to speak to the current government in Mali, which is the result of a putsch... and is seen as completely illegitimate by the public," news website Mediapart wrote.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Top 10 tips for dealing with your French in-laws
Meeting your French in-laws doesn't have to be scary. Photo: AFP

Top 10 tips for dealing with your French in-laws

Even back home meeting the in-laws for the first time is scary, but as a foreigner in France it's doubly stressful. So here's ten tips from the Comme une Française blog to help you survive and even thrive with your new family. READ  

How France compares to Europe:  Unemployment
How does France compare to its neighbours when it comes to unemployment.Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

How France compares to Europe: Unemployment

The jobless total in France hit a new record high this month with 3.424 million people out of work. Is it only in France that records are being broken? The Local takes a look at why the numbers are more positive in at least some of France's neighbours. READ  

Frenchman flips out over reclined seat on US flight
A Frenchman freaked out on a US plane over a reclined seat and is in big trouble. Photo: Doug/Flickr

Frenchman flips out over reclined seat on US flight

A Parisian man faces jail after losing his cool on a France-bound flight from the US over a passenger who reclined his seat just a bit too far. His outburst comes on the heels of the now infamous “Knee Defender” melee aboard another American plane. READ  

French police in race to find sick British boy
Ashya King, who police in France are desperately trying to track down. Photo: YouTube/Naveed King

French police in race to find sick British boy

Police in France and Britain faced a race against time on Friday in their hunt to find a five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who officials in France believe was "kidnapped" from a UK hospital by his family. READ  

French women's safety fears 'due to inequality'
A third of French women say they afraid to walk in their neighbourhood. Photo: Takato Marul/Flickr

French women's safety fears 'due to inequality'

Recent studies suggest women in France do not feel safe walking the streets of their neighbourhoods and many are afraid of walking around Paris at night. Some argue that gender inequality in the country is partly to blame. READ  

Feature - Wingsuit flying
Thrill-seekers risking life and limb in French Alps
Wingsuit flying has taken off in France despite dangers. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Thrill-seekers risking life and limb in French Alps

A mountain in the French Alps has become a hot spot for the high-risk and often deadly extreme sport of wingsuit flying. And the seemingly hairbrained alpine activity where "there is no margin for error" attracts a lot of "dangerous egos". READ  

British killer escapes from hospital in France
French police have launched a manhunt for an escaped British killer. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

British killer escapes from hospital in France

A mentally ill British man is on the run in France after escaping from a psychiatric hospital, where he was forcibly committed after beating a man to death with a four-kilo weight. READ  

Does France really suffer from a brain drain?
France may not be suffering from a brain drain after all, but it's not as attractive as the UK or Germany. Photo: Leaving.

Does France really suffer from a brain drain?

The latest European Union figures cast a bit of doubt on worries the moribund French economy is prompting a mass brain drain. However the stats do suggest France is far less attractive than the UK and Germany when it comes to certain professions. READ  

French cities struggle with bedbug infestations
Bed bugs are biting in France. Photo: Shutterstock

French cities struggle with bedbug infestations

The infestation of French cities by bed bugs is worse than ever before with hygiene services overwhelmed, according to reports. READ  

IMF board to review Lagarde's legal problems
IMF chief Christine Lagarde's situation is to be reviewed after she was placed under investigation. Photo: AFP

IMF board to review Lagarde's legal problems

International Monetary Fund board members will meet "as soon as possible" to review the situation of their chief Christine Lagarde, who was placed under formal investigation in Paris this week for alleged "negligence". READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se