• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Hollande 'echoes Bush' in tough anti-terror talk

AFP · 17 Jan 2013, 08:48

Published: 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".

Story continues below…

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.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Pokémon Go sparks chaos and concern in France
Teenagers sprint through a park in Bordeaux, not in panic, but in search of a rare Pokemon. Photo: MonsieurBright/YouTube

Videos of hundreds of people sprinting through a park would normally be cause for panic in France at the moment.

The ten places where you really need to speak French
Photo: Lily A./Flickr

There are some places and situations in France where you just have to speak French.

Isis can be a conduit for psychopaths' violent desires
A pilce of rubbish marks the spot where Nice truck attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was shot by police.

Isis did not create these attackers, they were well on their way.

Angry Marseille Muslim ends up in war of words with Isis
Photo: Facebook Henni Mohamed/AFP

"Who do you think you are, the Power Rangers?" Marseille man's foul-mouthed fighting talk provokes Isis to respond.

Thousands of travellers face seven-day Air France strike
Photo: mariordo59/Flickr

The strike is set to run from July 27th to August 2nd and as many as 130,000 passengers could be affected.

No, Dover travel chaos wasn't French revenge for Brexit

What a load of Brex**it. Resources, not revenge, is the big issue for the French.

The worst scams to avoid whilst driving in France
A French motorway. Photo: Maelick/Flickr

Don't get caught out by these common ploys gangs of thieves have used to target motorists in France.

Hoax bomb found at Paris Metro station
Photo: AFP

Bomb squad called in to a Paris Metro station after the discovery of a bag with a walkie-talkie antenna and red wires sticking out.

Five key moments in Chris Froome' Tour de France win
The victorious Christopher Froome. Photo: AFP

Here are the key moments that earned Christopher Froome his third Tour de France victory.

Terror attack in Nice
Policewoman's Nice claims leave government in crisis
Photo: AFP

The pressure is mounting on the French government after a policewoman claimed she was pressured to change her report over security measures in Nice on the night of the July 14th attack.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Analysis & Opinion
Isis can simply be a conduit for the violent desires of psychopaths
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Features
Six outdoor bars in Paris you simply must visit
Culture
The open-air Villette cinema has been cancelled over security fears
Culture
Henri Rousseau exhibition proves huge hit in Paris
National
Frenchman caught trying to sell Nice massacre souvenirs online
Society
OPEN NOW: Here's why you should head to the Paris Plages
Culture
What's on in France: Still plenty to see and do in July
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Lifestyle
Treasures of Versailles to go on display in Australia
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
National
Nice attack: What we know so far
National
Nice attacker: Body-building, drug-taking, violent flirt
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
IN IMAGES: Drawings in tribute to Nice attack victims
Society
Promenade des Anglais: The iconic heart of the French Riviera
France faces more questions after latest deadly attack
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Why is France the target of choice for jihadist attacks?
National
Nice truck attack: 'Bodies went flying like bowling pins'
Nice attack: Families of missing make pleas on Twitter
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Politics
Boris Johnson cheered and booed at Bastille Day party
National
Ten reasons not to leave Paris this summer
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Ten ways other expats in France drive you mad
'Very Stupid' village in France honoured for its silly name
Travel
Ten crazy things to do in France if you dare
Society
Paris: an obstacle course for wheelchair users
2,766
jobs available