Polémique Dieudonné: Après le mariage, la victimisation pour tous ! (Streisand effect: How demonization keeps France’s defrocked multiculturalist poster child alive)

5 janvier, 2014
Manifestation de soutien à Dieudonné le 28 décembre 2013.http://commentisfreewatch.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/next.jpeghttps://i0.wp.com/img.over-blog-kiwi.com/0/20/39/77/201312/ob_4cb4fd5b214abe66efb2a1bde6351932_pi30-jpg.jpeghttps://i2.wp.com/img.over-blog-kiwi.com/0/20/39/77/201312/ob_e75f461b6fd55538c3e699cc1f6c5738_soralberlin-jpg.jpeghttps://i0.wp.com/img.over-blog-kiwi.com/0/20/39/77/201312/ob_5f121e_1475866-446627335441323-1693066782-n-jpg.jpeghttps://i2.wp.com/www.gabrielglewis.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/strangelove.jpgPresque aucun des fidèles ne se retenait de s’esclaffer, et ils avaient l’air d’une bande d’anthropophages chez qui une blessure faite à un blanc a réveillé le goût du sang. Car l’instinct d’imitation et l’absence de courage gouvernent les sociétés comme les foules. Et tout le monde rit de quelqu’un dont on voit se moquer, quitte à le vénérer dix ans plus tard dans un cercle où il est admiré. C’est de la même façon que le peuple chasse ou acclame les rois. Marcel Proust
Il ne faut pas dissimuler que les institutions démocratiques développent à un très haut niveau le sentiment de l’envie dans le coeur humain. Ce n’est point tant parce qu’elle offrent à chacun les moyens de s’égaler aux autres, mais parce que ces moyens défaillent sans cesse à ceux qui les emploient. Les institutions démocratiques réveillent et flattent la passion de l’égalité sans pouvoir jamais la satisfaire entièrement. Cette égalité complète s’échappe tous les jours des mains du peuples au moment où il croit la saisir, et fuit, comme dit Pascal, d’une fuite éternelle; le peuple s’échauffe à la recherche de ce bien d’autant plus précieux qu’il est assez proche pour être connu et assez loin pour ne pas être goûté. Tout ce qui le dépasse par quelque endroit lui paraît un obstacle à ses désirs, et il n’y a pas de supériorité si légitime dont la vue ne fatigue sas yeux. Tocqueville
Il y a en effet une passion mâle et légitime pour l’égalité qui excite les hommes à vouloir être tous forts et estimés. Cette passion tend à élever les petits au rang des grands ; mais il se rencontre aussi dans le cœur humain un goût dépravé pour l’égalité, qui porte les faibles à vouloir attirer les forts à leur niveau, et qui réduit les hommes à préférer l’égalité dans la servitude à l’inégalité dans la liberté. Tocqueville
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude. Chesterton
L’antisémitisme est le socialisme des imbéciles. Ferdinand Kronawetter ? (attribué à August Bebel)
Imaginons deux enfants dans une pièce pleine de jouets identiques. Le premier prend un jouet, mais il ne semble pas fort intéressé par l’objet. Le second l’observe et essaie d’arracher le jouet à son petit camarade. Celui-là n’était pas fort captivé par la babiole, mais – soudain – parce que l’autre est intéressé cela change et il ne veut plus le lâcher. Des larmes, des frustrations et de la violence s’ensuivent. Dans un laps de temps très court un objet pour lequel aucun des deux n’avait un intérêt particulier est devenu l’enjeu d’une rivalité obstinée. René Girard
C’était une cité fortement convoitée par les ennemis de la foi et c’est pourquoi, par une sorte de syndrome mimétique, elle devint chère également au cœur des Musulmans. Emmanuel Sivan
Il faut se souvenir que le nazisme s’est lui-même présenté comme une lutte contre la violence: c’est en se posant en victime du traité de Versailles que Hitler a gagné son pouvoir. Et le communisme lui aussi s’est présenté comme une défense des victimes. Désormais, c’est donc seulement au nom de la lutte contre la violence qu’on peut commettre la violence. René Girard
L’effet Streisand est un phénomène médiatique au cours duquel la volonté d’empêcher la divulgation d’informations que l’on aimerait garder secrètes – qu’il s’agisse de simples rumeurs ou de faits vérifiés – déclenche le résultat inverse. Par ses efforts, la victime encourage malgré elle l’exposition d’une publication qu’elle souhaitait voir ignorée. Il s’agit donc à proprement parler d’un « effet pervers ». Wikipedia
Que veut, en fait, Dieudonné ? Il veut un ‘Holocauste’ pour les Arabes et pour les noirs aussi. (…) La noble idée de « la guerre contre le racisme » se transforme graduellement en une idéologie hideusement mensongère. Et cet antiracisme sera, pour le XXIe siècle, ce qu’a été le communisme pour le XXe. Alain Finkielkraut
Nous sommes entrés dans un mouvement qui est de l’ordre du religieux. Entrés dans la mécanique du sacrilège : la victime, dans nos sociétés, est entourée de l’aura du sacré. Du coup, l’écriture de l’histoire, la recherche universitaire, se retrouvent soumises à l’appréciation du législateur et du juge comme, autrefois, à celle de la Sorbonne ecclésiastique. Françoise Chandernagor
La lisibilité de la filiation, qui est dans l’intérêt de l’enfant, est sacrifiée au profit du bon vouloir des adultes et la loi finit par mentir sur l’origine de la vieConférence des évêques
C’est un moment génial de l’histoire de France. Toute la communauté issue de l’immigration adhère complètement à la position de la France. Tout d’un coup, il y a une espèce de ferment. Profitons de cet espace de francitude nouvelle. Jean-Louis Borloo (ministre délégué à la Ville, suite à des manifestations anti-guerre d’Irak marquées par nombre de cris d’ »A mort les juifs! », avril 2003)
Juifs et musulmans pour moi, ça n’existe pas. Donc, antisémite n’existe pas, parce que juif n’existe pas. Ce sont deux notions aussi stupides l’une que l’autre. Personne n’est juif ou alors tout le monde … pour moi, les juifs, c’est une secte, une escroquerie. C’est une des plus graves parce que c’est la première. Certains musulmans prennent la même voie en ranimant des concepts comme « la guerre sainte » … Dieudonné (Lyon Capitale, 23 janvier 2002)

En dépit de l’emploi des termes « secte et escroquerie », le contexte de l’entretien en cause laisse apparaître qu’en critiquant d’autres religions en des propos également vifs, le prévenu a seulement manifesté son hostilité au principe même du fait religieux et qu’ainsi, les invectives proférées ne s’adressent pas à la communauté juive en tant que telle.
Tribunal correctionnel de Paris (30 juin 2004)
Replacés dans leur contexte, les termes « les juifs, c’est une secte, c’est une escroquerie » relèvent d’un débat théorique sur l’influence des religions et ne constituent pas une attaque dirigée contre la communauté juive en tant que communauté humaine ». Cour d’appel de Paris (9 février 2006)
Je ne comprends pas qu’on puisse assimiler ce geste à un geste nazi, alors que c’est un bras d’honneur à l’horizontale ! Les gens qui disent ça ont simplement de vraies obsessions. Jean-Marie Le Pen
Cohen , il a dit que j’avais un cerveau malade , alors tu vois , quand j’entends parler Patrick Cohen, je me dis les chambres à gaz… Dommage ! Dieudonné
Je n’ai pas le droit à la prison, c’est évidemment une très très grande déception, parce que je m’y étais préparé, ça faisait partie de ma campagne promotionnelle. Dieudonné
While this gesture has been part of French culture for many years, it was not until recently that I learned of the very negative concerns associated with it. When l was photographed making that gesture three years ago, I thought it was part of a comedy act and did not know that it could be in any way offensive or harmful. Since I have been made aware of the seriousness of this gesture, I will certainly never repeat the gesture and sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or harm relating to my actions. Hopefully this incident will serve to educate others that we need to be more aware that things that may seem innocuous can actually have a history of hate and hurt. Tony Parker
La quenelle est avant tout un code identitaire, qui a acquis une vraie popularité chez les jeunes. Difficile de dire que tous aient conscience de la portée de ce geste». .. une mouvance transversale, antisystème et complotiste, dont l’antisémitisme reste la colonne vertébrale. Leur vision du monde est celle d’un ordre mondial dominé par l’axe Washington-Tel-Aviv. Derrière les discours fustigeant l’Otan et la finance internationale, tout en soutenant Bachar al-Assad et Hugo Chávez, il y a la conviction qu’au fond, ce sont les Juifs qui tirent les ficelles. Jean-Yves Camus (spécialiste de l’extrême droite)
A présent que ce geste s’est répandu dans toutes les cours de récréation, des milliers de personnes qui faisaient ce geste par amusement et qui ne pensaient pas du tout aux juifs (et oui, Mesdames, Messieurs du Crif, les juifs et la shoah n’occupent pas les pensées de tout le monde, tout le temps….), il est certain que toutes ces personnes pourront se dire « c’est à cause des juifs et d’Israël (bref des sionistes) que l’on ne peut plus rigoler, ils nous cassent les pieds » (et je reste poli…). On sait déjà que la source originelle de l’antisémitisme vient du fait que le judaïsme a instauré pour l’humanité des principes de vie et de morale avec les dix commandements, et que ne plus obéir totalement à son désir, mais avoir des contraintes morales est nécessairement une atteinte à sa liberté (on n’est plus libre de tuer qui on veut, de voler ce qui nous plait, et l’on ne se sent plus aussi bien lorsque l’on pratique l’adultère….). Le désastre, c’est qu’aujourd’hui, pour les centaines de milliers de fans de Dieudonné, il y a un onzième commandement : on ne va plus pouvoir rigoler et faire de bonnes blagues à cause des juifs, des sionistes et d’Israël. Raison de plus pour résister à ce nouveau « diktat moral des juifs » en continuant à faire ce geste…. Cette mise en exergue d’un geste qui n’était qu’un trait de vulgarité, a réveillé un immense caractère antisémite dans des milliers de cerveaux français, et bientôt européens…. Stéphane Haddad
Il se marre. Il se bidonne, il s’éclate, Dieudonné ! La polémique sur la possible interdiction de son show a refait le plein de carburant pour sa petite machine à haine, et à cash. Le ministre de l’Intérieur va demander aux préfets d’invoquer un risque de «trouble à l’ordre public ».« Trouble à l’ordre public » ? C’est presque la Légion d’honneur qui lui est ainsi décernée. Dieudonné se nourrit du «trouble» et conchie l’ «ordre public », qui n’est, pour lui, que l’ordre sioniste, l’ordre des Juifs, l’ordre du « système ». Ses fans s’enflamment : si Dieudonné est ainsi menacé, c’est bien qu’il dérange ! Et qu’il vise juste ! Car le public qui se presse pour assister à son spectacle a évolué, au fil des années, suivant docilement la trajectoire de l’« artiste». Ce n’est plus l’humoriste que l’on va voir pour rigoler un bon coup. C’est le provocateur. C’est l’«antisystème ». A chaque dérapage antisémite, l’assistance est parcourue par le délicieux frisson de l’interdit.  (…) Il faut une solide dose d’aveuglement, ou plutôt de mauvaise foi, pour ne pas traduire correctement le mot « système ». Si le monde va comme il va, c’est parce que les Juifs le font tourner. Il ne s’agit pas seulement d ‘ une vulgaire déclaration raciste. C’est une lecture de l’Histoire : la lecture des nazis. D’ailleurs, la filiation est assumée, avec cette fameuse «quenelle». Ce geste est celui du Docteur Folamour, dans le film du même nom. Incapable de réfréner le salut nazi que fait compulsivement son bras droit, le héros est obligé de le bloquer avec la main gauche. Le gag de Kubrick a fait florès. Mille fois répété, bien avant que Dieudonné s’en saisisse, sa signification est parfaitement claire : je suis nazi, mais je ne dois pas l’exprimer. Il suffit pour s’en convaincre de recenser les lieux choisis par les fans qui se font photographier en pleine quenelle et adressent le cliché au site Internet de Dieudonné : le mémorial de la Shoah à Berlin, la voie ferrée menant à Auschwitz, l’école de Toulouse où Merah a tué des enfants juifs… Rien d’antisémite dans ces choix! Ceux qui font mine de s’interroger sur la portée du geste se foutent du monde. (…) Tiens ? Où est-elle passée, Christiane Taubira, en pleine tourmente Dieudonné ? Quelles instructions a-t-elle données aux parquets généraux ? Il y a de quoi rire, en effet, quand on sait qu’aucune des condamnations déjà prononcées n’a été exécutée . Le Canard enchainé
Cela ne concerne pas toute la France, sinon Jean-Jacques Goldman et Patrick Bruel y seraient des marginaux, tout comme Gad Elmaleh ou Patrick Timsit, mais cela concerne néanmoins une part inquiétante de la population française : il existe en ce pays une nébuleuse fétide où se mêle une extrême droite porteuse de relents pétainistes, catholiques intégristes, nationalistes myopes, anti-israéliens et anti-américains, une extrême-gauche qui ne se distingue de l’extrême droite que parce qu’elle est favorable à l’islamisation du monde et à l’immigration sans contrôles, et, précisément, des courants islamiques eux-mêmes anti-israéliens et anti-américains. L’extrême droite camoufle son antisémitisme sous le manteau de l’ « antisionisme », qui est celui sous lequel s’abritent aussi extrême gauche et courants islamiques. Dieudonné trouve un public dans les divers composants de cette nébuleuse. Il suscite aussi chez des spectateurs de passage une accoutumance à certains parfums. Ces parfums sont ceux de la décomposition. On n’arrêtera pas la décomposition en interdisant des spectacles. Mais si des vagues de révolte contre ce que signifient ces spectacles se lèvent, ce seront des vagues salubres. Et elles ont mon soutien. On n’arrêtera pas le recours à certains gestes en interdisant ceux-ci. Mais faire un geste qui se trouve fait et photographié à Auschwitz, devant des synagogues, devant l’école juive de Toulouse où Merah a assassiné des enfants juifs, devant des photos d’Anne Frank, et j’en passe, c’est faire un geste lourd de sens et lourd de son poids de cadavres, et se voir traité comme un être infâme pour avoir fait ce geste est pleinement légitime. C’est se faire complice, par l’esprit, d’un crime contre l’humanité passé et de crimes contre l’humanité présents : ceux qui frappent des Israéliens et peuvent les frapper. Et que face à ce geste se lèvent aussi des vagues de révolte est sain et légitime. Je crains, hélas, que Dieudonné soit l’un des signes annonciateurs de ce qui vient. Guy Millière
Dans une vidéo postée sur YouTube le 20 août et vue 385 000 fois, Dieudonné, écharpe du Hamas au cou, se délecte de la popularité exponentielle du geste, feignant d’être dépassé par son succès. «Je ne pensais pas que le mouvement de la quenelle irait aussi loin. Aujourd’hui, cet acte subversif ne m’appartient plus, il appartient à la révolution.» S’ensuit un montage photo de «quenelles glissées» par des jeunes, des vieux, des pompiers, des syndicalistes. On retrouve le geste sur des photos de classe et de mariage. D’autres, prises devant des synagogues en France ou à l’étranger et jusqu’au mémorial de la Shoah à Berlin, ne cachent pas leur sous-texte antisémite. Climax de la vidéo, des policiers et militaires en tenue. Hilare, Dieudonné se met à «rêver d’un coup d’Etat au secours du peuple, comme en Egypte». Avec la condamnation du ministère de la Défense, la polémique dépasse désormais le cercle des initiés. Et ce débat amène certains, à l’instar du journaliste Jean-Laurent Cassely, à s’inquiéter d’une éventuelle «dieudonisation des esprits». Libération
La quenelle est, si on ose dire, le bras armé de l’idéologie de Dieudonné. Tout à la fois running gag, symbole politique et bras d’honneur dirigé contre ceux «d’en haut», «glisser une quenelle» consiste à placer sa main ouverte sur son bras opposé, à allonger se dernier pour faire un signe dont la signification est explicite. La référence au salut hitlérien est évidemment volontaire. On a vu d’ailleurs apparaître ces «quenelles» dans le cadre de la campagne du Parti antisioniste, dont il fut l’éphémère tête de liste en Ile de France aux européennes de 2009, sur une affiche électorale dont l’ambiguïté n’était pas vraiment de mise… La quenelle se décline en plusieurs tailles, à jauger en fonction du succès de l’action: petite quenelle, quenelle de 12, quenelle de 40, de 175, quenelle épaulée, etc. Plus la quenelle est longue, plus, bien entendu, le bras d’honneur est profond et procure satisfaction à son auteur. Un registre paillard qui rappelle un peu le slogan de Coluche lors de la présidentielle de 1981, pour laquelle il décidera finalement de se retirer: «Tous ensemble, pour leur foutre au cul». La cible n’est évidemment plus la même. Quant à l’ananas, décliné tout au long de la soirée sous de multiples formes (ananas frais au buffet, fresque géante devant la salle, tee-shirts souvenir, déguisements, etc.), il est omniprésent pour rappeler la cause de la condamnation de l’intéressé pour provocation à la haine: la chanson Shoananas, qu’il reprend en cœur avec son public lors de chaque spectacle, sur l’air de la chanson Chaud Cacao d’Annie Cordy. Le troisième signe de ralliement important qui, avec la quenelle et l’ananas, forme la trinité de la terminologie officielle, c’est l’expression «Au-dessus, c’est le soleil». Traduction: on s’attaque à la chose la plus haute, la plus sacrée possible (la Shoah, mais cela peut aussi s’appliquer à Bernard-Henri Levy ou à Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). Cette phrase peut-être prononcée, imprimée sur tee-shirt, ou encore simplement mimée (il suffit pour cela de tenir son doigt en l’air comme pointé vers le soleil, en mimant avec la bouche une sorte de bisou pour en faire une caricature de rabin). Quant à la quenelle à proprement parler, elle se décline en signes, en tee-shirts, en logos détournés. Elle est devenue une unité de langage. La voici parodiant le logo de Facebook, « réseau social sioniste ». Jean-Laurent Cassely
Malheureusement, toutes ces manœuvres sont non seulement inutiles, mais également contre-productives. Et cela, qu’elles soient légales ou illégales, menées par des individus ou des institutions : la répression ne fonctionne pas lorsqu’elle lutte contre des idées. La répression d’idées « dissidentes » par les pouvoirs publics ou les médias nationaux a un effet pervers : elle leur offre un véritable « diplôme de non-respectabilité ». Cela tient de la logique circulaire : si ces idées sont combattues avec autant d’acharnement par des « représentants du système » (journalistes, commentateurs, intellectuels médiatiques) ou par les pouvoirs publics, c’est qu’elles dérangent. Encore récemment, le Front national utilisait cet effet, s’appuyant sur sa « diabolisation » afin de prouver qu’il constituait un parti d’opposition de premier ordre. Dieudonné l’expliqua lui-même à la suite de sa dernière condamnation : « Je n’ai pas le droit à la prison, c’est évidemment une très très grande déception, parce que je m’y étais préparé, ça faisait partie de ma campagne promotionnelle ». Aujourd’hui, la censure produit l’effet totalement inverse de son objectif premier ; il s’agit de l’une des applications de l’Effet Streisand. Cet effet s’ajoute à celui de la « validation » des idées comme anti-systèmes par les « représentants du système » eux-mêmes. Cette censure confine à l’absurde lorsqu’elle concerne la publication d’œuvres tombées dans le domaine public, comme c’est le cas de celles de Léon Bloy ou d’Edouard Drumont, éditées par Kontre Kulture. À ce premier anachronisme qui consiste à vouloir empêcher la diffusion de textes politiques en France au XXIe siècle, s’ajoute un problème technique et moral : pourquoi empêcher une maison d’édition de publier des textes que n’importe quel internaute peut dénicher gratuitement ? À l’heure de la diffusion numérique massive, même des textes hors-domaine public, donc piratés, s’obtiennent sans difficulté sur internet. Par chance, nous vivons dans une démocratie. Les seules violences exercées contre des porte-paroles d’idéologies jugées inacceptables le sont par des individus n’ayant aucun lien avec les pouvoirs publics. Malgré tout, cette approche fait partie du prisme répressif, du front luttant contre les idées d’Alain Soral et Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. Et comme les approches légales de la répression, il est important de souligner qu’elles sont parfaitement inutiles. La violence, qu’elle soit légalement ou illégalement exercée, affaiblit difficilement les idées. Au contraire : celles-ci se nourrissent des réactions qu’elles engendrent, et se renforcent grâce aux actes engagés contre leurs porte-paroles. Ainsi, les agressions d’Alain Soral et Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, les menaces qu’ils reçoivent et la pression exercée sur les « quenelleurs » sont prises comme des raisons supplémentaires de poursuivre leur combat. La radicalisation d’Alain Soral, par exemple, est postérieure à son agression en 2004, lors d’une dédicace, durant laquelle l’essayiste fut blessé au même titre que ses lecteurs. Que l’on juge nauséabonde ou honorable une idéologie, celle-ci obéit à la même loi : ses défenseurs trouvent dans la répression une raison supplémentaire de tenir tête à leurs adversaires. Les démocrates et les défenseurs de l’ordre républicain devraient se rappeler qu’il y a bien plus d’utilité et de noblesse à défendre l’expression libre d’idées avec lesquelles nous ne sommes pas d’accord. L’Histoire devrait également leur rappeler que le marteau du juge, la matraque du policier ou la barre de fer du militant violent n’ont jamais réussi à arrêter des idées, nauséabondes ou non. Face aux idées, il ne peut y avoir que des idées. La condamnation systématique et aveugle, la haine comme moteur de l’action politique et la mystification de l’adversaire ne sont que des pratiques inefficaces et désuètes. Au mieux, elles troublent le jeu démocratique ; au pire, elles renforcent ceux qu’elles comptaient combattre. Arnaud Lavalade
Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala was born in a Paris suburb nearly 48 years ago. His mother was white, from Brittany, his father was African, from Cameroun.  This should make him a poster child for the “multiculturalism” the ideologically dominant left claims to promote.  And during the first part of his career, teaming up with his Jewish friend, Elie Simoun, he was just that: campaigning against racism, focusing his criticism on the National Front and even running for office against an NF candidate in the dormitory town of Dreux, some sixty miles West of Paris, where he lives. Like the best humorists, Dieudonné always targeted current events, with a warmth and dignity unusual in the profession. His career flourished, he played in movies, was a guest on television, branched out on his own.  A great observer, he excels at relatively subtle imitations of various personality types and ethnic groups from Africans to Chinese. Ten years ago, on December 1, 2003, as guest on a TV show appropriately called “You Can’t Please Everybody”, dedicated to current events, Dieudonné came on stage roughly disguised as “a convert to Zionist extremism” advising others to get ahead by “joining the American-Israeli Axis of Good”. This was in the first year of the US assault on Iraq, which France’s refusal to join had led Washington to rechristen what it calls “French fries” (Belgian, actually) as “Freedom fries”.  A relatively mild attack on George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” seemed totally in the mood of the times. The sketch ended with a brief salute, “Isra-heil”.  This was far from being vintage Dieudonné, but nevertheless, the popular humorist was at the time enthusiastically embraced by other performers while the studio audience gave him a standing ovation. Then the protests started coming in, especially concerning the final gesture seen as likening Israel to Nazi Germany. (…) Thus began a decade of escalation.  LICRA began a long series of lawsuits against him (“incitement to racial hatred”), at first losing, but keeping up the pressure.  Instead of backing down, Dieudonné went farther in his criticism of “Zionism” after each attack.  Meanwhile, Dieudonné was gradually excluded from television appearances and treated as a pariah by mainstream media.  It is only the recent internet profusion of images showing young people making the quenelle sign that has moved the establishment to conclude that a direct attack would be more effective than trying to ignore him. To begin to understand the meaning of the Dieudonné affair, it is necessary to grasp the ideological context.  For reasons too complex to review here, the French left – the left that once was primarily concerned with the welfare of the working class, with social equality, opposition to aggressive war, freedom of speech – has virtually collapsed.  The right has won the decisive economic battle, with the triumph of policies favoring monetary stability and the interests of international investment capital (“neo-liberalism”).  As a consolation prize, the left enjoys a certain ideological dominance, based on anti-racism, anti-nationalism and devotion to the European Union – even to the hypothetical “social Europe” that daily recedes into the cemetery of lost dreams. In fact, this ideology fits perfectly with a globalization geared to the requirements of international finance capital. In the absence of any serious socio-economic left, France has sunk into a sort of “Identity Politics”, which both praises multiculturalism and reacts vehemently against “communitarianism”, that is, the assertion of any unwelcome ethnic particularisms. (…) France has adopted laws to “punish anti-Semitism”.  The result is the opposite.  Such measures simply tend to confirm the old notion that “the Jews run the country” and contribute to growing anti-Semitism.  When French youth see a Franco-Israeli attempt to outlaw a simple gesture, when the Jewish community moves to ban their favorite humorist, anti-Semitism can only grow even more rapidly. Diana Johnstone

Après le mariage,… la victimisation pour tous !

Alors qu’attirés par le goût du sang de la polémique qui enfle et contre toutes les hyprocrites dénégations (« anti-système », on vous dit !) de leurs initiateurs, nos nouveaux tenants du socialisme des imbéciles bouffeurs de rabbins disent chaque jour un peu plus la pathétique vérité de leur geste

Et que d’autres qui avec leurs confrères bouffeurs de curé se sont faits un véritable de fonds de commerce de la caricature la plus débile en sont à dénoncer le jusqu’alors silence assourdissant d’une ministre de la Justice à qui l’on doit déjà deux lois vériticides (historique et biologique) …

Pendant qu ‘outre-manche ou atlantique et sans la moindre loi mémorielle, on ne semble pas trop plaisanter avec ces choses …

Comment ne pas voir après les lois liberticides sur les génocides juif et arménien ou l’actuelle mode des génocides et autres mariages pour tous

Et les tentatives, jusqu’ici heureusement infructueuses, du totalitarisme islamique de faire condamner les caricatures de leur propre prêcheur de haine

L’énième épisode d’un syndrome mimétique et de la concurrence des victimes qui est ici en train de se rejouer dans ce cimetière rempli d’idées chrétiennes devenues folles qu’est devenu notre monde moderne ?

Mais aussi, au-delà des indéniables risques de banalisation (Enderlin-Dieudonné, même combat!) l’immense cadeau que l’on est en train de faire en prétendant le priver de son imprescriptible droit à la bêtise la plus crasse …

A l’humoriste de seconde zone qui, réduit à jouer les victimes (jusqu’à sa propre insolvabilité pendant que Madame dépose la marque de l’objet du délit!) et à multiplier les provocations à l’instar de son pathétique mentor front-nationaliste, avait largement lui aussi dépassé sa date de péremption ?

La « quenelle » de Dieudonné : face aux idées, la répression et la violence sont inutiles

Arnaud Lavalade

Chargé d’études

Le Nouvel Observateur

29-12-2013

Manuel Valls n’a pas de mots assez durs pour définir l’essayiste Alain Soral et l’humoriste Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. Les considérant comme des ennemis de la République, dégoûté par leur « idéologie nauséabonde », il prône désormais l’interdiction des spectacles de Dieudonné.

Du débat public à la répression de la parole

Cette politique répressive est censée faire face à la « dieudonnisation des esprits », et s’inscrit plus globalement dans le cadre de la lutte contre des idées jugées inacceptables. Cette lutte a pu prendre différentes formes, allant de l’agression physique aux interdictions de spectacles par des élus locaux, en passant par de multiples condamnations publiques ou judiciaires.

Entre autres condamnations récentes, la maison d’édition Kontre Kulture, diffusant les œuvres des deux militants, s’est vue forcée de censurer plusieurs de ses ouvrages. En parallèle, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala a été condamné en appel pour sa chanson « Shoah Nanas » à 28.000 euros d’amende.

La répression systématique étendue aux « quenelleurs »

Cette répression s’étend également à tous ceux affichant, de près ou de loin, des affinités pour le duo polémique. Entre autres : les « quenelleurs », pratiquant le geste de la quenelle, considéré par certains comme une sorte de bras d’honneur, par d’autres comme un salut nazi ou un signe simplement antisémite.

Les actions « anti-quenelles » reprennent un schéma comparable : ennuis professionnels, condamnations publiques, procès, voire des actes illégaux accomplis par des activistes, tels que des piratages informatiques ou violences physiques. En sus, on attend de toute célébrité ayant déjà réalisé une quenelle qu’elle s’explique publiquement sur son geste.

Malheureusement, toutes ces manœuvres sont non seulement inutiles, mais également contre-productives. Et cela, qu’elles soient légales ou illégales, menées par des individus ou des institutions : la répression ne fonctionne pas lorsqu’elle lutte contre des idées.

La répression décerne le titre « d’ennemi du système »

La répression d’idées « dissidentes » par les pouvoirs publics ou les médias nationaux a un effet pervers : elle leur offre un véritable « diplôme de non-respectabilité ».

Cela tient de la logique circulaire : si ces idées sont combattues avec autant d’acharnement par des « représentants du système » (journalistes, commentateurs, intellectuels médiatiques) ou par les pouvoirs publics, c’est qu’elles dérangent. Encore récemment, le Front national utilisait cet effet, s’appuyant sur sa « diabolisation » afin de prouver qu’il constituait un parti d’opposition de premier ordre.

Dieudonné l’expliqua lui-même à la suite de sa dernière condamnation : « Je n’ai pas le droit à la prison, c’est évidemment une très très grande déception, parce que je m’y étais préparé, ça faisait partie de ma campagne promotionnelle ».

La censure, un outil désuet

Aujourd’hui, la censure produit l’effet totalement inverse de son objectif premier ; il s’agit de l’une des applications de l’Effet Streisand. Cet effet s’ajoute à celui de la « validation » des idées comme anti-systèmes par les « représentants du système » eux-mêmes.

Cette censure confine à l’absurde lorsqu’elle concerne la publication d’œuvres tombées dans le domaine public, comme c’est le cas de celles de Léon Bloy ou d’Edouard Drumont, éditées par Kontre Kulture.

À ce premier anachronisme qui consiste à vouloir empêcher la diffusion de textes politiques en France au XXIe siècle, s’ajoute un problème technique et moral : pourquoi empêcher une maison d’édition de publier des textes que n’importe quel internaute peut dénicher gratuitement ?

À l’heure de la diffusion numérique massive, même des textes hors-domaine public, donc piratés, s’obtiennent sans difficulté sur internet.

Une violence inutile

Par chance, nous vivons dans une démocratie. Les seules violences exercées contre des porte-paroles d’idéologies jugées inacceptables le sont par des individus n’ayant aucun lien avec les pouvoirs publics. Malgré tout, cette approche fait partie du prisme répressif, du front luttant contre les idées d’Alain Soral et Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. Et comme les approches légales de la répression, il est important de souligner qu’elles sont parfaitement inutiles.

La violence, qu’elle soit légalement ou illégalement exercée, affaiblit difficilement les idées. Au contraire : celles-ci se nourrissent des réactions qu’elles engendrent, et se renforcent grâce aux actes engagés contre leurs porte-paroles.

Ainsi, les agressions d’Alain Soral et Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, les menaces qu’ils reçoivent et la pression exercée sur les « quenelleurs » sont prises comme des raisons supplémentaires de poursuivre leur combat. La radicalisation d’Alain Soral, par exemple, est postérieure à son agression en 2004, lors d’une dédicace, durant laquelle l’essayiste fut blessé au même titre que ses lecteurs.

Une répression contre-productive

Que l’on juge nauséabonde ou honorable une idéologie, celle-ci obéit à la même loi : ses défenseurs trouvent dans la répression une raison supplémentaire de tenir tête à leurs adversaires.

Les démocrates et les défenseurs de l’ordre républicain devraient se rappeler qu’il y a bien plus d’utilité et de noblesse à défendre l’expression libre d’idées avec lesquelles nous ne sommes pas d’accord. L’Histoire devrait également leur rappeler que le marteau du juge, la matraque du policier ou la barre de fer du militant violent n’ont jamais réussi à arrêter des idées, nauséabondes ou non.

Face aux idées, il ne peut y avoir que des idées. La condamnation systématique et aveugle, la haine comme moteur de l’action politique et la mystification de l’adversaire ne sont que des pratiques inefficaces et désuètes. Au mieux, elles troublent le jeu démocratique ; au pire, elles renforcent ceux qu’elles comptaient combattre.

Voir aussi:

Ca part en quenelle

Louis-Marie Horeau

Le Canard enchainé

31 décembre 2013

Il se marre. Il se bidonne, il s’éclate, Dieudonné ! La polémique sur la possible interdiction de son show a refait le plein de carburant pour sa petite machine à haine, et à cash. Le ministre de l’Intérieur va demander aux préfets d’invoquer un risque de «trouble à l’ordre public ».

« Trouble à l’ordre public » ?

C’est presque la Légion d’honneur qui lui est ainsi décernée. Dieudonné se nourrit du «trouble» et conchie l’ «ordre public », qui n’est, pour lui, que l’ordre sioniste, l’ordre des Juifs, l’ordre du « système ».

Ses fans s’enflamment : si Dieudonné est ainsi menacé, c’est bien qu’il dérange ! Et qu’il vise juste ! Car le public qui se presse pour assister à son spectacle a évolué, au fil des années, suivant docilement la trajectoire de l’« artiste». Ce n’est plus l’humoriste que l’on va voir pour rigoler un bon coup. C’est le provocateur. C’est l’«antisystème ».

A chaque dérapage antisémite, l’assistance est parcourue par le délicieux frisson de l’interdit. Le sommet est atteint quand Dieudonné se lâche et reprend dans un sketche les termes d’une plainte déposée par son avocat. « La sodomie ne pouvant être réalisée sur des restes calcinés de corps humains sortis des fours crématoires nazis, et pire encore après qu’ils aient été transformés en savon…» Applaudissements.

Il faut une solide dose d’aveuglement, ou plutôt de mauvaise foi, pour ne pas traduire correctement le mot « système ». Si le monde va comme il va, c’est parce que les Juifs le font tourner. Il ne s’agit pas seulement d ‘ une vulgaire déclaration raciste. C’est une lecture de l’Histoire : la lecture des nazis.

D’ailleurs, la filiation est assumée, avec cette fameuse «quenelle». Ce geste est celui du Docteur Folamour, dans le film du même nom. Incapable de réfréner le salut nazi que fait compulsivement son bras droit, le héros est obligé de le bloquer avec la main gauche. Le gag de Kubrick a fait florès. Mille fois répété, bien avant que Dieudonné s’en saisisse, sa signification est parfaitement claire : je suis nazi, mais je ne dois pas l’exprimer. Il suffit pour s’en convaincre de recenser les lieux choisis par les fans qui se font photographier en pleine quenelle et adressent le cliché au site Internet de Dieudonné : le mémorial de la Shoah à Berlin, la voie ferrée menant à Auschwitz, l’école de Toulouse où Merah a tué des enfants juifs… Rien d’antisémite dans ces choix! Ceux qui font mine de s’interroger sur la portée du geste se foutent du monde. Et ils font rigoler Dieudonné.

Ce ne sont pas quelques arrêtés d’interdiction qui vont l’empêcher de se marrer. Toutes les tentatives dans ce sens se sont heurtées au droit et ont été annulées par les tribunaux administratifs . Le régime de la censure préalable n’a plus le droit de cité en France, et c’est heureux . En revanche, la justice a son mot à dire. Et elle le dit : plusieurs condamnations ont déjà été prononcées, d’autres sont à venir. Et Dieudonné rigole toujours. Il rigole parce que les poursuites sont engagées par des particuliers ou des associations. Les procureurs de la République roupillent. La Chancellerie regarde ailleurs, la ministre de la Justice se tait.

Tiens ? Où est-elle passée, Christiane Taubira, en pleine tourmente Dieudonné ? Quelles instructions a-t-elle données aux parquets généraux ? Il y a de quoi rire, en effet, quand on sait qu’aucune des condamnations déjà prononcées n’a été exécutée . Dieudonné se marre, et il y a de quoi. Le ministre de l’Intérieur se fâche, et il a raison, mais il est impuissant. La ministre qui pourrait agir est aux abonnés absents . Une idée de sketch pour le prochain spectacle ?

Voir également:

Dieudonné et sa « quenelle » : lettre à mes amis (encore) fans de l’humoriste

Thomas Carre-Pierrat

Le Nouvel observateur

28-12-2013

Vous êtes encore quelques-uns, dans mon entourage, à vouloir rigoler des blagues de Dieudonné. Pendant longtemps, il fut l’un de nos comiques préférés, pour ne pas dire le premier. Il était assurément l’humoriste le plus doué de sa génération ; un comédien génial et un auteur d’exception.

Comme vous, je suis encore capable de réciter certains de ses sketchs par cœur. Mais voilà, cela fait un moment que « Dieudo », comme vous l’appelez encore, ne me fait plus marrer. En fait, j’ai décroché le jour où j’ai compris qu’il se moquait ouvertement de nous.

Dieudonné a basculé dans la mouvance d’extrême droite

Malheureusement, Dieudonné n’est plus un provocateur, un type subversif qui utilisent l’humour pour taper où cela fait mal. Il est devenu un homme politique qui se sert de ses spectacles pour diffuser des idées qui nous ulcèrent par ailleurs.

Dans un souci de cohérence, j’ai dû arrêter de le soutenir car je ne pouvais plus cautionner un mec qui traîne dans la nébuleuse de l’extrême droite et fréquente des hauts responsables du Front national, ce parti contre lequel nous avons si souvent usé nos souliers.

Essayez de répondre franchement et de manière convaincante aux questions suivantes : comment peut-on apprécier un type qui était venu consoler Jean-Marie Le Pen après sa défaite à la présidentielle en 2007 ? A-t-on envie de s’asseoir sur les bancs de son théâtre qui a servi de salle de formation pour des militants du Front National ? Est-il vraiment drôle et subversif de choisir Jean-Marie Le Pen pour être le parrain de sa fille ? Auriez-vous envie comme Dieudonné, d’aller boire des coups avec Serge Ayoub, l’un des leaders des skinheads français, après la mort du militant antifasciste Clément Méric ?

La vérité est tristement factuelle. Dieudonné est aujourd’hui un militant d’extrême droite. Cela ne signifie pas que vous l’êtes également. Mais, lorsque vous regardez ses spectacles, un certain nombre de vos voisins viennent précisément pour cette raison.

Car eux, ont bien compris que Dieudonné ne blaguait pas sur les juifs comme il est capable de le faire avec les musulmans, les catholiques ou les bouddhistes. Ils savent que Dieudonné est passé, au fil du temps, d’antisioniste à antisémite. Il fait partie de ces gens qui croient réellement en l’existence d’un lobby juif dont nous serions les frêles marionnettes.

Un humoriste qui vous coupe l’appétit

Le seul trait de génie dont on peut encore créditer Dieudonné, est précisément de s’appuyer sur cette ambiguïté entre l’humoriste et le politique pour faire passer un message purement et banalement antisémite. En cela, et pour le paraphraser, Dieudonné est la branche comique de l’extrême droite.

Je préfère le répéter une nouvelle fois ; cela ne signifie pas, chers amis, que vous seriez également d’extrême droite, de la même manière que bien des « quenelles » n’ont aucun soubassement antisémite.

Mais, en participant à cela, vous cautionnez son combat nauséabond et vous faites prospérer la boutique de Dieudonné et de ses nouveaux camarades.

Comment peut-on critiquer, à juste titre, les hommes politiques qui stigmatisent les étrangers, les musulmans ou les Roms pour chasser sur les terres du FN et continuer d’applaudir un mec qui mange déjà à la table des Le Pen ? Personnellement, cela me coupe définitivement l’appétit.

Le « système » n’est pas l’ennemi de Dieudonné mais son gagne-pain

En réalité, Dieudonné vous a fait cocu avec l’extrême-droite et vous continuez à fermer les yeux parce que vous aimez son image de rebelle, pourfendeur du « système ». Désolé de vous décevoir là-aussi, mais Dieudonné n’est qu’un rebelle de supermarché, un provocateur de bac à sable.

Franchement, peut-on se présenter comme un adversaire du « système » et se faire prendre en photo avec des Yannick Noah, Tony Parker ou Mamadou Sakho, c’est-à-dire des millionnaires, purs produits du système et dont la conscience politique est comparable à l’érudition de Nabilla.

Si vous souhaitez éveiller vos consciences, ou lutter contre l’ordre établi, je vous recommande plutôt de lire des livres de Noam Chomsky ou Naomi Klein. Leurs œuvres sont moins drôles, mais légèrement plus pertinentes et argumentés que les saillies inutiles de Dieudonné.

Le « système » n’est pas l’ennemi de Dieudonné mais son gagne-pain. Dans la plus pure tradition de l’extrême droite, il joue sur les peurs et les indignations de son public en lui livrant un bouc-émissaire éternel, le prétendu lobby juif. En plus d’avoir perdu son sens de l’humour, Dieudonné est un piètre penseur sans idée et dont l’idéologie ne procède que d’un délire paranoïaque.

Il faut tourner définitivement la page

L’humoriste Dieudonné est malheureusement mort et il faut être capable d’en faire son deuil. Comme tous les grands, il est irremplaçable. Sa pathétique réincarnation qui s’agite au Théâtre de la Main d’or est épouvantable. Malgré les légères ressemblances, il est vain de vouloir le défendre. Il n’y a plus rien à faire si ce n’est tourner définitivement la page.

Plus que d’éventuelles interdictions des pouvoirs publics ou de sanctions judiciaires qui le maintiendraient confortablement dans sa position de victime, Dieudonné doit être condamné par son public.

Chers amis, en cette fin d’année, prenez une bonne résolution : cessez de rire aux sketches de ce personnage car, à chacun de vos applaudissements, derrière la scène, c’est l’extrême droite qui se frotte les mains.

Voir également:

Les «quenelles» de Dieudonné laissent un sale goût

Guillaume Gendron

Libération

12 septembre 2013

RÉCIT

Le salut inventé par l’humoriste condamné pour antisémitisme a essaimé sur le Web. Des sanctions contre deux soldats qui ont reproduit le geste vont être prises.

Main ouverte près de l’épaule, bras opposé tendu vers le bas, paume ouverte et doigts joints, les deux militaires posent devant une synagogue, rue de Montevidéo, dans le XVIe arrondissement de Paris. Tout sourire, les deux chasseurs alpins en mission Vigipirate dans la capitale reproduisent le geste dit de la «quenelle», dont la paternité est revendiquée par l’humoriste controversé Dieudonné, poursuivi et condamné à plusieurs reprises pour des propos antisémites. La photo, qui circule depuis quelques semaines sur les réseaux sociaux après sa publication sur un site «antisioniste», a provoqué l’ire de Jean-Yves Le Drian, le ministre de la Défense, qui a réclamé mardi des sanctions à l’encontre des deux militaires. «Ils ont porté atteinte à l’uniforme et aux valeurs de l’armée de terre», a fait savoir, hier, Pierre Bayle, porte-parole du ministère de la Défense, qui a envoyé un «rappel au règlement à l’ensemble des personnels».

Totem. Depuis la diffusion du cliché par le magazine le Point en début de semaine, plusieurs autres photos de soldats «glissant des quenelles», selon l’expression consacrée par Dieudonné, avaient fait surface. Une source militaire parle même «d’un phénomène de mode», invisible aux yeux du grand public mais loin de se limiter aux rangs de l’armée. Bras d’honneur «bien profond dans le cul du système» pour ses ouailles ou ersatz de salut nazi à peine déguisé pour ses détracteurs, la «quenelle» de Dieudonné est à la fois un signe de ralliement et un message subliminal. Comme les ananas, autre totem des dieudonâtres faisant référence à la chanson Shoahnanas (un détournement antisémite de la chanson Cho Ka Ka O d’Annie Cordy pour laquelle il a été condamné fin 2012), la quenelle est d’autant plus réussie quand elle passe inaperçue aux yeux des profanes et des principales cibles de la vindicte dieudonesque. Soit les «sionistes», les médias et «le système».

Code. D’année en année, parallèlement à l’ostracisation plus ou moins orchestrée de l’humoriste enchaînant les dérapages, la quenelle s’est répandue sur la fachosphère. Quitte à être reprise par des milliers d’anonymes et des personnalités qui n’en mesurent pas totalement la symbolique, à l’image d’un Tony Parker immortalisé en compagnie de Dieudonné dans les coulisses du théâtre de la Main d’or ou du footballeur montpellierain Mathieu Deplagne après avoir marqué un but. «La quenelle est avant tout un code identitaire, qui a acquis une vraie popularité chez les jeunes. Difficile de dire que tous aient conscience de la portée de ce geste», estime Jean-Yves Camus, spécialiste de l’extrême droite. Le politologue définit cependant le groupe hétéroclite de fans de Dieudonné comme «une mouvance transversale, antisystème et complotiste, dont l’antisémitisme reste la colonne vertébrale. Leur vision du monde est celle d’un ordre mondial dominé par l’axe Washington-Tel-Aviv. Derrière les discours fustigeant l’Otan et la finance internationale, tout en soutenant Bachar al-Assad et Hugo Chávez, il y a la conviction qu’au fond, ce sont les Juifs qui tirent les ficelles.»

Les origines du geste sont floues, sans cesse réinventées par son géniteur. En revanche, son usage systématique lors des apparitions publiques de Dieudonné date de la «liste antisioniste», qu’il a présentée en Ile-de-France lors des européennes de 2009, au côté d’Alain Soral, ex-plume de Jean-Marie Le Pen, devenu gourou idéologique de l’humoriste. A l’époque, Dieudonné se réjouissait à «l’idée de glisser [sa] petite quenelle dans le fond du fion du sionisme», comme il l’avait déclaré à Libération. Aujourd’hui, la quenelle se veut «révolutionnaire».

Dans une vidéo postée sur YouTube le 20 août et vue 385 000 fois, Dieudonné, écharpe du Hamas au cou, se délecte de la popularité exponentielle du geste, feignant d’être dépassé par son succès. «Je ne pensais pas que le mouvement de la quenelle irait aussi loin. Aujourd’hui, cet acte subversif ne m’appartient plus, il appartient à la révolution.» S’ensuit un montage photo de «quenelles glissées» par des jeunes, des vieux, des pompiers, des syndicalistes. On retrouve le geste sur des photos de classe et de mariage. D’autres, prises devant des synagogues en France ou à l’étranger et jusqu’au mémorial de la Shoah à Berlin, ne cachent pas leur sous-texte antisémite. Climax de la vidéo, des policiers et militaires en tenue. Hilare, Dieudonné se met à «rêver d’un coup d’Etat au secours du peuple, comme en Egypte». Avec la condamnation du ministère de la Défense, la polémique dépasse désormais le cercle des initiés. Et ce débat amène certains, à l’instar du journaliste Jean-Laurent Cassely, à s’inquiéter d’une éventuelle «dieudonisation des esprits».

Voir encore:

La dieudonnisation des esprits, une (grosse) quenelle qui vient d’en bas

Jean-Laurent Cassely

Slate

27/06/2013

Un reportage de juin 2013. Le soir de la fête de la musique, Dieudonné tenait son grand meeting annuel, «Le Bal des Quenelles», entre festival d’humour et université d’été politique. Grâce à un ensemble de signes cryptés, il a formé en dix ans une petite contre-culture autour de lui: vous l’avez vu récemment dans Top Chef, Secret Story ou encore Pékin Express… Sans même le savoir.

Manuel Valls, le ministre de l’Intérieur, souhaite faire interdire les spectacles de Dieudonné. Dans une interview au Parisien, Manuel Valls rappelle que «Dieudonné a été condamné à plusieurs reprises pour diffamation, injures et provocation à la haine raciale». «C’est donc un récidiviste et j’entends agir avec la plus grande fermeté, dans le cadre de la loi» déclare-t-il. Nous republions à cette occasion le reportage de Jean-Laurent Cassely à l’un des spectacles de Dieudonné.

***

Un automobiliste roulant le 21 juin dans les environs de Saint-Lubin-de-la-Haye, à la limite de l’Ile-de-France et de la région Centre, serait tombé ce soir-là sur de petits panneaux indiquant la simple mention «quenelles» en bord de route, près d’un élevage bovin.

Il aurait peut-être cru qu’il s’agissait d’une vente directe de cette spécialité, mais aurait tiqué en se souvenant que c’est plutôt vers Lyon qu’on apprécie ce plat. Quelques virages plus loin, l’automobiliste aurait alors croisé, entassés dans une petite voiture, des jeunes brandissant des ananas depuis les fenêtres, ce qui leur procurait manifestement une très grande excitation.

Songeur, notre automobiliste imaginaire aurait alors continué sa route, s’interrogeant sur les mœurs curieuses de cette partie calme et isolée du pays. Sans se douter une seconde qu’à quelques kilomètres de là, la «Dieudosphère» tenait son grand rassemblement annuel.

C’est à cela qu’on reconnaît que Dieudonné a construit, patiemment et avec obstination, une petite contre-société, qui dispose désormais de signes de reconnaissance et de communication très sûrs, car totalement ésotériques pour le profane, mais très visibles même dans les médias les plus grand public.

Ananas, soleil, quenelle: une grammaire de la dieudosphère

La quenelle est, si on ose dire, le bras armé de l’idéologie de Dieudonné. Tout à la fois running gag, symbole politique et bras d’honneur dirigé contre ceux «d’en haut», «glisser une quenelle» consiste à placer sa main ouverte sur son bras opposé, à allonger se dernier pour faire un signe dont la signification est explicite. La référence au salut hitlérien est évidemment volontaire.

On a vu d’ailleurs apparaître ces «quenelles» dans le cadre de la campagne du Parti antisioniste, dont il fut l’éphémère tête de liste en Ile de France aux européennes de 2009, sur une affiche électorale dont l’ambiguïté n’était pas vraiment de mise…

La quenelle se décline en plusieurs tailles, à jauger en fonction du succès de l’action: petite quenelle, quenelle de 12, quenelle de 40, de 175, quenelle épaulée, etc. Plus la quenelle est longue, plus, bien entendu, le bras d’honneur est profond et procure satisfaction à son auteur. Un registre paillard qui rappelle un peu le slogan de Coluche lors de la présidentielle de 1981, pour laquelle il décidera finalement de se retirer: «Tous ensemble, pour leur foutre au cul». La cible n’est évidemment plus la même.

Quant à l’ananas, décliné tout au long de la soirée sous de multiples formes (ananas frais au buffet, fresque géante devant la salle, tee-shirts souvenir, déguisements, etc.), il est omniprésent pour rappeler la cause de la condamnation de l’intéressé pour provocation à la haine: la chanson Shoananas, qu’il reprend en cœur avec son public lors de chaque spectacle, sur l’air de la chanson Chaud Cacao d’Annie Cordy (Dieudonné a fait appel du jugement).

Depuis cette condamnation, la chanson Shoananas est le clou du spectacle Foxtrot, qui a tourné dans toute la France ces derniers mois. A chaque fois, Dieudonné fait mine de ne plus pouvoir la faire chanter à son public, sous peine de poursuites judiciaires… Et, bien sûr, finit par l’interpréter, pour le plus grand plaisir de la salle qui chante en choeur avec lui.

A l’entrée du Bal des quenelles, une fresque géante d’ananas donne le ton…

Le troisième signe de ralliement important qui, avec la quenelle et l’ananas, forme la trinité de la terminologie officielle, c’est l’expression «Au-dessus, c’est le soleil». Traduction: on s’attaque à la chose la plus haute, la plus sacrée possible (la Shoah, mais cela peut aussi s’appliquer à Bernard-Henri Levy ou à Mahmoud Ahmadinejad).

Cette phrase peut-être prononcée, imprimée sur tee-shirt, ou encore simplement mimée (il suffit pour cela de tenir son doigt en l’air comme pointé vers le soleil, en mimant avec la bouche une sorte de bisou pour en faire une caricature de rabin).

Un gif animé qui capture la gestuelle caractéristique du «Soleil». Mémorisez-là, c’est utile pour la suite de l’article

Quant à la quenelle à proprement parler, elle se décline en signes, en tee-shirts, en logos détournés. Elle est devenue une unité de langage. La voici parodiant le logo de Facebook, «réseau social sioniste».

Source: Dieudosphère

A l’entrée du Bal des quenelles, qui se déroule chaque année dans le vaste hangar où l’artiste tourne ses films, les fans venus de loin immortalisent ce moment en se faisant prendre en photo entre deux humains déguisés en ananas, mimant la fameuse quenelle. Un peu comme à Disneyland, quand Mickey ou Pluto viennent prendre la pose avec vos enfants…

Deux des trois signes codés de la dieudosphère: l’ananas et la quenelle, ici au Bal des quenelles 2013

Prendre la pose en mimant une quenelle est devenu un rituel chez les admirateurs de Dieudonné. Pour ce dernier, les quenelles sont un instrument politique: en demandant à ses fans de lui envoyer les photos et en les postant sur le mur de son compte Facebook officiel, il veut montrer à quel point il est soutenu par la base.

Ici à Strasbourg, la quenelle géante à laquelle le public est invité à participer en fin de spectacle se présente comme la défense de la liberté d’expression, et un bras d’honneur aux maires qui tentent de faire interdire le spectacle pour trouble à l’ordre public

Un public jeune et mélangé

Les gens sont venus nombreux: en couple, entre amis, la plupart se sont retrouvés à la gare voisine d’Houdan, d’où l’équipe de Dieudonné indiquait la route pour se rendre sur place, l’information n’étant pas disponible sur les billets sans doute pour éviter de voir la fête troublée par des opposants. De sympathiques jeunes gens m’ont amené en voiture jusqu’à la salle. D’ailleurs presque tous les participants sont jeunes.

Derrière moi, dans la queue pour accéder au buffet, deux très jeunes musulmans discutent du «Prophète», de ce qu’il autorise et ce qu’il interdit en matière d’alimentation, de culture, etc. Certains jeunes issus de l’immigration qui vivent leur revival religieux peuvent être naturellement séduits par les combats politiques de Dieudonné autour de la question palestinienne (ne me demandez pas de quantifier cette affirmation, évidemment nous n’en savons rien).

La recherche d’une vérité alternative basée sur un relativisme généralisé —le monde selon Dieudonné— a fini par séduire des populations hétéroclites. Tout un petit peuple de rastas blancs, qu’on imaginerait plutôt dans un festival reggae ou une free party. Une frange de l’extrême gauche altermondialiste, qu’on reconnaîtra facilement au port du tee-shirt à l’effigie d’Hugo Chavez ou au total look joueur de diabolo à Rennes. On supposera que cette jeunesse est plutôt arrivée là par le biais de la critique radicale des médias, de l’oligarchie et du «nouvel ordre mondial» que par le prisme du conflit israélo-palestinien, encore que les deux logiques aient tendance à s’entrecroiser.

Des partisans de Bachar el-Assad brandissant des drapeaux syriens et des portraits à l’effigie du dictateur sont d’ailleurs venus recevoir leur «Quenelle d’or» (catégorie «pour l’ensemble de son œuvre»), la petite statuette inspirée des César que Dieudonné distribue lors de ce bal annuel à ses soutiens ou à ceux qui partagent ses combats. Selon le site révisionniste Entre la plume et l’enclume, la quenelle sera d’ailleurs remise en mains propres au président syrien.

Quelques authentiques militants d’extrême droite, qui regrettent l’absence du négationniste Faurisson, sont aussi présents mais ne semblent pas représenter la majorité du public… En revanche on retrouve dans ces soirées les animateurs du réseau qui sont désormais des relais artistiques sur internet de la pensée «antisioniste», selon l’expression consacrée: le Jamel Comedy Club de Dieudonné. Car en un peu plus d’une décennie, Dieudonné a fait école.

Très présents sur Internet, ils publient des BD, des pamphlets ou des vidéos, comme les dessinateurs Zéon et Joe Lecorbeau —un «glisseur de quenelles» qui réalise des détournements dieudonniens de BD célèbres comme Astérix ou Tintin— ou sont actifs dans l’écriture et l’idéologie, comme Salim Laïbi (alias «Le libre penseur») et Alain Soral bien sûr —dit «Maître quenellier», distinction qu’il est le seul à partager avec Dieudonné.

La première partie était assurée par le comique Jo Damas, et par le régisseur des spectacles de Dieudonné, l’acteur Jacky Sigaux, célèbre pour son rôle du juif déporté dans les précédents spectacles du comédien, et qui est monté sur scène dans le personnage de «Samuel» pour se lancer dans une lamentation musicale intitulée «Je suis juif». Personnage copieusement hué par la salle.

Dieudonnisation médiatique ou l’entrisme de la quenelle

Mais ce «Dieudonnisme», que vous croyiez ne plus avoir aperçu dans les médias depuis un sketch chez Marc-Olivier Fogiel devant Jamel Debbouze en 2003, a su faire grimper son influence à la télévision, par des moyens souvent détournés et grâce à ses petites quenelles:

Le 23 janvier 2013, le footballeur de Montpellier Mathieu Deplagne marque son premier but en pro face au FC Sochaux. Pour son petit geste de parade, le footballeur mime alors une «quenelle». Le lendemain, il fait la une de Midi Libre.

Il est venu, le 21 juin, récupérer sa Quenelle d’Or, «catégorie sportive», des mains de Dieudonné.

Les sportifs sont, à l’image de Tony Parker, nombreux à effectuer ces clins d’oeil à l’humoriste.

Ci-dessous, Didier Dinart et Nikola Karabatic de l’équipe de France de hand.

Source: Facebook Dieudonné officiel

… Et oui, Yannick Noah aussi

Dans les émissions de téléréalité aussi, Dieudonné fait des apparitions fréquentes grâce à l’astuce de ses fans.

Sur TF1, dans l’émission Bienvenue chez nous du 20 juin, un jeune homme est apparu portant un tee-shirt «Au-dessus c’est le soleil».

Réaction de joie immédiate sur la page Facebook de Dieudonné:

«En direct sur TF1 ça glisse de la quenelle !!»

Et réactions enchantées du public:

Un peu plus tôt dans le mois, c’est cette fois l’équipe de la saison 2013 de Pékin Express (M6) qui pose en faisant une quenelle. Et il n’est pas inintéressant de reprendre la description que fait un blog pro-Dieudonné des participants, en tout point conforme au type de population que l’on trouvait au Bal des quenelles, c’est-à-dire des profils de classes moyennes et populaires.

«Denis (28 ans, comptable) & Julie (30 ans, chargée de communication), deux corses/ Linda & Salim (Un couple. Ils ont tout deux 33 ans et sont techniciens)/ Fabien (26 ans, barman et mannequin) & Tarik (51 ans, chanteur) : Père et fils.»

Le 5 mars 2013, c’était un candidat de Top Chef, l’émission culinaire star de M6, qui faisait une référence à Dieudonné en citant la phrase «Au-dessus, c’est le soleil». Mais est-ce vraiment une référence volontaire? Difficile à dire (à 2’56 dans la vidéo).

En 2010, c’est une équipe de candidats de l’émission Secret Story qui, interrogée lors d’un des appartés face caméra pour commenter les derniers épisodes, affirme avoir glissé une grosse quenelle à ses concurrents. Benjamin Castaldi lui-même reprend la formulation sur le plateau.

Sur Internet, les forums proches de l’humoriste exultent devant l’ironie de la situation. La principale chaîne du système vient de rendre un hommage appuyé bien qu’involontaire à l’humoriste le plus boycotté de France. Qui plus est, Secret Story est produit par Endemol, la société d’Arthur, ennemi juré de Dieudonné. L’archive a été rapidement supprimée, mais elle est encore visionnable sur le site russe Rutube.

Le niveau de conscience politique des multiples candidats de téléréalité qui citent du Dieudonné est difficile à évaluer, bien entendu (leur niveau de conscience tout court, peut-être, aussi). Mais le phénomène est bien réel.

Est-ce vraiment surprenant? Le dernier spectacle de Dieudonné, Foxtrot, a fait le plein des Zenith de France, réunissant 2 à 4.000 spectateurs par ville. Posté le 18 juin sur YouTube, ce dernier avait, le 23, été visionné près de 300.000 fois (vidéo aujourd’hui retirée). Quant au grand raout annuel des troupes, le Bal des quenelles, l’édition 2013 a écoulé toutes ses places, et il est raisonnable d’estimer l’affluence à un petit millier de personnes.

L’activité protéiforme de Dieudonné et sa capacité à se placer simultanément sur plusieurs tableaux constitue un phénomène assez nouveau. Il se passe bien quelque chose, mais on ne sait pas encore vraiment quoi.

Voir de plus:

Quenelle de Dieudonné : la stupidité des élites juives

Stephane Haddad

Riposte laïque

31 décembre 2013

La Quenelle de Dieudonné a pris des proportions considérables et comme son inventeur antisémite, le proclame fièrement, « ça ne lui appartient plus, ça appartient à l’Histoire ».

Il convient de rappeler que ce geste est apparu il y a au moins 5 ans. Dieudonné a mis ce geste à toutes les sauces, en visant les politiques, les administrations, le gouvernement, les américains, les juifs, etc. Personne ne l’avait remarqué pour autre chose que sa façon de faire rire son public, de la même manière que chaque humoriste a ses marottes et ses postures pour être identifié et se démarquer.

Pour l’immense majorité des personnes, dont je suis, il pouvait être considéré comme un geste provocateur, vulgaire ou drôle selon l’humeur et l’humour de chacun, mais pas comme le salut nazi inversé. La meilleure preuve en est que, pendant des années, ce geste ne soulevait pas l’indignation qu’il provoque aujourd’hui, et n’avait pas gagné une popularité d’une telle ampleur.

Il a fallu qu’un esprit peu éclairé de la communauté, décide que c’était là le symbole du salut Nazi inversé pour lui donner à présent cette unique signification et que le phénomène prenne des proportions considérables et irrattrapables….

Il fallait qu’un esprit en mal de reconnaissance, qui se croyait plus intelligent que les autres, « shoatise » le geste, pour se faire remarquer ( ?), ou pour déclarer vouloir lutter contre Dieudonné alors qu’il y a bien d’autres moyens et raison de le combattre et de le critiquer (une des meilleures étant probablement d’aller sur son terrain, et de le moquer, en le caricaturant en grouillot lèche babouche de l’Iran et des islamistes ce que personne ne fait…).

Même si il est possible que Dieudonné ait eu cette idée dès la création de cette posture, elle ne faisait pas les ravages actuelles qu’elle provoque avant qu’elle soit requalifiée de la sorte. De surcroit, Dieudonné « surfant sur la vague du succès » a, à présent, légèrement modifié le geste en baissant un peu le niveau de la main, pour effectivement le rapprocher du salut nazi inversé.

En décrétant ce geste comme le symbole du mal absolu, cette personne a de façon évidente offert sa plus belle victoire à Dieudonné, un peu comme lorsque l’on ouvre un programme indésirable dans un ordinateur, et qu’un virus contamine tout le réseau. C’est un désastre.

Il y a de surcroit un effet pervers beaucoup plus redoutable qui a été réveillé.

A présent que ce geste s’est répandu dans toutes les cours de récréation, des milliers de personnes qui faisaient ce geste par amusement et qui ne pensaient pas du tout aux juifs (et oui, Mesdames, Messieurs du Crif, les juifs et la shoah n’occupent pas les pensées de tout le monde, tout le temps….), il est certain que toutes ces personnes pourront se dire « c’est à cause des juifs et d’Israël (bref des sionistes) que l’on ne peut plus rigoler, ils nous cassent les pieds » (et je reste poli…).

On sait déjà que la source originelle de l’antisémitisme vient du fait que le judaïsme a instauré pour l’humanité des principes de vie et de morale avec les dix commandements, et que ne plus obéir totalement à son désir, mais avoir des contraintes morales est nécessairement une atteinte à sa liberté (on n’est plus libre de tuer qui on veut, de voler ce qui nous plait, et l’on ne se sent plus aussi bien lorsque l’on pratique l’adultère….).

Le désastre, c’est qu’aujourd’hui, pour les centaines de milliers de fans de Dieudonné, il y a un onzième commandement : on ne va plus pouvoir rigoler et faire de bonnes blagues à cause des juifs, des sionistes et d’Israël. Raison de plus pour résister à ce nouveau « diktat moral des juifs » en continuant à faire ce geste…. Cette mise en exergue d’un geste qui n’était qu’un trait de vulgarité, a réveillé un immense caractère antisémite dans des milliers de cerveaux français, et bientôt européens….

La Quenelle de Dieudonné, ou quand ceux qui se considèrent comme « l’élite » de la communauté juive devraient apprendre à tourner sept fois leur langue dans la bouche avant de parler.

Voir par ailleurs:

Dieudonné est un signe annonciateur de ce qui vient

Guy Millière

Dreuz

02 jan 201

Dois-je l’écrire ? Je ne suis pas socialiste. J’ai eu l’occasion de critiquer de nombreuses fois ce gouvernement, et Manuel Valls. Mais quand Manuel Valls prend une position digne, je dis que Manuel Valls prend une position digne, je le dis. Et, en l’occurrence, je dis que Manuel Valls prend une position digne dans l’affaire Dieudonné.

J’ajoute que ceux qui invoquent la liberté de parole ou les principes inhérents au Premier amendement à la Constitution des Etats-Unis se trompent : il ne s’agit plus, en l’occurrence, de liberté de parole, mais d’incitations à la haine, et, sans doute, d’incitations au meurtre, voire d’incitation au génocide. C’est en tout cas dans cette catégorie que tombent les propos tenus par le principal intéressé concernant Patrick Cohen et les chambres à gaz. La liberté de parole ne couvre pas les incitations au meurtre, voire les incitations au génocide, qui peuvent faire l’objet de procédures judiciaires aux Etats-Unis, à juste titre à mes yeux. Dire « je suis raciste » est une chose (qui rentre dans la même catégorie que dire : je suis un salaud) : dire « ce serait bien de tuer les Noirs » est tout à fait une autre chose.

Je précise que ceux qui parlent de « spectacle » se trompent aussi : il ne s’agit plus de spectacle lorsque les propos qu’on tient sont emplis de connivences permettant aux racistes, aux antisémites, aux négationnistes, à ceux qui souhaitent la destruction génocidaire d’Israël de s’exciter ensemble et d’entendre de surcroît les incitations susdites.

Je souligne que les propos des dirigeants du Front National sur le sujet suffisent à montrer que décidément, le Front National continue à entretenir un rapport aux Juifs, au judaïsme et à Israël couvert de moisissures.

Je souligne aussi que les propos tenus de façon récurrente dur un site tel que Boulevard Voltaire montrent la dérive de ce site vers des positions qui sont celles d’une extrême droite qui ne me semble pas très fréquentable.

Publier des propos anti-israéliens comme il en traîne dans des publications déjà nombreuses n’a rien d’original. Faire de la publicité pour des livres radicalement anti-israéliens (tels « Le livre noir de l’occupation israélienne ») dans un contexte où des textes excusent ou édulcorent l’antisémitisme n’a rien de courageux.

Dans une société comme la société américaine, Dieudonné serait considéré comme si abject qu’il aurait déjà disparu de l’horizon, et se produirait devant des salles quasiment vides. Malgré Obama, les Etats-Unis restent un pays très imperméable à l’antisémitisme, et c’est ce qui en fait un pays qui reste plus sain que la France. On trouve aux Etats-Unis de la propagande « pro-palestinienne », sur les campus universitaires surtout, mais ceux qui disséminent cette propagande veillent soigneusement à éviter ce qui pourrait permettre de les accoler à des propagateurs de haine antisémite.

En France, l’abjection qu’incarne désormais Dieudonné remplit les salles, crée des réseaux, use de signes de ralliement prolongeant les connivences inhérentes aux spectacles. Les commentaires publiés après divers articles de presse montrent que l’antisémitisme remonte des égouts et traine désormais dans de nombreux caniveaux.

Parce qu’il prend position, avec courage, Meyer Habib, qui mène remarquablement un travail de vigilance contre l’antisémitisme et l’ « antisionisme », se voit incité à aller vivre en Israël.

Cela ne concerne pas toute la France, sinon Jean-Jacques Goldman et Patrick Bruel y seraient des marginaux, tout comme Gad Elmaleh ou Patrick Timsit, mais cela concerne néanmoins une part inquiétante de la population française : il existe en ce pays une nébuleuse fétide où se mêle une extrême droite porteuse de relents pétainistes, catholiques intégristes, nationalistes myopes, anti-israéliens et anti-américains, une extrême-gauche qui ne se distingue de l’extrême droite que parce qu’elle est favorable à l’islamisation du monde et à l’immigration sans contrôles, et, précisément, des courants islamiques eux-mêmes anti-israéliens et anti-américains. L’extrême droite camoufle son antisémitisme sous le manteau de l’ « antisionisme », qui est celui sous lequel s’abritent aussi extrême gauche et courants islamiques. Dieudonné trouve un public dans les divers composants de cette nébuleuse. Il suscite aussi chez des spectateurs de passage une accoutumance à certains parfums. Ces parfums sont ceux de la décomposition.

On n’arrêtera pas la décomposition en interdisant des spectacles. Mais si des vagues de révolte contre ce que signifient ces spectacles se lèvent, ce seront des vagues salubres. Et elles ont mon soutien.

On n’arrêtera pas le recours à certains gestes en interdisant ceux-ci. Mais faire un geste qui se trouve fait et photographié à Auschwitz, devant des synagogues, devant l’école juive de Toulouse où Merah a assassiné des enfants juifs, devant des photos d’Anne Frank, et j’en passe, c’est faire un geste lourd de sens et lourd de son poids de cadavres, et se voir traité comme un être infâme pour avoir fait ce geste est pleinement légitime. C’est se faire complice, par l’esprit, d’un crime contre l’humanité passé et de crimes contre l’humanité présents : ceux qui frappent des Israéliens et peuvent les frapper. Et que face à ce geste se lèvent aussi des vagues de révolte est sain et légitime.

Je crains, hélas, que Dieudonné soit l’un des signes annonciateurs de ce qui vient.

Je crains que des tendances plus denses et plus profondes soient à l’oeuvre en France.

Je crains que les amis de Manuel Valls, qui oeuvrent au sein du parti socialiste ne servent ces tendances, sans toujours savoir ce qu’ils font.

Je crains que les amis de Patrick Cohen qui oeuvrent au sein de la nomenklatura médiatique ne servent eux aussi ces tendances, sans eux-mêmes toujours savoir ce qu’ils font.

Je crains que nous ne soyons dans une époque très malsaine, et que cela ne s’arrange pas.

Des Français quittent la France chaque année, comme on quitte un navire qui glisse vers le naufrage : c’est un fait.

Des Juifs quittent la France chaque année parce qu’ils sentent ce qui passe dans l’air du temps : c’est un fait encore.

Je comprends ces départs.

Voir aussi:

L’ITW dans Lyon Capitale qui a fait condamner Dieudonné
Par la rédaction
03/01/2014

En janvier 2002, Lyon Capitale interrogeait Dieudonné, qui était alors candidat à l’élection présidentielle. Dans cet entretien mené par Philippe Chaslot, cofondateur de Lyon Capitale, Dieudonné déclarait : “antisémite n’existe pas parce que juif n’existe pas”. Ces propos, entre autres, lui ont valu d’être attaqué par des associations de lutte contre l’antisémitisme. Malgré une relaxe en appel en 2004, la Cour de cassation juge de manière définitive (arrêt du 16 février 2007*) que “ces propos mettent précisément en cause la communauté juive à raison de sa religion, ce qui manifeste une conviction ouvertement antisémite”. Nous republions ci-dessous l’intégralité de cet entretien.

Lyon Capitale n° 360 (23 janvier 2002)

Dieudonné existe-t-il ?
Dieudonné, humoriste et candidat aux présidentielles

Entretien – La candidature aux présidentielles de l’humoriste Dieudonné n’est pas sa première implication en politique comme c’était le cas pour Coluche en 1981. Dieudonné se décrit avant tout comme un utopiste révolté. Il développe dans Lyon Capitale ses revendications communautaristes. Son anticléricalisme tous azimuts l’entraîne à nier jusqu’à l’existence même du fait religieux. Jusqu’à l’irresponsabilité dangereuse quand il n’hésite pas à renvoyer au même néant Juifs et antisémites.

“Lyon Capitale : Quelle est votre identité de candidat aux présidentielles et où en êtes-vous de vos 500 signatures ?

Dieudonné : Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala. Ça figure sur mes pièces d’identité. Ce sera inscrit sur les bulletins de vote. Nous en sommes à 300 signatures.

Pourquoi cette candidature ?

Je ne compte pas être élu président, mais j’ai le sentiment d’être un otage d’un pouvoir autoritaire et injuste. Je veux apporter une dimension d’utopie peut-être, de libre-penseur sûrement. C’est important que les discours ne soient pas monopolisés par des professionnels de la politique dont les carrières ne devraient pas excéder 5 à 6 ans. Après les choses s’entremêlent.

Le FN vous paraît-il toujours aussi dangereux ?

Je joue beaucoup aux échecs et je dirais que le FN reste une pièce qui compte sur l’échiquier. Il est indispensable au jeu politique actuel, bouclier ou épouvantail. Le FN représente les valeurs nues d’une droite d’ultra-conservateurs. Ça peut être un réservoir. Le FN, comme les chalutiers, ça ramasse ce qu’il y a au fond, la merdasse. Une certaine gauche en a aussi besoin pour l’emporter grâce à des triangulaires. Depuis 1997, j’appréhende un peu mieux les enjeux et les règles : il y a des stratégies d’intérêts croisés et il ne faut pas toujours se fier aux étendards politiques.

Dans une salle remplie de militants FN, feriez-vous un discours ou un sketch ?

Un sketch. Et je pense que je les ferais marrer ! Mon métier c’est de rire de la bêtise humaine, on aurait de quoi rire ensemble. Si l’on réfléchit sur leur programme… En attendant, le MNR dans certaines villes appelle dans des tracts à l’interdiction de mon spectacle.

Vous proposez une politique de quotas pour les gens dits “de couleur”… Ce modèle anglo-saxon est très contesté en France. Assumez-vous le fait d’être un candidat communautariste ?

Chirac et Jospin sont des candidats communautaristes, hommes et blancs, et comme les politiques en France qui sont toujours chrétiens ou juifs. C’est une petite minorité au pouvoir dans cette société. Moi, je ne suis pas communautariste… ou alors pas plus qu’eux !

Chirac et Jospin ne sont pas communautaristes, ils n’ont pas été élus sur ces critères – écrits nulle part – mais sur un nom et un programme…

Quand vous allez chercher un boulot ou un logement, la discrimination n’est écrite nulle part. Elle se vit au quotidien. C’est la vérité tout comme l’apartheid en Israël. Aux Antilles, 95 % des richesses appartiennent encore aux descendants des esclavagistes, toujours au pouvoir. Je suis favorable à une nouvelle répartition de ces richesses ainsi qu’aux quotas à la télévision avec une représentativité des minorités.

Comme aux États-Unis ?

Exactement, comme aux États-Unis. Il faut des lois, des règles. Il faut des femmes aux postes de responsabilité et des Noirs. Il n’est pas normal qu’en Guadeloupe, Martinique ou en Nouvelle-Calédonie le pouvoir soit exercé uniquement par des minorités blanches. C’est vrai qu’en République on ne peut pas définir un homme en fonction de sa couleur : un citoyen est un citoyen. Mais ça, c’est la poésie. Quand on va chercher un logement… ça ne marche pas. Alors il faut tendre vers l’utopie républicaine mais il faut jalonner ce parcours de règles et de lois comme la parité et les quotas.

Pour vous, “il est impératif de reconnaître la dette de la France envers les descendants d’esclaves” et vous demandez “réparation comme pour les descendants des Juifs déportés”. Quel sens cela a-t-il, 150 ans après ?

Loïk Le Floch-Prigent, ancien pdg d’Elf, m’a expliqué comment aujourd’hui encore la France continuait à piller le continent africain, comme du temps des esclaves, comment des cargaisons entières de pétrole partaient d’Afrique sans être comptabilisées. La France est un État voleur. La France doit faire un bilan avec son passé, d’autant que le pillage continue. Le braquage organisé par Elf se fait sur ordre de Lionel Jospin et Jacques Chirac. C’est la réalité (…) En cas de crise, Chirac et Jospin se retrouvent ensemble dans une église. Moi, à leur place, plutôt que d’écouter les bêtises de Lustiger, j’aurais pris les textes sacrés et je les aurais brûlés sous l’Arc de Triomphe pour symboliser la destruction des frontières virtuelles qui séparent les hommes jusqu’à les pousser à s’entretuer.

Que pensez-vous de la montée de l’antisémitisme parmi certains jeunes Beurs ?

Le racisme a été inventé par Abraham. Le “peuple élu”, c’est le début du racisme. Les musulmans aujourd’hui renvoient la réponse du berger à la bergère. Juifs et musulmans, pour moi, ça n’existe pas. Donc antisémite n’existe pas parce que juif n’existe pas. Ce sont deux notions aussi stupides l’une que l’autre. Personne n’est juif ou alors tout le monde. Je ne comprends rien à cette histoire. Pour moi, les Juifs, c’est une secte, une escroquerie. C’est une des plus graves parce que c’est la première. Certains musulmans prennent la même voie en ranimant des concepts comme la “guerre sainte”, etc.

Votre liste de ministres putatifs est prestigieuse : Jamel, Bové, etc. Mais votre ancien partenaire Élie Semoun n’en fait pas partie. C’est parce qu’il fait partie du peuple élu ?

Pour moi, Élie n’est pas juif, c’est un comédien qui a des idées politiques que je crois proches du PS. Est-ce que c’est par conviction ou intérêt personnel ? Je ne sais pas, mais je ne vais pas l’entraîner dans une aventure libertaire qu’il ne partagerait pas.

Vous agacez souvent par votre côté revendicatif et geignard. N’avez-vous pas besoin d’un bon conseiller en com’ ou d’une Bernadette à faire valoir ?

(Rires.) Je ne sollicite pas vraiment les électeurs. Il n’y a pas d’autre projet que d’être symboliquement là et d’aborder certains thèmes comme la justice, le droit au logement, la répartition de la richesse en France par rapport au reste du monde. Mon côté revendicatif ? J’ai peu de temps pour exprimer les choses dramatiques que je perçois sur le terrain. Quand on voit 25 personnes sans abri dans la rue dont des femmes et des enfants, c’est insupportable. Ça peut irriter et rendre tendu. Avec le temps, je me défends… mais je ne lâche pas l’affaire (…) Coluche a amené une candidature très burlesque. Je n’ai ni son talent ni sa notoriété. Mais Mme Tjibaou m’a envoyé le drapeau de la Kanakie, c’est important (…) Alors on me trouve chiant, mais c’est la télé-divertissement qui l’est ! Je les trouve chiants, les Fogiel, les Arthur et Ardisson – enfin, Ardisson, ce n’est vraiment pas le pire. La télé est globalement chiante. C’est vrai qu’avec mes histoires de négro j’ai pu emmerder certaines personnes.

Pour un humoriste, la candidature aux présidentielles est un exercice périlleux. Comment être pris au sérieux sans casser son image ?

Je ne me débrouille pas si mal. Aujourd’hui, pour leur “foutre au cul”, comme disait Coluche – pour rester dans cette ligne de pensée –, il faut adopter une attitude sur le fil du rasoir, entre dérision et engagement citoyen. Il faut ne pas se prendre au sérieux mais ne pas être dans la rigolade non plus… Sinon, les hommes au pouvoir, on ne les embêterait pas tant que ça.

Qu’est-ce qui vous fait rire dans la fonction présidentielle ?

Tout m’amuse. Les fastes… Jospin, Chirac, c’est la cour. Ne manquent que les couronnes. L’armée, la religion, les puissances économiques, tout est là. On a un vernis démocratique sur un système complètement archaïque et ringard. Le G8, c’est Rome toute-puissante. Jésus-Christ s’est battu lui-même contre cet empire, contre Berlusconi (…) Quand on a la bombe atomique, on ne vit pas dans une nation civilisée. Dans ce monde, les pires sont ceux qui fabriquent les armes, les Français, les Américains et d’autres.

Le 30 janvier, sort Astérix. Une façon de parler de vos ancêtres les Gaulois ?

Ben voilà, c’est ça. Entre Jamel et moi, c’est important d’être dans ce film qui fait référence au patrimoine. Je suis français, mes ancêtres n’étaient pas forcément gaulois et ce n’est pas un problème. C’est bien !”

Propos recueillis par Philippe Chaslot.

* L’arrêt de la Cour de cassation est en ligne ici.

Voir enfin:

The Move to Muzzle Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala

The Bête Noire of the French Establishment

Diana Johnstone

Counterpunch

Paris

French mainstream media and politicians are starting off the New Year with a shared resolution for 2014: permanently muzzle a Franco-African comedian who is getting to be too popular among young people.

In between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, no less than the President of the Republic, François Hollande, while visiting Saudi Arabia on (very big) business, said his government must find a way to ban performances by the comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, as called for by French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls.

The leader of the conservative opposition party, UMP, Jean-François Copé, immediately chimed in with his “total support” for silencing the unmanageable entertainer.

In the unanimous media chorus, the weekly Nouvel Observateur editorialized that Dieudonné is “already dead”, washed up, finished. Editors publicly disputed whether it was a better tactic to try to jail him for “incitement to racial hatred”, close his shows on grounds of a potential “threat to public order”, or put pressure on municipalities by threatening cultural subsidies with cuts if they allow him to perform.

The goal of national police boss Manuel Valls is clear, but the powers that be are groping for the method.

The dismissive cliché heard repeatedly is that “nobody laughs at Dieudonné any more”.

In reality, the opposite is true. And that is the problem. On his recent tour of French cities, videos show large, packed theaters roaring with laughter at their favorite humorist. He has popularized a simple gesture, which he calls the “quenelle”. It is being imitated by young people all over France. It simply and obviously means, we are fed up.

To invent a pretext for destroying Dieudonné, the leading Jewish organizations CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, the French AIPAC) and LICRA (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme, which enjoys special privileges under French law) have come up with a fantasy to brand Dieudonné and his followers as “Nazis”. The quenelle is all too obviously a vulgar gesture roughly meaning “up yours”, with one hand placed at the top of the other arm pointing down to signify “how far up” this is to be.

But for the CRIF and LICRA, the quenelle is “a Nazi salute in reverse”. (You can never be too “vigilant” when looking for the hidden Hitler.)

As someone has remarked, a “Nazi salute in reverse” might as well be considered anti-Nazi. If indeed it had anything to do with Heil Hitler. Which it clearly does not.

But world media are taking up this claim, at least pointing out that “some consider the quenelle to be a Nazi salute in reverse”. Never mind that those who use it have no doubt about what it means: F— the system!

But to what extent are the CRIF and LICRA “the system”?

France needs all the laughter it can get

French industry is vanishing, with factory shutdowns week after week. Taxes on low income citizens are going up, to save the banks and the euro. Disillusion with the European Union is growing. EU rules exclude any serious effort to improve the French economy. Meanwhile, politicians on the left and the right continue their empty speeches, full of clichés about “human rights” – largely as an excuse to go to war in the Middle East or rant against China and Russia. The approval rating of President Hollande has sunk to 15%. However people vote, they get the same policies, made in EU.

Why then are the ruling politicians focusing their wrath on “the most talented humorist of his generation” (as his colleagues acknowledge, even when denouncing him)?

The short answer is probably that Dieudonné’s surging popularity among young people illustrates a growing generation gap. Dieudonné has turned laughter against the entire political establishment. This has led to a torrent of abuse and vows to shut down his shows, ruin him financially and even put him in jail. The abuse also provides a setting for physical attacks against him. A few days ago, his assistant Jacky Sigaux was physically attacked in broad daylight by several masked men in front of the city hall of the 19th arrondissement – just opposite the Buttes Chaumont Park. He has lodged a complaint.

But how much protection is to be expected from a government whose Interior Minister, Manuel Valls – in charge of police – has vowed to seek ways to silence Dieudonné?

The story is significant but is almost certain to be badly reported outside France – just as it is badly reported inside France, the source of almost all foreign reports. In translation, a bit of garbling and falsehoods add to the confusion.

Why Do They Hate Him?

Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala was born in a Paris suburb nearly 48 years ago. His mother was white, from Brittany, his father was African, from Cameroun. This should make him a poster child for the “multiculturalism” the ideologically dominant left claims to promote. And during the first part of his career, teaming up with his Jewish friend, Elie Simoun, he was just that: campaigning against racism, focusing his criticism on the National Front and even running for office against an NF candidate in the dormitory town of Dreux, some sixty miles West of Paris, where he lives. Like the best humorists, Dieudonné always targeted current events, with a warmth and dignity unusual in the profession. His career flourished, he played in movies, was a guest on television, branched out on his own. A great observer, he excels at relatively subtle imitations of various personality types and ethnic groups from Africans to Chinese.

Ten years ago, on December 1, 2003, as guest on a TV show appropriately called “You Can’t Please Everybody”, dedicated to current events, Dieudonné came on stage roughly disguised as “a convert to Zionist extremism” advising others to get ahead by “joining the American-Israeli Axis of Good”. This was in the first year of the US assault on Iraq, which France’s refusal to join had led Washington to rechristen what it calls “French fries” (Belgian, actually) as “Freedom fries”. A relatively mild attack on George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” seemed totally in the mood of the times. The sketch ended with a brief salute, “Isra-heil”. This was far from being vintage Dieudonné, but nevertheless, the popular humorist was at the time enthusiastically embraced by other performers while the studio audience gave him a standing ovation.

Then the protests started coming in, especially concerning the final gesture seen as likening Israel to Nazi Germany.

“Anti-Semitism!” was the cry, although the target was Israel (and the United States as allies in the Middle East). Calls multiplied to ban his shows, to sue him, to destroy his career. Dieudonné attempted to justify his sketch as not targeting Jews as such, but, unlike others before him, would not apologize for an offense he did not believe he had committed. Why no protests from Africans he had made fun of? Or Muslims? Or Chinese? Why should a single community react with such fury?

Thus began a decade of escalation. LICRA began a long series of lawsuits against him (“incitement to racial hatred”), at first losing, but keeping up the pressure. Instead of backing down, Dieudonné went farther in his criticism of “Zionism” after each attack. Meanwhile, Dieudonné was gradually excluded from television appearances and treated as a pariah by mainstream media. It is only the recent internet profusion of images showing young people making the quenelle sign that has moved the establishment to conclude that a direct attack would be more effective than trying to ignore him.

The Ideological Background

To begin to understand the meaning of the Dieudonné affair, it is necessary to grasp the ideological context. For reasons too complex to review here, the French left – the left that once was primarily concerned with the welfare of the working class, with social equality, opposition to aggressive war, freedom of speech – has virtually collapsed. The right has won the decisive economic battle, with the triumph of policies favoring monetary stability and the interests of international investment capital (“neo-liberalism”). As a consolation prize, the left enjoys a certain ideological dominance, based on anti-racism, anti-nationalism and devotion to the European Union – even to the hypothetical “social Europe” that daily recedes into the cemetery of lost dreams. In fact, this ideology fits perfectly with a globalization geared to the requirements of international finance capital.

In the absence of any serious socio-economic left, France has sunk into a sort of “Identity Politics”, which both praises multiculturalism and reacts vehemently against “communitarianism”, that is, the assertion of any unwelcome ethnic particularisms. But some ethnic particularisms are less welcome than others. The Muslim veil was first banned in schools, and demands to ban it in adult society grow. The naqib and burka, while rare, have been legally banned. Disputes erupt over Halal foods in cafeterias, prayers in the street, while cartoons regularly lampoon Islam. Whatever one may think of this, the fight against communitarianism can be seen by some as directed against one particular community. Meanwhile, French leaders have been leading the cry for wars in Muslim countries from Libya to Syria, while insisting on devotion to Israel.

Meanwhile, another community is the object of constant solicitude. In the last twenty years, while religious faith and political commitment have declined drastically, the Holocaust, called the Shoah in France, has gradually become a sort of State Religion. Schools commemorate the Shoah annually, it increasingly dominates historical consciousness, which in other areas is declining along with many humanistic studies. In particular, of all the events in France’s long history, the only one protected by law is the Shoah. The so-called Gayssot Law bans any questioning of the history of the Shoah, an altogether unprecedented interference with freedom of speech. Moreover, certain organizations, such as LICRA, have been granted the privilege of suing individuals on the basis of “incitement to racial hatred” (very broadly and unevenly interpreted) with the possibility of collecting damages on behalf of the “injured community”. In practice, these laws are used primarily to prosecute alleged “anti-Semitism” or “negationism” concerning the Shoah. Even though they frequently are thrown out of court, such lawsuits constitute harassment and intimidation. France is the rare country where the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israeli settlement practices can also be attacked as “incitement to racial hatred”.

The violence-prone Jewish Defense League, outlawed in the United States and even in Israel, is known for smashing books shops or beating up isolated, even elderly, individuals. When identified, flight to Israel is a good way out. The victims of the JDL fail to inspire anything close to the massive public indignation aroused when a Jewish person falls victim to wanton violence. Meanwhile, politicians flock to the annual dinner of the CRIF with the same zeal that in the United States they flock to the dinner of AIPAC – not so much for campaign funds as to demonstrate their correct sentiments.

France has the largest Jewish population in Western Europe, which actually largely escaped the deportation during German occupation that expelled Jewish immigrants to concentration camps. In addition to an old, established Jewish population, there are many newcomers from North Africa. All this adds up to a very dynamic, successful population, numerous in the more visible and popular professions (journalism, show business, as well as science and medicine, among others).

Of all French parties, the Socialist Party (especially via the Israeli Labor Party of Shimon Peres in the Socialist International) has the closest historic ties with Israel. In the 1950s, when France was fighting against the Algerian national liberation movement, the French government (via Peres) contributed to the Israeli project of building nuclear weapons. Today it is not the Labor Party that rules Israel, but the far right. Hollande’s recent cozy trip to Benjamin Netanyahu showed that the rightward drift of policy in Israel has done nothing to strain relations – which seem closer than ever.

Yet this Jewish community is very small compared to the large number of Arab immigrants from North Africa or black immigrants from France’s former colonies in Africa. Several years ago, a leading Socialist Party intellectual, Pascal Boniface, cautiously warned party leaders that their heavy bias in favor of the Jewish community could eventually cause electoral problems. This statement in a political assessment document caused an uproar which nearly cost him his career.

But the fact remains: it is not hard for French people of Arab or African background to feel that the “communitarianism” that really has clout is the Jewish community.

The Political Uses of the Holocaust

Norman Finkelstein showed some time ago that the Holocaust can be exploited for less than noble purposes: such as extorting funds from Swiss banks. However, in France the situation is very different. No doubt, constant reminders of the Shoah serve as a sort of protection for Israel from the hostility aroused by its treatment of the Palestinians. But the religion of the Holocaust has another, deeper political impact with no direct relation to the fate of the Jews.

More than anything else, Auschwitz has been interpreted as the symbol of what nationalism leads to. Reference to Auschwitz has served to give a bad conscience to Europe, and notably to the French, considering that their relatively small role in the matter was the result of military defeat and occupation by Nazi Germany. Bernard-Henri Lévy, the writer whose influence has grown to grotesque proportions in recent years (he led President Sarkozy into war against Libya), began his career as ideologue by claiming that “fascism” is the genuine “French ideology”. Guilt, guilt, guilt. By placing Auschwitz as the most significant event of recent history, various writers and speakers justify by default the growing power of the European Union as necessary replacement for Europe’s inherently “bad” nations. Never again Auschwitz! Dissolve the nation-states into a technical bureaucracy, free of the emotional influence of citizens who might vote incorrectly. Do you feel French? Or German? You should feel guilty about it – because of Auschwitz.

Europeans are less and less enthusiastic about the EU as it ruins their economies and robs them of all democratic power over the economy. They can vote for gay marriage, but not for the slightest Keynesian measure, much less socialism. Nevertheless, guilt about the past is supposed to keep them loyal to the European dream.

Dieudonné’s fans, judging from photographs, appear to be predominantly young men, fewer women, mostly between the ages of twenty and thirty. They were born two full generations after the end of World War II. They have spent their lives hearing about the Shoah. Over 300 Paris schools bear a plaque commemorating the tragic fate of Jewish children deported to Nazi concentration camps. What can be the effect of all this? For many who were born long after these terrible events, it seems that everyone is supposed to feel guilty – if not for what they didn’t do, for what they supposedly might do if they had a chance.

When Dieudonné transformed an old semi-racist “tropical” song, Chaud Cacao, into Shoah Ananas, the tune is taken up en masse by Dieudonné fans. I venture to think that they are not making fun of the real Shoah, but rather of the constant reminders of events that are supposed to make them feel guilty, insignificant and powerless. Much of this generation is sick of hearing about the period 1933-1945, while their own future is dim.

Nobody Knows When to Stop

Last Sunday, a famous football player of Afro-Belgian origin, Nicolas Anelka, who plays in the UK, made a quenelle sign after scoring a goal – in solidarity with this friend Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala. With this simple and basically insignificant gesture, the uproar soared to new heights.

In the French parliament, Meyer Habib represents “overseas French” – some 4,000 Israelis of French origin. On Monday he twittered: “Anelka’s quenelle is intolerable! I will introduce a bill to punish this new Nazi salute practiced by anti-Semites.”

France has adopted laws to “punish anti-Semitism”. The result is the opposite. Such measures simply tend to confirm the old notion that “the Jews run the country” and contribute to growing anti-Semitism. When French youth see a Franco-Israeli attempt to outlaw a simple gesture, when the Jewish community moves to ban their favorite humorist, anti-Semitism can only grow even more rapidly.

Yet in this escalation, the relationship of forces is very uneven. A humorist has words as his weapons, and fans who may disperse when the going gets rough. On the other side is the dominant ideology, and the power of the State.

In this sort of clash, civic peace depends on the wisdom of those with most power to show restraint. If they fail to do so, this can be a game with no winners.


Bilan 2013: La meilleure année de l’histoire (It really is a wonderful world – happy new year to all !)

1 janvier, 2014
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Nous vivons à la fois dans le meilleur et le pire des mondes. Les progrès de l’humanité sont réels. Nos lois sont meilleures et nous nous tuons moins les uns les autres. En même temps, nous ne voulons pas voir notre responsabilité dans les menaces et les possibilités de destruction qui pèsent sur nous. René Girard
 Je me souviens d’un journal dans lequel il y avait deux articles juxtaposés. Le premier se moquait de l’Apocalypse d’une certaine façon ; le second était aussi apocalyptique que possible. Le contact de ces deux textes qui se faisaient face et qui dans le même temps se donnaient comme n’ayant aucun rapport l’un avec l’autre avait quelque chose de fascinant. (…) Nous sommes encore proches de cette période des grandes expositions internationales qui regardait de façon utopique la mondialisation comme l’Exposition de Londres – la « Fameuse » dont parle Dostoievski, les expositions de Paris… Plus on s’approche de la vraie mondialisation plus on s’aperçoit que la non-différence ce n’est pas du tout la paix parmi les hommes mais ce peut être la rivalité mimétique la plus extravagante. On était encore dans cette idée selon laquelle on vivait dans le même monde : on n’est plus séparé par rien de ce qui séparait les hommes auparavant donc c’est forcément le paradis. Ce que voulait la Révolution française. Après la nuit du 4 août, plus de problème !  L’Amérique connaît bien cela. Il est évident que la non-différence de classe ne tarit pas les rivalités mais les excite à mort avec tout ce qu’il y a de bon et de mortel dans ce phénomène. (…)  il n’y a plus de sacrifice et donc les hommes sont exposés à la violence et il n’y a plus que deux choix : soit on préfère subir la violence soit on cherche à l’infliger à autrui. Le Christ veut nous dire entre autres choses : il vaut mieux subir la violence (c’est le sacrifice de soi) que de l’infliger à autrui. Si Dieu refuse le sacrifice, il est évident qu’il nous demande la non-violence qui empêchera l’Apocalypse. (…) Je crois qu’il y a un double mouvement. Il ne faut pas oublier qu’il y a aussi une société de la peur. Beaucoup de gens considèrent que la violence augmente dans notre univers. Les deux mouvements se chevauchent.  Il y a eu des gestes de prudence extraordinaires, puisque Kroutchev n’a pas maintenu à Cuba les bombes atomiques. Il y a, dans ce geste, quelque chose de décisif. Ce fut le seul moment effrayant pour les hommes d’Etat eux-mêmes. Aujourd’hui nous savons qu’il y a des pays qui essaient par tous les moyens de se procurer ces armes et nous savons aussi qu’ils sont bien décidés à les utiliser. On a donc encore franchi un palier. René Girard
La mondialisation engendre une fragilité qui se répercute en cascade tout en diminuant la volatilité et en créant une apparence de stabilité. En d’autres termes, la mondialisation produit des Cygnes Noirs foudroyants. Nous n’avons jamais vécu sous la menace d’un effondrement général. Jusqu’à présent, les institutions financières ont fusionné, donnant naissance à un nombre plus restreint de très grandes banques. Maintenant, les banques sont pratiquement toutes liées entre elles. Ainsi l’écologie financière est-elle en train d’enfler pour former des banques bureaucratiques gigantesques, incestueuses (souvent « gaussianisées » en termes d’évaluation des risques) – la chute de l’une entraîne celle de toutes les autres. La concentration accrue des banques semble avoir pour effet de rendre les crises financières moins probables, mais quand elles se produisent, c’est à une échelle plus globale et elles nous frappent très cruellement. Nous sommes passés d’une écologie diversifiée de petites banques, avec différentes politiques de prêt, à un ensemble plus homogène de sociétés qui se ressemblent toutes. Certes, nous enregistrons maintenant moins d’échecs, mais quand ils se produisent… Cette pensée me fait frémir. Je reformule mon idée : nous allons avoir moins de crises, mais elles seront plus graves. Plus un événement est rare, moins nous connaissons les chances qu’il a de se produire. Autrement dit, nous en savons toujours moins sur les possibilités qu’une crise a de survenir. Nassim Taleb
For centuries, social theorists like Hobbes and Rousseau speculated from their armchairs about what life was like in a « state of nature. » Nowadays we can do better. Forensic archeology—a kind of « CSI: Paleolithic »—can estimate rates of violence from the proportion of skeletons in ancient sites with bashed-in skulls, decapitations or arrowheads embedded in bones. And ethnographers can tally the causes of death in tribal peoples that have recently lived outside of state control. These investigations show that, on average, about 15% of people in prestate eras died violently, compared to about 3% of the citizens of the earliest states. Tribal violence commonly subsides when a state or empire imposes control over a territory, leading to the various « paxes » (Romana, Islamica, Brittanica and so on) that are familiar to readers of history. It’s not that the first kings had a benevolent interest in the welfare of their citizens. Just as a farmer tries to prevent his livestock from killing one another, so a ruler will try to keep his subjects from cycles of raiding and feuding. From his point of view, such squabbling is a dead loss—forgone opportunities to extract taxes, tributes, soldiers and slaves. (…) Historical records show that between the late Middle Ages and the 20th century, European countries saw a 10- to 50-fold decline in their rates of homicide.(…) Historians attribute this decline to the consolidation of a patchwork of feudal territories into large kingdoms with centralized authority and an infrastructure of commerce. Criminal justice was nationalized, and zero-sum plunder gave way to positive-sum trade. People increasingly controlled their impulses and sought to cooperate with their neighbors. (….) Governments and churches had long maintained order by punishing nonconformists with mutilation, torture and gruesome forms of execution, such as burning, breaking, disembowelment, impalement and sawing in half. The 18th century saw the widespread abolition of judicial torture, including the famous prohibition of « cruel and unusual punishment » in the eighth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. At the same time, many nations began to whittle down their list of capital crimes from the hundreds (including poaching, sodomy, witchcraft and counterfeiting) to just murder and treason. And a growing wave of countries abolished blood sports, dueling, witchhunts, religious persecution, absolute despotism and slavery. (…) Today we take it for granted that Italy and Austria will not come to blows, nor will Britain and Russia. But centuries ago, the great powers were almost always at war, and until quite recently, Western European countries tended to initiate two or three new wars every year. The cliché that the 20th century was « the most violent in history » ignores the second half of the century (and may not even be true of the first half, if one calculates violent deaths as a proportion of the world’s population). Though it’s tempting to attribute the Long Peace to nuclear deterrence, non-nuclear developed states have stopped fighting each other as well. Political scientists point instead to the growth of democracy, trade and international organizations—all of which, the statistical evidence shows, reduce the likelihood of conflict. They also credit the rising valuation of human life over national grandeur—a hard-won lesson of two world wars. (…) Since 1946, several organizations have tracked the number of armed conflicts and their human toll world-wide. The bad news is that for several decades, the decline of interstate wars was accompanied by a bulge of civil wars, as newly independent countries were led by inept governments, challenged by insurgencies and armed by the cold war superpowers. The less bad news is that civil wars tend to kill far fewer people than wars between states. And the best news is that, since the peak of the cold war in the 1970s and ’80s, organized conflicts of all kinds—civil wars, genocides, repression by autocratic governments, terrorist attacks—have declined throughout the world, and their death tolls have declined even more precipitously. The rate of documented direct deaths from political violence (war, terrorism, genocide and warlord militias) in the past decade is an unprecedented few hundredths of a percentage point. Even if we multiplied that rate to account for unrecorded deaths and the victims of war-caused disease and famine, it would not exceed 1%. The most immediate cause of this New Peace was the demise of communism, which ended the proxy wars in the developing world stoked by the superpowers and also discredited genocidal ideologies that had justified the sacrifice of vast numbers of eggs to make a utopian omelet. Another contributor was the expansion of international peacekeeping forces, which really do keep the peace—not always, but far more often than when adversaries are left to fight to the bitter end. (…° In the developed world, the civil rights movement obliterated lynchings and lethal pogroms, and the women’s-rights movement has helped to shrink the incidence of rape and the beating and killing of wives and girlfriends. In recent decades, the movement for children’s rights has significantly reduced rates of spanking, bullying, paddling in schools, and physical and sexual abuse. And the campaign for gay rights has forced governments in the developed world to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality and has had some success in reducing hate crimes against gay people. (…) The most obvious of these pacifying forces has been the state, with its monopoly on the legitimate use of force. A disinterested judiciary and police can defuse the temptation of exploitative attack, inhibit the impulse for revenge and circumvent the self-serving biases that make all parties to a dispute believe that they are on the side of the angels. We see evidence of the pacifying effects of government in the way that rates of killing declined following the expansion and consolidation of states in tribal societies and in medieval Europe. And we can watch the movie in reverse when violence erupts in zones of anarchy, such as the Wild West, failed states and neighborhoods controlled by mafias and street gangs, who can’t call 911 or file a lawsuit to resolve their disputes but have to administer their own rough justice. Another pacifying force has been commerce, a game in which everybody can win. As technological progress allows the exchange of goods and ideas over longer distances and among larger groups of trading partners, other people become more valuable alive than dead. They switch from being targets of demonization and dehumanization to potential partners in reciprocal altruism. (…) Bearers of good news are often advised to keep their mouths shut, lest they lull people into complacency. But this prescription may be backward. The discovery that fewer people are victims of violence can thwart cynicism among compassion-fatigued news readers who might otherwise think that the dangerous parts of the world are irredeemable hell holes. And a better understanding of what drove the numbers down can steer us toward doing things that make people better off rather than congratulating ourselves on how moral we are. As one becomes aware of the historical decline of violence, the world begins to look different. The past seems less innocent, the present less sinister. One starts to appreciate the small gifts of coexistence that would have seemed utopian to our ancestors: the interracial family playing in the park, the comedian who lands a zinger on the commander in chief, the countries that quietly back away from a crisis instead of escalating to war. For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment that we can savor—and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible. Steven Pinker
Le monde n’a jamais été plus riche, la croissance n’a jamais été plus équitablement répartie. Nous sommes plus nombreux que jamais, mais n’avons jamais eu aussi peu faim. On parle maintenant de la « fin du sida ». Les progrès contre l’un des plus grands tueurs, le paludisme, étaient lents il y a dix ans. Maintenant, ils sont rapides. (…) Mais c’est rarement avec de bonnes nouvelles  qu’on vend du papier et ce non  pas à cause d’une quelconque sinistre conspiration de la presse. Les nouvelles positives sont moins susceptible d’être lues, ou de vendre des journaux. Si vous êtes au pub et un ami vous raconte que votre voisin vient de qutter son mari après un violent accrochage, etc.,  vous serez écouté. Dites que votre voisin a eu une excellente année 2013 et s’attend à une encore meilleure année 2014 et tout le monde s’en fichera. Il en va de même pour le journalisme – ce qui entraine un fort parti pris dans les médias pour les histoires qui tournent mal. (…) Juger un pays, ou  le monde, d’après les journaux, c’est comme si on jugeait une ville en passant la nuit dans sa salle d’urgences. Mais il n’y a pas que les  journalistes : les associations caritatives ont aussi intérêt à projeter une image de l’Afrique comme celle d’une zone de grande famine. En ce moment même, par exemple, il y a un appel pour les victimes de la guerre civile syrienne – qui sont d’ailleurs tout à fait réelles. Mais c’est l’exception. En fait, nous vivons à l’ère plus paisible de l’histoire moderne. (…) Mais qu’en est-il du chaos climatique ? Ne sommes nous pas entrés dans une nouvelle ère d’inondations, tempêtes et autres phénomènes météorologiques extrêmes, provoquant toujours plus massivement de victimes ? Bien au contraire. Il y a encore des tempêtes, bien sûr, mais un monde plus riche y est mieux préparé. Les défenses contre les inondations, des bâtiments plus solides, etc., font que  le nombre de victimes de la météo a baissé d’un étonnant 93% depuis les années 1920. (…) Nous avons tendance à ne pas entendre parler de tout cela, parce que les journalistes, comme les politiciens, sont là pour identifier et attirer notre attention sur les problèmes. Et à juste titre : aussi longtemps que les banques alimentaires seront nécessaires, aussi longtemps que les gens dormiront dans la rue en Grande-Bretagne et souffriront de la faim en Asie, aussi longtemps que quelqu’un mourra d’une maladie évitable comme la malaria alors il y aura encore largement de quoi à être scandalisés. (…) Mais ce qui va mal dans le monde est  largement contrebalancé par ce qui va bien. Et la déprimante suite de nouvelles peut effectivement nous aveugler sur la plus grande nouvelle de notre époque : nous sommes vraiment sur le point de reléguer la pauvreté à l’histoire. (…) C’est une nouvelle dont aucune organisation ou gouvernement ne peut se prévaloir  – et une nouvelle qui ne convient  à l’ordre du jour de quiconque en particulier. Mais la nouvelle est là, pour ceux qui ont des yeux pour la voir. Fraser Nelson

Plus grande richesse, égalité et population de l’histoire, réduction historique de la faim, des grandes épidémies et de la violence comme du nombre de victimes du climat …

En ce début 2014 …

Quel meilleur antidote, avec le plus ancien magazine britannique, contre le parti pris systématique de nos médias notamment de gauche pour les histoires qui tournent mal …

Que ce rappel des incroyables et proprement inouïs bienfaits apportés par la mondialisation que nos médias prennent tant de plaisir à longueur de pages à dénigrer ?

Même si bien sûr, comme le rappellent souvent René Girard ou Nassim Taleb, ces incroyables progrès ne nous mettent pas nécessairement à l’abri de crises plus rares mais potentiellement plus massives …

The biggest shocker of 2013? That it really is a wonderful world

Fraser Nelson

28 December 2013

Next year marks a millennium since the sermon given in 1014 by Archbishop Wulfstan in York where he declared that “the world is in a rush and is getting close to its end.” Ever since, people (especially clergy) have had a similar story to tell: the world is moving too fast, people are too selfish and things are going to the dogs. The truth is that the world is in a better shape now than any time in history – a claim which may sound bizarre, but it’s borne out by the facts.

I was on LBC radio earlier, discussing the leading article in the Spectator Christmas special which explained why 2013 was the best year in human history. Never has the world been wealthier, never has the growth been more fairly distributed. Never has there been more of us but never has there been less hunger. People now talk about the ‘end of Aids’. Progress against one of the biggest killers, Malaria, was slow ten years ago. Now it’s rapid, as the below graph shows:-

Countries who grow richer can afford malaria nets and places like Cambodia believe they’re three years away from extinguishing Malaria deaths. The UN believes Africa could be just 12 years away from the end of famine.

When Louis Armstrong sang ‘Wonderful World’ more than 80 per cent of China lived below the poverty line. Now it’s just 10 per cent. China’s embrace of trade – and, yes, global capitalism – has seen lead the fastest progress against poverty that mankind has ever witnessed. We’re living in a golden age.

The LBC interviewer joked that I’d have my journalistic credentials stripped from me: isn’t journalism about telling folk how bad things are going?

It’s a very good point. Good news seldom makes good copy, and not because of a wicked conspiracy by the press. The positive stuff is less likely to be read, or to sell newspapers. This is due to human nature: as a species we’re more interested in what’s going wrong than going right. If you’re down the pub and see a friend and you say your neighbor has just ditched her husband after a massive bust-up etc – people will listen. Say your neighbour’s had a good 2013 and expects a better 2014 and no one would care. The same is true in journalism – which creates a heavy bias in the media towards what’s going wrong.

Judging a country, or the world, by newspapers is like judging a city by spending a night in its A&E ward. But it’s not just journalists: aid agencies have a interest in projecting a picture of Africa as one big famine zone; Western governments seeking Brownie points from large aid budgets also like to portray the third world as a place that is entirely dependent on the largesse of virtuous politicians in rich countries. Right now, for example, there’s an appeal on for the victims of the Syrian civil war – who are all too real. But it’s the exception. We’re actually living in the most peaceful age in modern history as Steven Pinker outlined recently. Here’s some of his evidence:-

Ah, you may say, war’s one thing. But what about that climate chaos? Aren’t we seeing a new era of floods, storms and other extreme weather events inflicting a massive death toll? Quite the reverse. The storms still come, of course, but a richer world is better-prepared for them. The graph below, from Indur Goklany’s 2008 study (pdf) shows how flood defences, stronger houses etc, mean deaths from weather are down by an astonishing 93pc since the 1920s. The developing world is never been better able to confront the fury of nature.

We tend not to hear about all this because journalists, like politicians, are in the business of identifying and drawing attention to problems. And rightly: it’s human nature to be never satisfied, to always raise the definition of success, to always strive for something better. For as long as food banks remain needed, for as long as people are sleeping rough in Britain and hungry in Asia, for as long as anyone dies of a preventable disease like Malaria then there’s still plenty to be outraged about.

But what is going wrong with the world is vastly outweighed by what is going right. And the run of depressing news stories can actually blind us to the greatest story of our age: we really are on our way to making poverty history. Thanks to the way millions of people trade with each other, via a system known by its detractors as global capitalism.

It’s a story that no one organisation or government can take credit for – and a story that doesn’t particularly suit anyone’s agenda. But the story is there, for those with an eye to see it.

PS And for anyone interested in this general idea, I can heartily recommend two things. One is a subscription to the Spectator (we’re extending our Christmas deal, our best-ever offer). The other is a short book that explained it all to me – and changed my mind about a lot of things (and one I still give as a present to friends) : In Defence of Global Capitalism by Johan Norberg.

Voir aussi:

Violence Vanquished

We believe our world is riddled with terror and war, but we may be living in the most peaceable era in human existence. Why brutality is declining and empathy is on the rise.

Steven Pinker

The Wall Street Journal

September 24, 2011

On the day this article appears, you will read about a shocking act of violence. Somewhere in the world there will be a terrorist bombing, a senseless murder, a bloody insurrection. It’s impossible to learn about these catastrophes without thinking, « What is the world coming to? »

With all its wars, murder and genocide, history might suggest that the taste for blood is human nature. Not so, argues Harvard Prof. Steven Pinker. He talks to WSJ’s Gary Rosen about the decline in violence in recent decades and his new book, « The Better Angels of Our Nature. »

But a better question may be, « How bad was the world in the past? »

Believe it or not, the world of the past was much worse. Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.

The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth. It has not brought violence down to zero, and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is a persistent historical development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children.

This claim, I know, invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger. We tend to estimate the probability of an event from the ease with which we can recall examples, and scenes of carnage are more likely to be beamed into our homes and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. There will always be enough violent deaths to fill the evening news, so people’s impressions of violence will be disconnected from its actual likelihood.

Evidence of our bloody history is not hard to find. Consider the genocides in the Old Testament and the crucifixions in the New, the gory mutilations in Shakespeare’s tragedies and Grimm’s fairy tales, the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals.

Today the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified. A look at the numbers shows that over the course of our history, humankind has been blessed with six major declines of violence.

The first was a process of pacification: the transition from the anarchy of the hunting, gathering and horticultural societies in which our species spent most of its evolutionary history to the first agricultural civilizations, with cities and governments, starting about 5,000 years ago.

For centuries, social theorists like Hobbes and Rousseau speculated from their armchairs about what life was like in a « state of nature. » Nowadays we can do better. Forensic archeology—a kind of « CSI: Paleolithic »—can estimate rates of violence from the proportion of skeletons in ancient sites with bashed-in skulls, decapitations or arrowheads embedded in bones. And ethnographers can tally the causes of death in tribal peoples that have recently lived outside of state control.

These investigations show that, on average, about 15% of people in prestate eras died violently, compared to about 3% of the citizens of the earliest states. Tribal violence commonly subsides when a state or empire imposes control over a territory, leading to the various « paxes » (Romana, Islamica, Brittanica and so on) that are familiar to readers of history.

It’s not that the first kings had a benevolent interest in the welfare of their citizens. Just as a farmer tries to prevent his livestock from killing one another, so a ruler will try to keep his subjects from cycles of raiding and feuding. From his point of view, such squabbling is a dead loss—forgone opportunities to extract taxes, tributes, soldiers and slaves.

The second decline of violence was a civilizing process that is best documented in Europe. Historical records show that between the late Middle Ages and the 20th century, European countries saw a 10- to 50-fold decline in their rates of homicide.

The numbers are consistent with narrative histories of the brutality of life in the Middle Ages, when highwaymen made travel a risk to life and limb and dinners were commonly enlivened by dagger attacks. So many people had their noses cut off that medieval medical textbooks speculated about techniques for growing them back.

Historians attribute this decline to the consolidation of a patchwork of feudal territories into large kingdoms with centralized authority and an infrastructure of commerce. Criminal justice was nationalized, and zero-sum plunder gave way to positive-sum trade. People increasingly controlled their impulses and sought to cooperate with their neighbors.

The third transition, sometimes called the Humanitarian Revolution, took off with the Enlightenment. Governments and churches had long maintained order by punishing nonconformists with mutilation, torture and gruesome forms of execution, such as burning, breaking, disembowelment, impalement and sawing in half. The 18th century saw the widespread abolition of judicial torture, including the famous prohibition of « cruel and unusual punishment » in the eighth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

At the same time, many nations began to whittle down their list of capital crimes from the hundreds (including poaching, sodomy, witchcraft and counterfeiting) to just murder and treason. And a growing wave of countries abolished blood sports, dueling, witchhunts, religious persecution, absolute despotism and slavery.

The fourth major transition is the respite from major interstate war that we have seen since the end of World War II. Historians sometimes refer to it as the Long Peace.

Today we take it for granted that Italy and Austria will not come to blows, nor will Britain and Russia. But centuries ago, the great powers were almost always at war, and until quite recently, Western European countries tended to initiate two or three new wars every year. The cliché that the 20th century was « the most violent in history » ignores the second half of the century (and may not even be true of the first half, if one calculates violent deaths as a proportion of the world’s population).

Though it’s tempting to attribute the Long Peace to nuclear deterrence, non-nuclear developed states have stopped fighting each other as well. Political scientists point instead to the growth of democracy, trade and international organizations—all of which, the statistical evidence shows, reduce the likelihood of conflict. They also credit the rising valuation of human life over national grandeur—a hard-won lesson of two world wars.

The fifth trend, which I call the New Peace, involves war in the world as a whole, including developing nations. Since 1946, several organizations have tracked the number of armed conflicts and their human toll world-wide. The bad news is that for several decades, the decline of interstate wars was accompanied by a bulge of civil wars, as newly independent countries were led by inept governments, challenged by insurgencies and armed by the cold war superpowers.

The less bad news is that civil wars tend to kill far fewer people than wars between states. And the best news is that, since the peak of the cold war in the 1970s and ’80s, organized conflicts of all kinds—civil wars, genocides, repression by autocratic governments, terrorist attacks—have declined throughout the world, and their death tolls have declined even more precipitously.

The rate of documented direct deaths from political violence (war, terrorism, genocide and warlord militias) in the past decade is an unprecedented few hundredths of a percentage point. Even if we multiplied that rate to account for unrecorded deaths and the victims of war-caused disease and famine, it would not exceed 1%.

The most immediate cause of this New Peace was the demise of communism, which ended the proxy wars in the developing world stoked by the superpowers and also discredited genocidal ideologies that had justified the sacrifice of vast numbers of eggs to make a utopian omelet. Another contributor was the expansion of international peacekeeping forces, which really do keep the peace—not always, but far more often than when adversaries are left to fight to the bitter end.

Finally, the postwar era has seen a cascade of « rights revolutions »—a growing revulsion against aggression on smaller scales. In the developed world, the civil rights movement obliterated lynchings and lethal pogroms, and the women’s-rights movement has helped to shrink the incidence of rape and the beating and killing of wives and girlfriends.

In recent decades, the movement for children’s rights has significantly reduced rates of spanking, bullying, paddling in schools, and physical and sexual abuse. And the campaign for gay rights has forced governments in the developed world to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality and has had some success in reducing hate crimes against gay people.

* * * *

Why has violence declined so dramatically for so long? Is it because violence has literally been bred out of us, leaving us more peaceful by nature?

This seems unlikely. Evolution has a speed limit measured in generations, and many of these declines have unfolded over decades or even years. Toddlers continue to kick, bite and hit; little boys continue to play-fight; people of all ages continue to snipe and bicker, and most of them continue to harbor violent fantasies and to enjoy violent entertainment.

It’s more likely that human nature has always comprised inclinations toward violence and inclinations that counteract them—such as self-control, empathy, fairness and reason—what Abraham Lincoln called « the better angels of our nature. » Violence has declined because historical circumstances have increasingly favored our better angels.

The most obvious of these pacifying forces has been the state, with its monopoly on the legitimate use of force. A disinterested judiciary and police can defuse the temptation of exploitative attack, inhibit the impulse for revenge and circumvent the self-serving biases that make all parties to a dispute believe that they are on the side of the angels.

We see evidence of the pacifying effects of government in the way that rates of killing declined following the expansion and consolidation of states in tribal societies and in medieval Europe. And we can watch the movie in reverse when violence erupts in zones of anarchy, such as the Wild West, failed states and neighborhoods controlled by mafias and street gangs, who can’t call 911 or file a lawsuit to resolve their disputes but have to administer their own rough justice.

Another pacifying force has been commerce, a game in which everybody can win. As technological progress allows the exchange of goods and ideas over longer distances and among larger groups of trading partners, other people become more valuable alive than dead. They switch from being targets of demonization and dehumanization to potential partners in reciprocal altruism.

For example, though the relationship today between America and China is far from warm, we are unlikely to declare war on them or vice versa. Morality aside, they make too much of our stuff, and we owe them too much money.

A third peacemaker has been cosmopolitanism—the expansion of people’s parochial little worlds through literacy, mobility, education, science, history, journalism and mass media. These forms of virtual reality can prompt people to take the perspective of people unlike themselves and to expand their circle of sympathy to embrace them.

These technologies have also powered an expansion of rationality and objectivity in human affairs. People are now less likely to privilege their own interests over those of others. They reflect more on the way they live and consider how they could be better off. Violence is often reframed as a problem to be solved rather than as a contest to be won. We devote ever more of our brainpower to guiding our better angels. It is probably no coincidence that the Humanitarian Revolution came on the heels of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, that the Long Peace and rights revolutions coincided with the electronic global village.

Whatever its causes, the implications of the historical decline of violence are profound. So much depends on whether we see our era as a nightmare of crime, terrorism, genocide and war or as a period that, in the light of the historical and statistical facts, is blessed by unprecedented levels of peaceful coexistence.

Bearers of good news are often advised to keep their mouths shut, lest they lull people into complacency. But this prescription may be backward. The discovery that fewer people are victims of violence can thwart cynicism among compassion-fatigued news readers who might otherwise think that the dangerous parts of the world are irredeemable hell holes. And a better understanding of what drove the numbers down can steer us toward doing things that make people better off rather than congratulating ourselves on how moral we are.

As one becomes aware of the historical decline of violence, the world begins to look different. The past seems less innocent, the present less sinister. One starts to appreciate the small gifts of coexistence that would have seemed utopian to our ancestors: the interracial family playing in the park, the comedian who lands a zinger on the commander in chief, the countries that quietly back away from a crisis instead of escalating to war.

For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment that we can savor—and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible.

—Mr. Pinker is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. This essay is adapted from his new book, « The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, » published by Viking.


Guerre des sexes: Si la civilisation avait été laissée aux mains des femmes, nous vivrions encore dans des cases en paille (Camille Paglia: How ignoring biological differences undermines Western civilization)

1 janvier, 2014
https://scontent-b-cdg.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/1466136_3740337004038_161703403_n.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/12/29/article-2530741-1A5518F500000578-984_634x382.jpg« Lone Survivor » burns with the fever of a passion project. Writer-director Peter Berg’s gratitude to United States servicemen for all their sacrifice comes through viscerally, from first frame to last. The film … amounts to « The Passion of the Christ » for U.S. servicemen: a bloody historic episode recounted mainly in images of hardy young men being ripped apart, at screeching volume. Though Berg’s source material isn’t the New Testament, he often handles Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell’s account (via ghostwriter Patrick Robinson) of his doomed 2005 reconnaissance mission with the thunderous reverence Mel Gibson brought to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Berg is at heart an action director, so his way of restraining the urge to Rambo-fy his heroes in the interest of this film’s patriotic agenda is to double down on their suffering. Steven Boone
Lone Survivor is war porn of the highest order, relishing every bloody bullet hit and Dolby-accentuated bone crunch while trading in the most facile armed-conflict ironies. Berg treats the SEAL team like cartoon symbols of American sacrifice—in one sequence, several of them even roll down the steep side of a cliff like Wile E. Coyote thwarted by jihadist Road Runners. Those evil Afghans, meanwhile, twirl their mustaches plenty in the first act, which of course portends the appearance of a bunch of saintly ones in the third. Berg may be adhering to the basic facts, but his movie’s childish machismo is a disgrace to all involved. Keith Uhlich
Lone Survivor … is a jingoistic snuff film about a Navy SEAL squadron outgunned by the Taliban in the mountainous Kunar province. (…) These four men were heroes. But these heroes were also men. As the film portrays them, their attitudes to the incredibly complex War on Terror, fought hillside by bloody hillside in the Afghan frontier with both U.S. and Taliban forces contributing to an unconscionably high civilian body count, were simple: Brown people bad, American people good. When the guys debate whether to kill the three goat herders who’ve stumbled onto their hiding place — a dilemma that, morality aside, could have been solved if any of them had recalled that middle school logic problem about the fox, the chicken, the feed, and the too-small boat — Foster grabs an unarmed teenager by the face and insists, « That’s death. Look at death. » And when the firefight starts, he bellows, « You can die for your country — I’m going to live for mine. » (…) Berg (…) ‘s done the right thing by refusing to whitewash these guys as saints, although three of the four are depicted as devoted husbands and fiancés, and the fourth gets to be Mark Wahlberg. And Berg is justified in hoisting these guys up as real-life action stars, building his case with an opening montage of actual Navy SEAL training footage in which screaming instructors winnow a pack of athletes into an all-for-one-one-for-all band of badass brothers who, when forced to float in freezing ocean waves, link arms and sing « Silent Night. » (…) I’d like to think that, on some level, Berg is questioning the sense of a film — and a foreign policy — that makes target practice of our magnificent teams of hard-bodied, hairy-chested, rootin’-tootin’, shootin’, parachutin’, double-cap-crimpin’ frogmen, these soldiers who decorate their bunks with baby pictures of themselves next to an American flag and are so nobly eager to sacrifice their lives for each other and their country. But the ammo doesn’t stop blasting long enough for their deaths to have weight. Instead, Lone Survivor just reads like a quasi-political exaggeration of a slasher film: the cellphones that don’t work, the rescuers just out of reach, the killers chasing our victims through the woods. What are we meant to learn from this waste of life? Who is even to blame? All Lone Survivor offers is the queasiest apology of the year. Grunts a battered Wahlberg to his even more-battered best buddy, « I’m sorry that we didn’t kill more of these motherfuckers. » Replies his fellow soldier, « Oh, don’t be fucking sorry. We’re going to kill way more of them. » Amy Nicholson
 Un film de guerre peut-il échapper à la propagande ? (…) A croire que les bons films de guerre actuels ne parlent que de défaites… Télérama
Quel récit collectif sommes-nous capables de mettre en avant qui puisse donner un sens au sacrifice de ces jeunes ? Et l’absence d’un tel récit – qui va au-delà du sens subjectif que chacun d’eux pouvait donner à l’éventualité de mourir au combat et que chacun assumait en s’engageant dans l’armée – dépossède les jeunes soldats tombés du sens de leur mort. Danièle Hervieu-Léger
Si les hommes sont obsolètes, alors les femmes disparaîtront bientôt, à moins que nous nous précipitions sur le sinistre chemin du « meilleur des mondes », où les femmes se feront cloner par parthénogenèse, comme le font à merveille les dragons de Komodo, les requins marteaux et les vipères.Une rancune mesquine et hargneuse contre les hommes a été l’une des caractéristiques les plus désagréables et injustes du féminisme de la deuxième et de la troisième vague. Les fautes, les défauts et les faiblesses des hommes ont été saisis et décuplés par d’affreux actes d’accusation. Des professeurs idéologues dans nos grandes universités endoctrinent des étudiants de premier cycle aisément impressionnables par des théories négligeant les faits, arguant que le genre était une fiction oppressive et arbitraire dénuée de fondement biologique.(…) Une rancune mesquine et hargneuse contre les hommes a été l’une des caractéristiques les plus désagréables et injustes du féminisme de la deuxième et de la troisième vague. Les fautes, les défauts et les faiblesses des hommes ont été saisis et décuplés par d’affreux actes d’accusation. Des professeurs idéologues dans nos grandes universités endoctrinent des étudiants de premier cycle aisément impressionnables par des théories négligeant les faits, arguant que le genre était une fiction oppressive et arbitraire dénuée de fondement biologique. Faut-il s’étonner que tant de jeunes femmes de haut niveau, malgré tous les discours heureux sur leur réussite scolaire, se retrouvent dans les premiers stades de leur carrière dans l’incertitude chronique ou l’anxiété concernant leurs perspectives d’une vie privée épanouie émotionnellement ? Lorsqu’une culture instruite dénigre systématiquement la masculinité et la virilité, puis les femmes se retrouveront perpétuellement coincées avec des garçons qui n’ont pas intérêt à la maturité ou à honorer leurs engagements. Et sans hommes forts comme modèles à accepter ou (pour les lesbiennes dissidentes) contre lesquels se positionner, les femmes n’atteindront jamais une image centrée et profonde d’elles-mêmes en tant que femmes.(…) D’après ma longue observation, qui est antérieure à la révolution sexuelle, cela reste un grave problème qui afflige la société anglo-américaine, avec ses résidus puritains. En France, Italie, Espagne, Amérique latine et Brésil, en revanche, beaucoup de femmes professionnelles ambitieuses semblent avoir trouvé une formule pour affirmer le pouvoir et l’autorité dans le monde du travail tout en projetant encore attrait sexuel et même glamour. Il s’agit de la vraie mystique féminine, qui ne peut être enseignée mais découle d’une reconnaissance instinctive des différences sexuelles. L’atmosphère punitive aujourd’hui de propagande sentimentale sur le genre, l’imagination sexuelle a fui tout naturellement dans l’univers alternatif de la pornographie en ligne, où les forces rudes mais exaltantes de la nature primitive se défoulent sans être entravées par le moralisme religieux ou féministe. (…° L’histoire doit être perçue clairement et équitablement : les traditions obstructives ne provenaient pas de la haine ou de l’asservissement des femmes par les hommes, mais de la division naturelle du travail qui s’est développée pendant des milliers d’années au cours de la période agraire. Celle-ci a immensément bénéficié et protégé les femmes, leur permettant de rester au foyer pour s’occuper des nourrissons et des enfants sans défense. Au cours du siècle dernier, les appareils susceptibles d’épargner du travail, inventés par les hommes et répartis par le capitalisme, ont libéré les femmes des corvées quotidiennes. (…) En effet, les hommes sont absolument indispensables en ce moment, bien que cela soit invisible pour la plupart des féministes — qui semblent aveugles à l’infrastructure qui rend leur propre travail possible. Ce sont majoritairement des hommes qui font le sale (et dangereux) boulot. Ils construisent les routes, coulent le béton, posent les briques, pendent les fils électriques, excavent le gaz naturel et les égouts, coupent les arbres, et aplanissent au bulldozer les paysage pour les projets immobiliers. Ce sont les hommes qui soudent les poutres d’acier géantes qui maintiennent nos immeubles de bureaux, et ce sont les hommes qui font le travail ébouriffant d’encartage et d’étanchéité des fenêtres, posant ces plaques de verre sur des gratte-ciel hauts de 50 étages. Chaque jour, le long de la rivière Delaware à Philadelphie, on peut regarder le passage de vastes pétroliers et imposants cargos en provenance du monde entier. Ces colosses majestueux sont chargés, dirigés, et déchargés par des hommes. L’économie moderne, avec son vaste réseau de production et de distribution, est une épopée masculine, où les femmes ont trouvé un rôle productif – mais les femmes n’en sont pas les auteurs. Certes, les femmes modernes sont assez fortes maintenant pour donner du crédit lorsque le crédit est dû ! Camille Paglia
Le féminisme est héritier de Rousseau en ce qu’il voit chaque hiérarchie comme répressive, une fiction sociale ; chaque négatif sur la femme est un mensonge masculin conçu pour la garder à sa place. Le féminisme a dépassé sa mission propre de recherche de l’égalité politique pour les femmes et a fini par rejeter la contingence, c’est-à-dire les limites humaines par la nature ou le destin…. Si la civilisation avait été laissée aux mains des femmes, nous vivrions encore dans des cases en paille. Camille Paglia
The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster. These people don’t think in military ways, so there’s this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we’re just nice and benevolent to everyone they’ll be nice too. They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality. (…) So many women don’t realize how vulnerable they are by what they’re doing on the street. I believe that every person, male and female, needs to be in a protective mode at all times of alertness to potential danger. The world is full of potential attacks, potential disasters. (…) Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It’s oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys. They’re making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters. » This PC gender politics thing—the way gender is being taught in the universities—in a very anti-male way, it’s all about neutralization of maleness. Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There’s nothing left. There’s no room for anything manly right now. Our culture doesn’t allow women to know how to be womanly. (…) Michelle Obama’s going on: ‘Everybody must have college.’ Why? Why? What is the reason why everyone has to go to college? Especially when college is so utterly meaningless right now, it has no core curriculum » and « people end up saddled with huge debts. What’s driving the push toward universal college is social snobbery on the part of a lot of upper-middle-class families who want the sticker in the window. I have woodworking students who, even while they’re in class, are already earning money making furniture and so on. (…) I personally have disobeyed every single item of the gender code, » says Ms. Paglia. But men, and especially women, need to be honest about the role biology plays and clear-eyed about the choices they are making. I want every 14-year-old girl . . . to be told: You better start thinking what do you want in life. If you just want a career and no children you don’t have much to worry about. If, however, you are thinking you’d like to have children some day you should start thinking about when do you want to have them. Early or late? To have them early means you are going to make a career sacrifice, but you’re going to have more energy and less risks. Both the pros and the cons should be presented.  Camille Paglia
In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as well as they have the right to support homosexuality – as I one hundred percent do. ‘If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again, they have a right of religious freedom there. Camille Paglia
A review of the facts shows boys, not girls, on the weak side of an education gender gap. The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing; he is less committed to school and less likely to go to college. In 1997 college full-time enrollments were 45 percent male and 55 percent female. The Department of Education predicts that the proportion of boys in college classes will continue to shrink. Data from the U.S. Department of Education and from several recent university studies show that far from being shy and demoralized, today’s girls outshine boys. They get better grades. They have higher educational aspirations. They follow more-rigorous academic programs and participate in advanced-placement classes at higher rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, slightly more girls than boys enroll in high-level math and science courses. Girls, allegedly timorous and lacking in confidence, now outnumber boys in student government, in honor societies, on school newspapers, and in debating clubs. Only in sports are boys ahead, and women’s groups are targeting the sports gap with a vengeance. Girls read more books. They outperform boys on tests for artistic and musical ability. More girls than boys study abroad. More join the Peace Corps. At the same time, more boys than girls are suspended from school. More are held back and more drop out. Boys are three times as likely to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. More boys than girls are involved in crime, alcohol, and drugs. Girls attempt suicide more often than boys, but it is boys who more often succeed. In 1997, a typical year, 4,483 young people aged five to twenty-four committed suicide: 701 females and 3,782 males. (…) Gilligan appears to be making the same mistake with boys that she made with girls — she observes a few children and interprets their problems as indicative of a deep and general malaise caused by the way our society imposes gender stereotypes. The pressure to conform to these stereotypes, she believes, has impaired, distressed, and deformed the members of both sexes by the time they are adolescents. In fact — with the important exception of boys whose fathers are absent and who get their concept of maleness from peer groups — most boys are not violent. Most are not unfeeling or antisocial. They are just boys — and being a boy is not in itself a failing. (…) Every society confronts the problem of civilizing its young males. The traditional approach is through character education: Develop the young man’s sense of honor. Help him become a considerate, conscientious human being. Turn him into a gentleman. This approach respects boys’ masculine nature; it is time-tested, and it works. Even today, despite several decades of moral confusion, most young men understand the term « gentleman »and approve of the ideals it connotes. What Gilligan and her followers are proposing is quite different: civilize boys by diminishing their masculinity. « Raise boys like we raise girls » is Gloria Steinem’s advice. This approach is deeply disrespectful of boys. It is meddlesome, abusive, and quite beyond what educators in a free society are mandated to do. Did anything of value come out of the manufactured crisis of diminished girls? Yes, a bit. Parents, teachers, and administrators now pay more attention to girls’ deficits in math and science, and they offer more support for girls’ participation in sports. But who is to say that these benefits outweigh the disservice done by promulgating the myth of the incredible shrinking girl or presenting boys as the unfairly favored sex? A boy today, through no fault of his own, finds himself implicated in the social crime of shortchanging girls. Yet the allegedly silenced and neglected girl sitting next to him is likely to be the superior student. She is probably more articulate, more mature, more engaged, and more well-balanced. The boy may be aware that she is more likely to go on to college. He may believe that teachers prefer to be around girls and pay more attention to them. At the same time, he is uncomfortably aware that he is considered to be a member of the favored and dominant gender. The widening gender gap in academic achievement is real. It threatens the future of millions of American boys. Boys do not need to be rescued from their masculinity. But they are not getting the help they need. In the climate of disapproval in which boys now exist, programs designed to aid them have a very low priority. This must change. We should repudiate the partisanship that currently clouds the issues surrounding sex differences in the schools. We should call for balance, objective information, fair treatment, and a concerted national effort to get boys back on track. That means we can no longer allow the partisans of girls to write the rules. Christina Hoff Sommers
What you’re seeing is how a civilization commits suicide, » says Camille Paglia. This self-described « notorious Amazon feminist » isn’t telling anyone to Lean In or asking Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. No, her indictment may be as surprising as it is wide-ranging: The military is out of fashion, Americans undervalue manual labor, schools neuter male students, opinion makers deny the biological differences between men and women, and sexiness is dead. By denying the role of nature in women’s lives, she argues, leading feminists created a « denatured, antiseptic » movement that « protected their bourgeois lifestyle » and falsely promised that women could « have it all. » And by impugning women who chose to forgo careers to stay at home with children, feminists turned off many who might have happily joined their ranks. For all of Ms. Paglia’s barbs about the women’s movement, it seems clear that feminism—at least of the equal-opportunity variety—has triumphed in its basic goals. There is surely a lack of women in the C-Suite and Congress, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a man who would admit that he believes women are less capable. To save feminism as a political movement from irrelevance, Ms. Paglia says, the women’s movement should return to its roots. That means abandoning the « nanny state » mentality that led to politically correct speech codes and college disciplinary committees that have come to replace courts. The movement can win converts, she says, but it needs to become a big tent, one « open to stay-at-home moms » and « not just the career woman. » More important, Ms. Paglia says, if the women’s movement wants to be taken seriously again, it should tackle serious matters, like rape in India and honor killings in the Muslim world, that are « more of an outrage than some woman going on a date on the Brown University campus. » Bari Weiss

Attention: une guerre peut en cacher une autre!

Emasculation des garçons dès leur plus jeune âge, perte de l’expérience militaire dans la classe dirigeante, assignation de la masculinité aux réserves d’indiens des radios sportives, dévalorisation systématique du travail manuel, bannissement de toute critique de l’homosexualité, déféminisation et déresponsabilisation vestimentaire des femmes, apaisement complice du totalitarisme islamique …

En ces temps étranges de politiquement correct et de féminisme triomphant …

Où l’expérience militaire n’a plus droit de cité hormis sous la forme de la défaite ou de la passion christique

Et où, obsédées par leur chasse aux différences biologiques et aveugles aux conditions de possibilité de leurs critiques, nombre de théoriciennes féministes en sont à rêver d’un monde sans hommes …

Comment ne pas voir avec les dernières voix dissidentes qui restent comme celles de Camille Paglia ou Christina Hoff Sommers  … 

L’impasse et les aberrations vers lesquelles nous pousse toujours plus le féminisme actuel ?

Camille Paglia : une féministe qui défend les hommes

Le Bulletin d’Amérique

12 décembre 2013

La « guerre des sexes » fait toujours rage en Amérique du Nord, où le féminisme demeure l’un des piliers du progressisme. Pourtant, au sein même de ce mouvement, certaines commentatrices se font plus critiques, à l’instar de Camille Paglia*, une « féministe post-féministe ».

Titre original : « Camille Paglia Defends Men » . Traduit de l’anglais par Le Bulletin d’Amérique.

AEIdeas

Par Christina Hoff Sommers** — « Que cela soit entendu : les hommes sont périmés » : tel était le sujet d’un récent débat à Toronto. Maureen Dowd et Hanna Rosin défendaient ce dernier point de vue, tandis que Camille Paglia* et Caitlin Moran y étaient opposées. Très pince-sans-rire, Dowd fit par exemple remarquer que les hommes avaient joué de façon si téméraire avec le monde entier « qu’ils l’avaient presque cassé« . Nous allons dans une nouvelle direction, dit-elle alors, avant d’ajouter : « Zut, les hommes ne prennent même pas la peine de demander quelle direction prendre! »

Mais ce sont les déclarations électrisantes de Camille Paglia qui attirèrent toute l’attention :

Si les hommes sont obsolètes, alors les femmes disparaîtront bientôt, à moins que nous nous précipitions sur le sinistre chemin du « meilleur des mondes », où les femmes se feront cloner par parthénogenèse, comme le font à merveille les dragons de Komodo, les requins marteaux et les vipères.

Une rancune mesquine et hargneuse contre les hommes a été l’une des caractéristiques les plus désagréables et injustes du féminisme de la deuxième et de la troisième vague. Les fautes, les défauts et les faiblesses des hommes ont été saisis et décuplés par d’affreux actes d’accusation. Des professeurs idéologues dans nos grandes universités endoctrinent des étudiants de premier cycle aisément impressionnables par des théories négligeant les faits, arguant que le genre était une fiction oppressive et arbitraire dénuée de fondement biologique.Paglia n’a pas seulement défendu les hommes, elle a aussi livré une défense rare du libre marché et de ses avantages pour le beau sexe. Selon ses propres termes :

L’histoire doit être perçue clairement et équitablement : les traditions obstructives ne provenaient pas de la haine ou de l’asservissement des femmes par les hommes, mais de la division naturelle du travail qui s’est développée pendant des milliers d’années au cours de la période agraire. Celle-ci a immensément bénéficié et protégé les femmes, leur permettant de rester au foyer pour s’occuper des nourrissons et des enfants sans défense. Au cours du siècle dernier, les appareils susceptibles d’épargner du travail, inventés par les hommes et répartis par le capitalisme, ont libéré les femmes des corvées quotidiennes.

Les partisans de la théorie selon laquelle les « mâles seraient sur le déclin » avancent que l’avenir appartiendrait aux femmes communicatives, de consensus, à l’intelligence émotive. Les hommes, avec leur force musculaire, leurs prises de risque et leur penchant pour le chaos ne seraient plus d’actualité. Dowd se demandait s’ils allaient finalement s’éteindre, en prenant « les jeux vidéo, Game of Thrones en boucle et une pizza froide le matin avec eux. » Paglia rappela poliment mais fermement à ses contradicteurs que si les « femelles alpha » pouvaient en effet aujourd’hui rejoindre les hommes dans la gestion du monde, elles n’étaient guère sur le point de les remplacer. Et leurs brillantes carrières sont rendues possibles par des légions d’hommes travailleurs, preneurs de risque et innovants. La citant de nouveau :

En effet, les hommes sont absolument indispensables en ce moment, bien que cela soit invisible pour la plupart des féministes — qui semblent aveugles à l’infrastructure qui rend leur propre travail possible. Ce sont majoritairement des hommes qui font le sale (et dangereux) boulot. Ils construisent les routes, coulent le béton, posent les briques, pendent les fils électriques, excavent le gaz naturel et les égouts, coupent les arbres, et aplanissent au bulldozer les paysage pour les projets immobiliers. Ce sont les hommes qui soudent les poutres d’acier géantes qui maintiennent nos immeubles de bureaux, et ce sont les hommes qui font le travail ébouriffant d’encartage et d’étanchéité des fenêtres, posant ces plaques de verre sur des gratte-ciel hauts de 50 étages. Chaque jour, le long de la rivière Delaware à Philadelphie, on peut regarder le passage de vastes pétroliers et imposants cargos en provenance du monde entier. Ces colosses majestueux sont chargés, dirigés, et déchargés par des hommes. L’économie moderne, avec son vaste réseau de production et de distribution, est une épopée masculine, où les femmes ont trouvé un rôle productif – mais les femmes n’en sont pas les auteurs. Certes, les femmes modernes sont assez fortes maintenant pour donner du crédit lorsque le crédit est dû !

Malgré plusieurs décennies de « girl power« , les femmes montrent peu ou pas l’envie de pénétrer de nombreux domaines traditionnellement masculins. Le Bureau of Labor Statistics rapporte que plus de 90 % des travailleurs dans le bâtiment, électriciens, mécaniciens de l’aviation, éboueurs, grutiers, pompiers, plombiers, tuyauteurs, réparateurs de lignes de télécommunication, et ingénieurs électriques sont des hommes. Ce sont encore des hommes qui déposent plus de 90 % des brevets.

Au début des années 1980, le dessinateur Nicole Hollander, créateur de Sylvia, publiait une caricature dans laquelle quelqu’un demande à Sylvia à quoi ressemblerait le monde sans hommes. Celle-ci lui répondit : « Il n’y aurait aucun crime et beaucoup de grosses femmes heureuses« . La prédiction de Paglia sur leur extinction est bien meilleure. Son intervention mérite d’être lue dans son intégralité.

_____________

*Camille Paglia est une « féministe dissidente » et critique du post-structuralisme « français » (issu de Foucault, Derrida, Lacan). Enseignante à l’University of the Arts de Philadelphie, elle est l’auteur de Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), de Sex, Art and American Culture: Essays (1992), et Vamps and Tramps (1994).

**Christina Hoff Sommers est Senior Fellow à l’American Enterprise Institute. Elle est notamment l’auteur de Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women (1995), The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men (2000) et Freedom Feminism (2013).

Voir aussi:

Camille Paglia: A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues

The cultural critic on why ignoring the biological differences between men and women risks undermining Western civilization.

Bari Weiss

Dec. 28, 2013

‘What you’re seeing is how a civilization commits suicide, » says Camille Paglia. This self-described « notorious Amazon feminist » isn’t telling anyone to Lean In or asking Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. No, her indictment may be as surprising as it is wide-ranging: The military is out of fashion, Americans undervalue manual labor, schools neuter male students, opinion makers deny the biological differences between men and women, and sexiness is dead. And that’s just 20 minutes of our three-hour conversation.

When Ms. Paglia, now 66, burst onto the national stage in 1990 with the publishing of « Sexual Personae, » she immediately established herself as a feminist who was the scourge of the movement’s establishment, a heretic to its orthodoxy. Pick up the 700-page tome, subtitled « Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson,  » and it’s easy to see why. « If civilization had been left in female hands, » she wrote, « we would still be living in grass huts. »

The fact that the acclaimed book—the first of six; her latest, « Glittering Images, » is a survey of Western art—was rejected by seven publishers and five agents before being printed by Yale University Press only added to Ms. Paglia’s sense of herself as a provocateur in a class with Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. But unlike those radio jocks, Ms. Paglia has scholarly chops: Her dissertation adviser at Yale was Harold Bloom, and she is as likely to discuss Freud, Oscar Wilde or early Native American art as to talk about Miley Cyrus.

Ms. Paglia relishes her outsider persona, having previously described herself as an egomaniac and « abrasive, strident and obnoxious. » Talking to her is like a mental CrossFit workout. One moment she’s praising pop star Rihanna (« a true artist »), then blasting ObamaCare (« a monstrosity, » though she voted for the president), global warming (« a religious dogma »), and the idea that all gay people are born gay (« the biggest canard, » yet she herself is a lesbian).

But no subject gets her going more than when I ask if she really sees a connection between society’s attempts to paper over the biological distinction between men and women and the collapse of Western civilization.

She starts by pointing to the diminished status of military service. « The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster, » she says. « These people don’t think in military ways, so there’s this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we’re just nice and benevolent to everyone they’ll be nice too. They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality. »

The results, she says, can be seen in everything from the dysfunction in Washington (where politicians « lack practical skills of analysis and construction ») to what women wear. « So many women don’t realize how vulnerable they are by what they’re doing on the street, » she says, referring to women who wear sexy clothes.

When she has made this point in the past, Ms. Paglia—who dresses in androgynous jackets and slacks—has been told that she believes « women are at fault for their own victimization. » Nonsense, she says. « I believe that every person, male and female, needs to be in a protective mode at all times of alertness to potential danger. The world is full of potential attacks, potential disasters. » She calls it « street-smart feminism. »

Ms. Paglia argues that the softening of modern American society begins as early as kindergarten. « Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It’s oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys, » she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess. « They’re making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters. »

She is not the first to make this argument, as Ms. Paglia readily notes. Fellow feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has written about the « war against boys » for more than a decade. The notion was once met with derision, but now data back it up: Almost one in five high-school-age boys has been diagnosed with ADHD, boys get worse grades than girls and are less likely to go to college.

Ms. Paglia observes this phenomenon up close with her 11-year-old son, Lucien, whom she is raising with her ex-partner, Alison Maddex, an artist and public-school teacher who lives 2 miles away. She sees the tacit elevation of « female values »—such as sensitivity, socialization and cooperation—as the main aim of teachers, rather than fostering creative energy and teaching hard geographical and historical facts.

By her lights, things only get worse in higher education. « This PC gender politics thing—the way gender is being taught in the universities—in a very anti-male way, it’s all about neutralization of maleness. » The result: Upper-middle-class men who are « intimidated » and « can’t say anything. . . . They understand the agenda. » In other words: They avoid goring certain sacred cows by « never telling the truth to women » about sex, and by keeping « raunchy » thoughts and sexual fantasies to themselves and their laptops.

Politically correct, inadequate education, along with the decline of America’s brawny industrial base, leaves many men with « no models of manhood, » she says. « Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There’s nothing left. There’s no room for anything manly right now. » The only place you can hear what men really feel these days, she claims, is on sports radio. No surprise, she is an avid listener. The energy and enthusiasm « inspires me as a writer, » she says, adding: « If we had to go to war, » the callers « are the men that would save the nation. »

And men aren’t the only ones suffering from the decline of men. Women, particularly elite upper-middle-class women, have become « clones » condemned to « Pilates for the next 30 years, » Ms. Paglia says. « Our culture doesn’t allow women to know how to be womanly, » adding that online pornography is increasingly the only place where men and women in our sexless culture tap into « primal energy » in a way they can’t in real life.

A key part of the remedy, she believes, is a « revalorization » of traditional male trades—the ones that allow women’s studies professors to drive to work (roads), take the elevator to their office (construction), read in the library (electricity), and go to gender-neutral restrooms (plumbing).

 » Michelle Obama’s going on: ‘Everybody must have college.’ Why? Why? What is the reason why everyone has to go to college? Especially when college is so utterly meaningless right now, it has no core curriculum » and « people end up saddled with huge debts, » says Ms. Paglia. What’s driving the push toward universal college is « social snobbery on the part of a lot of upper-middle-class families who want the sticker in the window. »

Ms. Paglia, who has been a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since 1984, sees her own students as examples. « I have woodworking students who, even while they’re in class, are already earning money making furniture and so on, » she says. « My career has been in art schools cause I don’t get along with normal academics. »

To hear her tell it, getting along has never been Ms. Paglia’s strong suit. As a child, she felt stifled by the expectations of girlhood in the 1950s. She fantasized about being a knight, not a princess. Discovering pioneering female figures as a teenager, most notably Amelia Earhart, transformed Ms. Paglia’s understanding of what her future might hold.

These iconoclastic women of the 1930s, like Earhart and Katharine Hepburn, remain her ideal feminist role models: independent, brave, enterprising, capable of competing with men without bashing them. But since at least the late 1960s, she says, fellow feminists in the academy stopped sharing her vision of « equal-opportunity feminism » that demands a level playing field without demanding special quotas or protections for women.

She proudly recounts her battle, while a graduate student at Yale in the late 1960s and early ’70s, with the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band over the Rolling Stones: Ms. Paglia loved « Under My Thumb, » a song the others regarded as chauvinist. Then there was the time she « barely got through the dinner » with a group of women’s studies professors at Bennington College, where she had her first teaching job, who insisted that there is no hormonal difference between men and women. « I left before dessert. »

In her view, these ideological excesses bear much of the blame for the current cultural decline. She calls out activists like Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf and Susan Faludi for pushing a version of feminism that says gender is nothing more than a social construct, and groups like the National Organization for Women for making abortion the singular women’s issue.

By denying the role of nature in women’s lives, she argues, leading feminists created a « denatured, antiseptic » movement that « protected their bourgeois lifestyle » and falsely promised that women could « have it all. » And by impugning women who chose to forgo careers to stay at home with children, feminists turned off many who might have happily joined their ranks.

But Ms. Paglia’s criticism shouldn’t be mistaken for nostalgia for the socially prescribed roles for men and women before the 1960s. Quite the contrary. « I personally have disobeyed every single item of the gender code, » says Ms. Paglia. But men, and especially women, need to be honest about the role biology plays and clear-eyed about the choices they are making.

Sex education, she says, simply focuses on mechanics without conveying the real « facts of life, » especially for girls: « I want every 14-year-old girl . . . to be told: You better start thinking what do you want in life. If you just want a career and no children you don’t have much to worry about. If, however, you are thinking you’d like to have children some day you should start thinking about when do you want to have them. Early or late? To have them early means you are going to make a career sacrifice, but you’re going to have more energy and less risks. Both the pros and the cons should be presented. »

For all of Ms. Paglia’s barbs about the women’s movement, it seems clear that feminism—at least of the equal-opportunity variety—has triumphed in its basic goals. There is surely a lack of women in the C-Suite and Congress, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a man who would admit that he believes women are less capable. To save feminism as a political movement from irrelevance, Ms. Paglia says, the women’s movement should return to its roots. That means abandoning the « nanny state » mentality that led to politically correct speech codes and college disciplinary committees that have come to replace courts. The movement can win converts, she says, but it needs to become a big tent, one « open to stay-at-home moms » and « not just the career woman. »

More important, Ms. Paglia says, if the women’s movement wants to be taken seriously again, it should tackle serious matters, like rape in India and honor killings in the Muslim world, that are « more of an outrage than some woman going on a date on the Brown University campus. »

Ms. Weiss is an associate editorial features editor at the Journal.

Voir aussi:

‘There’s no room for anything manly now': Feminist writer Camille Paglia speaks out AGAINST the loss of masculine virtues and its negative impact on society

The self-described ‘dissident feminist’ believes society is neutering boys of their maleness at a young age

She also believes the lack of people with military experience in important positions is a recipe for disaster

An avid listener of sports radio, she believes these ‘are the men that would save the nation’

‘Our culture doesn’t allow women to know how to be womanly,’ she said

Paglia also recently spoke out in favor of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson and defended his right to free speech

The Daily Mail

30 December 2013

Our society is neutering boys of their maleness at a young age, while the lack of people with military experience in important positions is a recipe for disaster, claims Camille Paglia, the controversial lesbian author and social critic.

Self-described ‘dissident feminist’ Paglia, 66, believes that attempts to deny the biological distinctions between men and women is to blame for the much that is wrong with modern society.

‘What you’re seeing is how a civilization commits suicide’ she told the Wall Street Journal.

Paglia, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, is well known for her critical views on many aspects of modern culture, including feminism and liberalism.

She recently spoke out in support of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, supporting his right to express homophobic views.

‘In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as well as they have the right to support homosexuality – as I one hundred percent do.

‘If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again, they have a right of religious freedom there.’ she told Laura Ingraham’s radio show last week.

Paglia, who is promoting her latest book, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt To Star Wars, told the WSJ that the diminished status of military service in people in important positions is a big mistake.

the diminished status of military service in people in important positions is a big mistake, says Paglia

The emancipation of masculine virtues is something that is beginning as early as kindergarten in the U.S., argues Paglia

Our society is neutering boys of their maleness at a young age, right, while the lack of people with military experience in important positions is a recipe for disaster, left, claims Paglia

‘The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service – hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster,’ she said.

‘These people don’t think in military ways, so there’s this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we’re just nice and benevolent to everyone they’ll be nice too. They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality.’

According to Paglia the results are there for all to see in the on-going dysfunction in Washington, where politicians ‘lack practical skills of analysis and construction’.

The emancipation of masculine virtues is something that is beginning as early as kindergarten in the U.S., argues Paglia.

‘Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It’s oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys,’ she said.

The author, who along with her ex-partner Alison Maddex, is raising an 11-year-old son Lucian, believes that the way many schools have cut recess is ‘making a toxic environment for boys.’

‘Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters,’ she said.

The decline of America’s industrial base is another factor that the author believes is leaving many men with ‘no models of manhood.’

‘Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There’s nothing left. There’s no room for anything manly right now.’

Bizarrely Paglia claims that the only place that you can hear what men really feel these days is on sports radio.

The professor claims to be an avid listener and that the energy and enthusiasm ‘inspires me as a writer.’

‘If we had to go to war,’ the callers ‘are the men that would save the nation.’

Paglia didn’t spare the role of women in her musings and said that elite upper-middle-class women have become ‘clones’ condemned to ‘Pilates for the next 30 years.’

‘Our culture doesn’t allow women to know how to be womanly,’ she said.

THE OUTSPOKEN CAMILLE PAGLIA – SELF STYLED ‘DISSIDENT FEMINIST’

Ms Paglia (pictured) said some of Rihanna’s more candid shots were reminiscent of the work of Kathy Keeton – a South African ballet dancer who once edited Viva and whose fashion editor was Anna Wintour

Camille Paglia, is a self styled ‘dissident feminist’, outspoken on pop culture, and who has been described as a feminist bete noire.

The 66-year-old has been a professor at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA since 1984, but came to attention with the publication of her first book, ‘Sexual Personae’, in 1990, when she also began writing about popular culture and feminism in mainstream newspapers and magazines.

It is these articles which have propelled Paglia to the controversial figure she is today.

One scathing attack saw her conclude that Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, have ‘insipid, bleached-out personas’ that hark back to the man-pleasing, pre-feminist era.

In an article for The Hollywood Reporter, she wrote that as a result, many of today’s young women fail to realize the role their sexuality plays in society and ‘partying till you drop has gotten as harmless as a Rotary Club meeting’.

She said: ‘Swift’s meandering, snippy songs make 16-year-old Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry if I Want to) seem like a towering masterpiece of social commentary, psychological drama and shapely concision.

‘Indeed, without her mannequin posturing at industry events, it’s doubtful that Swift could have attained her high profile.’

She cuttingly described Perry as a ‘manic cyborg cheerleader’.

Paglia previously slammed Lady Gaga, insisting her over-the-top sexuality is actually ‘stripped of genuine eroticism’.

She said the star’s willingness to dress in crazy outfits as an example of ‘every public appearance… has been lavishly scripted in advance’.

Voir également:

Munk Debate on the End of Men Post Debate Commentary

Christina Hoff Sommers

November 16, 2013

Be it resolved that men are obsolete. That was the question last week at a high spirited edition of Toronto’s celebrated Munk Debates. Hanna Rosin and Maureen Dowd said, “OMG Yes!” Camille Paglia and Caitlin Moran: “No way!” To men offended by the proposition: Lighten up. Don’t join those censorious feminists who have made the battle of the sexes a humor free zone. Rosin opened by asking, “How do we know men are finished?” Her answer was a quote from embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. “Yeah, there have been times I have been in a drunken stupor.” Exhibit B for her argument that men have become as fussy and insecure as women was a tweeted photograph of Anthony Wiener’s meticulously waxed chest. Along the way, she made serious p oints about how men are falling behind in education and the workplace. Women are adapting in the new world of gender equality; men are not. “Men are the new ball and chain,” Rosin said. Paglia was having none of it. She reminded Rosin and the female supr emacists that their busy Alpha female lives are made possible by an invisible army of men — “men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lin es, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments.” Paglia described the modern economy, with its vast system of production and distribution, as a sublime “male epic.” Women have joined it — but men built it. “Surely,” sai d the fiery Paglia, “modern women are strong enough now to give credit where credit is due!” And she reminded women that without strong men as models to either embrace or reject, women will never attain a distinctive sense of themselves as women. Maureen Dowd made good fun of her misfortune in following Camille Paglia — beginning, “Um, I’ve never debated before, and I am so screwed.” She did not fully engage the topic, but her beguiling style was a caution against letting “men and women are identica l” ideologues drive the discussion. With her Veronica Lake hair       and slinky black dress, Dowd was an alluring 1940s style vamp with up to date female taunts: “Men are so last century… they seemed to have stopped evolving.” When guys finally exit the stage, she wondered if they would be taking “video games, Game of Thrones on a continuous loop and cold pizza in the morning with them.” Women, said Dowd, have “clicked their ruby red stilettos three times” and now realize they are in charge. “The world is not f lat, Tom Friedman. The world is curvy.’” Actually, the world is both — as Dowd clearly knows and enjoys. And she does not want to destroy men, she wants to have fun with them — while joining them in the pursuit of power and happiness. Her playful, femme fatale feminism was more appealing than anything in Women’s Studies 101. Caitlin Moran, British writer and humorist, began by warning that her feminism was strident, Marxist, and “fueled by cocktails.” But she turned out to be a down to earth humanist, remindin g everyone that calling men obsolete was no better than the bad old sexist days when women were said to be irrelevant. We are in this together, said Moran: if one sex fails, the other staggers. All of the speakers acknowledged that working class men’s fort unes have fallen and that boys are having serious difficulties in schools. But, Moran insisted, that does not mean we should celebrate their travails, but rather that we should do everything possible to improve their prospects. She shocked and delighted th e audience with her concluding remark: “The question of the evening is: Are Men Obsolete? My conclusion is: No! I won’t let you be — you f___ers!” Imagine four brilliant, accomplished, funny women discussing the politics of gender outside the dreary, angry, “rape culture” obsessed framework of contemporary feminism. That happened this past Friday night at the Munk Debate, and both sexes came out ahead in the encounter. Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute a nd the author of The War Against Boys. The Munk Debates wished to thank Ali Wyne for his assistance in commissioning and compiling these essays. Ali Wyne is an associate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. A frequent commentator on international affairs, he is a coauthor of Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World (2013 ).

Voir enfin:

The War Against Boys

This we think we know: American schools favor boys and grind down girls. The truth is the very opposite. By virtually every measure, girls are thriving in school; it is boys who are the second sex

by Christina Hoff Sommers

The Atlantic

May  2000

IT’S a bad time to be a boy in America. The triumphant victory of the U.S. women’s soccer team at the World Cup last summer has come to symbolize the spirit of American girls. The shooting at Columbine High last spring might be said to symbolize the spirit of American boys.

That boys are in disrepute is not accidental. For many years women’s groups have complained that boys benefit from a school system that favors them and is biased against girls. « Schools shortchange girls, » declares the American Association of University Women. Girls are « undergoing a kind of psychological foot-binding, » two prominent educational psychologists say. A stream of books and pamphlets cite research showing not only that boys are classroom favorites but also that they are given to schoolyard violence and sexual harassment.

In the view that has prevailed in American education over the past decade, boys are resented, both as the unfairly privileged sex and as obstacles on the path to gender justice for girls. This perspective is promoted in schools of education, and many a teacher now feels that girls need and deserve special indemnifying consideration. « It is really clear that boys are Number One in this society and in most of the world, » says Patricia O’Reilly, a professor of education and the director of the Gender Equity Center, at the University of Cincinnati.

The idea that schools and society grind girls down has given rise to an array of laws and policies intended to curtail the advantage boys have and to redress the harm done to girls. That girls are treated as the second sex in school and consequently suffer, that boys are accorded privileges and consequently benefit — these are things everyone is presumed to know. But they are not true.

The research commonly cited to support claims of male privilege and male sinfulness is riddled with errors. Almost none of it has been published in peer-reviewed professional journals. Some of the data turn out to be mysteriously missing. A review of the facts shows boys, not girls, on the weak side of an education gender gap. The typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing; he is less committed to school and less likely to go to college. In 1997 college full-time enrollments were 45 percent male and 55 percent female. The Department of Education predicts that the proportion of boys in college classes will continue to shrink.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education and from several recent university studies show that far from being shy and demoralized, today’s girls outshine boys. They get better grades. They have higher educational aspirations. They follow more-rigorous academic programs and participate in advanced-placement classes at higher rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, slightly more girls than boys enroll in high-level math and science courses. Girls, allegedly timorous and lacking in confidence, now outnumber boys in student government, in honor societies, on school newspapers, and in debating clubs. Only in sports are boys ahead, and women’s groups are targeting the sports gap with a vengeance. Girls read more books. They outperform boys on tests for artistic and musical ability. More girls than boys study abroad. More join the Peace Corps. At the same time, more boys than girls are suspended from school. More are held back and more drop out. Boys are three times as likely to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. More boys than girls are involved in crime, alcohol, and drugs. Girls attempt suicide more often than boys, but it is boys who more often succeed. In 1997, a typical year, 4,483 young people aged five to twenty-four committed suicide: 701 females and 3,782 males.

In the technical language of education experts, girls are academically more « engaged. » Last year an article in The CQ Researcher about male and female academic achievement described a common parental observation: « Daughters want to please their teachers by spending extra time on projects, doing extra credit, making homework as neat as possible. Sons rush through homework assignments and run outside to play, unconcerned about how the teacher will regard the sloppy work. »

School engagement is a critical measure of student success. The U.S. Department of Education gauges student commitment by the following criteria: « How much time do students devote to homework each night? »and « Do students come to class prepared and ready to learn? (Do they bring books and pencils? Have they completed their homework?) »According to surveys of fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders, girls consistently do more homework than boys. By the twelfth grade boys are four times as likely as girls not to do homework. Similarly, more boys than girls report that they « usually » or « often » come to school without supplies or without having done their homework.

The performance gap between boys and girls in high school leads directly to the growing gap between male and female admissions to college. The Department of Education reports that in 1996 there were 8.4 million women but only 6.7 million men enrolled in college. It predicts that women will hold on to and increase their lead well into the next decade, and that by 2007 the numbers will be 9.2 million women and 6.9 million men.

Deconstructing the Test-Score Gap

FEMINISTS cannot deny that girls get better grades, are more engaged academically, and are now the majority sex in higher education. They argue, however, that these advantages are hardly decisive. Boys, they point out, get higher scores than girls on almost every significant standardized test — especially the Scholastic Assessment Test and law school, medical school, and graduate school admissions tests.

In 1996 I wrote an article for Education Week about the many ways in which girl students were moving ahead of boys. Seizing on the test-score data that suggest boys are doing better than girls, David Sadker, a professor of education at American University and a co-author with his wife, Myra, of Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls (1994), wrote, « If females are soaring in school, as Christina Hoff Sommers writes, then these tests are blind to their flight. » On the 1998 SAT boys were thirty-five points (out of 800) ahead of girls in math and seven points ahead in English. These results seem to run counter to all other measurements of achievement in school. In almost all other areas boys lag behind girls. Why do they test better? Is Sadker right in suggesting that this is a manifestation of boys’ privileged status?

The answer is no. A careful look at the pool of students who take the SAT and similar tests shows that the girls’ lower scores have little or nothing to do with bias or unfairness. Indeed, the scores do not even signify lower achievement by girls. First of all, according to College Bound Seniors, an annual report on standardized-test takers published by the College Board, many more « at risk » girls than « at risk » boys take the SAT — girls from lower-income homes or with parents who never graduated from high school or never attended college. « These characteristics, » the report says, « are associated with lower than average SAT scores. » Instead of wrongly using SAT scores as evidence of bias against girls, scholars should be concerned about the boys who never show up for the tests they need if they are to move on to higher education.

Another factor skews test results so that they appear to favor boys. Nancy Cole, the president of the Educational Testing Service, calls it the « spread » phenomenon. Scores on almost any intelligence or achievement test are more spread out for boys than for girls — boys include more prodigies and more students of marginal ability. Or, as the political scientist James Q. Wilson once put it, « There are more male geniuses and more male idiots. »

Boys also dominate dropout lists, failure lists, and learning-disability lists. Students in these groups rarely take college-admissions tests. On the other hand, the exceptional boys who take school seriously show up in disproportionately high numbers for standardized tests. Gender-equity activists like Sadker ought to apply their logic consistently: if the shortage of girls at the high end of the ability distribution is evidence of unfairness to girls, then the excess of boys at the low end should be deemed evidence of unfairness to boys.

Suppose we were to turn our attention away from the highly motivated, self-selected two fifths of high school students who take the SAT and consider instead a truly representative sample of American schoolchildren. How would girls and boys then compare? Well, we have the answer. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, started in 1969 and mandated by Congress, offers the best and most comprehensive measure of achievement among students at all levels of ability. Under the NAEP program 70,000 to 100,000 students, drawn from forty-four states, are tested in reading, writing, math, and science at ages nine, thirteen, and seventeen. In 1996, seventeen-year-old boys outperformed seventeen-year-old girls by five points in math and eight points in science, whereas the girls outperformed the boys by fourteen points in reading and seventeen points in writing. In the past few years girls have been catching up in math and science while boys have continued to lag far behind in reading and writing.

In the July, 1995, issue of Science, Larry V. Hedges and Amy Nowell, researchers at the University of Chicago, observed that girls’ deficits in math were small but not insignificant. These deficits, they noted, could adversely affect the number of women who « excel in scientific and technical occupations. »Of the deficits in boys’ writing skills they wrote, « The large sex differences in writing … are alarming…. The data imply that males are, on average, at a rather profound disadvantage in the performance of this basic skill. » They went on to warn,

The generally larger numbers of males who perform near the bottom of the distribution in reading comprehension and writing also have policy implications. It seems likely that individuals with such poor literacy skills will have difficulty finding employment in an increasingly information-driven economy. Thus, some intervention may be required to enable them to participate constructively.

Hedges and Nowell were describing a serious problem of national scope, but because the focus elsewhere has been on girls’ deficits, few Americans know much about the problem or even suspect that it exists.

Indeed, so accepted has the myth of girls in crisis become that even teachers who work daily with male and female students tend to reflexively dismiss any challenge to the myth, or any evidence pointing to the very real crisis among boys. Three years ago Scarsdale High School, in New York, held a gender-equity workshop for faculty members. It was the standard girls-are-being-shortchanged fare, with one notable difference. A male student gave a presentation in which he pointed to evidence suggesting that girls at Scarsdale High were well ahead of boys. David Greene, a social-studies teacher, thought the student must be mistaken, but when he and some colleagues analyzed department grading patterns, they discovered that the student was right. They found little or no difference in the grades of boys and girls in advanced-placement social-studies classes. But in standard classes the girls were doing a lot better.

And Greene discovered one other thing: few wanted to hear about his startling findings. Like schools everywhere, Scarsdale High has been strongly influenced by the belief that girls are systematically deprived. That belief prevails among the school’s gender-equity committee and has led the school to offer a special senior elective on gender equity. Greene has tried to broach the subject of male underperformance with his colleagues. Many of them concede that in the classes they teach, the girls seem to be doing better than the boys, but they do not see this as part of a larger pattern. After so many years of hearing about silenced, diminished girls, teachers do not take seriously the suggestion that boys are not doing as well as girls even if they see it with their own eyes in their own classrooms.

The Incredible Shrinking Girl

HOW did we get to this odd place? How did we come to believe in a picture of American boys and girls that is the opposite of the truth? And why has that belief persisted, enshrined in law, encoded in governmental and school policies, despite overwhelming evidence against it? The answer has much to do with one of the American academy’s most celebrated women — Carol Gilligan, Harvard University’s first professor of gender studies.

Gilligan first came to widespread attention in 1982, with the publication of In a Different Voice, which this article will discuss shortly. In 1990 Gilligan announced that America’s adolescent girls were in crisis. In her words, « As the river of a girl’s life flows into the sea of Western culture, she is in danger of drowning or disappearing. » Gilligan offered little in the way of conventional evidence to support this alarming finding. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what sort of empirical research could establish such a large claim. But she quickly attracted powerful allies. Within a very short time the allegedly vulnerable and demoralized state of adolescent girls achieved the status of a national emergency.

Popular writers, electrified by Gilligan’s discovery, began to see evidence of the crisis everywhere. Anna Quindlen, who was then a New York Times columnist, recounted in a 1990 column how Gilligan’s research had cast an ominous shadow on the celebration of her daughter’s second birthday: « My daughter is ready to leap into the world, as though life were chicken soup and she a delighted noodle. The work of Professor Carol Gilligan of Harvard suggests that some time after the age of 11 this will change, that even this lively little girl will pull back [and] shrink. »

A number of popular books soon materialized, including Myra and David Sadker’s Failing at Fairness and Peggy Orenstein’s Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap (1994). Elizabeth Gleick wrote in Time in 1996 on a new trend in literary victimology: « Dozens of troubled teenage girls troop across [the] pages: composite sketches of Charlottes, Whitneys and Danielles who were raped, who have bulimia, who have pierced bodies or shaved heads, who are coping with strict religious families or are felled by their parents’ bitter divorce. »

The country’s adolescent girls were both pitied and exalted. The novelist Carolyn See wrote in The Washington Post in 1994, « The most heroic, fearless, graceful, tortured human beings in this land must be girls from the ages of 12 to 15. » In the same vein, the Sadkers, in Failing at Fairness, predicted the fate of a lively six-year-old on top of a playground slide: « There she stood on her sturdy legs, with her head thrown back and her arms flung wide. As ruler of the playground, she was at the very zenith of her world. »But all would soon change: « If the camera had photographed the girl … at twelve instead of six … she would have been looking at the ground instead of the sky; her sense of self-worth would have been an accelerating downward spiral. »

A picture of confused and forlorn girls struggling to survive would be drawn again and again, with added details and increasing urgency. Mary Pipher, a clinical psychologist, wrote in Reviving Ophelia (1994), by far the most successful of the girls-in-crisis books, « Something dramatic happens to girls in early adolescence. Just as planes and ships disappear mysteriously into the Bermuda Triangle, so do the selves of girls go down in droves. They crash and burn. »

The description of America’s teenage girls as silenced, tortured, and otherwise personally diminished was (and is) indeed dismaying. But no real evidence has ever been offered to support it. Certainly neither Gilligan nor the popular writers who followed her lead produced anything like solid empirical evidence, gathered according to the conventional protocols of social-science research.

Scholars who do abide by those protocols describe adolescent girls in far more optimistic terms. Anne Petersen, a former professor of adolescent development and pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and now a senior vice-president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, reports the consensus of researchers working in adolescent psychology: « It is now known that the majority of adolescents of both genders successfully negotiate this developmental period without any major psychological or emotional disorder, develop a positive sense of personal identity, and manage to forge adaptive peer relationships with their families. » Daniel Offer, a professor of psychiatry at Northwestern, concurs. He refers to a « new generation of studies » that find 80 percent of adolescents to be normal and well adjusted.

At the time that Gilligan was declaring her crisis, a study conducted by the University of Michigan asked a scientifically selected sample of 3,000 high school seniors, « Taking all things together, how would you say things are these days — would you say you’re very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days? » Nearly 86 percent of the girls and 88 percent of the boys responded that they were « pretty happy » or « very happy. » If the girls polled were caught in « an accelerating downward spiral, » they were unaware of it.

Contrary to the story told by Gilligan and her followers, American girls were flourishing in unprecedented ways by the early 1990s. To be sure, some — including many who found themselves in the offices of clinical psychologists — felt they were crashing and drowning in the sea of Western culture. But the vast majority were occupied in more-constructive ways, moving ahead of boys in the primary and secondary grades, applying to college in record numbers, filling challenging academic classes, joining sports teams, and generally enjoying more freedom and opportunities than any other young women in history.

The great discrepancy between what Gilligan says she discovered about adolescent girls and what numerous other scientists say they have learned raises obvious questions about the quality of Gilligan’s research. And these questions loom larger the more one examines Gilligan’s methods. Carol Gilligan is a much-celebrated figure. Journalists routinely cite her research on the distinctive moral psychology of women. She was Ms. magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1984, and Time put her on its short list of most-influential Americans in 1996. In 1997 she received the $250,000 Heinz Award for « transform[ing] the paradigm for what it means to be human. » Such a transformation would certainly be a feat. At the very least, it would require a great deal of empirical supporting evidence. Most of Gilligan’s published research, however, consists of anecdotes based on a small number of interviews. Her data are otherwise unavailable for review, giving rise to some reasonable doubts about their merits and persuasiveness.

In a Different Voice offered the provocative thesis that men and women have distinctly different ways of dealing with moral quandaries. Relying on data from three studies she had conducted, Gilligan found that women tend to be more caring, less competitive, and less abstract than men; they speak « in a different voice. » Women approach moral questions by applying an « ethic of care. » In contrast, men approach moral issues by applying rules and abstract principles; theirs is an « ethic of justice. » Gilligan argued further that women’s moral style had been insufficiently studied by professional psychologists. She complained that the entire fields of psychology and moral philosophy had been built on studies that excluded women.

In a Different Voice was an instant success. It sold more than 600,000 copies and was translated into nine languages. A reviewer at Vogue explained its appeal: « [Gilligan] flips old prejudices against women on their ears. She reframes qualities regarded as women’s weaknesses and shows them to be human strengths. It is impossible to consider [her] ideas without having your estimation of women rise. »

The book received a mixed reaction from feminists. Some — such as the philosophers Virginia Held and Sara Ruddick, and those in various fields who would come to be known as « difference feminists » — were tantalized by the idea that women were different from, and quite probably better than, men. But other academic feminists attacked Gilligan for reinforcing stereotypes about women as nurturers and caretakers.

Many academic psychologists, feminist and nonfeminist alike, found Gilligan’s specific claims about distinct male and female moral orientations unpersuasive and ungrounded in empirical data. Lawrence Walker, of the University of British Columbia, has reviewed 108 studies of sex differences in solving moral problems. He concluded in a 1984 review article in Child Development that « sex differences in moral reasoning in late adolescence and youth are rare. » In 1987 three psychologists at Oberlin College attempted to test Gilligan’s hypothesis: they administered a moral-reasoning test to 101 male and female students and concluded, « There were no reliable sex differences … in the directions predicted by Gilligan. » Concurring with Walker, the Oberlin researchers pointed out that « Gilligan failed to provide acceptable empirical support for her model. »

The thesis of In a Different Voice is based on three studies Gilligan conducted: the « college student study, » the « abortion decision study, » and the « rights and responsibilities study. » Here is how Gilligan described the last.

This study involved a sample of males and females matched for age, intelligence, education, occupation, and social class at nine points across the life cycle: ages 6-9, 11, 15, 19, 22, 25-27, 35, 45, and 60. From a total sample of 144 (8 males and 8 females at each age), including a more intensively interviewed subsample of 36 (2 males and 2 females at each age), data were collected on conceptions of self and morality, experiences of moral conflicts and choice, and judgments of hypothetical moral dilemmas.

This description is all we ever learn about the mechanics of the study, which seems to have no proper name; it was never published, never peer-reviewed. It was, in any case, very small in scope and in number of subjects. And the data are tantalizingly inaccessible. In September of 1998 my research assistant, Elizabeth Bowen, called Gilligan’s office and asked where she could find copies of the three studies that were the basis for In a Different Voice. Gilligan’s assistant, Tatiana Bertsch, told her that they were unavailable, and not in the public domain; because of the sensitivity of the data (especially the abortion study), the information had been kept confidential. Asked where the studies were now kept, Bertsch explained that the original data were being prepared to be placed in a Harvard library: « They are physically in the office. We are in the process of sending them to the archives at the Murray Center. »

In October of 1998 Hugh Liebert, a sophomore at Harvard who had been my research assistant the previous summer, spoke to Bertsch. She told him that the data would not be available until the end of the academic year, adding, « They have been kept secret because the issues [raised in the study] are so sensitive. » She suggested that he check back occasionally. He tried again in March. This time she informed him, « They will not be available anytime soon. »

Last September, Liebert tried one more time. He sent an e-mail message directly to Gilligan, but Bertsch sent back the reply.

None of the In a Different Voice studies have been published. We are in the process of donating the college student study to the Murray Research Center at Radcliffe, but that will not be completed for another year, probably. At this point Professor Gilligan has no immediate plans of donating the abortion or the rights and responsibilities studies. Sorry that none of what you are interested in is available.

Brendan Maher is a professor emeritus at Harvard University and a former chairman of the psychology department. I told him about the inaccessibility of Gilligan’s data and the explanation that their sensitive nature precluded public dissemination. He laughed and said, « It would be extraordinary to say [that one’s data] are too sensitive for others to see. » He pointed out that there are standard methods for handling confidential materials in research. Names are left out but raw scores are reported, « so others can see if they can replicate your study. » A researcher must also disclose how subjects were chosen, how interviews were recorded, and the method by which meaning was derived from the data.

« Politics Dressed Up as Science »

GILLIGAN’S ideas about demoralized teenage girls had a special resonance with women’s groups that were already committed to the proposition that our society is unsympathetic to women. The interest of the venerable and politically influential American Association of University Women, in particular, was piqued. Its officers were reported to be « intrigued and alarmed » by Gilligan’s research. They wanted to know more.

In 1990 The New York Times Sunday Magazine published an admiring profile of Gilligan that heralded the discovery of a hidden crisis among the nation’s girls. Soon after, the AAUW commissioned a study from the polling firm Greenberg-Lake. The pollsters asked 3,000 children (2,400 girls and 600 boys in grades four through ten) about their self-perceptions. In 1991 the association announced the disturbing results, in a report titled Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America: « Girls aged eight and nine are confident, assertive, and feel authoritative about themselves. Yet most emerge from adolescence with a poor self-image, constrained views of their future and their place in society, and much less confidence about themselves and their abilities. » Anne Bryant, the executive director of the AAUW and an expert in public relations, organized a media campaign to spread the word that « an unacknowledged American tragedy » had been uncovered. Newspapers and magazines around the country carried reports that girls were being adversely affected by gender bias that eroded their self-esteem. Sharon Schuster, at the time the president of the AAUW, candidly explained to The New York Times why the association had undertaken the research in the first place: « We wanted to put some factual data behind our belief that girls are getting shortchanged in the classroom. »

As the AAUW’s self-esteem study was making headlines, a little-known magazine called Science News, which has been supplying information on scientific and technical developments to interested newspapers since 1922, reported the skeptical reaction of leading specialists on adolescent development. The late Roberta Simmons, a professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh (described by Science News as « director of the most ambitious longitudinal study of adolescent self-esteem to date »), said that her research showed nothing like the substantial gender gap described by the AAUW. According to Simmons, « Most kids come through the years from 10 to 20 without major problems and with an increasing sense of self-esteem. » But the doubts of Simmons and several other prominent experts were not reported in the hundreds of news stories that the Greenberg-Lake study generated.

The AAUW quickly commissioned a second study, How Schools Shortchange Girls. This one, conducted by the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women and released in 1992, focused on the alleged effects of sexism on girls’ school performance. It asserted that schools deflate girls’ self-esteem by « systematically cheating girls of classroom attention. »Such bias leads to lower aspirations and impaired academic achievement. Carol Gilligan’s crisis was being transformed into a civil-rights issue: girls were the victims of widespread sex discrimination. « The implications are clear, » the AAUW said. « The system must change. »

With great fanfare How Schools Shortchange Girls was released to the remarkably uncritical media. A 1992 article for The New York Times by Susan Chira was typical of coverage throughout the country. The headline read « Bias Against Girls is Found Rife in Schools, With Lasting Damage. » The piece was later reproduced by the AAUW and sent out as part of a fundraising package. Chira had not interviewed a single critic of the study.

« Some of us grew up with the image of reporters as tough-minded skeptics. Yet there were no tough-minded reporters in sight in 1992, when the American Association of University Women released its report ‘How Schools Shortchange Girls.' » A Wall Street Journal article posted by the Brookings Institution.

In March of last year I called Chira and asked about the way she had handled the AAUW study. I asked if she would write her article the same way today. No, she said, pointing out that we have since learned much more about boys’ problems in school. Why had she not canvassed dissenting opinions? She explained that she had been traveling when the AAUW study came out, and was on a short deadline. Yes, perhaps she had relied too much on the AAUW’s report. She had tried to reach Diane Ravitch, who had then been the former U.S. assistant secretary of education and was a known critic of women’s-advocacy findings, but without success.

Six years after the release of How Schools Shortchange Girls, The New York Times ran a story that raised questions about its validity. This time the reporter, Tamar Lewin, did reach Diane Ravitch, who told her, « That [1992] AAUW report was just completely wrong. What was so bizarre is that it came out right at the time that girls had just overtaken boys in almost every area. It might have been the right story twenty years earlier, but coming out when it did, it was like calling a wedding a funeral…. There were all these special programs put in place for girls, and no one paid any attention to boys. »

One of the many things about which the report was wrong was the famous « call-out » gap. According to the AAUW, « In a study conducted by the Sadkers, boys in elementary and middle school called out answers eight times more often than girls. When boys called out, teachers listened. But when girls called out, they were told ‘raise your hand if you want to speak.' »

But the Sadker study turns out to be missing — and meaningless, to boot. In 1994 Amy Saltzman, of U.S. News & World Report, asked David Sadker for a copy of the research backing up the eight-to-one call-out claim. Sadker said that he had presented the findings in an unpublished paper at a symposium sponsored by the American Educational Research Association; neither he nor the AERA had a copy. Sadker conceded to Saltzman that the ratio may have been inaccurate. Indeed, Saltzman cited an independent study by Gail Jones, an associate professor of education at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, which found that boys called out only twice as often as girls. Whatever the accurate number is, no one has shown that permitting a student to call out answers in the classroom confers any kind of academic advantage. What does confer advantage is a student’s attentiveness. Boys are less attentive — which could explain why some teachers might call on them more or be more tolerant of call-outs.

Despite the errors, the campaign to persuade the public that girls were being diminished personally and academically was a spectacular success. The Sadkers described an exultant Anne Bryant, of the AAUW, telling her friends, « I remember going to bed the night our report was issued, totally exhilarated. When I woke up the next morning, the first thought in my mind was, ‘Oh, my God, what do we do next?' » Political action came next, and here, too, girls’ advocates were successful.

Categorizing girls as an « under-served population » on a par with other discriminated-against minorities, Congress passed the Gender Equity in Education Act in 1994. Millions of dollars in grants were awarded to study the plight of girls and to learn how to counter bias against them. At the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing in 1995, members of the U.S. delegation presented the educational and psychological deficits of American girls as a human-rights issue.

The Myth Unraveling

BY the late 1990s the myth of the downtrodden girl was showing some signs of unraveling, and concern over boys was growing. In 1997 the Public Education Network (PEN) announced at its annual conference the results of a new teacher-student survey titled The American Teacher 1997: Examining Gender Issues in Public Schools. The survey was funded by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and conducted by Louis Harris and Associates.

During a three-month period in 1997 various questions about gender equity were asked of 1,306 students and 1,035 teachers in grades seven through twelve. The MetLife study had no doctrinal ax to grind. What it found contradicted most of the findings of the AAUW, the Sadkers, and the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women: « Contrary to the commonly held view that boys are at an advantage over girls in school, girls appear to have an advantage over boys in terms of their future plans, teachers’ expectations, everyday experiences at school and interactions in the classroom. »

Some other conclusions from the MetLife study: Girls are more likely than boys to see themselves as college-bound and more likely to want a good education. Furthermore, more boys (31 percent) than girls (19 percent) feel that teachers do not listen to what they have to say.

At the PEN conference, Nancy Leffert, a child psychologist then at the Search Institute, in Minneapolis, reported the results of a survey that she and colleagues had recently completed of more than 99,000 children in grades six through twelve. The children were asked about what the researchers call « developmental assets. » The Search Institute has identified forty critical assets — « building blocks for healthy development. » Half of these are external, such as a supportive family and adult role models, and half are internal, such as motivation to achieve, a sense of purpose in life, and interpersonal confidence. Leffert explained, somewhat apologetically, that girls were ahead of boys with respect to thirty-seven out of forty assets. By almost every significant measure of well-being girls had the better of boys: they felt closer to their families; they had higher aspirations, stronger connections to school, and even superior assertiveness skills. Leffert concluded her talk by saying that in the past she had referred to girls as fragile or vulnerable, but that the survey « tells me that girls have very powerful assets. »

The Horatio Alger Association, a fifty-year-old organization devoted to promoting and affirming individual initiative and « the American dream, » releases annual back-to-school surveys. Its survey for 1998 contrasted two groups of students: the « highly successful » (approximately 18 percent of American students) and the « disillusioned » (approximately 15 percent). The successful students work hard, choose challenging classes, make schoolwork a top priority, get good grades, participate in extracurricular activities, and feel that teachers and administrators care about them and listen to them. According to the association, the successful group in the 1998 survey is 63 percent female and 37 percent male. The disillusioned students are pessimistic about their future, get low grades, and have little contact with teachers. The disillusioned group could accurately be characterized as demoralized. According to the Alger Association, « Nearly seven out of ten are male. »

In the spring of 1998 Judith Kleinfeld, a psychologist at the University of Alaska, published a thorough critique of the research on schoolgirls titled « The Myth That Schools Shortchange Girls: Social Science in the Service of Deception. » Kleinfeld exposed a number of errors in the AAUW/Wellesley Center study, concluding that it was « politics dressed up as science. » Kleinfeld’s report prompted several publications, including The New York Times and Education Week, to take a second look at claims that girls were in a tragic state.

The AAUW did not adequately respond to any of Kleinfeld’s substantive objections; instead its current president, Maggie Ford, complained in the New York Times letters column that Kleinfeld was « reducing the problems of our children to this petty ‘who is worse off, boys or girls?’ [which] gets us nowhere.' » From the leader of an organization that spent nearly a decade ceaselessly promoting the proposition that American girls are being « shortchanged, » this comment is rather remarkable.

Boys and Their Mothers

GROWING evidence that the scales are tipped not against girls but against boys is beginning to inspire a quiet revisionism. Some educators will admit that boys are on the wrong side of the gender gap. In 1998 I met the president of the Board of Education of Atlanta. Who is faring better in Atlanta’s schools, boys or girls? I asked. « Girls, » he replied, without hesitation. In what areas? I asked. « Just about any area you mention. » A high school principal from Pennsylvania says of his school, « Students who dominate the dropout list, the suspension list, the failure list, and other negative indices of nonachievement in school are males by a wide margin. »

Carol Gilligan, too, has begun to give boys some attention. In 1995 she and her colleagues at the Harvard University School of Education inaugurated « The Harvard Project on Women’s Psychology, Boys’ Development and the Culture of Manhood. » Within a year Gilligan was announcing the existence of a crisis among boys that was as bad as or worse than the one afflicting girls. « Girls’ psychological development in patriarchy involves a process of eclipse that is even more total for boys, »she wrote in a 1996 article titled « The Centrality of Relationship in Human Development. »

Gilligan claimed to have discovered « a startling pattern of developmental asymmetry »: girls undergo trauma as they enter adolescence, whereas for boys the period of crisis is early childhood. Boys aged three to seven are pressured to « take into themselves the structure or moral order of a patriarchal civilization: to internalize a patriarchal voice. » This masculinizing process is traumatic and damaging. « At this age, » Gilligan told The Boston Globe in 1996, « boys show a high incidence of depression, out-of-control behavior, learning disorders, even allergies and stuttering. »

One can welcome Gilligan’s acceptance of the fact that boys, too, have problems while remaining deeply skeptical of her ideas about their source. Gilligan’s theory about boys’ development includes three hypothetical claims: 1) Boys are being deformed and made sick by a traumatic, forced separation from their mothers. 2) Seemingly healthy boys are cut off from their own feelings and damaged in their capacity to develop healthy relationships. 3) The well-being of society may depend on freeing boys from « cultures that value or valorize heroism, honor, war, and competition — the culture of warriors, the economy of capitalism. » Let us consider each proposition in turn.

According to Gilligan, boys are at special risk in early childhood; they suffer « more stuttering, more bedwetting, more learning problems … when cultural norms pressure them to separate from their mothers. » (Sometimes she adds allergies, attention-deficit disorder, and attempted suicide to the list.) She does not cite any pediatric research to support her theory about the origins of these various early-childhood disorders. Does a study exist, for example, showing that boys who remain intimately bonded with their mothers are less likely to develop allergies or wet their beds?

Gilligan’s assertion that the « pressure of cultural norms » causes boys to separate from their mothers and thus generates a host of early disorders has not been tested empirically. Nor does Gilligan offer any indication of how it could be tested. She does not seem to feel that her assertions need empirical confirmation. She is confident that boys need to be protected from the culture — a culture in which manhood valorizes war and the economy of capitalism, a culture that desensitizes boys and, by submerging their humanity, is the root cause of « out-of-control and out-of-touch behavior » and is the ultimate source of war and other violence committed by men.

But are boys aggressive and violent because they are psychically separated from their mothers? Thirty years of research suggests that the absence of the male parent is more likely to be the problem. The boys who are most at risk for juvenile delinquency and violence are boys who are physically separated from their fathers. The U.S. Bureau of the Census reports that in 1960 children living with their mother but not their father numbered 5.1 million; by 1996 the number was more than 16 million. As the phenomenon of fatherlessness has increased, so has violence. As far back as 1965 Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called attention to the social dangers of raising boys without benefit of a paternal presence. He wrote in a 1965 study for the Labor Department, « A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos. »

The sociologist David Blankenhorn, in Fatherless America (1995), wrote, « Despite the difficulty of proving causation in the social sciences, the weight of evidence increasingly supports the conclusion that fatherlessness is a primary generator of violence among young men. » William Galston, a former domestic-policy adviser in the Clinton Administration who is now at the University of Maryland, and his colleague Elaine Kamarck, now at Harvard, concur. Commenting on the relationship between crime and one-parent families, they wrote in a 1990 institute report, « The relationship is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature. »

Oblivious of all the factual evidence that paternal separation causes aberrant behavior in boys, Carol Gilligan calls for a fundamental change in child rearing that would keep boys in a more sensitive relationship with their feminine side. We need to free young men from a destructive culture of manhood that « impedes their capacity to feel their own and other people’s hurt, to know their own and other’s sadness, » she writes. Since the pathology, as she has diagnosed it, is presumably universal, the cure must be radical. We must change the very nature of childhood: we must find ways to keep boys bonded to their mothers. We must undercut the system of socialization that is so « essential to the perpetuation of patriarchal societies. »

Gilligan’s views are attractive to many of those who believe that boys could profit by being more sensitive and empathetic. But anyone thinking to enlist in Gilligan’s project of getting boys in touch with their inner nurturer would do well to note that her central thesis — that boys are being imprisoned by conventional ideas of masculinity — is not a scientific hypothesis. Nor, it seems, does Gilligan regard it in this light, for she presents no data to support it. It is, in fact, an extravagant piece of speculation of the kind that would not be taken seriously in most professional departments of psychology.

On a less academic plane Gilligan’s proposed reformation seems to challenge common sense. It is obvious that a boy wants his father to help him become a young man, and belonging to the culture of manhood is important to almost every boy. To impugn his desire to become « one of the boys » is to deny that a boy’s biology determines much of what he prefers and is attracted to. Unfortunately, by denying the nature of boys, education theorists can cause them much misery.

Gilligan talks of radically reforming « the fundamental structure of authority » by making changes that will free boys from the stereotypes that bind them. But in what sense are American boys unfree? Was the young Mark Twain or the young Teddy Roosevelt enslaved by conventional modes of boyhood? Is the average Little Leaguer or Cub Scout defective in the ways Gilligan suggests? In practice, getting boys to be more like girls means getting them to stop segregating themselves into all-male groups. That’s the darker, coercive side of the project to « free » boys from their masculine straitjackets.

It is certainly true that a small subset of male children are, as Gilligan argues, desensitized and cut off from feelings of tenderness and care. But these boys are not representative of their sex. Gilligan speaks of boys in general as « hiding their humanity, » showing a capacity to « hurt without feeling hurt. » This, she maintains, is a more or less universal condition that exists because the vast majority of boys are forced into separation from their nurturers. But the idea that boys are abnormally insensitive flies in the face of everyday experience. Boys are competitive and often aggressive, yes; but anyone in close contact with them — parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends — gets daily proof of their humanity, loyalty, and compassion.

Gilligan appears to be making the same mistake with boys that she made with girls — she observes a few children and interprets their problems as indicative of a deep and general malaise caused by the way our society imposes gender stereotypes. The pressure to conform to these stereotypes, she believes, has impaired, distressed, and deformed the members of both sexes by the time they are adolescents. In fact — with the important exception of boys whose fathers are absent and who get their concept of maleness from peer groups — most boys are not violent. Most are not unfeeling or antisocial. They are just boys — and being a boy is not in itself a failing.

Does Gilligan actually understand boys? Does she empathize with them? Is she free of the misandry that infects so many gender theorists who never stop blaming the « male culture » for all social and psychological ills? Nothing we have seen or heard offers the slightest reassurance that Gilligan and her followers are wise enough or objective enough to be trusted with devising new ways of socializing boys.

Every society confronts the problem of civilizing its young males. The traditional approach is through character education: Develop the young man’s sense of honor. Help him become a considerate, conscientious human being. Turn him into a gentleman. This approach respects boys’ masculine nature; it is time-tested, and it works. Even today, despite several decades of moral confusion, most young men understand the term « gentleman »and approve of the ideals it connotes.

What Gilligan and her followers are proposing is quite different: civilize boys by diminishing their masculinity. « Raise boys like we raise girls » is Gloria Steinem’s advice. This approach is deeply disrespectful of boys. It is meddlesome, abusive, and quite beyond what educators in a free society are mandated to do.

DID anything of value come out of the manufactured crisis of diminished girls? Yes, a bit. Parents, teachers, and administrators now pay more attention to girls’ deficits in math and science, and they offer more support for girls’ participation in sports. But who is to say that these benefits outweigh the disservice done by promulgating the myth of the incredible shrinking girl or presenting boys as the unfairly favored sex?

A boy today, through no fault of his own, finds himself implicated in the social crime of shortchanging girls. Yet the allegedly silenced and neglected girl sitting next to him is likely to be the superior student. She is probably more articulate, more mature, more engaged, and more well-balanced. The boy may be aware that she is more likely to go on to college. He may believe that teachers prefer to be around girls and pay more attention to them. At the same time, he is uncomfortably aware that he is considered to be a member of the favored and dominant gender.

The widening gender gap in academic achievement is real. It threatens the future of millions of American boys. Boys do not need to be rescued from their masculinity. But they are not getting the help they need. In the climate of disapproval in which boys now exist, programs designed to aid them have a very low priority. This must change. We should repudiate the partisanship that currently clouds the issues surrounding sex differences in the schools. We should call for balance, objective information, fair treatment, and a concerted national effort to get boys back on track. That means we can no longer allow the partisans of girls to write the rules.


Piranhas: Attention, un mythe peut en cacher un autre ! (Blame it on the man who gave the world the Teddy bear !)

30 décembre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/www.arte.tv/sites/fr/olivierpere/files/2013/04/piranha_poster_02.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/TR_Buckskin_Tiffany_Knife.jpg
https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1f/Tr-bigstick-cartoon.JPG/743px-Tr-bigstick-cartoon.JPG
Teddybear cartoon

Teddybear cartoon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A child can play with a bear like a doll – but a lot of children are not keen on dolls and if you are a boy you can play with it because it’s like a grizzly bear. Daniel Agnew (Christie’s)
Parle doucement et porte un gros bâton et tu iras loin. Proverbe africain 
They are the most ferocious fish in the world. Even the most formidable fish, the sharks or the barracudas, usually attack things smaller than themselves. But the piranhas habitually attack things much larger than themselves. They will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers—in every river town in Paraguay there are men who have been thus mutilated; they will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites them to madness. They will tear wounded wild fowl to pieces; and bite off the tails of big fish as they grow exhausted when fighting after being hooked. But the piranha is a short, deep-bodied fish, with a blunt face and a heavily undershot or projecting lower jaw which gapes widely. The razor-edged teeth are wedge-shaped like a shark’s, and the jaw muscles possess great power. The rabid, furious snaps drive the teeth through flesh and bone. The head with its short muzzle, staring malignant eyes, and gaping, cruelly armed jaws, is the embodiment of evil ferocity; and the actions of the fish exactly match its looks. I never witnessed an exhibition of such impotent, savage fury as was shown by the piranhas as they flapped on deck. When fresh from the water and thrown on the boards they uttered an extraordinary squealing sound. As they flapped about they bit with vicious eagerness at whatever presented itself. One of them flapped into a cloth and seized it with a bulldog grip. Another grasped one of its fellows; another snapped at a piece of wood, and left the teeth-marks deep therein. They are the pests of the waters, and it is necessary to be exceedingly cautious about either swimming or wading where they are found. If cattle are driven into, or of their own accord enter, the water, they are commonly not molested; but if by chance some unusually big or ferocious specimen of these fearsome fishes does bite an animal—taking off part of an ear, or perhaps of a teat from the udder of a cow—the blood brings up every member of the ravenous throng which is anywhere near, and unless the attacked animal can immediately make its escape from the water it is devoured alive. Theodore Roosevelt
C’est en 1903 qu’apparaît le nom célèbre de l’ours en peluche : Teddy Bear, surnom repris dans de nombreux pays.Ce nom lui vient du président des États-Unis Theodore Roosevelt, qui était surnommé « Teddy » et qui était un grand amateur de chasse. Une anecdote raconte qu’un incident survint lors d’une chasse à l’ours dans le Mississippi en 1902 : des chasseurs acculèrent un ourson afin de satisfaire les cartouches du président, qui était bredouille depuis plusieurs jours. Roosevelt, outré, jugeant l’acte anti-sportif, refusa de tuer l’animal3,4. Cette histoire fut vite immortalisée : l’expression « Teddy’s Bear » a immédiatement été utilisée dans les caricatures de la presse, notamment par Clifford Berryman dans le Washington Post. Deux émigrants russes de Brooklyn, Rose et Morris Michtom créèrent puis commercialisèrent dès 1903, à partir des dessins publiés dans la presse, un ours en peluche qu’ils baptiseront Teddy3, avec la permission du président : le nom de « Teddy bear » se retrouve sur tous les ours de la production de Michtom. Les Michtom sont alors connus comme les premiers fabricants d’ours articulés en mohair; ils créeront ensuite leur entreprise « Ideal Novelty and Toy Co ». La vogue des Teddy’s Bear continuera, inspirant même des chansons comme « Teddy Bear’s Picnic », composée par John W. Bratton et chantée par Jimmy Kennedy. Wikipedia
Feeling old? Tired? There is something found around these parts that a lot of people say can help. Men in their retirement years eat it, start new families and swear by it. So do childless women, who drink it and give birth. Found in the Peruvian rain forests, the demand for it is phenomenal. But it isn’t some pharmaceutical corporation’s answer to Viagra, the impotence drug, nor is it available at a corner drugstore. In fact, an Amazonian witch doctor here must be consulted for a prescription. It’s piranha. The bitter-tasting flesh of the fish that have devoured so many villains in jungle B-movies is hailed here as the cure for problems dealing with fertility, virility, even baldness. It is said to be the ultimate aphrodisiac. « The power of the meat can cure many things, » said Flor, a Peruvian witch doctor who specializes in concoctions based on piranha meat. « It is one of the strongest medicines the world has known. » The scientific community, of course, scoffs at the anecdotal claims of the supporters of piranha-based cures. The meat, they say, is acidic, sometimes toxic and utterly without medicinal powers. « These claims about the power of the piranha fish meat have been around for a very long time, and there has never been any scientific evidence to support it, » said Celso Pardo, the dean of a Lima pharmacological institute. « People see an aggressive, macho animal, and they say, `I want to be more like that.’ «  Eric J. Lyman
Certaines tribus d’Amérique du Sud vénèrent le piranha depuis plusieurs siècles car il représente la force et la peur. Il y a environ 500 ans, les colons européens sont arrivés dans ces contrées, ils ont trouvé des piranhas et, au vu de leur dentition, ils ont tout naturellement redouté cet animal. De plus, ils ont entendu auprès de certaines tribus les récits mythiques à propos du piranha… Il n’en fallait pas plus pour que naisse une légende qui perdure encore aujourd’hui. A cette époque, rappelons que les marins pensaient que les baleines dévoraient les embarcations, que l’océan était terminé par un gouffre, etc. La science a aujourd’hui invalidé la plupart de ces mythes mais par ignorance, certaines de ces légendes perdurent encore. Le mythe des piranhas en fait partie ! Pour commencer, il faut savoir qu’il n’y a eu qu’une seule attaque mortelle envers les hommes de la part des piranhas. C’était en 1870, le Brésil était alors en guerre contre le Paraguay. Des soldats blessés, saignant parfois abondamment ont essayé de franchir le Rio Paraguay mais ils seront dévorés vivants… Il n’y a pas eu d’autres attaques vérifiées de piranhas ayant entraînées morts d’hommes. Par contre, le piranha aime les cadavres et s’attaque donc à tous les corps tombés ou jetés dans l’eau mais ils ne sont pas la cause du décès qui est souvent une noyade ou un meurtre. La réputation de tueur d’hommes est donc infondée ! Même s’il mord de temps à autre un pêcheur qui se lave les mains dans l’eau, ce poisson n’est donc pas une menace pour l’homme d’autant plus que son aire de répartition abrite des créatures bien plus redoutables comme les caïmans, les candirus, les raies venimeuses, les anguilles électriques, etc. (…) Comment expliquer cette persistance ? Pendant toute la durée d’exploration du continent sud américain (que l’on va considérer comme ayant commencée il y a 500 ans et terminée il y a un siècle) les aventuriers ont bien souvent étoffé leurs récits de balivernes pour faire sensations. Un aventurier en Afrique ne pouvait être pris au sérieux à son retour s’il n’avait pas combattu un lion et bien les piranhas étaient l’étape incontournable de l’Amazonie. Il est bien plus glorieux d’avoir traversé des étendues d’eau infestées de monstres sanguinaires que de simples poissons blancs. Les aventuriers n’ont donc pas hésité à exagérer la nature de ce poisson pour se magnifier. La légende avait donc traversé l’Atlantique pour arriver en Europe. Des personnes ont tout de suite compris l’intérêt financier qu’il y avait dans ce poisson tueur et ont contribué à en faire un monstre aux yeux du public. La littérature a répandu encore un peu plus cette idée tant les livres présentant les piranhas comme très dangereux sont encore nombreux. Puis est apparu le cinéma qui a lui aussi exploité le filon en faisant des films d’horreur sur le sujet. (…) Et enfin, plus proche de nous, la littérature aquariophile a classé ce poisson à part car dangereux et mangeant du coeur de boeuf régulièrement (alors que la plupart le digère très mal). Les vendeurs aquariophiles jouent encore un grand rôle puisque certains d’entre eux mettent une pancarte « Piranha – féroce et cannibale » sur les bacs de vente. A leur décharge, il convient de préciser que la majorité des personnes mordues par des piranhas sont des vendeurs, les conditions de vente, à savoir un petit aquarium surpeuplé sans décors pour se réfugier conduisant parfois les piranhas à mordre, faute de pouvoir fuir. Entre les livres aquariophiles réputés sérieux qui continuent de mentir sur ce poisson, les commerçants qui ont compris depuis bien longtemps que le sensationnel fait vendre et certains médias peu scrupuleux qui recherchent le spectacle quitte à affabuler ou a en rajouter un peu, il est vrai que rien n’est fait pour rétablir la vérité. Mais nous sommes les premiers responsables car nous préférons majoritairement continuer de croire qu’il s’agit d’un poisson exceptionnel plutôt que d’un poisson guère plus dangereux qu’un autre, le fantastique est tellement plus intéressant que le banal ! Pirahnas.fr

Attention: un mythe peut en cacher un autre !

Au lendemain d’une nouvelle attaque de piranhas en Argentine qui a vu une soixantaine de blessés …

Qui se souvient que la si féroce mais largement surfaite réputation de ce prétendu « poisson tueur » d’Amérique latine …

Nous vient en fait du même homme qui bien que grand explorateur et chasseur amateur de proverbes africains qui décéda de fièvres tropicales contractées en Amazonie …

Avait auparavant donné au monde, au grand bonheur de tant de petits garçons frustrés de ne pouvoir jouer à la poupée trop féminine,… le terrible grizzli en peluche ?

Piranha Attack! As 70 Christmas Day bathers are savaged, the truth about the fish with a bite more powerful than a T-rex

Bathers were attacked on the Rambla Catalunya beach in Argentina

Among revellers cooling off in 100-degree heat were 20 children, who were injured in the frenzied attack

Guy Walters

30 December 2013

The seven-year-old girl was just one of thousands in the water of the mighty River Parana on the afternoon of Christmas Day last week. For residents of the central Argentine city of Rosario, the festive season most certainly does not involve eating mince pies and drinking eggnog before sleeping it off in front of a fire. Instead, with the mercury hitting a sticky 100 degrees, most are keener to cool off than to gorge themselves. The best place for a dip is the city’s Rambla Catalunya, a mile-long stretch of sandy beach on South America’s second largest river. With bars, restaurants and fun fairs, the beach is a major attraction and last Wednesday was no exception. Tens of thousands had gathered to enjoy the holiday. Many took the opportunity to swim or paddle in the river.

That afternoon, as the little girl splashed up to her waist in the waters, everything seemed quite normal. Then, she suddenly felt a tugging at the little finger of her left hand. Instinctively, she pulled away, but the tugging grew more powerful. And then came a searing pain that caused her to cry out. She looked down at her finger, but all she could see was a trail of blood leaking into the dark water. As she ran for the shore, her screams startled the sunbathers. The top part of the girl’s finger had been completely torn away. There could be no doubt what had happened. The girl had been attacked by one of man’s most feared creatures — the deadly piranha fish. Word quickly spread up and down the Rambla Catalunya. Lifeguards ordered people to stay out of the water but, tragically, the heat was so intense and the atmosphere so jubilant that people continued to swim. What happened next was like a scene from a horror film.

That afternoon, some 70 people – around 20 of them children – were savaged by shoals of the razor-toothed fish. Those who were attacked had chunks of their naked and exposed flesh ripped away. They emerged from the waters with agonising wounds dripping blood onto the white sand. Deep cuts were reported on scores of fingers, ankles and toes. One injury resulted in an amputation. Pictures taken in the local hospital show one man with the whole underside of one toe missing. The attack was the most serious in the city since 2008, when 40 swimmers were hurt and, while mercifully no one was killed, the story made headlines around the world. There is something about this sinister fish that preys on our imaginations. Along with great white sharks, wolves, pythons and crocodiles, the piranha is the stuff of nightmares. Ever since Boy’s Own adventure stories described game hunters and explorers being devoured after daring to swim in piranha-infested waters, we have been taught that the piranha is one of the deadliest predators on the planet.

Most of us can create a horrific mental image of falling into a river – and being stripped to the bone in two minutes by a boiling shoal of flesh-eating fish. Just such a fate was memorably portrayed in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, when the evil Blofeld dispatched Helga Brandt into a tank of piranhas for her failure to kill Bond. Although not as great a horror movie staple as the great white shark – immortalised in the Jaws films – our fascination with the piranha has made for box office success. Since 1978, there have been at least six films starring the piranha. The most recent was last year’s Piranha 3D. No wonder Londoners were alarmed when a piranha was discovered in the Thames in 2004. Experts stressed that the fish had in all likelihood been thrown away by a collector of rare fish, and further reassured anxious Londoners that the water of the Thames is far too cold to sustain these creatures.

Yet despite their awesome power, scientists insist piranhas are not the malicious predators the films would have you believe. They tend to attack humans only if trapped or hungry. So who is to blame for our fear of this fish? It is none other than Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the U.S. In 1914, he published a travel book Through The Brazilian Wilderness, in which he described how piranhas could eat entire animals, such as cattle, alive. ‘They are the most ferocious fish in the world,’ Roosevelt wrote. ‘The head with its short muzzle, staring malignant eyes, and gaping, cruelly armed jaws, is the embodiment of evil ferocity; and the actions of the fish exactly match its looks.’ Roosevelt’s book was read by many, and the piranha entered into the public consciousness as one of mankind’s most vicious foes. However, what Roosevelt was not told was that the piranha attack he had witnessed on a cow was staged. For the benefit of the former president, the Brazilians had trapped hundreds of piranhas in a netted-off stretch of the river and had then starved them for days. This created the ideal conditions. When Roosevelt arrived, a sick old cow was led into the water, with its udder slit to release blood to further encourage an attack. Trapped, starving, and excited by blood, the piranhas did their job all too well. Rumours of deadly South American fish had been known since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, who reported they were often attacked when they forded rivers.

In the 19th century, naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt insisted the piranha was one of the continent’s greatest dangers. What sets them apart from other fish are their terrifying sharp teeth, tightly packed into highly muscular jaws. Relative to its size – they grow up to ten inches long – a piranha has a more powerful bite than that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Recently, scientists measured the bite force of the black piranha at 320 newtons, which is nearly three times greater than that exerted by an American alligator. That is more than enough to rip off a finger. What is disturbing is that these attacks are becoming more frequent. In November 2011, 15 swimmers were bitten by piranhas in the River Paraguay in western Brazil. One, 22-year-old Elson de Campos Pinto, recalled how he suddenly felt an agonising pain in his foot. ‘I saw that I had lost the tip of my toe,’ he said. ‘I took off running out of the river, afraid that I would be further attacked because of the blood. I’m not going back in for a long time.’ One local fisherman talked of catching some of the fish in his nets and often seeing blood on the banks. Despite relying on the river for his livelihood, Hildegard Galeno Alves said: ‘I would never even think of going in there.’

In Bolivia the following month, a drunk 18-year-old fisherman jumped out of his canoe, and was seized by a shoal of piranhas. Although he managed to get out of the water, he bled to death. Last year, a five-year-old Brazilian girl is said to have been attacked and killed in the water by a shoal of the fish. After the feeding frenzy in Argentina last week, Carlos Vacarezza, a local expert, said that the Christmas Day attack was ‘exceptional and unlikely to be repeated’. ‘What happened has no logical explanation,’ he told a local radio station. ‘In this area, the water flows too fast to create the warm and stagnant conditions where the fish are comfortable.’ While some observers claimed the piranha were attracted by debris left by fishermen, the only explanation Mr Vacarezza could suggest was that one of the fish had been injured – and the shoal had descended to eat it. Some of the human bathers simply got in the way. Certainly, cannibalism among piranhas is common, and larger, more aggressive fish will take a bite out of smaller rivals. The Christmas Day attack alone would have been enough to terrify most of us. But there have been more since.

On Boxing Day, in the town of Posadas, 600 miles up the River Parana (the name, although it sounds like that of the fish, actually translates as ‘big as the sea’) to the north-east, five children and teenagers were attacked by piranhas. All had to be treated in hospital. And then, on Friday, back at the Rambla Catalunya in Rosario, another attack took place. At four o’clock in the afternoon, a ten-year-old boy was bitten on his right hand, and he too had to be taken to hospital. The experts may like to reassure us that piranha attacks on humans are rare, but are they right? Perhaps the truth about the dreaded piranha may be closer to the horror movies after all.

Voir aussi:

La légende du poisson tueur

Emmanuel

Piranhas.fr

Le piranha a une réputation de poisson tueur, de nombreux livres le présentent comme étant un redoutable danger pour l’homme. Qu’en est il réellement ?

Il est difficile de répondre avec certitude à cette question. On peut cependant avancer quelques pistes…

Certaines tribus d’Amérique du Sud vénèrent le piranha depuis plusieurs siècles car il représente la force et la peur. Il y a environ 500 ans, les colons européens sont arrivés dans ces contrées, ils ont trouvé des piranhas et, au vu de leur dentition, ils ont tout naturellement redouté cet animal. De plus, ils ont entendu auprès de certaines tribus les récits mythiques à propos du piranha… Il n’en fallait pas plus pour que naisse une légende qui perdure encore aujourd’hui. A cette époque, rappelons que les marins pensaient que les baleines dévoraient les embarcations, que l’océan était terminé par un gouffre, etc. La science a aujourd’hui invalidé la plupart de ces mythes mais par ignorance, certaines de ces légendes perdurent encore. Le mythe des piranhas en fait partie !

Pour commencer, il faut savoir qu’il n’y a eu qu’une seule attaque mortelle envers les hommes de la part des piranhas. C’était en 1870, le Brésil était alors en guerre contre le Paraguay. Des soldats blessés, saignant parfois abondamment ont essayé de franchir le Rio Paraguay mais ils seront dévorés vivants… Il n’y a pas eu d’autres attaques vérifiées de piranhas ayant entraînées morts d’hommes. Par contre, le piranha aime les cadavres et s’attaque donc à tous les corps tombés ou jetés dans l’eau mais ils ne sont pas la cause du décès qui est souvent une noyade ou un meurtre. La réputation de tueur d’hommes est donc infondée ! Même s’il mord de temps à autre un pêcheur qui se lave les mains dans l’eau, ce poisson n’est donc pas une menace pour l’homme d’autant plus que son aire de répartition abrite des créatures bien plus redoutables comme les caïmans, les candirus, les raies venimeuses, les anguilles électriques, etc. N’en concluez pas cependant que ce poisson est un ange car il serait risqué de traverser une pièce d’eau isolée infestée de ces créatures en période sèche, et encore, ce n’est même pas sûr car dans la plaine de l’Orénoque par exemple, les cabiais en bonne santé (sorte de cobaye de la taille d’un cochon) traversent sans être jamais inquiétés ces pièces d’eau.

Comment expliquer cette persistance ? Pendant toute la durée d’exploration du continent sud américain (que l’on va considérer comme ayant commencée il y a 500 ans et terminée il y a un siècle) les aventuriers ont bien souvent étoffé leurs récits de balivernes pour faire sensations. Un aventurier en Afrique ne pouvait être pris au sérieux à son retour s’il n’avait pas combattu un lion et bien les piranhas étaient l’étape incontournable de l’Amazonie. Il est bien plus glorieux d’avoir traversé des étendues d’eau infestées de monstres sanguinaires que de simples poissons blancs. Les aventuriers n’ont donc pas hésité à exagérer la nature de ce poisson pour se magnifier. La légende avait donc traversé l’Atlantique pour arriver en Europe. Des personnes ont tout de suite compris l’intérêt financier qu’il y avait dans ce poisson tueur et ont contribué à en faire un monstre aux yeux du public. La littérature a répandu encore un peu plus cette idée tant les livres présentant les piranhas comme très dangereux sont encore nombreux. Puis est apparu le cinéma qui a lui aussi exploité le filon en faisant des films d’horreur sur le sujet. On peut citer la sortie récente du film « piranha 3D » d’alexandre Aja qui raconte l’histoire de piranhas retenus dans un lac souterrain depuis la préhistoire qu’un séisme libère. Ces films / navets sont apparus dans les années 1950. Dans Piranhas 2: Flying killer, les piranhas sont marins, volent et agressent les humains hors de l’eau. Dans Megapiranha, ce sont des piranhas géants qui engloutissent des navires…

Et enfin, plus proche de nous, la littérature aquariophile a classé ce poisson à part car dangereux et mangeant du coeur de boeuf régulièrement (alors que la plupart le digère très mal). Les vendeurs aquariophiles jouent encore un grand rôle puisque certains d’entre eux mettent une pancarte « Piranha – féroce et cannibale » sur les bacs de vente. A leur décharge, il convient de préciser que la majorité des personnes mordues par des piranhas sont des vendeurs, les conditions de vente, à savoir un petit aquarium surpeuplé sans décors pour se réfugier conduisant parfois les piranhas à mordre, faute de pouvoir fuir.

Entre les livres aquariophiles réputés sérieux qui continuent de mentir sur ce poisson, les commerçants qui ont compris depuis bien longtemps que le sensationnel fait vendre et certains médias peu scrupuleux qui recherchent le spectacle quitte à affabuler ou a en rajouter un peu, il est vrai que rien n’est fait pour rétablir la vérité. Mais nous sommes les premiers responsables car nous préférons majoritairement continuer de croire qu’il s’agit d’un poisson exceptionnel plutôt que d’un poisson guère plus dangereux qu’un autre, le fantastique est tellement plus intéressant que le banal !

De plus, sur les forums de discussions, il est encore fréquent que des personnes n’ayant jamais maintenu ni même vu de piranhas répondent à des sujets ayant trait à ce poisson en mettant par exemple en garde son propriétaire ! Ce genre de comportements est malheureusement celui de toute les discussions, aussi bien sur internet qu’au quotidien mais dans le cas du piranha, elle contribue à véhiculer une image aussi erronée que stupide. Il existe pourtant de la littérature sérieuse (un peu) et quelques reportages télévisés qui présentent la véritable nature de ce poisson. Certains aquariophiles ayant maintenu des piranhas en aquariums convaincus de leur férocité, sont déçus de leur timidité en captivité. Ils avancent qu’ils sont bien plus dangereux et agressifs en bancs dans la nature. C’est en réalité l’inverse, les piranhas sont plus agressifs dans nos bacs car, stressés et pris au piège par leur prison de verre, ils sont parfois capables de mordre alors qu’ils auraient fui dans leur milieu naturel.

Pour terminer et pour tenter de rétablir la vérité : un pêcheur sud-Américain vous le dira : le piranha n’est pas dangereux dans l’eau. Par contre, un piranha qui s’agite au fond d’une pirogue et claque de la mâchoire frénétiquement après avoir été péché peut sectionner un orteil ! Méfiez vous donc quand même de ces animaux. Ce ne sont pas des monstres, mais la mâchoire est puissante et un accident peut arriver.

Can piranhas really strip a cow to the bone in under a minute?

Julia Layton.

When Theodore Roosevelt went on a hunting expedition in Brazil in 1913, he got his money’s worth. Standing on the bank of the Amazon River, he watched piranhas attack a cow with shocking ferocity. It was a classic scene: water boiling with frenzied piranhas and blood, and after about a minute or two, a skeleton floating to the suddenly calm surface.

Roosevelt was horrified, and he wrote quite a bit about the vicious creatures in his 1914 book, « Through the Brazilian Wilderness. » He recounted the stories of townspeople who had been eaten alive, and others who’d lost body parts to piranhas while bathing in the river. « They are the most ferocious fish in the world, » Roosevelt announced to the world. « hey will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers — in every river town in Paraguay there are men who have been thus mutilated; they will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites th­em to madness »

The legend of the piranha had begun.

Hollywood picked it up from there with the 1978 horror flick « Piranha » (« When flesh-eating piranhas are accidentally released into a summer resort’s rivers, the guests become their next meal »), 1981’s « Piranha II: The Spawning, » and a remake of the original B-movie that came out in 2010 [sources: IMDb, Movie Insider]. The killer piranha has made the gory jump into the 21st century.

But is the vicious reputation deserved? Roosevelt witnessed the now-famous cow stripping incident in Brazil, where piranhas live in especially high numbers. Howev­er, they’re native to and pretty common all along South America’s Amazon River — from Argentina to Colombia. So are South American bovines a regular meal for these ferocious fish? And why are there cows hanging out in the Amazon River?

Setting aside the account of a former U.S. president, piranhas stripping a cow — or a human — to the bone in less than a minute is a tough sell. How would that even be possible for a bunch of 10-inch, 3-pound fish?

Let’s find out.­

Tooth Fish

The name “piranha” is derived from the Tupi Indian language, native to Brazil. It’s a combination of the Tupi word pira, or “fish,” and ranha, meaning “tooth. »

The History of the Teddy Bear

Marianne Clay

Teddy bear & friends

2002

Today we can hardly imagine a world without that eager listener, confidante, and loyal friend, the teddy bear. But the teddy bear has not always been with us. In fact, the teddy bear did not make its entrance until late in 1902. Then, in one of life’s unexplainable synchronicities, the teddy bear appeared in the same year in two different parts of the world: Germany and the United States.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Drawing the Line in Mississippi by Clifford Berryman: This cartoon is believed to have triggered the teddy bear craze in the U.S.

The Early Years

In America, the teddy bear, according to tradition, got its start with a cartoon. The cartoon, drawn by Clifford Berryman and titled « Drawing the Line in Mississippi, » showed President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a baby bear. According to this often told tale, Roosevelt had traveled to Mississippi to help settle a border dispute between that state and Louisiana, and his hosts, wanting to please this avid hunter, took him bear hunting. The hunting was so poor that someone finally captured a bear and invited Roosevelt to shoot. Roosevelt’s refusal to fire at such a helpless target inspired Berryman to draw his cartoon with its play on the two ways Roosevelt was drawing a line—settling a border dispute and refusing to shoot a captive animal.

The cartoon appeared in a panel of cartoons drawn by Cliffored Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. It caused an immediate sensation and was reprinted widely. Apparently this cartoon even inspired Morris and Rose Michtom of Brooklyn, New York, to make a bear in honor of the president’s actions. The Michtoms named their bear « Teddy’s Bear » and placed it in the window of their candy and stationery store. Instead of looking fierce and standing on all four paws like previous toy bears, the Michtoms’ bear looked sweet, innocent, and upright, like the bear in Berryman’s cartoon. Perhaps that’s why « Teddy’s Bear » made a hit with the buying public. In fact, the demand was so strong that the Michtoms, with the help of a wholesale firm called Butler Brothers, founded the first teddy bear manufacturer in the United States, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Made in the early days of teddy bear history, this 1904 Steiff hugs an early Steiff polar bear.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in Germany, Richard Steiff was working for his aunt, Margarete Steiff, in her stuffed toy business. Richard, a former art student, often visited the Stuttgart Zoo to sketch animals, particularly the bear cubs. In 1902, the same year the Michtoms made « Teddy’s Bear, » the Steiff firm made a prototype of a toy bear based on Richard’s designs.

Though both the Michtoms and Steiff were working on bears at the same time, certainly neither knew, at a time of poor transatlantic communication, about the other’s creation. Besides, the Michtoms’ bear resembled the wide-eyed cub in the Berryman cartoon, while the Steiff bear, with its humped back and long snout, looked more like a real bear cub.

A few months later, in March 1903, at the Leipzig Toy Fair, Steiff introduced its first bear—Baer 55PB. The European buyers showed little interest, but an American toy buyer, who was aware of the growing interest in « Teddy’s bears » in the States, ordered 3000. In America, people were beginning to get teddy bear fever, and Steiff was in the right place at the right time.

The History of the Teddy Bear

This 16-inch Steiff was made about 1908 and comes from the collection of teddy bear artist Audie Sison.

The Teddy Bear Craze

By 1906, the teddy bear craze was in full swing in the United States. The excitement probably compared to the frenzy for Cabbage Patch dolls in the 1980s and Beanie Babies in the 1990s. Society ladies carried their teddies everywhere, and children had their pictures taken with their teddy bears. President Roosevelt, after using a bear as a mascot in his re-election bid, was serving his second term. Seymour Eaton, an educator and a newspaper columnist, was writing a series of children’s books about the adventures of The Roosevelt Bears, and another American, composer J.K. Bratton, wrote « The Teddy Bear Two Step. » That song would become, with the addition of words, « The Teddy Bear’s Picnic. »

Meanwhile, American manufacturers were turning out bears in all colors and all kinds, from teddy bears on roller skates to teddy bears with electric eyes. « Teddy bear, » without the apostrophe and the s, became the accepted term for this plush bruin, first appearing in print in the October 1906 issue of Playthings Magazine. Even Steiff, a German company, adopted the name for its bears.

Steiff and Ideal were no longer the only players in the teddy bear business. In America, dozens of competitors sprang up. Almost all of these very early companies didn’t last, with the notable exception of the Gund Manufacturing Corporation. Gund made its first bears in 1906 and is still making bears today.

American teddy bear companies faced stiff competition from all the teddy bears imported from Germany, and many of the U.S. companies didn’t last long. In Germany, toymaking was an old and established industry, and many German firms, such as Bing, Schuco, and Hermann, joined with Steiff in making fine teddy bears.

In England, The J.K. Farnell & Co. got its start; in fact, the original Winnie the Pooh was a Farnell bear Christopher Robin Milne received as a first birthday present from his mother in 1921. Five years later, his father, A.A. Milne, would begin to publish the Winnie-the-Pooh books about his son Christopher’s adventures with his bear and his other stuffed animals. Today you can see the original toys that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh books on permanent display in the Central Children’s Room of the Donnell Branch of the New York Public Library in New York City, while the Pooh books themselves are as popular as ever.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Made around 1929, this 9-inch mechanical duck by the German company of Bing was wound by a key.

More Great Years: The 1920s – 1940s

With the exception of the four years when World War I raged in Europe, the next 25 years were kind to the teddy bear. Mass production had not yet taken over the teddy bear world, and people still preferred to buy high quality, hand-finished teddy bears.

Because World War I interrupted the flow of teddy bears from Germany, new teddy bear industries developed outside Germany. Chad Valley, Chiltern, and Dean’s joined Farnell in England; Pintel and Fadap were begun in France, and Joy Toys in Australia. The bears themselves changed, too. Boot-button eyes were replaced by glass, and excelsior stuffing was replaced by a softer alternative, kapok.

The United States was relatively untouched by the war, and its teddy bear industry continued to grow. For example, the Knickerbocker Toy Company got its start in 1920 and continues to make teddy bears today. Nine years later, though, the U.S. was hit by the Depression, and most teddy bear companies were hurt by the financial crisis. After 1929, many American companies either found cheaper ways to produce bears, or they closed.

The History of the Teddy Bear

This 12-inch Schuco bear is called a yes/no bear, because this bear from the 1930s shakes his head no or nods yes, depending on how you move his tail.

In the 1920s and 30s, musical bears and mechanical bears were very popular, and they were produced all over the world. Perhaps the most noteworthy manufacturers of these novelty bears were Schuco and Bing. These two German companies made bears that walked, danced, played ball, and even turned somersaults.

But the outbreak of World War II in 1939 stopped the fun. Instead of making teddy bears, the world’s workers and factories were needed for the war effort. Some companies closed and never reopened.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Made about 1970, this 20-inch bear from the German company of Fechter wears its orignal ribbon.

The Lean Years: The 1950s – 1970s

While traditional teddy bear companies had always prided themselves on quality hand-finishing and had always used natural fibers to make their bears, all that changed after World War II. Fueled by a desire for washable toys, synthetic fibers were all the rage in the post-War years. Buyers liked the idea of washable toys, so bears were made from nylon or acrylic plush, and had plastic eyes and foam rubber stuffing.

While traditional teddy bear companies could adapt to this change in materials, they were not prepared to compete against the flood of much cheaper, mass-produced teddy bears coming from eastern Asia. Even the old, well-established companies were hurt by the onslaught of inexpensive teddy bears from the Far East.

The Teddy Bear’s Comeback: The Present

Strangely enough, the comeback of the teddy after years of mass-production was triggered, not by a bear maker, but by an actor. On television, British actor Peter Bull openly expressed his love for teddy bears and his belief in the teddy bear’s importance in the emotional life of adults. After receiving 2000 letters in response to his public confession, Peter realized he wasn’t alone. In 1969, inspired by this response, he wrote a book about his lifelong affection for teddy bears, Bear with Me, later called The Teddy Bear Book. His book struck an emotional chord in thousands who also believed in the importance of teddy bears. Without intending to, Bull created an ideal climate for the teddy bear’s resurgence. The teddy bear began to regain its popularity, not so much as a children’s toy, but as a collectible for adults.

The History of the Teddy Bear

Jenni, an 18-inch bear, was made by British teddy artist Elizabeth Lloyd.

In 1974, Beverly Port, an American dollmaker who also loved making teddy bears, dared to take a teddy bear she made to a doll show. At the show, she presented Theodore B. Bear holding the hand of one of her dolls. The next year, Beverly presented a slide show she had created about teddy bears for the United Federation of Doll Clubs. That show quickly became a sensation. Other people, first in the United States and then all over world, caught Beverly’s affection for the teddy bear. They, too, began applying their talents to designing and making teddy bears. One by one, and by hand, teddy bear artistry was born with Beverly, who coined the term « teddy bear artist, » often cited as the mother of teddy bear artistry. Today thousands of teddy bears artists, often working from their homes all over the world, create soft sculpture teddy bear art for eager collectors.

Artist bears also set the stage for a new kind of manufactured bear, the artist-designed manufactured bear. Today artist-designed manufactured bears are offered by Ganz, Gund, Dean’s, Knickerbocker, Grisly Spielwaren, and others; all offer collectors the opportunity to own artist-designed bears that cost less due to mass production.

The History of the Teddy Bear

American teddy bear artist Heather Stanley made 14-inch Simon.

This increased appreciation for the teddy bear as an adult collectible has also increased the value of antique teddy bears, the hand-finished, high-quality teddy bears manufactured in the first decades of the 20th century. In the 1970s and 1980s, these old, manufactured teddy bears began showing up in antique doll and toy auctions, and they began winning higher and higher bids. Today the current record price for one teddy bear, Teddy Girl by Steiff, is $176,000; that bear was sold at Christie’s auction house in 1994.

So what’s next for the teddy bear? Certainly our love affair with the teddy bear shows no signs of abating.

In 1999, in just the United States, collectors purchased $441 million worth of teddy bears. Certainly, as we begin our journey through a new century, we certainly need the teddy bear’s gift of uncondtional acceptance, love, and reassurance more than ever.

Voir aussi:

History of the Teddy Bear

Teddy Roosevelt and the Teddy Bear

Mary Bellis

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, is the person responsible for giving the teddy bear his name. On November 14, 1902, Roosevelt was helping settle a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana. During his spare time he attended a bear hunt in Mississippi. During the hunt, Roosevelt came upon a wounded young bear and ordered the mercy killing of the animal. The Washington Post ran a editorial cartoon created by the political cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman that illustrated the event. The cartoon was called « Drawing the Line in Mississippi » and depicted both state line dispute and the bear hunt. At first Berryman drew the bear as a fierce animal, the bear had just killed a hunting dog. Later, Berryman redrew the bear to make it a cuddly cub. The cartoon and the story it told became popular and within a year, the cartoon bear became a toy for children called the teddy bear.

Who made the first toy bear called teddy bear?

Well, there are several stories, below is the most popular one:

Morris Michtom made the first official toy bear called the teddy bear. Michtom owned a small novelty and candy store in Brooklyn, New York. His wife Rose was making toy bears for sale in their store. Michtom sent Roosevelt a bear and asked permission to use the teddy bear name. Roosevelt said yes. Michtom and a company called Butler Brothers, began to mass-produce the teddy bear. Within a year Michtom started his own company called the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

However, the truth is that no one is sure who made the first teddy bear, please read the resources to the right and below for more information on other origins.

Voir également:

Holt Collier Guiding Roosevelt through the Mississippi Canebreaks

Minor Ferris Buchanan

When Holt Collier was chosen to guide President Theodore Roosevelt on the now famous bear hunt of 1902, he was a legend in Mississippi. He had cut roads into the wilderness and was known to have killed in excess of 3,000 bear.

Theodore Roosevelt had become a noted hunter by founding the Boone & Crockett Club and hunting almost all types of American game including grizzly bear, buffalo and pronghorn sheep. One trophy that eluded him was the Louisiana Black Bear. He desperately wanted to experience the thrill of the mounted bear chase. Though Roosevelt and his company had immeasurable finances and manpower, almost every aspect of the hunt was the responsibility of the uneducated 56-year-old Collier. He found a site on the banks of the Little Sunflower River in Sharkey County, about 15 miles west of the Smedes Station, a small farming platform.

Through the Mississippi towns of Tunica, Dundee, Lula, Clarksdale, Bobo, Alligator, Hushpuckena, Mound Bayou, Cleveland, Leland, Estill, Panther Burn, Nitta Yuma, Anguilla and Rolling Fork, the train carried Roosevelt and his entourage the maximum speed of 70 miles per hour.

At Smedes Station, several hundred spectators greeted the President. Almost all were children and grandchildren of slaves. Holt was immediately impressed by the man and his manner. Roosevelt was short but seemed palpably massive being a full 200 pounds of muscle. According to Collier, the President introduced himself by walking straight to him with his hand extended. “He say, ‘So dis is Holt, de guide. I hyar you’s er great bear hunter.’”

The party set out immediately on a field road that took them four miles through the plantation. A second four-mile stretch took them under an open forest carpeted with a knee-high briar tangle. The towering forest of virgin oak, ash and cypress was majestic. Then came the long stretch of Coon Bayou, a mud gully which attracted all types of wild game. On the other side of the bayou, lay the primal Delta swamp with briars and thickets 30 feet high and knit so tightly that the passage had been cut through like a tunnel.

The camp was pitched on the west bank of the Little Sunflower River, described then a fast- flowing, mud-banked stream of clear water. Between the tents, in the center of an open space, was a great cypress log, against which the camp fire was built. Dogs were everywhere. Someone had brought a large rustic armchair which was named the ‘Throne’. The President was an imposing figure in it. Roosevelt announced that in the woods he was to be addressed only as ‘Colonel’.

Roosevelt wanted to participate in the chase, but his demands for a shot on the first day and the timidity of his hosts condemned him to a stationary blind. He was placed to have a clear shot when the bear, driven by Holt’s pack of about 40 dogs, would emerge from the cane.

Roosevelt and companion Huger Foote waited on the stand all morning. The sounds of the dogs faded and increased in intensity as Holt’s pursuit ranged great distances in the canebrakes. After mid- afternoon the hunters broke for camp to have a late lunch.

Collier was annoyed that the stand had been abandoned. “That was eight o’clock in the mornin” when I hit the woods an’ roused my bear where I knowed I’d fin him. Den me an’ dat bear had a time, fightin’ an’ chargin’ an’ tryin’ to make him take a tree. Big ole bear but he wouldn’t climb nary tree. I could have killed him a thousand times. I sweated myself to death in that canebrake. So did the bear. By keeping between the bear and the river I knew he’d sholy make for that water hole where I left the Cunnel.

After a while the bear started that way and popped out of the gap where I said he’d go. But I didn’t hear a shot, and that pestered me….It sholy pervoked me because I’d promised the President to bring him a bear to that log, and there he was.”

At the very spot Holt had planned for the kill, the bear went to bay on the Holt Collier dogs. Collier was in a dilemma. He had been given specific orders to save the bear for Roosevelt, who was not to be found, and he had to protect the dogs from the deadly beast.

Holt dismounted, shouting at the bear. He quickly approached the bear with his rifle in his left hand and the lariat in his right. A rider rushed to camp for the President.

The dogs and the bear fought in a ferocious chorus. It wasn’t until the bear rose to his full height that Holt noticed his prize dog caught in the beast’s mighty death grip. He clubbed the rifle and leaped into the battle. He shouted again, and swung the stock of his gun through an arc that landed at the base of the bear’s skull. The bear was shaken, but he rose up, released the lifeless dog and stood a head higher than Holt. With the barrel of his rifle bent and useless, Collier had only one option. He positioned himself beside the raging animal, put his foot between the bear’s legs, and dropped the lariat over his neck. The injured bear was soon tied to a nearby willow tree.

Minutes later Roosevelt and Foote arrived. Roosevelt dismounted, ran into the water, and though everybody urged him to kill the bear, he declared that he would not shoot an animal tied to a tree. Roosevelt was in awe of the feat he was witness to.

For the entire hunt, Holt Collier was the center of attention. Sitting apart, he spoke simply and fearlessly, unmindful of any difference in social status from the powerful men about him. He told the story of his life, how he had killed white men and had gone unscathed, how he had met Union soldiers in hand-to-hand conflict, and how he fought off a band of vigilantes. His background and experience held the President’s imagination as he told stories of his years as a slave, his service as a Confederate scout, and his many years hunting bear.

The press had a field day with the story. Headlines and cartoons depicted the President as having been unprepared by satisfying his appetite. The story about the President being out-played by a lowly guide invited ridicule. The account of Holt Collier’s heroic efforts received detailed coverage.

At the conclusion of the hunt, Roosevelt declared that Holt Collier “ was the best guide and hunter he’d ever seen”, and that “before he is three years older, he will go back to the Little Sunflower, and, with Holt Collier as his only guide, will chase bears until he comes up with one and kills it, running free before the dogs.”

Clifford Kennedy Berryman ran two editorial cartoons of the incident on the front page of The Washington Post. The cute bear cub he drew immediately became a popular Roosevelt mascot. Morris Michtom saw the Berryman cartoon and designed a toy bear. He called it ‘Teddy’s Bear.’ His success selling the toys for a dollar and fifty cents resulted in formation of the Ideal Toy Corporation in 1903. When Michtom died in July 1938, the company was selling more than 100,000 bears each year.

This article is a condensed version of excerpts from the biography of Holt Collier by Minor Ferris Buchannan.

Voir encore:

TR’s Wild Side

As a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt’s attention to nature and love of animals were much in evidence, characteristics that would later help form his strong conservationist platform as president

Douglas Brinkley

American Heritage

Fall 2009

ON JUNE 3, 1898, 39 days into the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders arrived in Florida by train, assigned to the U.S. transport Yucatan. But the departure date from Tampa Bay for Cuba kept changing. Just a month earlier, the 39-year-old Teddy had quit his job as assistant secretary of the Navy, taken command of the 1,250-man 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment along with Leonard Wood, and began a mobilization to dislodge the Spanish from Cuba.

Roosevelt worried that if the ship didn’t leave soon, his men’s livers weren’t going to withstand all the booze they were consuming. The first day was incredibly humid, with a hot, glassy atmosphere and scant wind. Anxious for war, Teddy was unperturbed by the omnipresent swarms of chiggers and sandflies. To kill time he studied Florida’s botany, learning to distinguish lignum-vitae (holywood) trees from blue beech and ironwood at a glance.

The very word wild had a smelling-salt-like effect on Theodore Roosevelt. As a Harvard undergraduate he had studied nature from a scientific perspective, full of rigor and objectivity. To Roosevelt wilderness hunting and bird-watching were the ideal bootcamps for a military career. By studying how grizzly bears tracked their prey, he developed warrior skills. First-rate soldiers were best made in America, he believed, by learning to live in the wild. If a soldier understood how to read a meadowlark call or crow squawk, then his chances of battlefield survival were enhanced. An alertness to all things wild was, in Roosevelt’s eyes, a prerequisite for excelling in modern society. Success would fall upon the individual who could outfox a blizzard or survive a heat wave.

Roosevelt possessed in spades the qualities that Harvard naturalist Edward 0. Wilson has called “biophilia”: the desire to affiliate with other forms of life, the same impulse that lifts the heart at a sudden vision of a glorious valley, a red-rock canyon, or a loon scooting across a mud bog at dusk. Wilson suggests that, at heart, humans want to be touched by nature in their daily lives. His hypothesis offers a key to understanding why Roosevelt as president would add over 234 million acres to the public domain between 1901 and 1909. He responded both scientifically and emotively to wilderness. The shopworn academic debate over whether Roosevelt was a preservationist or a conservationist is really moot. He was both, and a passionate hunter to boot, too many sided and paradoxical to be pigeonholed. Even within the crucible of the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt managed to acquire exotic pets and to write about the Cuban environment, actions that provide valuable insight into Roosevelt’s developing conservationist attitudes.

While waiting to ship out, he studied the waterfowl along the wharf front and marshy inlets: ibis, herons, and double-crested cormorants, among scores of others. Beneath his cavalry boots on the Tampa beaches were sunrise tellin, wide-mouthed purpura, ground coral, bay mud, and tiny pebbles mixed with barnacles and periwinkles. Writing to his friend Henry Cabot Lodge, he turned quasi geobiologist, evoking Florida’s semitropical sun, palm trees, shark-infested shallows, and sandy beaches much like those on the French Riviera. The Gulf of Mexico, the ninth-largest body of water in the world, interested Roosevelt to no end.

Spending those days in Tampa Bay, various conservation historians believe, later influenced Roosevelt’s creation of federal bird sanctuaries along Florida’s coasts. What Roosevelt learned from being stationed on the Gulf Coast was that the market hunters were having a bad effect on Florida’s ecosystem, including the Everglades, Indian River, Lake Okeechobee, and the Ten Thousand Islands. The previous year, his friend the New York-based ornithologist Frank M. Chapman had warned him that tricolor herons and snowy egrets were being slaughtered for their feathers. Now huge mounds were heaped around the Tampa harbor, bird carcasses piled 20 or 30 yards high to rot in the sun. If the slaughter wasn’t stopped, the crowded, beautiful roosts of Florida would vanish and their inhabitants would go the way of the passenger pigeon, the ivory-billed woodpecker, and the Labrador duck.

Even as he shaped his regiment for combat, Roosevelt retained his fascination with animals, an aspect that distinguishes his war memoir The Rough Riders from all other accounts of the 1898 Cuban campaign. And in his 1913 autobiography Roosevelt presented his theory about the role of pets in sustaining morale. Compared with his accounts of military tactics and the toll of yellow fever, such passages can seem frivolous, but they do offer a valuable perspective on Roosevelt as a war leader and as a person.

Largely due to Roosevelt, the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment took three animal mascots with them, all the way from basic training in San Antonio through their port stay in Tampa Bay. For starters, there was a young mountain lion, Josephine, given by trooper Charles Green of Arizona. Roosevelt spent as much time around the cougar cub as he could. Although he wrote in The Rough Riders that Josephine had an “infernal temper,” he adored everything about her: her sand-colored coat, dark rounded ears, white muzzle, and piercing blue eyes, which turned brown as she matured. Eventually Josephine would weigh at least 90 pounds and be able to pull down a 750-pound elk with her powerful jaws. The New York Times reported that she “rejoiced” when her name was uttered and was beloved by all the men. But one time she got loose, climbed into bed with a soldier, and began playfully chewing on his toes. Roosevelt later chuckled in The Rough Riders that “he fled into the darkness with yells, much more unnerved than he would have been by the arrival of any number of Spaniards.”

Another steadfast comrade from the wild was a New Mexican golden eagle nicknamed “Teddy” in Colonel Roosevelt’s honor. Roosevelt loved to watch these raptors swooping down to pluck a snake or other prey, and he even learned the art of falconry, wearing leather gloves and calling his namesake back to camp after it had gone hunting. “The eagle was let loose and not only walked at will up and down the company streets, but also at times flew wherever he wished,” Roosevelt recalled.

Josephine and Teddy had to be left behind in Tampa, but a “jolly dog” named Cuba and owned by Cpl. Cade C. Jackson of Troop A from Flagstaff, Arizona, did accompany the Rough Riders. Having dirty gray, poodle-like fur and the personality of a Yorkie, the little dog could be easily scooped up with the swipe of a hand. (One story, in fact, claims that Jackson had stolen Cuba just so from a railcar.) Frisky as a dog could be, Cuba accompanied the regiment “through all the vicissitudes of the campaign.” Aboard the Yucatan, Roosevelt asked a Pawnee friend to draw Cuba—who ran “everywhere round the ship, and now and then howls when the band plays”—for his daughter Ethel. Perhaps because Roosevelt was so comfortable with the trio of animals—knowing how to feed the eagle mice and to scratch Josephine behind the ears—the mascots added a compelling dimension to the press coverage of the Rough Riders. But even if TR did use the mascots to play to the cameras, they were part and parcel of his lifelong need to be associated with animals.

When the Yucatan finally set sail on June 13, Roosevelt was nearly giddy with joy at escaping Tampa. As the 49 vessels in the convoy steamed south in three columns, he noted that the Florida Keys area was “a sapphire sea, wind-rippled, under an almost cloudless sky” When he first caught sight of the shoreline of Santiago Bay, waves beating in diagonals, he wrote to his sister Corinne that “All day we have steamed close to the Cuban Coast, high barren looking mountains rising abruptly from the shore, and at a distance looking much like those of Montana. We are well within the tropics, and at night the Southern Cross shows low above the Horizon; it seems strange to see it in the same sky with the Dipper.”

At both San Antonio and Tampa Bay, his two horses Rain-in-the-Face and Texas practically never left his side. With Vitagraph motion picture technicians filming the Rough Riders wading ashore, a trooper was ordered to bring his steeds safely onto the beach. Alas, a huge wave broke over Rain-in-the-Face. Unable to burst free from his harness, he inhaled seawater and drowned. For the only time during the war Roosevelt went berserk, “snorting like a bull,” as Albert Smith of Vitagraph recalled, “split[ting] the air with one blasphemy after another.” As the other horses were brought ashore, Roosevelt kept shouting “Stop that god-damned animal torture!” every time saltwater got in a mare’s face.

On June 23 the Rough Riders debarked at the fishing village of Siboney about seven miles west of Daiquiri, behind Gen. Henry Ware Lawton’s 2nd Division and Gen. William Shafter’s 5th Corps. The soldiers took ashore blanket rolls, pup tents, mess kits, and weaponry, but no one thought to give them any insect repellent. There was no wind, and they felt on fire. The tangled jungles and chaparral of Cuba, particularly in early summer, were breeding grounds for flies that now swarmed the camps. Cuba also boasted 100 varieties of ants, including strange stinging ones that seemed to come from a different world. Unafraid of the soldiers, little crouching chameleons with coffin-shaped heads changed color from bright green to dark brown, depending on the foliage they rested on. “Here there are lots of funny little lizards that run about in the dusty roads very fast,” Roosevelt wrote to his daughter Ethel, “and then stand still with their heads up.”

Roosevelt’s letters crackle with the kind of martial detail also found in Stephen Crane’s 1895 Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage. Yet they’re also crowded with natural history, with observations about the “jungle-lined banks,” “great open woods of palms,” “mango trees,” “vultures wheeling overhead by hundreds,” and even a whole command “so weakened and shattered as to be ripe for dying like rotten sheep.” There was a strange confluence in Cuba between Roosevelt and the genius loci, as he constantly sought to conjure up nature as a way to increase his personal power.

Both in Roosevelt’s correspondence and his war memoir, the land crab is everywhere, its predatory omnipresence almost the central metaphor of his Cuban campaign. Carcinologists had noted that the local species, Gecarcinus lateralis, commonly known as the blackback, Bermuda, or red land crab, leaves the tropical forests each spring to mate in the sea. It made for an eerie spectacle all along Cuba’s northern coast as these misshapen creatures, many with only one giant claw, crawled out of the forests across roads and beaches to reach the water. Swollen with eggs, the female red land crabs nevertheless made their journey to incubate in the Caribbean Sea, traveling five to six miles a day over every obstacle imaginable. Roosevelt noted that they avoided the sun’s glare, often struggling to shade just like wounded soldiers. While basically land creatures, these burrowing red crabs—their abalone-like shells thick with gaudy dark rainbow swirls—still had gills, so they needed to stay cool and moist. “The woods are full of land crabs, some of which are almost as big as rabbits,” Roosevelt wrote to Corinne. “When things grew quiet they slowly gathered in gruesome rings around the fallen.”

For the first time as an adult, Roosevelt was in the tropics. The very density of vegetation he encountered was daunting, the white herons often standing out against the greenery like tombstones. He now knew how Charles Darwin must have felt in the Galapagos and Tahiti. Cuba’s red land crabs were his tortoises or finches; everything about them spoke of evolution. Unlike the stone crabs of Maine, these red crabs weren’t particularly good-tasting. Still, with supplies sparse, the soldiers smashed them with rocks, discarded the shells, and mixed the meat into their hardtack, calling the dish “deviled crab.” Although the crabs were not dangerous, many Rough Riders were jarred awake at night by their formidable pincers. And they were persistent—a buddy would shake them scurrying away from the bedroll, only to find them back a short while later.

In The Rough Riders, Roosevelt vividly described the timeworn, brush-covered flats in the island village of Daiquiri on which the regiment camped one evening, on one side the jungle, on the other a stagnant malarial pool fringed with palm trees. After they stormed Santiago, many of his troops, a third of whom had served in the Civil War, lay wounded in ditches while flies buzzed around them. Sometimes after an American died, villagers would strip the corpse of all its equipment. Humans could be scavengers, too. Roosevelt turned to avian and crustacean imagery to convey the horrors of death. “No man was allowed to drop out to help the wounded,” he lamented. “It was hard to leave them there in the jungle, where they might not be found again until the vultures and the land-crabs came, but war is a grim game and there was no choice.”

Ever since Roosevelt had discovered Darwin’s writings as a boy growing up in New York City, analyzing species and subspecies characteristics became a daily habit. In his 1895 essay on “Social Evolution,” published in the North American Review, he offered a parable about when the dictates of natural selection superseded love of wildlife. “Even the most enthusiastic naturalist,” he wrote, “if attacked by a man-eating shark, would be much more interested in evading or repelling the attack than in determining the specific relations of the shark.” By this criterion, Roosevelt was a dual success in Cuba. He not only thwarted the Spanish sharks but managed to make detailed diary notes regarding vultures and crabs, which he planned to use in his memoir of the war.

What he would call his “crowded hour” occurred on July 1, 1898, when, on horseback, he led the Rough Riders (plus elements of the 9th and 10th Regiments of regulars, African American “buffalo soldiers,” and other units) up Kettle Hill near San Juan Hill in the battle of San Juan Heights. Once the escarpment was captured, Roosevelt, now on foot, killed a Spaniard with a pistol that had been recovered from the sunken Maine. Roosevelt later said that the charge surpassed all the other highlights of his life. Somewhat creepily, it was reported, Roosevelt had beamed through the blood, mutilation, horror, and death, always flashing a wide grin as he blazed into the enemy. Whether he was ordering up artillery support, helping men cope with the prostrating heat, finding canned tomatoes to fuel the troops, encouraging Cuban insurgentes , or miraculously procuring a huge bag of beans, he was always on top of the situation, doing whatever was humanly possible to help his men avoid both yellow fever and unnecessary enemy fire. There was no arguing about it: Colonel Roosevelt had distinguished himself at Las Guasimas, San Juan, and Santiago (although the journalists did inflate his heroics to make better copy).

By the Fourth of July, Roosevelt had become a home-front legend, the most beloved hero produced in what the soon-to¬be secretary of state John Hay called “a splendid little war.” With the fall of San Juan Heights and the Spanish fleet destroyed, Santiago itself soon surrendered. The war was practically over. The stirring exploits of Colonel Roosevelt were published all over the United States, turning him overnight into the kind of epic leader he had always dreamed of being.

But the hardships Roosevelt had suffered were real. Supplies like eggs, meat, sugar, and jerky were nonexistent. Hardtack biscuits—the soldiers’ staple—had bred hideous little worms. Just to stay alive, the Rough Riders began frying mangoes. Worse still, the 100°F heat caused serious de hydration. Then there was the ghastly toll from tropical diseases. Diarrhea and dysentery struck the outfit. Fatigue became the norm. So many Rough Riders were dying from yellow fever and malaria that Roosevelt eventually asked the War Department to bring the regiment home to the Maine coast. On August 14 the Rough Riders, following a brief stopover in Miami, arrived at Montauk Point at the tip of Long Island (not Maine) and were placed in quarantine for six weeks.

In hard, good health, taut and fit, his face tanned, and his hair crew-cut, Roosevelt was living out his boyhood fantasy of being a war hero. He had endured the vicissitudes of combat with commendable grit, and now it was all glory. Something in the American wilderness experience, Roosevelt believed, including his long stints of hunting in the Badlands and Bighorns in the 1880s, had given him an edge over the Spaniards. The same with the Rough Riders, who hailed from the Southwest—Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Indian Territory. Not a single Rough Rider got cold feet or shrank back.

Roosevelt believed that the American fighting spirit would only continue as long as outdoorsmen didn’t get lazy and rest on their laurels. Slowly he was developing an underlying doctrine that he would call “the strenuous life.” The majestic open spaces of western America, such as the Red River Valley, the Guadalupe Mountains, the Black Mesa, the Sangre de Cristo Range, the Prescott Valley, and the Big Chino Wash, had hardened his men into the kind of self-reliance Emerson had invoked in his writings. Wouldn’t Rough Riders make terrific forest rangers? Didn’t the wildlife protection movement need no-nonsense men in uniform to stop poaching in federal parks? “In all the world there could be no better material for soldiers than that offered by these grim hunters of the mountains, these wild rough riders of the plains,” enthused Roosevelt.

While the Rough Riders recuperated under yellow-fever watch at Montauk, New York’s Republican Party was urging Roosevelt to run for governor that fall. As he contemplated his political future, everybody clamoring to shake his hand, he found respite watching the pervasive raccoons and white-tailed deer of Montauk. There was even Nantucket juneberry along the sandplains to study. One hundred years later, to honor the Rough Riders’ residence at Camp Wikoff in 1898, Montauk named a 1,157-acre wilderness area Roosevelt County Park.

In August the New York Times ran a feature story about Josephine, reporting that the colonel might raise the big cat at Oyster Bay. But his wife, Edith, put a stop to that plan, and Josephine was carted off to tour the West as a circus attraction. Unfortunately, she got loose or was stolen in Chicago and was never seen again.

The eventual fate of Teddy the golden eagle was just as disappointing. Quite sensibly, Roosevelt had given him to the Central Park Zoo, where he became a popular tourist attraction, but he was killed by two bald eagles put into his cage to keep him company. The body of the regiment’s mascot was shipped to Frank Chapman at the American Museum of Natural History to be stuffed.

Cuba the dog’s story, at least, had a happy ending. Discharged from quarantine, Corporal Jackson headed back to his home in Flagstaff and gave the celebrity terrier to Sam Black, a former Arizona Territory Ranger, with whose family he lived for 16 years in the lap of luxury. When Cuba died of natural causes, he was given a proper military funeral.

On August 20, 1898, Colonel Roosevelt was allowed to leave quarantine to return to his Oyster Bay home at Sagamore Hill for five days. By the time he got there, a groundswell of support had arisen for his gubernatorial candidacy. All around Oyster Bay, he was greeted with shouts of “Teddy!” (which he hated) and “Welcome, Colonel!” (which he loved). “I would rather have led this regiment,” Roosevelt wrote a friend, “than be Governor of New York three times.”

Cleverly, Roosevelt had kept diaries in Cuba, jotting down exact dialogue and stream-of-consciousness impressions. His editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons, Robert Bridges, worried that if Roosevelt ran for governor the war memoir they’d been discussing would have to be put on hold. “Not at all,” Roosevelt assured him. “You shall have the various chapters in the time promised.”

Once back at Camp Wikoff, Roosevelt wandered Montauk Point, care taking his golden eagle and taking little Cuba on walks. Roosevelt seemed like a changed man, disconcertingly calm, studying the undercarriage of wigeon ducks as they flew overhead. Sometimes, particularly when reporters were around, he rode his horse up and down the beach. By having “driven the Spaniard from the New World,” Roosevelt could relax— the burden of family cowardice and the shadow of his father’s hiring of a surrogate for his Civil War service had passed away forever. With nothing more to prove, he could excel as a powerful politician, soapbox expansionist, true-blue reformer, naturalist, and conservationist.

On September 13 a bugle called, and the surviving Rough Riders dutifully fell into formation. In front of them was a card table with a blanket draped over a bulky object. The 1st Volunteer Cavalry had a parting gift for their humane and courageous colonel. Eventually the blanket was lifted to reveal an 1895 bronze sculpture by Frederic Remington, Bronco Buster. (A cowboy was the western term for a cattle driver, while a bronco buster broke wild horses to the saddle.) Tears welled up in Roosevelt’s eyes, his voice choked, and he stroked the steed’s mane as if it were real. “I would have been most deeply touched if the officers had given me this testimonial, but coming from you, my men, I appreciate it tenfold,” Roosevelt said. The Rough Riders had found the best gift possible. It summed up Theodore Roosevelt well: a fearless cowboy, stirrup flying free, determined to tame a wild stallion by putting the spurs to it, a quirt in his right hand, and the reins gripped in the other. A Remington cast of the Bronco Buster now sits prominently in the White House Oval Office for President Barack Obama to appreciate.

The 42-year-old Roosevelt took more than just a Remington bronze to the White House in September 1901; his wilderness values and philosophy came with him, along with his saddle bag. Besides continuing to collect myriad White House pets, Roosevelt used his executive power to save such national heirlooms as the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Devils Tower, Mesa Verde, and the Dry Tortugas. On July 1, 1908, to help commemorate his “crowded hour” of battle at Santiago, President Roosevelt created 45 new national forests scattered throughout 11 western states. He also initiated many innovative protocols for range management, wildfire control, land planning, recreation, hydrology, and soil science throughout the American West. It was exactly a decade since his moment of military glory. His “crowded hour” 10 years later put much of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest beyond the lumberman’s ax. Adding to the conservationist theme, TR hired as forest rangers men who had served with him in combat. These ex-Rough Riders now protected wild America from ruin under the banner of Rooseveltian conservationism.

What particularly worried President Roosevelt at the dawn of the 20th century was that citizens of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston could not understand the splendor of the American West. “To lose the chance to see frigate birds soaring in circles above the storm,” Roosevelt wrote, “or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad of terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in the shifting maze above the beach—why the loss is like the loss of a gallery of masterpieces of the artists of old time.”

Adapted by the author from The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America , published by HarperCollins, © 2009

The truth about piranha attacks

Practical fishing

Piranhas aren’t the man-eaters folklore would suggest; you’re much more likely to lose a toe, according to the results of a new survey of piranha attacks in Suriname.

Humans are much more likely to be bitten when piranhas are removed from the water when fishing than they are while bathing in the water, the study claims.

« Many human deaths attributed to piranhas are probably cases of scavenging on drowned or otherwise already dead persons », says Jan Mol of the University of Suriname, who has just published the results of a study on human attacks by piranha.

« In 15 years of field work in Suriname, often wading for hours through ‘piranha-infested’ streams and catching piranhas with hook and line while bathing in the river, I was never injured by free-swimming piranhas.

« Piranhas are usually more dangerous out of the water than in it and most bites occur on shore or in boats when removing a piranha from a gillnet or hook, or when a ‘loose’ piranha is flopping about and snapping its jaws. »

Other studies have come to similar conclusions, but Mol suggests that under some situations the risk of piranha attack is very real.

« In the low-water season, when hungry fishes become concentrated in pools, some piranha species may be dangerous to any animal or human that enters the water. »

Serrasalmus rhombeusMol studied Serrasalmus rhombeus attacks at three locations in Suriname; the villages of Donderkamp and Corneiskondre on the Wayombo River and a recreation park at Overbridge on the Suriname River.

Dozens of people had been attacked at each location, with most injuries resulting in bites to the heel, soles of the feet and toes.

More serious deeper wounds were also inflicted to the legs, arms and body. Some bites were so severe that the fish completely removed the toes, including the phalange bone.

Reader Mike Rizzo suffered this bite from his rhombeus last year. Full story

The recovery of toe phalanges, complete with human flesh and bits of toenail, identified the culprits as Serrasalmus rhombeus, one of the largest and most aggressive piranhas.

« Individuals of this species tend to remain several weeks at one site and this may explain why the respective piranhas were caught at exactly the same spot after their attacks on bathers », says Mol.

« Also, characteristics of wounds of victims from Overbridge resembled bite marks previously documented as caused by S. rhombeus. Furthermore, no Surinamese freshwater fish other than a piranha could be responsible for the injuries reported here. »

None of the three locations surveyed had reported any human deaths due to piranha attacks.

Two epileptic bathers whose badly mutilated bodies were retrieved from the water are believed to have suffered seizures and then been scavenged by the fish.

Villagers interviewed by Mol claimed that piranha attacks in the small villages were unheard of until the population of the village began to rise in 1990.

When the human population peaked, the number of piranha attacks increased.

Feeding, not defenceWhile piranha attacks in other areas have been attributed to attacks by breeding piranhas defending their eggs and fry, Mol believes this is not the case in Suriname.

« In Surinamese rivers most of the reproductive activity of S. rhombeus occurred in the long rainy season of April to July, while most piranha attacks in Overbridge and Donderkamp occurred during the low-water (dry) season of September to November.

« Nevertheless, there is a small possibility that some individual piranhas were reproducing and guarding their spawn and/or spawning sites out of the main season. »

The sites not only lacked stereotypical spawning sites for the species, but the surveys revealed only sexually immature juvenile piranhas, so Mol believes that the attacks stem from feeding behaviour, not the defence of offspring.

How to avoid being eaten1. Piranhas are only found in certain rivers in the Amazon basin. Avoid swimming in South America, unless you have to. If you must bathe there, fill a bucket and wash on land. But look out for Centromochus!

Voir enfin:

Safety in numbers? Shoaling behaviour of the Amazonian red-bellied piranha

Helder Queiroz1 and Anne E Magurran2,*

Biology letters

2005 May 10

Abstract

Red-bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri) shoals have a fearsome reputation. However, the variety and abundance of piranha predators in the flooded forests of the Amazon in which they live indicate that an important reason for shoal formation may be predator defence. Experiments using wild-caught piranhas supported the hypothesis that individual perception of risk, as revealed by elevated ventilatory frequency (opercular rate), is greater in small shoals. Moreover, exposure to a simulated predator attack by a model cormorant demonstrated that resting opercular rates are regained more quickly by piranhas in shoals of eight than they are in shoals of two. Together, these results show that shoaling has a cover-seeking function in this species.

1. Introduction

It is now well established that individual animals accrue significant anti-predator advantages by grouping with conspecifics; for example, in flocks of birds and schools of fishes (Elgar 1989; Magurran 1990; Pitcher & Parrish 1993; Cresswell 1994). However, although the protective properties of groups have been comprehensively investigated (Krause & Ruxton 2002), the individual decisions on which these advantages rest are much less well understood (Tien et al. 2004). Hamilton (1971) proposed that individuals take advantage of the cover provided by other group members to reduce their ‘domain of danger’. The prerequisite for cover-seeking behaviour is a heightened perception of risk by singletons or members of small groups.

Few species have attracted greater notoriety than the red-bellied piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri (Schulte 1988). The species is popularly believed to be a dangerous pack-hunting fish. However, a recent investigation of the red-bellied piranha found no support for cooperative hunting and suggested that an important function of shoaling behaviour in the species is defence against predation (Magurran & Queiroz 2003). This assertion is supported by the observation that, in the flooded forests of the Brazilian Amazon in which we work, piranhas are regularly predated by river dolphins, caiman, aquatic birds and large piscivorous fishes (Bannerman 2001).

Here, we test the hypothesis that piranha shoaling is a form of cover seeking. We make two predictions: first, that fishes will feel safer in larger groups—as indicated by a reduction in their physiological stress response; second, that fishes in larger shoals will recover more quickly from a simulated predator attack. We use ventilatory frequency (opercular beat rate) as our measure of fearfulness. Previous work has demonstrated that opercular rate increases in fishes under predation risk; for example, in the presence of alarm substance (Pfeiffer 1962) or in response to a predator model (Metcalfe et al. 1987; Hawkins et al. 2004). Ventilatory frequency is thought to rise in anticipation of predator evasion (Barreto et al. 2003), even in the absence of prior locomotory activity.

2. Methods

(a) Experiment 1: safety in numbers

We tested the prediction that piranhas perceive larger shoals as safer by measuring the opercular rate of fish as singletons and in shoals of two, four and eight individuals. The investigation took place at Flutuante Arapaima in the Mamirauá Reserve, Amazonas, Brazil. Piranhas are abundant in the flooded forest that comprises the reserve. Our study was conducted during the high‐water season in July 2004.

Fish were collected between 12 and 24 h before testing and held in an underwater cage in their natural habitat so that stress levels were minimized. Trials were conducted in sets of four to ensure comparability of handling, time of day and so on. The order in which the four shoal sizes were tested within a set was varied across the 12 replicates in the experiment. Water was changed regularly. Oxygen levels, which were frequently monitored, did not fall below natural levels. At the beginning of a trial, a shoal of fish was gently placed in the test tank and allowed to settle for 10 min. A focal individual was then selected and its opercular rate measured for 5 successive minutes. Focal individuals, which could be identified by small variations in fin morphology, were chosen haphazardly. Using a single focal individual per group size ensured that the same number of observations was collected in each treatment. The tank was screened to avoid disturbance and all fish were observed from above. We selected the median of the five records of opercular rate per minute for our analysis. Afterwards, all fish were removed and measured, before being returned to the wild. With minor exceptions to make up shoal sizes (less than 2% of cases), fish were not reused. The mean (± s.d.) fork length of fish was 15.5±2.09 cm.

(b) Experiment 2: response to predator ‘attack’

We exposed piranhas in shoals of two and eight to a simulated attack from a realistic model cormorant, to test the prediction that larger groups regain their previous ventilatory rate faster than smaller groups. The olivaceous cormorant, Phalacrocorax olivaceus, is an important predator of piranhas at Mamirauá (H. Queiroz and A. E. Magurran, personal observation). During each trial, the 75 cm-long model swooped from its perch and splashed into the water in the test tank (60×15×60 cm3 with water 20 cm deep). The model was then immediately removed. We recorded the opercular rate of a focal individual for five successive minutes after the attack. These values were contrasted with baseline opercular rate for the same focal individual, which had been measured for 1 min before the presentation of the model. There were 10 replicates per shoal size. No piranhas were tested more than once and different individuals were used in experiments 1 and 2.

3. Results

(a) Experiment 1: safety in numbers

Our first experiment revealed a marked reduction in opercular rate with increasing group size (figure 1). A repeated‐measures ANOVA on the untransformed data confirmed that the decline within sets was significant (F3,33=12.67, p<0.001). Post hoc analysis using the Bonferroni–Dunn test showed that there was no significant difference (p>0.05) in opercular rate between singletons and groups of two, nor between groups of four and eight. The opercular rate in shoals of eight was 25% lower than for singletons. Overall, there was no relationship between the size of the focal individual and its opercular rate (F1,46=0.005, p=0.94).

Opercular rate (per minute) of the focal individual as a proportion of the singleton’s opercular rate (indicated by the line through unity) in a set of four tests. Mean value (± s.e.) is shown.

(b) Experiment 2: response to predator ‘attack’

The second experiment took advantage of the observation that focal individuals in shoals of eight have a lower opercular rate than do individuals in shoals of two. Piranhas in both shoal sizes reacted vigorously to the predator model. Experiment 1 had shown that there was no trend in opercular rate over 5 min for groups of two and eight in the absence of direct threat: one sample t-test of slope coefficients of the relationship between opercular rate and time: shoal of two t11=0.254, p=0.80; shoal of eight t11=1.338, p=0.21. By contrast, opercular rates in was experiment, 2 increased dramatically following the presentation of the model (figure 2). We detected a significant difference between shoal sizes in response (repeated‐measures ANOVA on proportion data: F1,18=11.2, p=0.004) and a significant interaction between shoal size and time after presentation (F4,72=4.77, p=0.002), indicating that the pattern of recovery also differed (figure 2). Opercular rates returned to the baseline levels more rapidly in the larger shoals.

Mean opercular rate (± s.e.) of the focal individual in shoals of two and eight, in the 5 min period following predator attack, as a proportion of its baseline value (indicated by the line through unity). Diamond symbols represent …

4. Discussion

The popular image of red-bellied piranhas portrays them as more feared than fearful. However, the results of our investigation are consistent with an anti-predator function for shoaling in the species. We found that opercular rate, which typically increases under risk (Metcalfe et al. 1987; Barreto et al. 2003), and may be indicative of a fish’s preparedness to flee (Hawkins et al. 2004), was lower in larger groups, even in the absence of an overt predation threat. Furthermore, after a simulated attack, opercular rate remained elevated for longer in the smaller shoals. Because the size of red-bellied piranha shoals at Mamirauá ranges from fewer than 10 to about 100 (H. Queiroz and A. E. Magurran, personal observation), the grouping advantages detected in this experiment are applicable to fishes in the wild. Our study not only casts new light on the behaviour of a charismatic, though poorly researched species, but also reveals how a fish’s perception of risk is affected by shoal size.

In the flooded forest at Mamirauá, shoals of fishes (including piranhas) are constantly under risk of attack. A large body of literature attests to the many anti-predator advantages enjoyed by larger groups (Krause & Ruxton 2002). In addition to increased vigilance, there are benefits related to dilution and predator confusion. The probability that a predator will successfully capture a fish declines with shoal size (Neill & Cullen 1974). For these reasons fishes seek cover by placing themselves next to other individuals (Williams 1964; Hamilton 1971; Williams 1992). Previously, we showed that large, reproductively mature piranhas position themselves in the centre of a shoal, and take fewer risks than smaller, immature individuals during foraging (Magurran & Queiroz 2003). The present study strengthens the conclusion that individual piranhas join shoals to reduce their risk of capture. In our study, we examined fish that had no cover from the simulated predation attack. However, piranha shoals may occur in the flooded forest itself as well as in open water in Mamirauá lake, and it is probable that they use the cover provided by submerged branches to evade predators. It would be interesting to determine whether the benefits of shoaling as a cover-seeking device reduce in the presence of physical cover to shelter in.

Time devoted to predator avoidance is time lost from other activities such as foraging. This trade-off can be optimized by resuming previous behaviour as soon as possible after the threat has abated (Krause & Ruxton 2002). For this reason, membership of a larger shoal provides advantages over and above the differences in baseline ventilation frequency. Because higher opercular rate is associated with higher metabolic rate (Shelton 1970; Olson 1998), piranhas in smaller shoals probably also experience greater oxygen requirements. Physiological costs could be particularly significant in this habitat as the flooded forest is seasonally affected by low levels of dissolved oxygen, a result of high rates of decomposition (Henderson et al. 1998). Periodic mass fish kills are a natural phenomenon here (Henderson et al. 1998). Individual mysids (Euphasia superba) consume less oxygen in larger swarms than in small groups (Ritz 2000), even when performing escape responses (Ritz et al. 2001). Our results point towards a similar benefit in piranhas.

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the Royal Society, Mamirauá Institute and the following people without whom our fieldwork would not have been possible: Dalvino and Jonas Costa collected fishes, Divina and Luzia dos Santos maintained the field laboratory and Danielle Cavalcante and Carlos Maciel helped in the pilot study. Two referees made insightful comments on the paper.

References

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Barreto R.E, Luchiari A.C, Marcondes A.L. Ventilatory frequency indicates visual recognition of an allopatric predator in naive Nile tilapia. Behav. Processes. 2003;60:235–239. [PubMed]

Cresswell W. Flocking is an effective anti-predation strategy in red-shanks, Tringa totanus. Anim. Behav. 1994;47:433–442.

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Hamilton W.D. Geometry for the selfish herd. J. Theor. Biol. 1971;31:295–311. [PubMed]

Hawkins, L. A., Armstrong, J. D. & Magurran, A. E. 2004 Predator-induced hyperventilation in wild and hatchery Altantic salmon fry. J. Fish Biol.65, 88–100.

Henderson P.A, Hamilton W.D, Crampton W.G.R. Evolution and diversity in Amazonian floodplain communities. In: Newbery D.M, Prins H.H.T, Brown N.D, editors. Dynamics of tropical communities. Blackwell Science; Oxford: 1998. pp. 385–419.

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Magurran A.E, Queiroz H.L. Partner choice in piranha shoals. Behaviour. 2003;140:289–299.

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2. Piranha attacks are greatest during the dry season when water levels are lowest and the fish breed, resulting in thousands of hungry young piranhas in the water.

3. Human attacks are most common in areas where human densities are highest in the water, such as popular swimming spots.

4. Noise and splashing attracts piranhas, so try to avoid making a commotion while you’re taking a dip. Piranha most commonly attack children for this reason.

5. If you’re a menstruating woman, don’t swim in the water, as any leaking blood may attract piranhas. In Amerindian villages, women in menstruation are not allowed to bathe for this reason, says Mol.

6. Don’t throw dead fish, offal or other food into the water. Piranhas are not strictly carnivorous, so any food in the water might attract them into the area.

7. Piranha attacks are not isolated incidents. If you spot any signs erected by locals saying « Warning Piranhas », it’s probably sensible to avoid bathing there.

For more information see the paper: Mol JH (2006) – Attacks on humans by the piranha Serrasalmus rhombeus in Suriname. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment, December 2006; 41(3): 189-195.

Voir enfin:

This article originally appeared in Piranha meat: It can take a bite out of what ails you © 1998 Houston Chronicle Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division (“The Chronicle”), © 1985 – 2002 Hearst Newspapers Partnership, L.P. All rights reserved. By ERIC J. LYMAN Special to the Chronicle PUCALLPA, Peru — Feeling old? Tired? There is something found around these parts that a lot of people say can help. Men in their retirement years eat it, start new families and swear by it. So do childless women, who drink it and give birth. Found in the Peruvian rain forests, the demand for it is phenomenal. But it isn’t some pharmaceutical corporation’s answer to Viagra, the impotence drug, nor is it available at a corner drugstore. In fact, an Amazonian witch doctor here must be consulted for a prescription. It’s piranha. The bitter-tasting flesh of the fish that have devoured so many villains in jungle B-movies is hailed here as the cure for problems dealing with fertility, virility, even baldness. It is said to be the ultimate aphrodisiac. « The power of the meat can cure many things, » said Flor, a Peruvian witch doctor who specializes in concoctions based on piranha meat. « It is one of the strongest medicines the world has known. » The scientific community, of course, scoffs at the anecdotal claims of the supporters of piranha-based cures. The meat, they say, is acidic, sometimes toxic and utterly without medicinal powers. « These claims about the power of the piranha fish meat have been around for a very long time, and there has never been any scientific evidence to support it, » said Celso Pardo, the dean of a Lima pharmacological institute. « People see an aggressive, macho animal, and they say, `I want to be more like that.’  » Such disparaging words do not faze the supporters of the bony fish. Piranha fisherman Miguel Socorro, for example, said his father had been sterile before eating piranha and fathering Socorro and his two siblings. Maria Luisa Quepo, a childless woman near Pulcallpa, gave birth to twins when she was in her 40s after drinking a piranha-based brew. And the mayor of a nearby village, a widower in his 60s, started a second family with the help of the fish. Countless couples here say they’ve used the seductive powers of the piranha to spice up otherwise unimaginative marriages. « The people helped by the fish don’t need proof from scientists, » said the witch doctor, Flor, whose name means « flower » in Spanish. Catching a piranha isn’t easy. The best fishermen start early in the morning by pouring buckets of blood around their boats to attract the fish, which gather with such ferocity that the water near the boat seems to be boiling. The fishermen slap the waters with their fishing poles to mimic the splashing sounds of an animal in distress — something that excites the piranha even more. Then they they drop in multipronged hooks baited with chunks of red meat. The piranha just nibble at the meat, but a slight tug at the hook-lines tells the fisherman to jerk the hooks upward, something as likely to snag the fish in the gills or tails as in the mouths, since the piranha do not allow hooks past their razor-sharp teeth. « The process is difficult, but a good fisherman can catch 12 or 15 piranhas before the sun gets too hot, » said Socorro, the fisherman. The piranhas sell for a little less than $1 each to witch doctors like Flor, meaning a successful fisherman can make the average weekly wage near Pulcallpa of $16 or so in a little more than a day of fishing. Flor charges about $4.25 for most of his signature brews, which use one or two fish each. « This is one of the most profitable businesses a man can get into near here, » Socorro said proudly. Some of the region’s piranha trading takes place at a fish market just outside Pulcallpa. On one edge of the market, away from the tables and mats where more traditional fish are bought and sold, a handful of fishermen and buyers go over the day’s piranha catch. Large black-bellied fish are generally worth a little less and are in highest demand by artisans, who make necklaces from the larger- than-normal jaws and teeth to sell to tourists. The meat from a red-bellied piranha, by contrast, is considered potent and is snapped up by healers. Meat from a baby piranha is thought to start working quicker; pregnant piranhas are used to solve fertility-related problems. According to Flor, medicinal uses of the piranha go back generations, though he said that he personally « discovered » the formulas he uses to make some of his most potent potions. « Medicine in the jungle is always changing, always becoming better, always discovering new cures and powers, » Flor said. « The things we can’t cure are only because we haven’t figured out how yet. » But Pardo, the pharmacist, said any power claimed to reside in the fish is purely psychological. « If there’s any effect at all, it’s due to somebody being convinced it will work, » he said, « and then it does. » « That’s not such a bad thing, » he added, « just as long as people don’t take it too seriously and start hailing it as the next great miracle cure. » Or the next new impotence drug. Whoever is right, the witch doctor or the pharmacist, it makes no difference to people like Quepo, the formerly childless woman who gave birth to twins when she was 43 — a miracle she attributes to piranha. « I don’t understand science, and I don’t know why it works, but it does, » she said. « Before I took the medicine, my husband and I were alone. Now, thank God, we have two little children. » After 5-hour trip into jungle, I’m at home with witch doctor The route to the home of the witch doctor known as Flor is long and difficult, but it doesn’t discourage visitors. Inside his wooden hut, a sweaty five hours by dugout canoe and foot from the Amazon jungle city of Pucallpa, Flor brews his mysterious potions and medicines for an average of three « clients » a day. « People, » he said plainly, « they want what I have. » They want it for dozens of reasons. Flor boasts cures for maladies ranging from infertility to baldness, from alcoholism to poor night vision. During a recent visit, Flor told me he could cure me of whatever ailed me. ` »You have all your hair, » he said, stroking his chin. « Any fertility problems? » I told him I was single, but he wasn’t deterred. « Do you have problems shooting an arrow straight? » he asked, a little more desperate. « Do you make too much noise when you walk through the jungle? Do your feet sweat when you sleep? » Flor wasn’t what I thought an Amazon witch doctor would be. He wasn’t dressed in bright robes, his face wasn’t painted in cryptic patterns. In fact, he was virtually indistinguishable from the 60 or so people in the nearby village of Nuevo Destino — Spanish for New Destiny — with his earth-tone clothes and high, Indian cheekbones. His Spanish was fairly articulate, given that it wasn’t his native language. The Shapibo Indian language is spoken by most people in the area. The route to his hut included a maze of minor river tributaries — some of which had to be blazed by breaking off or slipping under branches from fast-growing Amazon trees — and then a muddy, hourlong walk along an overgrown path. Flor’s hut, on the southern edge of Nuevo Destino, looks as if it grew out of the land around it. Weeds sprouted between the unevenly spaced floor and the wooden-and-palm-thatched roof seemed to absorb the tube of smoke rising up from the flame Flor used to heat the potion he was making for me. The brew he concocted for me included an ounce or two of piranha meat along with a ground-up mixture twigs, herbs, powders and some drops from an odd assortment of bottles that Flor kept on a shelf with the skull of a huge Caiman. The gritty potion tasted bitter, but Flor and my guide urged me to drink it down as they chatted in Shapibo. After I took a few hesitant sips, Flor took the clay pot back and smiled a toothless smile. He declared me almost cured. Of what? I asked Flor and my guide. They looked at me as if I should have perhaps asked for a cure for being dimwitted. A few seconds passed, and Flor spoke slowly. « You will find love, » he said, « within 30 days. » That time has nearly passed, but I haven’t given up hope. –By Eric J. Lyman July 17, 1998 – Page C-1

Voir enfin:

Theodore Roosevelt explorateur

Positivisme et mythe de la frontière dans l’expediçao cientifica Roosevelt-Rondon au Mato Grosso et en Amazonie (1913-1914)

Armelle Enders

Revue d’histoire d’Outremer. Explorations, colonisations, indépendances, Paris, t.85 (1998), n° 318, p.83-104.

Nuevo Mundo

14/02/2005

Résumé

De décembre 1913 à la fin d’avril 1914, l’ancien président des Etats-Unis Theodore Roosevelt dirige une expédition scientifique à l’intérieur des Etats brésiliens du Mato Grosso et d’Amazonie. Le but principal de celle-ci consiste à reconnaître environ 700 km du cours d’un fleuve considéré comme « inconnu », lequel reçoit le nom de « Roosevelt » au terme d’un voyage périlleux. La logistique de l’expédition est assurée par le gouvernement brésilien, représenté par le colonel Cândido Mariano Rondon, célèbre par ses explorations dans l’intérieur du pays et sa politique à l’égard des Amérindiens. A son retour dans l’hémisphère nord, Theodore Roosevelt met sa notoriété au service de sa propre légende, mais aussi de la propagande des missions militaires brésiliennes et des apports de celles-ci à l’extension de la Civilisation à travers la forêt vierge.

1Dans les années 1910, l’Amérique du Sud en général et le Brésil en particulier sont des destinations qu’empruntent un nombre croissant de personnalités. Ainsi, Anatole France, Clemenceau, Jaurès, s’arrêtent à Rio de Janeiro et São Paulo en 1910 et 1911, et, l’ancien président des Etats-Unis Theodore Roosevelt débarque le 21 octobre 1913 à Rio de Janeiro, où il inaugure une tournée de conférences et de visites qui doivent ensuite le mener à Montevidéo, Buenos Aires, et Santiago du Chili, conformément à un programme bien rôdé par les visiteurs étrangers. L’originalité du passage de Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) au Brésil réside dans dans la seconde partie de son voyage, beaucoup moins classique, qui commence le 12 décembre 1913 sur la frontière fluviale qui sépare le Paraguay du Brésil pour s’achever le 30 avril de l’année suivante à Manaus.

2Entre-temps, l’ancien président et son équipe de savants américains ont été confiés aux soins du colonel Cândido Maria da Silva Rondon (1865-1958) et les mondanités ont cédé la place à l’Expédition Scientifique Roosevelt-Rondon, dont l’objectif avoué consistait à parcourir plusieurs milliers de kilomètres dans des conditions périlleuses, collecter des spécimens de la faune locale, et, surtout, reconnaître le cours d’un fleuve oublié des cartographes depuis plusieurs siècles. Ne sachant trop s’il se jetait dans le Guaporé ou s’il s’écoulait en direction du Madeira, Rondon l’avait appelé « fleuve du Doute » (Rio da Dúvida), lors d’une reconnaissance effectuée dans la région en 1909. Sur les instances du gouvernement brésilien, il le rebaptise « Roosevelt » pour conclure glorieusement l’exploration. C’est ce nom, ou parfois celui de « rio Teodoro », que l’on lit toujours sur les cartes du Mato Grosso actuel.

1 « Roosevelt a débarqué à Manaus sur une civière, à l’abri des regards. Cf Esther de Viveiros, Rondon (…)

3Le tribut payé pour cet hommage est cependant élevé : tous les membres de l’expédition ont souffert de la faim et des fièvres, trois porteurs ont trouvé la mort, Kermit Roosevelt, le fils du président, a échappé de peu à la noyade, et, c’est un Roosevelt considérablement amaigri, fiévreux et blessé, qui est discrètement débarqué au petit matin à Manaus1. Ces souffrances ne sont même pas récompensées par l’admiration générale. L’exploit du chef des Rough Riders est immédiatement accueilli par un mélange d’éloges qui saluent l’exploit et de persiflages qui ironisent sur la validité de sa « découverte ». On peut donc se demander si les dangereuses tribulations de Theodore Roosevelt dans la jungle amazonienne ne répondaient pas à quelque dessein de la diplomatie brésilienne et si elles n’ont pas profité principalement à un groupe de militaires brésiliens, adeptes du positivisme et de la conquête des marches de leur pays et de leurs habitants.

« Que vient faire M. Roosevelt au Brésil ? »2

2 Titre du journal carioca Correio da Manhã, le 22 octobre 1913.

3 Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, New York, Charles Scribner’s sons, 1914, et S (…)

4La minceur des apports scientifiques de l’Expedição Científica Roosevelt-Rondon ont fait classer celle-ci au chapitre mineur des activités cynégético-naturalistes de « TR ». Pourtant, le titre retenu pour le récit de voyage que l’ancien président publie dès son retour à New York chez Scribner’s Sons, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, suggère qu’il souhaite se placer dans le sillage de son compatriote Stanley, auteur d’une exploration remarquée du fleuve Congo à la fin des années 1870, exploration qu’il avait relatée dans un ouvrage intitulé Through the Dark Continent3.

4 Correio da Manhã, 20 octobre 1913.

5Lors de l’arrivée à Rio de l’homme d’Etat, le quotidien d’opposition carioca Correio da Manhã retrace brièvement les étapes biographiques de Roosevelt, présenté, à grand renfort de mots anglais, comme un « ancien cowboy qui a fait la guerre aux Indiens au Far-west », un « homme politique, écrivain, sportsman, soldat, globe-trotter »4.

6Depuis ses débuts en politique, Theodore Roosevelt a en effet alterné et cumulé les rôles. S’il n’a pas « fait la guerre aux Indiens », il s’est pris effectivement pris de passion pour le « far west » quelques années avant la fermeture de la « Frontière ». Le mot cowboy est souvent utilisé par les les milieux politiques et intellectuels brésiliens pour désigner le président américain avec une condescendance tout aristocratique, sans savoir que Roosevelt est, précisément, un des inventeurs du cowboy.

5 Miller, Nathan, Theodore Roosevelt, a life, New York, Quill/WilliamMorrow, 1992; et surtout, Ricard, (…)

6 Frederick J. Turner s’était rendu célèbre en prononçant à Chicago en 1893 une conférence intitulée  » (…)

7Au début des années 1880, Roosevelt, qui appartient à l’aristocratie new yorkaise la plus traditionnelle, se singularise en achetant un ranch dans le Dakota où il réside de longs mois5. Cette expérience est déterminante pour l’intellectuel qui découvre dans les grandes plaines ce qu’il perçoit comme l’essence de la nation américaine, la progression héroïque de la civilisation, la naissance d’un peuple dans la lutte contre des conditions hostiles. Il théorise ensuite cette expérience, avant Frederick J. Turner6, en publiant entre 1889 et 1896 une histoire de la conquête de l’Ouest, The winning of the West, qui obtient un gros succès et formule les clichés et les stéréotypes d’une mythologie naissante. Le dandy souffreteux et policé, diplômé de Harvard et de Columbia, rentre à New York transformé en pionnier viril, chantre de l’énergie et des vertus de l’Amérique profonde.

7 Sa seule prestation à l’Instituto Histórico Geográfico Brasileiro, par exemple, lui est payée 2000 $ (…)

8Depuis son départ de la Maison Blanche, qu’il a occupée de 1901 à 1909, la reconnaissance internationale de Theodore Roosevelt croît de manière inversement proportionnelle à sa fortune politique. En 1912, il n’obtient pas l’investiture républicaine pour l’élection présidentielle, il se présente à la tête d’une dissidence « progressiste », mais est battu par le démocrate Wilson qu’il honnit particulièrement. En revanche, les sociétés savantes et les académies du monde entier invitent volontiers le prix Nobel de la Paix de 1910, l’essayiste dévoreur de livres, l’amateur éclairé des sciences naturelles qu’est Theodore Roosevelt, et lui permettent ainsi de conforter ses revenus7.

9De l’Expédition scientifique Roosevelt-Rondon, « TR » peut escompter un regain d’admiration sur le plan politique intérieur et rappeler à l’opinion américaine qu’à cinquante-cinq ans, le colonel des Rough Riders possède toujours la vigueur du temps où il était le plus jeune président de l’histoire des Etats-Unis.

8 Cf. Ricard, Serge, « Theodore Roosevelt et l’avènement de la présidence médiatique aux Etats-Unis », V (…)

9 Correio da Manhã, 24 octobre 1913.

10 Correio da Manhã, 22 octobre 1913.

11 Zahm, J.A., (H.J. Mozans), Through South America’s southland with an account of the Roosevelt Scient (…)

10Expert dans l’art de manœuvrer la presse8, celui-ci prend soin de se faire surprendre par des journalistes à Rio, le doigt pointé sur les cartes de la Brazilian wilderness , alors qu’il s’entretient avec deux collaborateurs de Rondon9. Le Correio da Manhã rapporte ainsi ses propos : « M. Roosevelt a l’intention d’organiser des collections de plantes et d’animaux des Tropiques, y compris des insectes, et emportera, comme il le pourra, les dépouilles de la bataille qu’il va engager contre…l’inconnu. Il destine une part de ses collections (celle du lion) aux musées nord-américains, et l’autre, au Museu Nacional et à celui du Pará »10. Il y a sans doute, dans le voyage à travers le Brésil central, la volonté américaine de marquer le continent de son sceau scientifique. Dans le récit qu’il consacre à la tournée sud-américaine de Roosevelt, le père Zahm, familier de l’Amérique andine, se vante d’avoir pressé le président d’ouvrir la piste aux savants américains : « En comparaison avec les merveilleux résultats des explorateurs allemands, nos hommes de science américains n’ont pas accompli grand’chose dans l’intérieur des régions equinoxiales ; et il semble que si M. Roosevelt pouvait être convaincu de pénétrer le territoire peu connu du Mato Grosso et de l’Amazonie, il stimulerait ses compatriotes à consacrer plus de temps qu’auparavant à l’exploration des régions vastes et inconnues drainées par les eaux de l’Amazone et de l’Orénoque »11. Le titre du livre du père Zahm reste d’ailleurs fidèle au projet qui consistait à mettre sur pied une Roosevelt Scientific Expedition et fait disparaître Rondon du haut de l’affiche.

Sous la protection de Cândido Rondon

11Il y a lieu de croire, d’autre part, que les autorités brésiliennes n’ont pas promené sans dessein l’homme du Big stick, l’auteur du corollaire à la Doctrine Monroe, dans des régions que leurs diplomates et leurs militaires considèrent comme extrêmement sensibles et à propos desquelles ces derniers se sont toujours montrés particulièrement chatouilleux. Au-delà des enjeux diplomatiques évidents, qui visent à consolider le soutien des Etats-Unis d’Amérique aux Etats-Unis du Brésil en cas de litige sur la souveraineté de ceux-ci dans le bassin amazonien, un groupe de militaires positivistes trouve dans le passage de Roosevelt dans leur pays une occasion de promouvoir à l’étranger une facette particulière de la modernité brésilienne. L’illustre touriste ne témoignera pas seulement des réussites du Brésil littoral, de l’assainissement et de l’embellissement récents de la capitale fédérale, des travaux spectaculaires menés par le docteur Vital Brazil au Butantã, l’Institut ophidien de São Paulo, – étapes obligées des visiteurs de marque -, il verra aussi comment les Brésiliens participent à l’extension de la Civilisation dans des contrées sauvages et arriérées.

12 Lettre de Frank Harper, secrétaire de T.Roosevelt, au ministre des Relations Extérieures, Arquivo do (…)

13 Roosevelt,Theodore, Mes chasses en Afrique, Paris, Hachette, 1910.

12Le montage de l’expédition est due en grande partie au ministre brésilien des Relations Extérieures, Lauro Müller (1863-1926). Le projet initial de Roosevelt était plus modeste que la tournure prise ultérieurement par les événements, comme en témoigne la lettre détaillée adressée par l’ancien président aux autorités brésiliennes12. Roosevelt, qui a été invité par le Museo Social de Buenos Aires, est décidé à profiter de cette occasion pour parcourir l’intérieur du continent sud-américain, de l’estuaire de La Plata à Caracas, en suivant les voies fluviales des bassins du Paraguay et de l’Amazone. Pour ce faire, il sollicite du gouvernement brésilien la logistique nécessaire à ce voyage très aventureux à travers des régions à peine reliées au télégraphe en ce début du XXe siècle. Roosevelt entend être accompagné de quelques ornithologues de l’American Museum of Natural History de New York, comme il s’était entouré de naturalistes du Smithsonian Institute lors de son safari est-africain de 190913.

14 Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian wilderness, New York, Charles Scribner’s sons, 1914, p. 8 (…)

15 Fausto, Boris (éd.), História Geral da Civilização Brasileira, III, 2, São Paulo, Difel, 1985, 3e ed (…)

16 Amado, Luiz Cervo, et Bueno, Clodoaldo, História da política exterior do Brasil, São Paulo,1992.

13Lauro Müller profite de l’aubaine pour donner à cette visite privée un retentissement important, couvrir Roosevelt d’hommages et faire connaître le Brésil à l’étranger14. Il avait succédé en 1912 au Palais Itamarati (le Quai d’Orsay brésilien) au baron de Rio Branco (1845-1912) qui avait occupé le poste pendant dix ans et marqué pour longtemps la diplomatie brésilienne. Premier ministre des affaires étrangères à s’être rendu en voyage officiel aux Etats-Unis15, Lauro Müller restait fidèle à l’héritage de Rio Branco qui privilégiait l’alliance avec la grande république du Nord16.

14Rio Branco devait son immense prestige à l’efficacité de ses méthodes qui avaient permis d’agrandir pacifiquement le territoire brésilien et d’en faire reconnaître internationalement la plupart des frontières. Ainsi, en 1900, Rio Branco parvient à un arrangement avec la France à propos de l’Amapá, il obtient de la Bolivie la cession de l’Acre (1903), règle les problèmes frontaliers avec la Grande-Bretagne (1904), le Vénézuela (1905), les Pays-Bas (1906), la Colombie (1907) et le Pérou (1909). Lorsque les positions semblent inconciliables, Rio Branco recourt à l’arbitrage international.

17 Cité dans Amado, Luiz Cervo, et Bueno, Clodoaldo, op.cit., p.171-172. Voir aussi, des mêmes auteurs, (…)

15Comme le Brésil est l’Etat du continent américain qui possède le plus de frontières avec des puissances européennes, l’impérialisme de celles-ci, qui achèvent de se partager l’Afrique, paraît bien plus menaçant à Rio Branco que les appétits nord-américains. Rio Branco redoute en effet que les Européens n’imposent au bassin de l’Amazone le régime de liberté de navigation et de commerce en vigueur dans le bassin conventionnel du Congo depuis la Conférence de Berlin. L’alliance privilégiée du Brésil avec les Etats-Unis, l’accueil favorable réservé au Corollaire Roosevelt de la Doctrine de Monroe (1904), ont pour but principal de préserver la souveraineté brésilienne en Amazonie, car, écrit Rio Branco, « si jamais les Etats-Unis invitaient des Etats européens à exploiter des terres en Amérique du Sud et à imposer la liberté complète de l’Amazonie, ils refuseraient difficilement l’invitation »17.

18 Sur les conceptions de Theodore Roosevelt, cf Ricard, Serge, op.cit.

16Le discours que prononce Roosevelt devant l’Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, en présence de Lauro Müller, à Rio en octobre 1913, fait écho aux paroles du baron de Rio Branco. Toute l’œuvre d’écrivain et d’homme politique de Theodore Roosevelt fait de l’expansion coloniale la victoire de la civilisation sur la barbarie, l’apanage des peuples forts, une sorte de darwinisme des peuples qui condamne les plus faibles à la disparition18. Cette tâche est l’affaire des Européens en Afrique et dans une partie de l’Asie. Par la Conquête de l’Ouest, les Etats-Unis ont accompli chez eux leur œuvre de Progrès et reçu de l’Histoire et de leur destin singulier une mission civilisatrice identique à celle exercée par la Grande-Bretagne et la France. La mise en valeur de territoires sauvages est même, pour Roosevelt, une condition de la sécurité. La « mission civilisatrice » justifie pleinement dans les années 1910, du point de vue du droit international, l’intervention d’une puissance tutélaire dans les régions considérées comme sauvage. Inversement, les puissances tutélaires qui faillissent à leur mission sont affaiblies sur la scène internationale, et même, encourent la déchéance de leurs droits. Roosevelt aborde ce thème dans les discours qu’il prononce à Rio en octobre 1913 : « Ici, en Amérique, les nations civilisées ne doivent pas craindre de grandes invasions militaires, pas plus que nous ne devons redouter l’existence de vastes territoires peuplés de sauvages qu’il incombe aux nations civilisées de contrôler et qui, à moins qu’ils ne tombent sous la tutelle d’une nation civilisée et préparée pour cela, deviendront facilement dans ces conditions la propriété d’une autre nation ». Plus loin, l’allusion se précise :

19 Discours prononcé à l’Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, le 24 octobre 1913, Revista do IH (…)

20 Roosevelt indique qu’il a été prévenu de la nouvelle dimension prise par son voyage en arrivant à Ri (…)

17″Il y a une doctrine cardinale sur laquelle nous sommes tous d’accord qui est que l’Amérique ne doit pas être traitée comme un champ de nouvelles colonisations ou d’agrandissement territorial de la part de toute puissance du Vieux Monde »19. C’est là la version civilisatrice du « corollaire Roosevelt ». Il appartient aux nations du continent américain de faire avancer leur propre « Frontière » de colonisation, de lancer leurs pionniers à l’assaut d’une nature vierge et d’une Humanité barbare, comme les Etats-Unis l’ont accompli avant eux, faute de quoi, les appétits s’aiguiseront et la paix du continent sera menacée. Dans une telle perspective, l’idée de l’Expedição Científica Roosevelt-Rondon , qui remplace in extremis la Colonel Roosevelt’s South American Expedition for the American Museum of Natural History20, est un coup de génie de Lauro Müller.

21 Le parallèle entre les deux hommes peut être poursuivi quarante ans après l’Expédition. A la fin des (…)

18Ce dernier ne se contente pas de faciliter le voyage des Américains dans une zone considérée comme stratégique, mais les fait encadrer par des militaires brésiliens fort patriotes. Pour la parfaite symétrie de l’expédition, l’institution new-yorkaise a pour pendant brésilien le Museu Nacional de Rio de Janeiro, et, le prestigieux colonel Roosevelt a pour homologue le colonel Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon21. Personne, en effet, n’était plus qualifié que Rondon pour faire valoir les capacités du gouvernement brésilien à mettre en valeur les sertões du Mato Grosso et la selva amazonienne, ni ne pouvait saisir mieux que lui l’opportunité d’attirer sur son œuvre les feux de la grande presse américaine et la renommée internationale de Theodore Roosevelt.

22 Lettre à Henry Cabot Lodge, sur le fleuve Paraguay, 12 décembre 1913, Selection from the corresponde (…)

23 Ricardo, Cassiano, Marcha para o Oeste. A influência da « Bandeira » na formação social e política do (…)

19Né en 1865 à Mimoso, dans l’immense province du Mato Grosso, Rondon compte des aïeules Borôro et Terena du côté de sa mère. C’est d’ailleurs par cette particularité qu’il est présenté à Roosevelt qui pense avoir affaire à un « full blooded Indian »22. Orphelin et pauvre, Rondon s’engage dans l’Armée brésilienne et réussit à entrer à l’Ecole Militaire de Praia Vermelha à Rio de Janeiro, où il rencontre la brillante génération d’officiers gagnés aux idées positivistes par le professeur de mathématiques Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães. Il y fait notamment la connaissance d’Euclides da Cunha, l’auteur de Os Sertões, publié en 1902, et de Lauro Müller. Comme ses camarades, Rondon participe à la Proclamation de la République mais ne quitte pas la carrière d’ingénieur militaire pour la politique comme Lauro Müller, qui représente pendant de nombreuses années son Etat du Santa Catarina au Congrès fédéral, fait une belle carrière ministérielle et appartient aux noms que l’on cite au moment des successions présidentielles. Lauro Müller avait conservé de la sympathie pour les idéaux colonisateurs de ses compagnons de jeunesse. En 1891, c’est lui qui rapporte l’article de la constitution qui prévoit le transfert de la capitale fédérale sur le plateau central du Brésil23.

24 Viveiros, Esther de, Rondon conta sua vida, Rio de Janeiro, Livraria São José, 1958, p.107.

25 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, O santo soldado. Pacificador, bandeirante, amansador de Indios, civil (…)

20Toute sa vie, Rondon révère la mémoire et l’influence de Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães (mort en 1891), au point de donner à sa première fille le nom de la fille de Benjamin Constant (Aracy) et d’appeler son fils Benjamin24. Un de ses compagnons et héritiers spirituels, n’est autre qu’Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, neveu du grand homme25.

26 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.68 et sq.

27 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.107.

21Formé à l’astronomie, Rondon est envoyé en 1890 dans son Mato Grosso natal pour servir la Commision des Lignes télégraphiques Stratégiques de Cuiabá à l’Araguaia, confiée au major Ernesto Gomes Carneiro 26. L’extension du réseau de communication dans les régions frontalières du Paraguay et de la Bolivie obéissait d’abord à des considérations géopolitiques. La guerre contre le Paraguay un quart de siècle plus tôt, les disputes territoriales récurrentes avec les voisins, prouvaient suffisamment la nécessité de rappeler la souveraineté brésilienne sur ses marches peu peuplées et de raccourcir le voyage des informations entre le centre et les périphéries. A la fin du siècle dernier, on met au bas mot trois semaines à rallier le Mato Grosso depuis Rio de Janeiro. En 1892, Rondon met même trois mois à rejoindre Cuiabá après une route particulièrement semée d’embûches, de quarantaines et de contre-temps27.

22Sur le terrain, l’installation de la ligne à travers la forêt prend une tout autre dimension. Pour faire passer le télégraphe, il faut reconnaître des régions peu ou mal cartographiées, procéder à des relevés topographiques, rencontrer les populations de l’intérieur, des fazendeiros isolés et des Indiens misérables et exploités, se frotter aux Indiens réputés bravos, que l’on dit aussi nus, féroces et anthropophages que ceux que rencontra Hans Staden au XVIe siècle. L’euphorie missionnaire et civilisatrice gagne ces officiers progressistes que sont Gomes Carneiro et Cândido Rondon. Ils rêvent de chemins de fer, de colonisation, d’incorporation pacifique des aborigènes dans l’ensemble national.

28 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.227.

23Après la mort de Gomes Carneiro, Rondon dirige la « Commission des lignes télégraphiques stratégiques de Cuiabá à Corumbá », toujours au Mato Grosso (1 746 km de ligne), puis de 1906 à 1915, la « Commission des lignes télégraphiques stratégiques du Mato Grosso à l’Amazonie ». Sous la présidence d’Afonso Pena (1906-1909), le projet ambitieux de Rondon trouve un écho au sommet de l’Etat : « les travaux de reconnaissance et de relevés géographiques, l’étude des richesses minérales, de la constitution du sol, du climat, des forêts, des fleuves, avanceraient au même pas que les travaux de construction de la ligne télégraphique, du tracé des voies de pénétration, du lancement des futurs centres de peuplement, de l’installation des premières exploitations agricoles et des premiers fermes d’élevage »28.

29 Luiz Antônio Simas, O Evangelho segundo os jacobinos. Floriano Peixoto e o mito do salvador da repúb (…)

30 Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, 903.09 a 958.07.30.

24Dans l’intervalle, Rondon a ajouté à ses convictions philosophiques positivistes une foi vibrante dans la religion de l’Humanité qu’il observe scrupuleusement en plein sertão en procédant chaque dimanche à la lecture publique du Catéchisme comtiste. Ce fait est suffisamment remarquable pour être souligné. Si les idées d’Auguste Comte s’étaient en effet répandues parmi les « Cadets » de l’Ecole militaire, principalement à travers l’enseignement de Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães, les dérives religieuses de la doctrine, le culte de l’Humanité, de Clotilde de Vaux et des saints positivistes, séduisaient peu les ingénieurs et les soldats, qui se montraient plus enclins à transformer leur pays qu’à assister aux « conférences » dominicales célébrées par les Apôtres. L’Apostolat, chef du positivisme religieux, considérait la plupart des militaires comme « hétérodoxes »29. Rondon, en revanche, est un modèle d’orthodoxie et son exemple favorisera quelques conversions autour de lui. Ses séjours à Rio sont marqués par la fréquention assidue de l’Eglise positiviste et il adopte, dans sa correspondance personnelle, le calendrier de ses coreligionnaires. Ainsi un faire-part de la famille Rondon annonce-t-il un heureux événement daté du 16 de Shakespeare 115 (25 septembre 1903), d’après le calendrier positiviste30.

31 Le décret du 14 janvier 1890 instituait 9 fêtes nationales dont le sens est expliqué dans un ouvrage (…)

25Les rites du Positivisme religieux consiste essentiellement en la commémoration de dates et de figures qui sont censées représenter les grandes étapes du Progrès humain. Le gouvernement provisoire (novembre 1889-février 1891) avait d’ailleurs accordé à l’Apôtre de la religion de l’Humanité et à ses sectateurs un calendrier de fêtes civiques conformes à leurs vœux31.

32 La correspondance de Júlio Caetano Horta Barbosa, membre de la Commission Rondon, atteste de ces eff (…)

26Ainsi la route de Rondon est-elle jalonnée d’hommages et de pieuses pensées aux dates anniversaires de son histoire personnelle, de celle de son pays et de l’Humanité. Les premières stations télégraphiques inaugurées avec Gomes Carneiro portait les noms de « Benjamin Constant »(Botelho de Magalhães), « Floriano », »Demétrio Ribeiro », les héros des radicaux de la République. Laissé à sa propre intiative, Rondon se livre parfois à une véritable course contre la montre afin d’ouvrir ses stations pour les fêtes nationales : le 21 avril, jour de l’exécution de Tiradentes, le 7 septembre, celui de l’Indépendance du Brésil, le 15 novembre, anniversaire de la Proclamation de la République, le 31 décembre, fête de l’Humanité. Il étrenne toujours la ligne par des télégrammes envoyés aux autorités, mais aussi à Miguel Lemos et Raimundo Teixeira, directeurs de l’Apostolat de l’Eglise Positiviste du Brésil32.

33 Cité par Gagliardi, José Mauro, O índigena e a República, São Paulo, Hucitec, 1989, p.56.

27La caractéristique que Rondon veut retenir de son action dans les sertões est son approche nouvelle et pacifique des Indiens. Nul doute que son positivisme ne vienne fournir des arguments rationnels à son esprit de justice. L’Eglise positiviste du Brésil était une des rares institutions nationales à avoir manifesté de l’intérêt bienveillant pour la question indienne. Lors de l’instauration du régime républicain, l’Apôtre avait proposé que la nouvelle Constitution distingue entre les « Etats Occidentaux brésiliens », formés de la population issue de la fusion des « trois races » européenne, africaine et amérindienne, et les « Etats Américains Brésiliens », « empiriquement confédérés » et « constitués des hordes fétichistes éparses sur le territoire de toute la République »33, dont la sécurité et l’intégrité seraient garanties par le gouvernement fédéral.

28La doctrine positiviste en matière indigène reposait sur l’idée d’une dette contractée par les Européens envers les premiers et légitimes occupants du pays, décimés par les maladies, assassinés au cours des guerres, spoliés de leurs terres. Sans doute, selon cette conception, les aborigènes se trouvaient à un stade primitif de l’Humanité et se débattaient dans les ténèbres du fétichisme, mais rien de congénital ne leur interdisait d’accéder à la civilisation. Il fallait guider leur évolution vers l’âge scientifique de manière à leur épargner un passage inutile par la phase théocratique dont l’Occident se sortait à peine.

34 Cf. José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, Apontamentos para a civilisação dos Indios bravos do Império (…)

35 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.365.

29Rondon prend donc la défense concrète des Indiens opprimés, s’efforce de faire délimiter leurs terres et veut persuader ses concitoyens que l’Indien n’est pas un obstacle au Progrès, qu’il est travailleur et astucieux. Il associe donc les Borôro et les Pareci, sous la direction de leurs propres chefs, aux travaux de la ligne télégraphique. La commémoration du 7 septembre fait l’objet d’un soin particulier dans la mesure où ce jour rappelle le souvenir de José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, passé à la postérité comme le père de l’indépendance brésilienne mais aussi comme un ardent défenseur des Indiens34. José Bonifácio est honoré d’une sorte de temple rustique et donne son nom à une station télégraphique où le drapeau brésilien est hissé par une petite indienne nhambiquara35.

36 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza cite longuement ce texte qui a fourni le titre de son livre sur le SPI (…)

37 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.241.

30L’extension de la ligne vers l’Amazonie, à travers des régions délaissées depuis longtemps par les Blancs, suppose la transformation de la mission en véritable expédition ainsi qu’un renforcement de la méthode indienne de Rondon. Sur les rives du fleuve Juruena, à quarante-huit jours de marche de Diamantino, la dernière bourgade traversée, commence en effet le domaine des Nhambiquara, considérés comme hostiles. Des volées de flèches suivent immédiatement les premiers contacts entre les explorateurs et les habitants des lieux. C’est là que prend corps la doctrine de conquête pacifique de l’intérieur, que Rondon résume par une déclaration de principe : « Mourir s’il le faut, tuer, jamais » et compare à un vaste et patient « siège de paix » (« cerco de paz »)36. Aux Nhambiquara méfiants, il montre la pureté de ses intentions à distance en semant sur son chemin des présents, surtout des pièces de tissu et des machettes qu’il définit comme la « livre sterling du sertão »37 et qui doivent achever de les convaincre de la supériorité technologique de leurs visiteurs.

38 C’est la date retenue par le calendrier positiviste, bien que, selon la chronologie admise, la flott (…)

39 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.314.

40 O Paiz, 2 décembre 1913.

41 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.121.

31Rondon assimile symboliquement son œuvre à celle des « découvreurs » de l’Amérique. La troisième expédition, celle qui l’entraîne de Tapirapoan au fleuve Madeira, s’élance le 3 mai 1909, jour qui commémore la découverte du Brésil par Pedro Álvares Cabral38. Rondon file plusieurs fois la métaphore en décrivant sans originalité un « nouveau monde, plein de merveilles »39 . Dans un moment critique, il exhorte ses hommes à suivre l’exemple de Christophe Colomb. Le colonel Rondon pense ainsi rééditer la découverte de l’Amérique en effaçant le péché originel des souffrances infligées aux Indiens. Le journal carioca O Paiz, proche du gouvernement et des amis de Rondon, synthétise le rôle national de Rondon en même temps qu’il diffuse sa légende : « En découvrant de nouvelles terres, de nouveaux trésors aux confins des sertões du Goiás, en triomphant de tous les obstacles de la nature brute, parfois hostile, il ne se contente pas de signer des conquêtes pour la Patrie et pour la Science (…) : il fonde à l’intérieur de la Patrie une véritable nation »40. C’est bien d’ailleurs ce qu’entendent les positivistes à travers la politique indienne : poursuivre la « formation du peuple brésilien »41.

42 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.132.

43 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., passim et p.209 et suivantes.

32Conformément à toute une tradition, née de la politique du marquis de Pombal au XVIIIe siècle, réinterprétée par le romantisme brésilien et réactivée par l’Apostolat positiviste, la figure de l’Indien exprime à la fois l’être historique et le corps géographique de la Nation. En même temps qu’il incarne un vestige archéologique du Brésil d’avant le Brésil, du Brésil inconscient à lui-même, il personnifie ses frontières et se fait le gardien naturel de ses richesses42. Cette seconde représentation sert d’argument pour défendre l’existence toujours menacée de la Commission Rondon par ceux qui voient d’un mauvais œil les deniers publics se perdre dans la forêt ou qui veulent freiner l’intrusion d’une bande de soldats positivistes, mandatés par le gouvernement central, dans les affaires (surtout foncières) des Etats de la Fédération. Contre ses ennemis, Rondon compte sur le réseau de ses coreligionnaires et sur l’opinion publique qui s’est enflammée pour ses premiers exploits43.

44 Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.596

33Les positivistes ne constituent pas en effet une grande force capable de peser dans le jeu politique de la République des Etats-Unis du Brésil, – exception faite du Rio Grande do Sul -, et leur influence s’exerce à travers une poignée de fidèles et dans des secteurs particuliers. Les présidences de Nilo Peçanha (1909-1910) et du maréchal Hermes da Fonseca (1910-1914) témoignent de la sympathie pour les positivistes et les activités de la Commission Rondon. Le 7 septembre 1910 est créé le Serviço de Proteção aos Indios e de Localização de Trabalhadores Nacionais (SPILTN), qui dépend du tout nouveau Ministère de l’Agriculture, de l’Industrie et du Commerce (MAIC). Un descendant de José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva assiste à la cérémonie inaugurale44. Cândido Rondon, qui avait servi dans les années 1880 sous les ordres de Hermes da Fonseca, en est le directeur plus symbolique que réel puisqu’il retourne, dès 1911, aux œuvres de la Commission des lignes télégraphiques stratégiques. C’est là que le trouve le télégramme de Lauro Müller lui confiant Theodore Roosevelt.

Portrait de Roosevelt en Stanley

45 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…., op. cit. p.123.

46 Certaines ont d’ailleurs été publiées : Conferências realizadas nos dias 5, 7 e 9 de outubro de 1915 (…)

47 Les archives de l’escritório central de Rondon se trouvent en grande partie au Fort de Copacabana. V (…)

48 Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, pasta 3.

34Cândido Rondon est la vitrine idéale du Brésil civilisateur. Rondon est, de plus, en bon positiviste, un pédagogue hors pair. Comme l’a noté l’anthropologue Antônio Carlos de Sousa Lima, chez les positivistes religieux, tout est rite et tout rite est fondamentalement pédagogique45. Rondon est passé maître dans la mise en scène de sa vie et de son action. Ses séjours à Rio, entre deux expéditions dans les sertões, sont l’occasion de conférences publiques46, agrémentées de projections de films. Le cœur névralgique de la Commission des lignes télégraphiques stratégiques, le bureau central (escritório central47), comprend un service cinématographique depuis 191248. Le major Luiz Thomaz, cinéaste attaché à la Commission, suit aussi les pas de l’Expédition Roosevelt avec son matériel « Lumière Tropical » et en tire un documentaire.

49 Roosevelt, Theodore,Through the Brazilian …, op.cit., New York, Scribner, 1914, p.104.

50 Ibidem, p.100.

35Le trajet prévu par Rondon à travers son royaume est une véritable exposition coloniale in situ et comporte trois parties distinctes qui font parcourir en sens inverse aux Américains les phases successives de la progression vers l’Ouest. La première, qui conduit l’Expédition de Corumbá à São Luís de Cáceres, correspond à la zone pionnière. L’itinéraire est effectué par la voie fluviale. Il est ponctué d’étapes dans des fazendas accueillantes, de réceptions officielles, de parties de chasse et de détours touristiques. Roosevelt se retrouve en terrain connu. Ainsi compare-t-il le maître de la fazenda São João et son fils « au meilleur type des ranchmen et planteurs américains, de ces ranchmen et planteurs adeptes de sports audacieux et virils, qui sont des hommes d’affaires, et qui fournissent aussi à l’Etat des fonctionnaires compétents et fidèles »49. Il peut rêver à son aise sur l’avenir radieux de la région et affirmer que « cette région intérieure du Brésil, y compris l’Etat du Mato Grosso (…) est une région saine, excellemment adaptée la colonisation (settlement) ; des voies ferrées la pénétreront rapidement, et alors, on assistera à son développement étonnant « 50.

51 Ibidem, p.129.

36A partir de São Luís de Cáceres s’ouvrent la seconde phase du voyage et, comme le signale Roosevelt, le rideau sur la « scène des explorations du colonel Rondon », que l’Expédition sillonne pendant trente-sept jours avec un important convoi muletier51. TR peut admirer les lignes télégraphiques, les stations fondées par Rondon, comparables aux « stations de civilisation » implantées le long de la progression européenne en Afrique à la fin du XIXe siècle, et fait sien le futur mirifique que Rondon projette pour le plateau central du Brésil. De retour aux États-Unis, l’ancien président américain se chargera de diffuser l’épopée dans l’hémisphère nord en résumant longuement les travaux de la Commission Rondon :

52 Ibidem, p.212.

53 Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, Expedição Roosevelt-Rondon, Rio de Janeiro, Typ. do « Jornal do Com (…)

37″Ce pays et les régions adjacentes, qui forment l’intérieur profond du Brésil occidental, alimenteront surement un jour une importante population industrielle ; dont l’arrivée sera accélérée, (…) si les anticipations du colonel Rondon sur le développement de l’extraction minière, surtout de l’or, se réalisent. De toute façon, la région deviendra une patrie saine pour une population considérable d’éleveurs et d’agriculteurs. Surtout, les nombreux rapides, avec leurs multiples cascades, dont certaines d’une hauteur et d’un débit importants, pour la croissance d’un nombre de gros centres industriels, reliés entre eux par les chemins de fer ainsi qu’à la côte atlantique et aux vallées du Paraguay, du Madeira et de l’Amazone, et qui commerceront avec les régions basses riches, chaudes et alluviales qui entourent ce territoire élevé »52. Signe de l’art consommé de Rondon pour la pédagogie ou la propagande, on sent plus d’une fois son influence dans les informations contenues dans Through Brazilian Wilderness qui, pour une bonne part, a été écrit au cours de l’Expédition53.

54 Ibidem.

38La troisième étape de la descente progressive dans la wilderness commence le 27 février avec la reconnaissance du Rio da Dúvida en canot. Il s’agit désormais d’exploration et Roosevelt prend soin de rappeler que Rondon et ses hommes sont les fondateurs de l' »école brésilienne » de cette discipline54.

55 Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, op.cit…, p.76.

39Après avoir observé les réalisations de la Commission Rondon, Roosevelt peut la voir à l’œuvre dans son défrichement de la wilderness. Pendant quarante-huit jours, la partie inconnue des 1 409 km de méandres et des accidents du Rio da Dúvida sont l’objet de relevés effectués souvent dans des conditions périlleuses. Les cours d’eau rencontrés sont solennellement baptisés par Rondon du nom de « Kermit », le fils du président qui a failli disparaître dans les flots du Dúvida, de « Taunay », auteur brésilien que les deux Roosevelt ont lu, « Cardozo », d’après un compagnon de Rondon, et enfin de « Roosevelt », conformément aux ordres de Lauro Müller qui voulait rendre ainsi un hommage à la « grande République du Nord » en la personne de son ancien président55. Le 15 avril, l’Expédition aperçoit les premières habitations de seringueiros amazoniens : le Rio Roosevelt est un affluent du Madeira et porte en aval le nom de « Castanho ».

56 Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, pasta 3.

57 Article « Rondon », dans Abreu, Alzira de, et Beloch, Israel (éd.), Dicionário biográfico-histórico Br (…)

40Pendant que Rondon retourne à ses travaux, Theodore Roosevelt s’en va divulguer les résultats de l’Expédition, chanter la gloire de son guide de par le monde et ses plus prestigieuses institutions savantes et montrer au public new yorkais les films réalisés par la Commission Rondon56. Cândido Rondon est honoré par la Société de Géographie de New York en 1914 du « Prix Livingstone »57, tandis que Roosevelt place la descente du fleuve qui porte désormais son nom dans la continuité des grandes explorations africaines du siècle passé. L’Amérique du Sud est présentée comme le nouveau « Dark continent » dont il faut dessiner la carte. C’est le sens du rapport qu’il présente le 6 juin 1914, un mois et demi après sa sortie de la Brazilian wilderness, dans le temple des explorateurs, la Royal Geographical Society de Londres, avec d’autant plus de force que les détracteurs sont nombreux.

58 A Epoca, 29 avril 1914.

59 Ibidem, passim.

41Un ingénieur brésilien, Inácio Moerbeck, n’attend même pas l’arrivée de l’expédition à Manaus pour affirmer dans la presse que le « Dúvida » est l’Aripuanã, affluent du Madeira, fréquenté par tout ce que la région compte de seringueiros et autres ramasseurs des drogas amazoniennes58. On fait la fine bouche sur le « rio Roosevelt », dont les cours supérieur et inférieur avaient déjà été rejoints par la « civilisation » et sur les relevés incomplets rapportés par une expédition malmenée par les éléments et que le président était pressé d’achever59.

42Le colonel Roosevelt se défend en affirmant qu’il a bien été le premier « civilisé » à descendre le cours moyen du Dúvida et à le « porter sur la carte » (put it on the map). Il ne lésine pas sur les références illustres devant les membres de la Royal Geographical Society :

60 Roosevelt, Theodore, « A journey in central Brazil », The Geographical Journal, n°2, février 1915, vol (…)

43″Laissez-moi définir ce que je veux dire quand je dis que nous avons porté ce fleuve sur la carte. J’utilise cette expression comme on le dirait, toute proportion gardée, en décrivant ce qu’ont fait Speke et Grant, et Baker, pour le cours supérieur du Nil. Le fleuve que nous avons descendu figure maintenant sur la carte au même sens que le Nil Victoria et le Nil Blanc l’ont été pendant des décennies après leur découverte et situation par les trois hommes que j’ai mentionnés. Depuis le temps de Ptolémée, les grands lacs du Nil supérieur était vaguement connus ; mais ils ont été « portés sur la carte » par Speke et Baker, et le relevé actuel n’a été fait que bien des années plus tard. Les sources du Niger et du Congo étaient connues bien avant qu’on sache où et comment leurs eaux s’écoulaient vers l’océan ; mais ils n’ont été portés sur la carte que lorsque leur cours furent, non relevés, mais situés par un certain nombre d’observations astronomiques quand les explorateurs les ont réellement parcourus ; Le « Columbia » fut « porté sur la carte » par Lewis et Clarke, bien que son embouchure ait été déjà connue, et qu’on n’ait pas procédé à son relevé avant bien longtemps »60.

61 Mille, Pierre, Au Congo belge, Paris, A.Colin, 1899.

62 « A journey in central Brazil : discussion », The Geographical Journal, n°2, février 1915, vol.XLV, p. (…)

44Les comparaisons entre le Brésil amazonien et l’Afrique équatoriale sont fréquentes à la Belle Epoque et fonctionnent dans les deux sens. Le journaliste français Pierre Mille ouvre par exemple son recueil d’articles contre l’Etat Indépendant du Congo sur les similitudes entre les deux pays61. Le président de la Royal Geographical Society ne modère pas l’emphase de Roosevelt à propos d’une haute Amazonie qui serait la dernière terre à conquérir par le peuple des cartographes, et l’intronise comme un nouveau Stanley. Il souhaite seulement que les Américains n’appliquent pas la doctrine de Monroe dans le domaine des explorations62.

63 Roosevelt, Theodore, Mes chasses en Afrique, Paris, Hachette, 1910, p.231.

64 A propos de l’équipe nord-américaine : « In its composition ours was a typical American expedition. (…)

45Cette remarque malicieuse met en lumière un des enjeux de l’Expédition Roosevelt-Rondon. A travers elle, les Américains du Nord et du Sud ont voulu montrer leur participation au mouvement d’expansion qui, depuis le milieu du XIXe siècle, étend la civilisation européenne à travers le monde. Ils ont voulu témoigner de la vocation civilisatrice de leur nation respective, et par conséquent, de la modernité et de la vocation de celle-ci à la puissance. Ils ont voulu, surtout, s’approprier leur continent. En 1909, l’Américain Peary avait atteint le pôle Nord sur un bateau appelé « Roosevelt » et proclamé « le pôle est à nous »63. De même, dans les sertões du Mato Grosso, les drapeaux brésiliens et américains accompagnent les pas de l’Expédition dont les membres sont décrits par Roosevelt comme la synthèse de leur peuple respectif64.

65 Cité par Leitão, C. de Melo, História das expedições científicas no Brasil, São Paulo, Cia editora N (…)

46Du côté brésilien, Roquette Pinto propose en 1915 que, de même que Cecil Rhodes avait laissé son nom à la Rhodésie, la région située entre les fleuves Juruena et Madeira porte le nom de « Rondônia »65. Ce sera chose faite en 1956.

66 Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, op.cit…, p.121.

67 Ibidem, p.121.

47La « découverte », en assurant la prise de possession scientifique et symbolique du monde, suscite logiquement des polémiques. La plus significative naît à Lisbonne où Ernesto de Vasconcelos, secrétaire perpétuel de la Société de Géographie, conteste précisément les « découvertes » de l’Expédition Roosevelt-Rondon. Vasconcelos exhibe à cette fin la carte de la « Nova Luzitânia » de 1798 et attribue la première descente de l’Aripuanã au capitaine de frégate Antônio Pires da Silva Pontes, au nom de Sa Majesté le roi du Portugal66. C’est Rondon cette fois qui engage le fer et se charge de ridiculiser ce qu’il considère comme des contorsions cartographiques.67.

Les années quarante et la nouvelle actualité de l’Expedição Científica Rondon-Roosevelt

48En Europe et aux Etats-Unis où le temps des explorations est passé et où la guerre fait rage, l’Expédition Roosevelt-Rondon sombre dans l’oubli. L’ancien président meurt en janvier 1919. Son fleuve éponyme qui, comme il avait pu l’éprouver, était loin d’être une voie de pénétration du Brésil central, restait livré à ses enchevêtrements de lianes et de cataractes. Lauro Müller, d’origine allemande, fut pour sa part contraint de quitter l’Itamarati au moment où le Brésil choisit le camp des Alliés en 1917.

68 Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.139.

49Cândido Rondon achève sa carrière active à la fin de la Première République qu’il sert sans faille. La « Révolution de 1930″ provoque sa disgrâce et sa retraite, mais le Serviço de Proteção aos Indios e de Localização de Trabalhadores Nacionais reste aux mains d’ingénieurs militaires positivistes sans solution de continuité jusqu’au milieu des années cinquante68.

69 Viveiros, Esther de, op.cit., annexes.

50Cette éclipse dure peu et Rondon est réintégré au Panthéon national sous l’Estado novo (1937-1945). Cette seconde vie héroïque naît du projet idéologique et de la politique d’exaltation nationale que promeut le gouvernement présidé par Getúlio Vargas. La grandeur du Brésil passe par la mise en valeur de ses régions périphériques. Or, qui incarne mieux que Rondon la « Marche vers l’Ouest » que lance l’Estado Novo en 1939 ? Cette année-là, Rondon reçoit de l’Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro et des mains du ministres des Relations Extérieures Oswaldo Aranha, le titre inédit de « civilisateur des sertões »69. En 1940, Getúlio Vargas est le premier président brésilien à se rendre dans l’extrême ouest du pays et à visiter les Indiens Karajá sur l’île de Bananal.

51Les explorations redeviennent un thème fort en vogue dans l’édition brésilienne. Une História das expedições científicas no Brasil est publiée en 1941. Rondon fait l’objet d’innombrables hagiographies qui insistent sur son œuvre conquérante : Rondon, o bandeirante do século XX (1941), Rondon. A conquista do deserto brasileiro (1942), Rondon. Uma relíquia da Pátria (1942). En 1943 enfin, trente ans après sa publication aux Etats-Unis, Through the Brazilian Wilderness devient en portugais, Nas Selvas do Brasil, et est édité sous les auspices du ministère de l’Agriculture. Il paraît aussi en 1944 dans la collection Brasiliana de la Companhia Editora Nacional, sous le titre Através do sertão do Brasil.

52Une préface du ministre de l’Agriculture Apolônio Sales précède en 1943 le récit de Theodore Roosevelt pour en affirmer la double actualité. L’Expédition Roosevelt semble préfigurer la conjoncture des années 1940. Le Brésil s’est rapproché des Etats-Unis de Franklin D. Roosevelt et a déclaré la guerre à l’Axe. Theodore Roosevelt devient sous la plume du ministre le parangon des vertus nord-américaines : courageux, fait pour l’aventure, dévoué aux causes universelles, passionné de progrès scientifique. Tel était Roosevelt l’Ancien, ami du Brésil, tel est son neveu Roosevelt le Jeune, qui a rencontré Getúlio Vargas à Natal en janvier 1943.

70 Préface à Nas Selvas do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Serviço de informação agrícola, Ministério da Agricu (…)

71 Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian…, op. cit., p.324.

53Le diagnostic porté par Theodore Roosevelt sur les sertões du Mato Grosso vient à l’appui de la « Marche vers l’Ouest ». « On dirait, écrit le ministre, que le grand homme d’Etat américain a prévu ce qu’aujourd’hui le président Vargas, avec une vision des nécessités sociales du pays qui n’est pas moindre, est en train de d’indiquer comme remède à la désorganisation de notre agriculture et à la pénurie qui règne en souveraine dans la plupart des régions agricoles du Brésil »70. Le lecteur est invité à s’inspirer de la leçon morale contenue dans le livre que Roosevelt terminait par une méditation sur la fin mondiale de la « Frontière » et le rôle des « pionniers » brésiliens : « ces hommes (…) et ceux qui, comme eux, partout sur la frontière entre la civilisation et l’état sauvage au Brésil, joue à présent le rôle qu’ont joué nos coureurs de bois quand ils entreprirent, voilà un siècle, la conquête du grand bassin du Mississipi ; le rôle joué par les Boers depuis environ un siècle en Afrique du Sud, et par les Canadiens, quand il y a moins de cinquante ans, ils commencèrent à prendre possession de leur Nord-Ouest. On répète que maintenant la « Dernière Frontière » se trouve au Canada ou en Afrique et qu’elle a presque disparu. On trouve cette frontière sur une bien plus grande échelle au Brésil – un pays grand comme l’Europe ou les Etats-Unis -, des décennies s’écouleront avant qu’elle ne disparaisse » »71.

72 Ricardo, Cassiano, Marcha para o Oeste. A influência da « Bandeira »na formação social e política do B (…)

73 Les bandeiras, composées de bandeirantes, sont les expéditions qui, du XVIe au XVIIIe siècles, parta (…)

54La mythologie hautement rooseveltienne de la Frontière est récupérée par l’Estado Novo et brésilianisée par l’écrivain ultra nationaliste Cassiano Ricardo. Son livre, Marcha para Oeste, publié pour la première fois en 1940, a pour sous-titre « l’influence de la Bandeira dans la formation sociale et politique du Brésil », dans une référence évidente à Turner72. Cassiano Ricardo passe toute l’histoire de son pays au crible du bandeirantismo. Les bandeirantes 73sont selon lui à l’origine de l’Etat, de la fondation des villes, du métissage, de la démocratie raciale, mais le bandeirantismo n’est pas un phénomène circonscrit dans le temps, c’est l’essence même de la nation brésilienne. Rondon est ainsi le type même du bandeirante moderne et Theodore Roosevelt lui a apporté son concours.

55L’Expedição Científica Rondon-Roosevelt a finalement rempli sa mission, qui consistait à donner, au Brésil même, la plus brillante justification aux entreprises contestées de la Commission Rondon, et à servir le prestige national dans l’hémisphère nord. Quant à Theodore Roosevelt, il avait trouvé au Brésil ce que l’Afrique coloniale lui avait refusé quelques années plus tôt. Le voyage organisé par les militaires brésiliens conjuguait ses deux imaginaires, celui de la Frontière, dont il avait vécu la fin aux Etats-Unis, et celui des explorations européennes du siècle précédent, que lui inspirait la nature tropicale et équatoriale des régions traversées.

56Cette vision s’accorde en grande partie à celle de Rondon avec lequel il partage la même passion contradictoire pour la wilderness et pour sa conquête par la civilisation technicienne. L’expansion méthodique du Progrès à l’intérieur du continent, telle qu’elle est exprimée dans Through the Brazilian Wilderness, frappe par son caractère anachronique et imaginaire. La poussée vers l’Ouest appuyée sur le chemin de fer, le mythe de la Frontière, même sommairement nationalisé sous la forme du bandeirantismo, a peu à voir avec le bourgeonnement désordonné de « fronts pionniers », suscités par quelques cultures spéculatives, qui ont caractérisé la construction de l’espace brésilien. Elle avait l’avantage de s’inscrire dans une conception évolutive de l’histoire, de promettre un futur à une nation qui se voyait comme inachevée, de lui fournir un modèle américain, plausible et épique.

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Notas

1″Roosevelt a débarqué à Manaus sur une civière, à l’abri des regards. Cf Esther de Viveiros, Rondon conta sua vida, Rio de Janeiro, Livraria São José, 1958, p.422.

2Titre du journal carioca Correio da Manhã, le 22 octobre 1913.

3Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, New York, Charles Scribner’s sons, 1914, et Stanley, Henry Morton, Through the Dark Continent : Or the Sources of the Nile Around the Great Lakes of Equatorial Africa and down the Livingstone River to the Atlantic Ocean, 1878. Les souvenirs d’Afrique de Roosevelt s’appellent sobrement African Game trails (1910).

4Correio da Manhã, 20 octobre 1913.

5Miller, Nathan, Theodore Roosevelt, a life, New York, Quill/WilliamMorrow, 1992; et surtout, Ricard, Serge, Theodore Roosevelt : principes et pratique d’une politique étrangère, Aix-en-Provence, Presses universitaires de provence Aix-Marseille I, 1991.

6Frederick J. Turner s’était rendu célèbre en prononçant à Chicago en 1893 une conférence intitulée « The significance of the Frontier in the American history ». Cette analyse, devenue classique, faisait de l’expérience historique de la « Frontière » le creuset de la nation et de la démocratie américaines.

7Sa seule prestation à l’Instituto Histórico Geográfico Brasileiro, par exemple, lui est payée 2000 $ d’avance (Arquivo do Itamarati, lata 214, 3642-3643), ce qui est considérable quand on songe que le salaire du président des Etats-Unis au début du XXe siècle s’élevait à 50 000 $ par an, celui de vice-président à 8 000 $ annuels, cf Miller, Nathan, op.cit., p.334 et 360. Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães rapporte que l’on disait que Roosevelt touchait 1 $ par mot de son récit de voyage ! Rondon, uma reliquia da Pátria, Curitiba,Guaíra, 1942, p.175.

8Cf. Ricard, Serge, « Theodore Roosevelt et l’avènement de la présidence médiatique aux Etats-Unis », Vingtième siècle. Revue d’histoire, n°51, juillet-septembre 1996, p.15-26.

9Correio da Manhã, 24 octobre 1913.

10Correio da Manhã, 22 octobre 1913.

11Zahm, J.A., (H.J. Mozans), Through South America’s southland with an account of the Roosevelt Scientific Expedition to South America, New York, Appleton & Cy, 1916, p.5.

12Lettre de Frank Harper, secrétaire de T.Roosevelt, au ministre des Relations Extérieures, Arquivo do Itamarati, lata 214, 3642-3643, s.d.

13Roosevelt,Theodore, Mes chasses en Afrique, Paris, Hachette, 1910.

14Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian wilderness, New York, Charles Scribner’s sons, 1914, p. 8.

15Fausto, Boris (éd.), História Geral da Civilização Brasileira, III, 2, São Paulo, Difel, 1985, 3e ed., p.381.

16Amado, Luiz Cervo, et Bueno, Clodoaldo, História da política exterior do Brasil, São Paulo,1992.

17Cité dans Amado, Luiz Cervo, et Bueno, Clodoaldo, op.cit., p.171-172. Voir aussi, des mêmes auteurs, A política externa brasileira, 1822-1985, São Paulo, Ática, 1986.

18Sur les conceptions de Theodore Roosevelt, cf Ricard, Serge, op.cit.

19Discours prononcé à l’Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, le 24 octobre 1913, Revista do IHGB, vol.128, t.76, parte II, p.679. Le discours a été publié aussi dans la presse quotidienne de Rio.

20Roosevelt indique qu’il a été prévenu de la nouvelle dimension prise par son voyage en arrivant à Rio, op.cit…, p.182.

21Le parallèle entre les deux hommes peut être poursuivi quarante ans après l’Expédition. A la fin des années cinquante, les admirateurs de Rondon se lancent (en vain) dans une campagne destinée à lui faire obtenir le prix Nobel de la Paix. TR avait été le premier Américain à recevoir cette récompense, toute catégorie confondue, en 1906.

22Lettre à Henry Cabot Lodge, sur le fleuve Paraguay, 12 décembre 1913, Selection from the correspondence of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, New York, 1925, p.443.

23Ricardo, Cassiano, Marcha para o Oeste. A influência da « Bandeira » na formação social e política do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, José Olympio, 1970, 4e éd., p.627.

24Viveiros, Esther de, Rondon conta sua vida, Rio de Janeiro, Livraria São José, 1958, p.107.

25Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, O santo soldado. Pacificador, bandeirante, amansador de Indios, civilizador dos sertões, apóstolo da humanidade. Uma leitura de Rondon conta sua vida de Esther de Viveiros, Museu Nacional, programa de Pós-graduação em antropologia social, comunicação n°21, 1990, p.20.

26Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.68 et sq.

27Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.107.

28Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.227.

29Luiz Antônio Simas, O Evangelho segundo os jacobinos. Floriano Peixoto e o mito do salvador da república brasileira, mestrado, UFRJ, 1994, p.32.

30Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, 903.09 a 958.07.30.

31Le décret du 14 janvier 1890 instituait 9 fêtes nationales dont le sens est expliqué dans un ouvrage recommandé à la jeunesse brésilienne : Rodrigo Octavio, Festas nacionais, Rio de Janeiro, Livraria Francisco Alves, 1893.

32La correspondance de Júlio Caetano Horta Barbosa, membre de la Commission Rondon, atteste de ces efforrts; CPDOC, HB 08 08 23.

33Cité par Gagliardi, José Mauro, O índigena e a República, São Paulo, Hucitec, 1989, p.56.

34Cf. José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, Apontamentos para a civilisação dos Indios bravos do Império do Brasil, 1823.

35Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.365.

36Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza cite longuement ce texte qui a fourni le titre de son livre sur le SPITLN : Um grande cerco de paz. Poder tutelar, indianidade e formação do Estado no Brasil, Petrópolis, Vozes, 1995, p.130.

37Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.241.

38C’est la date retenue par le calendrier positiviste, bien que, selon la chronologie admise, la flotte de Cabral ait aperçu la terre le 22 avril 1500, célébré la « première messe » le 26, et appareillé vers les Indes le 2 mai.

39Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. p.314.

40O Paiz, 2 décembre 1913.

41Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.121.

42Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.132.

43Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., passim et p.209 et suivantes.

44Viveiros, Esther de, op. cit. , p.596

45Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…., op. cit. p.123.

46Certaines ont d’ailleurs été publiées : Conferências realizadas nos dias 5, 7 e 9 de outubro de 1915 no Teatro Phenix de Rio de Janeiro, sobre os trabalhos da Expedição Roosevelt e da Commissão Telegráficas, Rio de Janeiro, Typ. do Jornal do commercio, 1916.

47Les archives de l’escritório central de Rondon se trouvent en grande partie au Fort de Copacabana. Voir aussi Os Indios em arquivos do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, UERJ, 2 vol., 1995 et 1996.

48Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, pasta 3.

49Roosevelt, Theodore,Through the Brazilian …, op.cit., New York, Scribner, 1914, p.104.

50Ibidem, p.100.

51Ibidem, p.129.

52Ibidem, p.212.

53Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, Expedição Roosevelt-Rondon, Rio de Janeiro, Typ. do « Jornal do Comércio », 1916, p.39.

54Ibidem.

55Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, op.cit…, p.76.

56Série Amílcar Botelho de Magalhães, Casa Benjamin Constant, pasta 3.

57Article « Rondon », dans Abreu, Alzira de, et Beloch, Israel (éd.), Dicionário biográfico-histórico Brasileiro, 1930-1983, Rio de Janeiro, FGV/CPDOC, 1983.

58A Epoca, 29 avril 1914.

59Ibidem, passim.

60Roosevelt, Theodore, « A journey in central Brazil », The Geographical Journal, n°2, février 1915, vol.XLV, p.105-106.

61Mille, Pierre, Au Congo belge, Paris, A.Colin, 1899.

62″A journey in central Brazil : discussion », The Geographical Journal, n°2, février 1915, vol.XLV, p.109.

63Roosevelt, Theodore, Mes chasses en Afrique, Paris, Hachette, 1910, p.231.

64A propos de l’équipe nord-américaine : « In its composition ours was a typical American expedition. Kermit and I were of the old revolutionary stock, and in our veins ran about every strain of blood that there was on this side of the water during colonial times. (…) We were as varied in religious creed as in ethnic origin », Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian …, op.cit., p.5.

65Cité par Leitão, C. de Melo, História das expedições científicas no Brasil, São Paulo, Cia editora Nacional, 1941, p.340.

66Rondon, Cândido Mariano da Silva, op.cit…, p.121.

67Ibidem, p.121.

68Lima, Antônio Carlos de Souza, Um grande cerco de paz…, op.cit., p.139.

69Viveiros, Esther de, op.cit., annexes.

70Préface à Nas Selvas do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Serviço de informação agrícola, Ministério da Agricultura, 1943.

71Roosevelt, Theodore, Through the Brazilian…, op. cit., p.324.

72Ricardo, Cassiano, Marcha para o Oeste. A influência da « Bandeira »na formação social e política do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, José Olympio, 1970, 4e éd. Cf « The significance of the Frontier in the American history » de F.J. Turner, ainsi que les nombreuses variantes qu’il a lui-même écrit sur ce thème.

73Les bandeiras, composées de bandeirantes, sont les expéditions qui, du XVIe au XVIIIe siècles, partaient de São Paulo pour capturer des esclaves indiens dans l’intérieur du continent. Au début du XXe siècle, les historiens paulistas font des bandeirantes les créateurs de l’espace national.

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Para citar este artículo

Referencia electrónica

Armelle Enders, « Theodore Roosevelt explorateur », Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En línea], BAC – Biblioteca de Autores del Centro, Enders, Armelle, Puesto en línea el 14 febrero 2005, consultado el 30 diciembre 2013. URL : http://nuevomundo.revues.org/607 ; DOI : 10.4000/nuevomundo.607

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Armelle Enders

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Eiffel/90e: Et pendant vingt ans, cette ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée (How Gustave Bönickhausen became the father of the two most popular – but then most reviled – monuments in the world)

27 décembre, 2013
https://jcdurbant.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/100_0349.jpgCaricature_Gustave_Eiffelhttps://i0.wp.com/dbs.ohiohistory.org/africanam/images/Nwspaper/Gazette/Vol04/num15/02_01/02_01.gifIt is proper that the Bartholdi statue should not be lighted until this country becomes a free one in reality. « Liberty enlightening the world, » indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the « liberty » of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the « liberty » of this country « enlightening the world, » or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme. The Cleveland Gazette (1886)
II suffit d’ailleurs, pour se rendre compte de ce que nous avançons, de se figurer une tour vertigineusement ridicule, dominant Paris, ainsi qu’une noire et gigantesque cheminée d’usine, écrasant de sa masse barbare : Notre-Dame, la Sainte-Chapelle, la tour Saint-Jacques, le Louvre, le dôme des Invalides, l’Arc de triomphe, tous nos monuments humiliés, toutes nos architectures rapetissées, qui disparaîtront dans ce rêve stupéfiant. Et pendant vingt ans, nous verrons s’allonger sur la ville entière, frémissante encore du génie de tant de siècles, comme une tache d’encre, l’ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée. Collectif d’artistes (« Les artistes contre la tour Eiffel », Le Temps, 14 février 1887)

Attention: un scandale peut en cacher un autre !

« Tour vertigineusement ridicule », noire et gigantesque cheminée d’usine », « masse barbare », « rêve stupéfiant », « tache d’encre », « ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée » (collectif d’artistes), « lampadaire véritablement tragique » (Bloy), « squelette de beffroi » (Verlaine), « mât de fer aux durs agrès, inachevé, confus, difform » (Coppée), « haute et maigre pyramide d’échelles de fer, squelette disgracieux et géant, dont la base semble faite pour porter un formidable monument de Cyclopes, et qui avorte en un ridicule et mince profil de cheminée d’usine » (Maupassant), « tuyau d’usine en construction », « carcasse qui attend d’être remplie par des pierres de taille ou des briques », « grillage infundibuliforme », « suppositoire criblé de trous » (Huysmans) …

En ce 90e anniversaire de la mort de l’auteur – un certain Gustave Bönickhausen – des deux monuments les plus célèbres du monde …

Qui se souvient, comme en témoignent encore,  de Dumas fils à Maupassant, Gounod, Leconte de Lisle, Garnier et Prudhomme, la pétition enflammée de 300 de nos gloires nationales d’alors contre « l’ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée » …

Comme, de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, les dix années de récriminations qu’avaient dû subir un petit groupe isolé de Français pour obtenir la construction du simple socle de leur encombrant cadeau avant qu’avec les guerres mondiales et ses campagnes de recruitement et de récolte de fonds l’Amérique daigne enfin s’approprier son plus fameux symbole …

Que ceux-ci furent aussi les plus décriés de leur époque ?

Protestation des artistes contre la tour

Wikipedia

Des articles, souvent pamphlétaires, sont publiés tout au long de l’année 1886, dès avant le début des travaux.

Alors que les fondations de l’édifice n’avaient commencé que quelques jours plus tôt, le 28 janvier 1887 exactement, une lettre de protestation signée par une cinquantaine d’artistes (écrivains, peintres, compositeurs, architectes, etc.) paraissait dans le journal Le Temps le 14 février 1887. Signée de grands noms de l’époque (Alexandre Dumas fils, Guy de Maupassant, Charles Gounod, Leconte de Lisle, Charles Garnier, Sully Prudhomme, etc.) et restée célèbre sous le nom de Protestation des artistes contre la tour de M. Eiffel, elle se montrait très virulente à l’égard de la hauteur de la tour qui viendrait, selon eux, défigurer Paris :

« II suffit d’ailleurs, pour se rendre compte de ce que nous avançons, de se figurer une tour vertigineusement ridicule, dominant Paris, ainsi qu’une noire et gigantesque cheminée d’usine, écrasant de sa masse barbare : Notre-Dame, la Sainte-Chapelle, la tour Saint-Jacques, le Louvre, le dôme des Invalides, l’Arc de triomphe, tous nos monuments humiliés, toutes nos architectures rapetissées, qui disparaîtront dans ce rêve stupéfiant. Et pendant vingt ans, nous verrons s’allonger sur la ville entière, frémissante encore du génie de tant de siècles, comme une tache d’encre, l’ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée. »

— Collectif d’artistes, « Les artistes contre la tour Eiffel », Le Temps, 14 février 1887.

Un débat houleux mêlant des personnalités de l’époque, des responsables politiques, des journalistes, des ingénieurs suit cette déclaration.

Gustave Eiffel répondit à la protestation des artistes, dans un entretien avec Paul Bourde qui fut reproduit dans le même numéro du journal Le Temps, à la suite de la protestation.

Le ministre Édouard Lockroy remit au directeur des travaux, Jean-Charles Alphand, une réponse qui pourrait avoir été rédigée par un obscur fonctionnaire nommé Georges Moineaux, qui deviendra célèbre sous le nom de Georges Courteline.

Gustave Eiffel écrivit plus tard :

« Cette page bien française a dû étonner quelque peu les expéditionnaires du ministère ; la correspondance administrative n’est malheureusement d’ordinaire ni si vive, ni si gaie, ni si spirituelle ; sa sévérité s’accommode mal à nos vieilles traditions gauloises. Si M. Lockroy pouvait faire école, l’exercice des fonctions publiques serait moins monotone et certainement mieux apprécié. Le ministre avait su mettre les rieurs de son côté. Son procès était gagné. »

La tour Eiffel a attiré les foules après son inauguration, faisant taire les réticences petit à petit. Par exemple, deux ans après avoir signé la « protestation des artistes », Sully Prudhomme prononce un discours favorable à la tour.

On put lire ailleurs :

« ce lampadaire véritablement tragique » (Léon Bloy) ;

« ce squelette de beffroi » (Paul Verlaine) ;

« ce mât de fer aux durs agrès, inachevé, confus, difforme » (François Coppée) ;

« cette haute et maigre pyramide d’échelles de fer, squelette disgracieux et géant, dont la base semble faite pour porter un formidable monument de Cyclopes, et qui avorte en un ridicule et mince profil de cheminée d’usine » (Guy de Maupassant) ;

« un tuyau d’usine en construction, une carcasse qui attend d’être remplie par des pierres de taille ou des briques, ce grillage infundibuliforme, ce suppositoire criblé de trous » (Joris-Karl Huysmans).

Voir aussi:

Fundraising, criticism, and construction in the United States

The committees in the United States faced great difficulties in obtaining funds for the construction of the pedestal. The Panic of 1873 had led to an economic depression that persisted through much of the decade. The Liberty statue project was not the only such undertaking that had difficulty raising money: construction of the obelisk later known as the Washington Monument sometimes stalled for years; it would ultimately take over three-and-a-half decades to complete.[64] There was criticism both of Bartholdi’s statue and of the fact that the gift required Americans to foot the bill for the pedestal. In the years following the Civil War, most Americans preferred realistic artworks depicting heroes and events from the nation’s history, rather than allegorical works like the Liberty statue.[64] There was also a feeling that Americans should design American public works—the selection of Italian-born Constantino Brumidi to decorate the Capitol had provoked intense criticism, even though he was a naturalized U.S. citizen.[65] Harper’s Weekly declared its wish that « M. Bartholdi and our French cousins had ‘gone the whole figure’ while they were about it, and given us statue and pedestal at once. »[66] The New York Times stated that « no true patriot can countenance any such expenditures for bronze females in the present state of our finances. »[67] Faced with these criticisms, the American committees took little action for several years.[67]

The foundation of Bartholdi’s statue was to be laid inside Fort Wood, a disused army base on Bedloe’s Island constructed between 1807 and 1811. Since 1823, it had rarely been used, though during the Civil War, it had served as a recruiting station.[68] The fortifications of the structure were in the shape of an eleven-point star. The statue’s foundation and pedestal were aligned so that it would face southeast, greeting ships entering the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean.[69] In 1881, the New York committee commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to design the pedestal. Within months, Hunt submitted a detailed plan, indicating that he expected construction to take about nine months.[70] He proposed a pedestal 114 feet (35 m) in height; faced with money problems, the committee reduced that to 89 feet (27 m).[71]

Hunt’s pedestal design contains elements of classical architecture, including Doric portals, and the large mass is fragmented with architectural detail to focus attention on the statue.[71] In form, it is a truncated pyramid, 62 feet (19 m) square at the base and 39.4 feet (12.0 m) at the top. The four sides are identical in appearance. Above the door on each side, there are ten disks upon which Bartholdi proposed to place the coats of arms of the states (between 1876 and 1889, there were 40 U.S. states), although this was not done. Above that, a balcony was placed on each side, framed by pillars. Bartholdi placed an observation platform near the top of the pedestal, above which the statue itself rises.[72] According to author Louis Auchincloss, the pedestal « craggily evokes the power of an ancient Europe over which rises the dominating figure of the Statue of Liberty ».[71] The committee hired former army General Charles Pomeroy Stone to oversee the construction work.[73] Construction on the 15-foot-deep (4.6 m) foundation began in 1883, and the pedestal’s cornerstone was laid in 1884.[70] In Hunt’s original conception, the pedestal was to have been made of solid granite. Financial concerns again forced him to revise his plans; the final design called for poured concrete walls, up to 20 feet (6.1 m) thick, faced with granite blocks.[74][75] This Stony Creek granite came from the Beattie Quarry in Branford, Connecticut.[76] The concrete mass was the largest poured to that time.[75]

Fundraising for the statue had begun in 1882. The committee organized a large number of money-raising events. As part of one such effort, an auction of art and manuscripts, poet Emma Lazarus was asked to donate an original work. She initially declined, stating she could not write a poem about a statue. At the time, she was also involved in aiding refugees to New York who had fled anti-Semitic pogroms in eastern Europe. These refugees were forced to live in conditions that the wealthy Lazarus had never experienced. She saw a way to express her empathy for these refugees in terms of the statue. The resulting sonnet, « The New Colossus », including the iconic lines « Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free », is uniquely identified with the Statue of Liberty and is inscribed on a plaque in the museum in the base.

Even with these efforts, fundraising lagged. Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York, vetoed a bill to provide $50,000 for the statue project in 1884. An attempt the next year to have Congress provide $100,000, sufficient to complete the project, failed when Democratic representatives would not agree to the appropriation. The New York committee, with only $3,000 in the bank, suspended work on the pedestal. With the project in jeopardy, groups from other American cities, including Boston and Philadelphia, offered to pay the full cost of erecting the statue in return for relocating it.

Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the World, a New York newspaper, announced a drive to raise $100,000 (the equivalent of $2.3 million today). Pulitzer pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given. The drive captured the imagination of New Yorkers, especially when Pulitzer began publishing the notes he received from contributors. « A young girl alone in the world » donated « 60 cents, the result of self denial. »[82] One donor gave « five cents as a poor office boy’s mite toward the Pedestal Fund. » A group of children sent a dollar as « the money we saved to go to the circus with. » Another dollar was given by a « lonely and very aged woman. » Residents of a home for alcoholics in New York’s rival city of Brooklyn (the cities would not merge until 1898) donated $15; other drinkers helped out through donation boxes in bars and saloons. A kindergarten class in Davenport, Iowa, mailed the World a gift of $1.35. As the donations flooded in, the committee resumed work on the pedestal.

On June 17, 1885, the French steamer Isère, laden with the Statue of Liberty reached the New York port safely. New Yorkers displayed their new-found enthusiasm for the statue, as the French vessel arrived with the crates holding the disassembled statue on board. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks and hundreds of boats put to sea to welcome the Isère. After five months of daily calls to donate to the statue fund, on August 11, 1885, the World announced that $102,000 had been raised from 120,000 donors, and that 80 percent of the total had been received in sums of less than one dollar.

Even with the success of the fund drive, the pedestal was not completed until April 1886. Immediately thereafter, reassembly of the statue began. Eiffel’s iron framework was anchored to steel I-beams within the concrete pedestal and assembled.[89] Once this was done, the sections of skin were carefully attached.[90] Due to the width of the pedestal, it was not possible to erect scaffolding, and workers dangled from the armature by ropes while installing the skin sections. Nevertheless, no one died during the construction work.[91] Bartholdi had planned to put floodlights on the torch’s balcony to illuminate it; a week before the dedication, the Army Corps of Engineers vetoed the proposal, fearing that ships’ pilots passing the statue would be blinded. Instead, Bartholdi cut portholes in the torch (which was covered with gold leaf) and placed the lights inside them. A power plant was installed on the island to light the torch and for other electrical needs.After the skin was completed, renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, supervised a cleanup of Bedloe’s Island in anticipation of the dedication.

No members of the general public were permitted on the island during the ceremonies, which were reserved entirely for dignitaries. The only females granted access were Bartholdi’s wife and de Lesseps’s granddaughter; officials stated that they feared women might be injured in the crush of people. The restriction offended area suffragists, who chartered a boat and got as close as they could to the island. The group’s leaders made speeches applauding the embodiment of Liberty as a woman and advocating women’s right to vote. A scheduled fireworks display was postponed until November 1 because of poor weather.

Shortly after the dedication, the The Cleveland Gazette, an African American newspaper, suggested that the statue’s torch not be lit until the United States became a free nation « in reality »:

« Liberty enlightening the world, » indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the « liberty » of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the « liberty » of this country « enlightening the world, » or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Liberty


Criminalité: Cachez cette religion que je ne saurai voir ! (Crime mystery of the century: Why don’t people turn to crime when times are tough ?)

11 décembre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/mjcdn.motherjones.com/preset_51/381in_lead_a_630.jpghttp://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/.a/6a00d8341c6a7953ef0192ab9019c0970d-800wihttps://i1.wp.com/www.motherjones.com/files/blog_crime_baseline_lead_1.jpg
https://i2.wp.com/www.gasworks.org.uk/photos/large/471px-Hausbuch_Wolfegg_12r_Jupiter_LR.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/www.strangenotions.com/wp-content/uploads/Americas-Blessings.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/www.independent.org/images/books-hires/victory_of_reason_hirez.jpgNe croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison.  Jésus (Matthieu 10 : 34-36)
Quand les hommes se diront: Paix et sécurité! c’est alors que tout d’un coup fondra sur eux la perdition. Paul (lettre aux Thessaloniciens 5: 3)
Il n’y a plus ni Juif ni Grec, il n’y a plus ni esclave ni homme libre, il n’y a plus ni homme ni femme; car tous vous êtes un en Jésus-Christ. Paul
Les mondes anciens étaient comparables entre eux, le nôtre est vraiment unique. Sa supériorité dans tous les domaines est tellement écrasante, tellement évidente que, paradoxalement, il est interdit d’en faire état. René Girard
On apprend aux enfants qu’on a cessé de chasser les sorcières parce que la science s’est imposée aux hommes. Alors que c’est le contraire: la science s’est imposée aux hommes parce que, pour des raisons morales, religieuses, on a cessé de chasser les sorcières. René Girard
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la «victime inconnue», comme on dirait aujourd’hui le «soldat inconnu». (….) le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. (…) il faut distinguer deux choses. Il y a d’abord le texte chrétien qui pénètre lentement dans la conscience des hommes. Et puis il y a la façon dont les hommes l’interprètent. De ce point de vue, il est évident que le Moyen Age n’interprétait pas le christianisme comme nous. Mais nous ne pouvons pas leur en faire le reproche. Pas plus que nous pouvons faire le reproche aux Polynésiens d’avoir été cannibales. Parce que cela fait partie d’un développement historique.(…)  Mais, s’il est très bien de compatir au sort des malheureux, il faut aussi reconnaître que nous vivons dans la meilleure société que le monde ait jamais connue. Nous connaissons une amélioration du social qui dure depuis le haut Moyen Age. Et notre souci des victimes, pris dans son ensemble comme réalité, n’a pas d’équivalent dans l’histoire des sociétés humaines. (…) On ne peut donc pas supprimer les possibilités positives de cet univers : nous sommes toujours plus libres, du bien et du mal. C’est ce qui fait que notre époque est loin d’être terne, ennuyeuse ou désenchantée. Elle est à mon avis extraordinairement mouvementée, tragique, émouvante et intéressante à vivre. C’est-à-dire toujours ouverte sur les extrêmes du bien et du mal. René Girard
Jusqu’à présent, les textes de l’Apocalypse faisaient rire. Tout l’effort de la pensée moderne a été de séparer le culturel du naturel. La science consiste à montrer que les phénomènes culturels ne sont pas naturels et qu’on se trompe forcément si on mélange les tremblements de terre et les rumeurs de guerre, comme le fait le texte de l’Apocalypse. Mais, tout à coup, la science prend conscience que les activités de l’homme sont en train de détruire la nature. C’est la science qui revient à l’Apocalypse. René Girard
La même force culturelle et spirituelle qui a joué un rôle si décisif dans la disparition du sacrifice humain est aujourd’hui en train de provoquer la disparition des rituels de sacrifice humain qui l’ont jadis remplacé. Tout cela semble être une bonne nouvelle, mais à condition que ceux qui comptaient sur ces ressources rituelles soient en mesure de les remplacer par des ressources religieuses durables d’un autre genre. Priver une société des ressources sacrificielles rudimentaires dont elle dépend sans lui proposer d’alternatives, c’est la plonger dans une crise qui la conduira presque certainement à la violence. Gil Bailie
Religious Americans are more law abiding, have superior mental and physical health, are far more generous vis-à-vis charities, have much better family life, are more successful, and religious couples even have more satisfactory sex lives! The biggest by far has to do with the criminal justice system. If all Americans committed crimes at the same level as those who do not attend religious services, the costs of the criminal justice system would about double to, perhaps, $2 trillion annually. Rodney Stark
Les efforts des policiers dans les quartiers chauds de New York et de Los Angeles sont louables et ont contribué à améliorer la qualité de vie des résidants. Mais ces changements n’expliquent pas tout. Ceux qui y voient une réponse définitive font fausse route. Si la baisse s’expliquait par des changements dans le fonctionnement de la police dans les grandes villes, alors pourquoi observe-t-on une diminution du crime de façon uniforme, partout aux États-Unis? (…)  l’Occident au complet – et notamment le Canada – a connu une baisse du taux de criminalité au cours des 20 dernières années. L’internet, les cellulaires et les jeux vidéo ne peuvent expliquer la baisse, car les crimes ont commencé à chuter de façon uniforme dans les années 90, avant que ces inventions ne prennent leur envol. Et, pour la première fois depuis les années 70, le taux d’incarcération a commencé à baisser aux États-Unis, en 2007. Jumelé avec une hausse spectaculaire du chômage, cela aurait dû créer un mélange explosif. La réalité, c’est que nous n’avons pas de théorie qui puisse expliquer le phénomène. Pour l’instant, c’est un mystère. Frank E. Zimring (Berkeley)
If we eliminated every microgram of lead from the planet, we’d still have plenty of crime. So here’s a way to think about it. If you take a look at violent crime rates in America, you’d expect to see a sort of baseline level of crime. That level will depend on lots of things: poverty, drugs, guns, race, family structure, etc. But starting in the mid-60s, we saw an enormous rise in crime, well above any sensible sort of baseline. Then, in the 90s, we saw an equally enormous decline. (…) Most likely, the reason for this lies with all the usual suspects. But then … there’s the huge crime wave that lasted nearly 50 years from start to finish. That’s the part the lead hypothesis aims to explain. And the reason we need an explanation is simple: the usual suspects simply don’t seem to do a very good job of accounting for a gigantic, temporary rise and fall in violent crime rates. Within the criminology community, literally no one predicted the huge decline in crime that began in the early 90s. Their focus was on all the usual sociological causes, and they had no reason to think those were going to suddenly improve. And they were right. For the most part, they didn’t improve. It’s true that the crack epidemic of the 80s burned out, but no one really knows the underlying reason for that. Policing tactics changed in some places, but crime dropped everywhere, so that’s not a very compelling explanation either. Aside from that, poverty didn’t change much, and neither did race or guns or demographics or the number of broken familes or anything else. The truth is that there’s just not a good conventional explanation for both the huge rise and the huge fall in crime of the past half century. That’s one of the reasons the lead hypothesis deserves such serious consideration. Not only does it fit the data well and make sense based on what we know about the neurological effects of lead. It’s also just about the only good explanation we’ve got. Other factors are still important, and they probably explain rises and falls in the baseline rate of crime. But lead is the best explanation we have for the rest of it. Kevin Drum (Mother Jones)
The key factor is the demographic factor. Generally speaking, the people who go out and kill other people are males between the ages of 16 and 30. Samuel Huntington
Surprisingly, some sociologists think civilization is simply getting less violent and more civilized, Greenberg said. That theory was first proposed by German sociologist Norbert Elias in his book The Civilizing Process. Elias wrote that interpersonal violence had been in decline since the Middle Ages, a statement historians now accept. Elias said that for divine monarchs, like Louis XIV of France, their worth was more measured by their ability at witty badinage and manners than swordsmanship. This more civilized tendency spread to the European middle class and finally, in the nineteenth century, to the working classes. Joel N. Shurkin
At the deepest level, many of these shifts, taken together, suggest that crime in the United States is falling—even through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression—because of a big improvement in the culture. The cultural argument may strike some as vague, but writers have relied on it in the past to explain both the Great Depression’s fall in crime and the explosion of crime during the sixties. In the first period, on this view, people took self-control seriously; in the second, self-expression—at society’s cost—became more prevalent. It is a plausible case. Culture creates a problem for social scientists like me, however. We do not know how to study it in a way that produces hard numbers and testable theories. Culture is the realm of novelists and biographers, not of data-driven social scientists. But we can take some comfort, perhaps, in reflecting that identifying the likely causes of the crime decline is even more important than precisely measuring it. James Q. Wilson
Personal violent crime began declining in Western nations as early as the sixteenth century. While this research has emphasized violent crimes, similar processes may hold for crime more generally. Perhaps the rising crime rate from World War II through the early 1990s was simply a small spike that temporarily obscured a much longer downward trend. This long historical sweep may offer little solace to those confronted by crime today, but the encouraging long-term trend suggests explanations with deep roots. Eisner points to subtle shifts in parenting occurring over a long time span; Pinker suggests greater interdependence and broadened circles of people with whom we can empathize. Both draw on classic sociological work by Emile Durkheim and Norbert Elias, who attributed historical changes in crime and social disorder to changes in the relation between individuals and society. The centuries-long crime story is perhaps best explained by the gradual development of formal and informal social controls on our behavior. (…) U.S. homicide rates are more than double those of Canada, Japan, and much of Europe. Nevertheless, the U.S. crime picture has improved markedly, with significant across-the-board drops in violent and property offenses. Moreover, as Baumer points out, even behaviors like drinking, drug use, and risky sex are declining, especially among young people. We cannot explain such a sharp decline without reference to the social institutions, conditions, and practices shaping crime and its control. In particular, social scientists point to punishment, policing, opportunities, economics, demography, and history, though there is little consensus about the relative contribution of each. Further disentangling each factor’s unique contribution is a worthy endeavor, but it should not obscure a fundamental point: it is their entanglement in our social world that reduces crime.  (…) More than 90% of the “Part I” crimes reported to the police involve some kind of financial gain. The relationship between crime and the economy is more complicated than the simple idea that people “turn to crime” when times are tough, though. Contrary to popular expectations, for example, both victimizations and official crime showed especially steep declines from 2007 to 2009, when unemployment rates soared. Robbery, burglary, and household theft victimizations had been falling by a rate of about 4% per year from 1993-2006, but fell by an average of 6 to 7% per year during the Great Recession. This is not because crime is unrelated to economic conditions, but because crime is related to so many other things. For example, when people have less disposable income, they may spend more time in the relative safety of their home and less time in riskier places like bars. As noted above regarding opportunities, another reason crime rates are likely to drop when cash-strapped residents stay home at night in front of a television or computer screen is that their mere presence can help prevent burglary and theft. Chris Uggen and Suzy McElrath
[Dans] le cas de l’Estonie (…)  depuis 1995, les homicides ont chuté de 70 %, les vols de voitures de presque autant. Mais ce petit État postsoviétique n’est pas une exception. Dans les pays développés, la même tendance s’observe. Aux États-Unis, la chute a commencé en 1991 ; en Grande-Bretagne, autour de 1995. En France, la baisse date de 2001. Au Canada également ainsi que dans plusieurs pays d’Europe. (…) sur le cas américain, le plus impressionnant. La criminalité urbaine avait atteint des sommets au début des années 1990. Certains voyaient New York ou Los Angeles comme des jungles urbaines aux mains d’une faune de dealers, mafieux, proxénètes et squatters.
 Puis, contrairement aux prévisions, un véritable miracle s’est produit. La criminalité s’est mise à chuter à partir des années 1990. Globalement, elle a baissé d’un tiers dans les grandes villes, mais dans certains cas, elle a chuté de plus de 50 % ! À New York, le cas le plus spectaculaire, la criminalité a été divisée par quatre (- 78 %) entre le milieu des années 1990 et les années 2000. Sciences Humaines
Que vous soyez spécialiste de la question ou pas, vous avez sans doute déjà entendu cette théorie: quand les temps sont durs, la criminalité augmente. Pourtant, malgré une croissance économique stagnante et un chômage élevé, la criminalité a baissé dans la plupart des pays riches au cours de la dernière décennie. (…) Comment expliquer cette tendance générale qu’un rapide coup d’œil aux statistiques des Nations unies suffit à vérifier? Si la démographie est sans doute un facteur (la population vieillit, alors que ce sont les hommes de 16 ans à 24 ans qui commettent la plupart des crimes), The Economist souligne qu’elle ne peut pas expliquer à elle seule la baisse spectaculaire d’un certain type de criminalité dans des villes comme New York, Los Angeles ou Londres. D’autres hypothèses, comme l’augmentation du nombre de prisonniers, sont difficiles à prouver: si la population carcérale a doublé en Grande-Bretagne, en Australie et aux Etats-Unis, elle a diminué au Canada et aux Pays-Bas, pays qui ont aussi connu une baisse de la criminalité. (…) Le Guardian expliquait quand à lui en avril dernier que certains autres éléments concrets, comme de meilleurs antivols sur les voitures ou des portes et serrures plus résistantes rendaient les atteintes aux biens plus difficiles aujourd’hui. La technologie, qu’il s’agisse des tests d’ADN, de la localisation par téléphone portable ou des caméras de surveillance, a augmenté le risque de se faire prendre. Selon The Economist, l’explication la plus convaincante est plus simple encore. La police fait mieux son travail: « Une combinaison du fait que les policiers parlent aux habitants des quartiers où ils travaillent et du ciblage intensif des endroits mal famés a transformé la manière dont les rues sont protégées. » Si le poids de chaque facteur reste impossible à déterminer, la majorité des experts semblent aujourd’hui s’accorder sur un point: l’augmentation de la criminalité qui a eu lieu un peu partout entre les années 1950 et les années 1980 ressemble de plus en plus à une anomalie de l’histoire. Slate

Attention: une explication peut en cacher une autre !

A l’heure où, avec la France d’une gauche qui s’était une spécialité de le critiquer et une Amérique émasculée par son Carter noir, l’Europe semble enfin se décider à reprendre en Afrique le rôle plus que nécessaire de gendarme du monde

Et où, profitant d’une grève de la police et à l’instar des nouveaux barbares du sud et de l’est qui déferlent sur nos côtes et nos villes, les pillards mettent l’Argentine en coupe réglée …

Pendant que pour défendre leurs damnés de la terre, nos belles âmes de la culture de l’excuse continuent inlassablement à nous seriner avec l’accroissement des inégalités et la violence et le racisme de la répression policière …

Et que pour expliquer l’incroyable baisse de la criminalité (vols de voitures, cambriolages et atteintes aux personnes: homicides, coups et blessures) que connaissent actuellement les Etats-Unis (divisée par deux en une seule génération !) et tout particulièrement leur première ville (de  2 245 homicides en 1990 à  414 l’an dernier et… zéro le 26 novembre 2012 !),  la bible de la bonne conscience de gauche Mother Jones nous ressort l’argument de la baisse du plomb dans l’essence et les peintures …

Comment, derrière l’ensemble des hypothèses qui, du vieillissement de la population à l’amélioration des mesures de protection (alarmes et surveillance, puces électroniques antivol) et de l’action policière (doublement du taux d’incarcération; meilleure utilisation des forces de police: quadrillages ciblés, concentration sur « points chauds », contrôles systématiques) ont toutes à peu près été examinées et ont probablement plus ou moins contribué au résultat général …

Ne pas se réjouir de voir nos sociologues s’intéresser enfin à un phénomène originellement mis à jour par le sociologue allemand Norbert Elias

A savoir le « processus de civilisation », c’est-à-dire une sorte de domestication des pulsions qui vit dans les sociétés occidentales et à partir du XVIe siècle, sur fond de la centralisation des sociétés avec l’institution d’un monopole étatique central de la violence, l’intériorisation par les individus de normes sociétales progressivement plus civilisées ?

Mais, devant l’indéniable origine occidentale d’un phénomène désormais en voie de mondialisation accélérée, comment non plus ne pas s’étonner de l’aveuglement continué des mêmes sociologues …

Face à  l’origine, comme le rappelle inlassablement notre René Girard national, tout aussi indéniablement judéo-chrétienne du phénomène ?

Mais ce non seulement, comme l’a bien montré le sociologue Rodney Stark, au niveau de la pacification de la société par les idées et les adeptes du judéo-christianisme …

Mais aussi, en même temps de par la libération/dislocation des anciens cadres sociétaux qu’il permet/provoque, au niveau même du déclenchement de la crise généralisée que connaissent actuellement nos sociétés occidentales et par contagion désormais la planète entière ?

D’où aussi, comme semblent l’oublier tant les apologistes du christianisme que nos pour le coup bien trop optimistes sociologues et en attestent les récents épisodes d’extrême brutalisation de deux guerres mondiales et plusieurs génocides comme les pages (plus besoin pour cela des textes apocalyptiques de nos bibles) de nos journaux quotidiennement …

Son hélas inévitable pendant, à savoir tant l’extrême fragilité de ladite pacification que la possibilité proprement apocalyptique de son issue finale …

Mystery Of New York’s Falling Crime Rate Remains Unsolved

Are we just becoming more civilized?

Joel N. Shurkin

Inside Science News Service

Feb 13 2013

(ISNS) — In the last 15 years, something dramatic has happened in New York City: the crime rate has dropped precipitously, making the city — where crime once was of epic proportions — the safest major city in America.

How that happened is a matter of considerable controversy, with popular theories ranging from fiercer policing, to abortion, lead paint, and computer-assisted crime prevention programs.

David Greenberg, a sociologist at New York University, believes none of the theories stand up on their own. It could be all or none of the above, he said.

It could also be that Western civilization is just becoming more civilized and less violent, and it is finally showing up in the statistics, even with recent mass shootings in the United States.

Crime rates have fallen in most of the Western world as well as most American cities, but what has happened in New York City, with a population of 8 million, is extraordinary. The rate of violent crime began to decrease in the 1980s, before jumping in the 1990s when crack cocaine made it to the streets in many cities. Then it sank and has continued to do so.

In 1990, there were 2,245 murders in the city. Last year the number was 414, the lowest since police began keeping reliable records.

In one remarkable day, Nov. 26, 2012, there was not a single murder, stabbing or shooting reported in the nation’s largest city, possibly the only time that happened since New York was a small Dutch colony.

« The analysis for homicide showed that rates dropped in every precinct although more in some than in others, » Greenberg wrote in an article published in Justice Quarterly about the current trend. The same is true for other violent crimes, including robberies and assaults.

Greenberg said experts typically offer two common explanations. One is that in 1994 the New York Police Department installed CompStat, a computer program that tracks crime and allows police departments to manage personnel better. Another is the « broken windows » theory: police rigidly enforce misdemeanor crimes in an attempt to change the culture. Essentially, the police department believed that cracking down on offenses from prostitution to begging and excessive noise could help suppress felony crime. Either way, the NYPD takes credit.

For CompStat, the crime rate had already begun dropping when the software was installed. Greenberg also failed to find a causal relationship between an increase in misdemeanor charges and the overall crime rate.

Other theories also have been proposed. Steven Levitt and Steven Dubner, in the book « Freakonomics, » proposed the increase in legal abortions was a factor. There were fewer young males, the demographic sector most responsible for crime. Malcolm Gladwell, in the book « The Tipping Point, » said the increased police activity was just the last factor that ended an epidemic already ebbing. Both theories are highly controversial.

Another theory credits removal of lead from gasoline and paint. Lead causes brain damage and could account for some criminal activity so when lead was removed from gasoline and paint, fewer children were affected.

Greenberg said the evidence to support all those theories is weak.

So what is the answer?

Surprisingly, some sociologists think civilization is simply getting less violent and more civilized, Greenberg said.

That theory was first proposed by German sociologist Norbert Elias in his book The Civilizing Process. Elias wrote that interpersonal violence had been in decline since the Middle Ages, a statement historians now accept.

Elias said that for divine monarchs, like Louis XIV of France, their worth was more measured by their ability at witty badinage and manners than swordsmanship. This more civilized tendency spread to the European middle class and finally, in the nineteenth century, to the working classes.

The decrease also could be partly due to immigration to the city, an influx of people who may be particularly motivated to avoid legal trouble, especially if they are undocumented or because they are determined to make good lives for themselves, Greenberg said.

Then what caused the decline?

« I don’t know, » Greenberg said.

Andrew Karmen, a sociologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York agreed.

« People and organizations claimed credit and think they know the reason for the crime drop, but the evidence is insufficient, » Karmen said.

Crime also went down across America and in Europe where no one followed the NYPD tactics, said Karmen, who wrote a book on the subject,  » New York Murder Mystery: The True Story Behind the Crime Crash of the 1990s. »

Karmen agrees that the flow of immigration could be one reason, with the city’s population « refreshing » regularly. Another possibility, frequently ignored, is that New York is a college town. The City University of New York system alone enrolls 250,000 undergraduates and they are a substantial—and generally peaceful—portion of the young population.

Karmen said solving the mystery is important.

« If we don’t know why the crime rate went down, we won’t know what to do when it goes back up, » Karmen said.

Joel Shurkin is a freelance writer based in Baltimore. He is the author of nine books on science and the history of science, and has taught science journalism at Stanford University, UC Santa Cruz and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Voir aussi:

Hard Times, Fewer Crimes

The economic downturn has not led to more crime—contrary to the experts’ predictions. So what explains the disconnect? Big changes in American culture, says James Q. Wilson.

James Q. Wilson

The Wall Street Journal

May 28, 2011

When the FBI announced last week that violent crime in the U.S. had reached a 40-year low in 2010, many criminologists were perplexed. It had been a dismal year economically, and the standard view in the field, echoed for decades by the media, is that unemployment and poverty are strongly linked to crime. The argument is straightforward: When less legal work is available, more illegal « work » takes place.

The economist Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, a Nobel laureate, gave the standard view its classic formulation in the 1960s. He argued that crime is a rational act, committed when the criminal’s « expected utility » exceeds that of using his time and other resources in pursuit of alternative activities, such as leisure or legitimate work. Observation may appear to bear this theory out. After all, neighborhoods with elevated crime rates tend to be those where poverty and unemployment are high as well.

But there have long been difficulties with the notion that unemployment causes crime. For one thing, the 1960s, a period of rising crime, had essentially the same unemployment rate as the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period when crime fell. And during the Great Depression, when unemployment hit 25%, the crime rate in many cities went down. Among the explanations offered for this puzzle is that unemployment and poverty were so common during the Great Depression that families became closer, devoted themselves to mutual support, and kept young people, who might be more inclined to criminal behavior, under constant adult supervision. These days, because many families are weaker and children are more independent, we would not see the same effect, so certain criminologists continue to suggest that a 1% increase in the unemployment rate should produce as much as a 2% increase in property-crime rates.

Yet when the recent recession struck, that didn’t happen. As the national unemployment rate doubled from around 5% to nearly 10%, the property-crime rate, far from spiking, fell significantly. For 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported an 8% drop in the nationwide robbery rate and a 17% reduction in the auto-theft rate from the previous year. Big-city reports show the same thing. Between 2008 and 2010, New York City experienced a 4% decline in the robbery rate and a 10% fall in the burglary rate. Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles witnessed similar declines.

Some scholars argue that the unemployment rate is too crude a measure of economic frustration to prove the connection between unemployment and crime, since it estimates only the percentage of the labor force that is looking for work and hasn’t found it. But other economic indicators tell much the same story. The labor-force participation rate lets us determine the percentage of the labor force that is neither working nor looking for work—individuals who are, in effect, detached from the labor force. These people should be especially vulnerable to criminal inclinations, if the bad-economy-leads-to-crime theory holds. In 2008, though, even as crime was falling, only about half of men aged 16 to 24 (who are disproportionately likely to commit crimes) were in the labor force, down from over two-thirds in 1988, and a comparable decline took place among African-American men (who are also disproportionately likely to commit crimes).

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index offers another way to assess the link between the economy and crime. This measure rests on thousands of interviews asking people how their financial situations have changed over the last year, how they think the economy will do during the next year, and about their plans for buying durable goods. The index measures the way people feel, rather than the objective conditions they face. It has proved to be a very good predictor of stock-market behavior and, for a while, of the crime rate, which tended to climb when people lost confidence. When the index collapsed in 2009 and 2010, the stock market predictably went down with it—but this time, the crime rate went down, too.

So we have little reason to ascribe the recent crime decline to jobs, the labor market or consumer sentiment. The question remains: Why is the crime rate falling?

One obvious answer is that many more people are in prison than in the past. Experts differ on the size of the effect, but I think that William Spelman and Steven Levitt have it about right in believing that greater incarceration can explain about one-quarter or more of the crime decline. Yes, many thoughtful observers think that we put too many offenders in prison for too long. For some criminals, such as low-level drug dealers and former inmates returned to prison for parole violations, that may be so. But it’s true nevertheless that when prisoners are kept off the street, they can attack only one another, not you or your family.

Imprisonment’s crime-reduction effect helps to explain why the burglary, car-theft and robbery rates are lower in the U.S. than in England. The difference results not from the willingness to send convicted offenders to prison, which is about the same in both countries, but in how long America keeps them behind bars. For the same offense, you will spend more time in prison here than in England. Still, prison can’t be the sole reason for the recent crime drop in this country: Canada has seen roughly the same decline in crime, but its imprisonment rate has been relatively flat for at least two decades.

Another possible reason for reduced crime is that potential victims may have become better at protecting themselves by equipping their homes with burglar alarms, putting extra locks on their cars and moving into safer buildings or even safer neighborhoods. We have only the faintest idea, however, about how common these trends are or what effects on crime they may have.

Policing has become more disciplined over the last two decades; these days, it tends to be driven by the desire to reduce crime, rather than simply to maximize arrests, and that shift has reduced crime rates. One of the most important innovations is what has been called hot-spot policing. The great majority of crimes tend to occur in the same places. Put active police resources in those areas instead of telling officers to drive around waiting for 911 calls, and you can bring down crime. The hot-spot idea helped to increase the effectiveness of the New York Police Department’s Compstat program, which uses computerized maps to pinpoint where crime is taking place and enables police chiefs to hold precinct captains responsible for targeting those areas.

Researchers continue to test and refine hot-spot policing. After analyzing data from over 7,000 police arrivals at various locations in Minneapolis, the criminologists Lawrence Sherman and David Weisburd showed that for every minute an officer spent at a spot, the length of time without a crime there after the officer departed went up—until the officer had been gone for more than 15 minutes. After that, the crime rate went up. The police can make the best use of their time by staying at a hot spot for a while, moving on, and returning after 15 minutes.

Some cities now use a computer-based system for mapping traffic accidents and crime rates. They have noticed that the two measures tend to coincide: Where there are more accidents, there is more crime. In Shawnee, Kan., the police spent a lot more time in the 4% of the city where one-third of the crime occurred: Burglaries fell there by 60% (even though in the city as a whole they fell by only 8%), and traffic accidents went down by 17%.

There may also be a medical reason for the decline in crime. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline. At the same time, lead in paint was banned for any new home (though old buildings still have lead paint, which children can absorb).

Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans’ blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future. Another economist, Rick Nevin, has made the same argument for other nations.

Another shift that has probably helped to bring down crime is the decrease in heavy cocaine use in many states. Measuring cocaine use is no easy matter; one has to infer it from interviews or from hospital-admission rates. Between 1992 and 2009, the number of admissions for cocaine or crack use fell by nearly two-thirds. In 1999, 9.8% of 12th-grade students said that they had tried cocaine; by 2010, that figure had fallen to 5.5%.

What we really need to know, though, is not how many people tried coke but how many are heavy users. Casual users who regard coke as a party drug are probably less likely to commit serious crimes than heavy users who may resort to theft and violence to feed their craving. But a study by Jonathan Caulkins at Carnegie Mellon University found that the total demand for cocaine dropped between 1988 and 2010, with a sharp decline among both light and heavy users.

Blacks still constitute the core of America’s crime problem. But the African-American crime rate, too, has been falling, probably because of the same non-economic factors behind falling crime in general: imprisonment, policing, environmental changes and less cocaine abuse.

Knowing the exact crime rate of any ethnic or racial group isn’t easy, since most crimes don’t result in arrest or conviction, and those that do may be an unrepresentative fraction of all crimes. Nevertheless, we do know the racial characteristics of those who have been arrested for crimes, and they show that the number of blacks arrested has been falling. Barry Latzer of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice has demonstrated that between 1980 and 2005, arrests of blacks for homicide and other violent crimes fell by about half nationwide.

It’s also suggestive that in the five New York City precincts where the population is at least 80% black, the murder rate fell by 78% between 1990 and 2000. In the black neighborhoods of Chicago, burglary fell by 52%, robbery by 62%, and homicide by 33% between 1991 and 2003. A skeptic might retort that all these seeming gains were merely the result of police officers’ giving up and no longer recording crimes in black neighborhoods. But opinion surveys in Chicago show that, among blacks, fear of crime was cut in half during the same period.

One can cite further evidence of a turnaround in black crime. Researchers at the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that in 1980, arrests of young blacks outnumbered arrests of whites more than six to one. By 2002, the gap had been closed to just under four to one.

Drug use among blacks has changed even more dramatically than it has among the population as a whole. As Mr. Latzer points out—and his argument is confirmed by a study by Bruce D. Johnson, Andrew Golub and Eloise Dunlap—among 13,000 people arrested in Manhattan between 1987 and 1997, a disproportionate number of whom were black, those born between 1948 and 1969 were heavily involved with crack cocaine, but those born after 1969 used very little crack and instead smoked marijuana.

The reason was simple: The younger African-Americans had known many people who used crack and other hard drugs and wound up in prisons, hospitals and morgues. The risks of using marijuana were far less serious. This shift in drug use, if the New York City experience is borne out in other locations, can help to explain the fall in black inner-city crime rates after the early 1990s.

John Donohue and Steven Levitt have advanced an additional explanation for the reduction in black crime: the legalization of abortion, which resulted in black children’s never being born into circumstances that would have made them likelier to become criminals. I have ignored that explanation because it remains a strongly contested finding, challenged by two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and by various academics.

At the deepest level, many of these shifts, taken together, suggest that crime in the United States is falling—even through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression—because of a big improvement in the culture. The cultural argument may strike some as vague, but writers have relied on it in the past to explain both the Great Depression’s fall in crime and the explosion of crime during the sixties. In the first period, on this view, people took self-control seriously; in the second, self-expression—at society’s cost—became more prevalent. It is a plausible case.

Culture creates a problem for social scientists like me, however. We do not know how to study it in a way that produces hard numbers and testable theories. Culture is the realm of novelists and biographers, not of data-driven social scientists. But we can take some comfort, perhaps, in reflecting that identifying the likely causes of the crime decline is even more important than precisely measuring it.

—Mr. Wilson is a senior fellow at the Clough Center at Boston College and taught previously at Harvard, UCLA and Pepperdine. His many books include « The Moral Sense, » « Bureaucracy, » and « Thinking About Crime. » This essay is adapted from the forthcoming issue of City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute.

Voir également:

Six Social Sources of the U.S. Crime Drop

Chris Uggen and Suzy McElrath

The Society pages

Feb 4, 2013

Chris Uggen

Chris Uggen is a sociologist and criminologist at the University of Minnesota. He believes that good science can light the way to a more just and safer world. He is co-editor of The Society Pages.

Suzy

Suzy McElrath is in the sociology program at the University of Minnesota. She studies the sociology of law and criminology, with a focus on mass atrocity, transitional justice, collective memory, and gender violence.

Each year, when the federal government releases new crime statistics, reporters seek out crime experts to help interpret the numbers. But following three decades of climbing crime rates, the downward trend of the past two decades has left even the experts searching for answers. Crime dropped under Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and when Republicans like George W. Bush were in charge. Crime dropped during times of peace and times of war, in the boom times of the late 1990s and in the Great Recession era from 2007 to 2009. In recent years, both criminologists and the public have been baffled by the improving crime situation—especially when many other social indicators looked so bleak.

But social scientists are starting to make sense of the big U.S. crime drop. At least among many of the “street” crimes reported by police and victims, today’s crime rate is roughly half what it was just two decades ago. This isn’t because people are twice as nice. Rather, the reasons behind the crime drop involve everything from an aging population to better policing to the rising ubiquity of cell phones. There’s no single “smoking gun” that can account for the drop: both formal social controls, such as police and prisons, and broader shifts in the population and economy play a part. That is, the main drivers are all social. Crime is less likely these days because of incremental changes in our social lives and interaction with others, including shifts in our institutions, technologies, and cultural practices. Before unpacking these social sources of the crime drop, we need to look a little more closely at its timing and variation across offenses, from auto theft to murder.

Dropping Like a Stone

It might not feel as though the United States is appreciably safer, but both violent and property crimes have dropped steadily and substantially for nearly twenty years. Whether looking to “official” crime (reported to the police) or victimization surveys, the story is the same—both violent and property crimes have dropped like a stone. While crime rose throughout much of the 1960s and ‘70s, most of today’s college freshmen have not experienced a significant rise in the crime rate over the course of their lives.

For all the talk about crime rates (technically, the number of offenses divided by the number of people or households in a given place and time to adjust for population changes), we only have good information about trends for a limited set of offenses—street crimes like murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, auto theft, and arson. Criminologists generally look to two sources of data to measure these crimes, the “official statistics” reported to the police and compiled as “Part I” offenses in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and reports from crime victims in the large-scale annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The official statistics are invaluable for understanding changes over time, because the reports have been consistently collected from almost every U.S. jurisdiction over several decades. The victimization data are also invaluable, because they help account for the “dark figure” of crime—offenses that go unreported to the police and are thus missing from the official statistics. Although both speak to the wellbeing of citizens and their sense of public safety, they do not necessarily show us the whole crime picture (they omit, for example, most white-collar crime and corporate malfeasance). Nevertheless, when victimization data tell the same story as police statistics, criminologists are generally confident that the trend is real rather than a “blip” or a mirage.

First, let’s look at the “Part I” crime rate according to the official FBI statistics. Property crimes like burglary and theft are much more common than violent crimes such as rape and robbery (as shown by the larger numbers on the left axis relative to the right axis). Both were clearly rising from the 1960s to about 1980. After some fluctuation in the 1970s and ‘80s, both rates of reported violence and property crime fell precipitously in 1991. Since then, official statistics show drops of about 49% and 43%, respectively. The sustained drop-off looks even more remarkable when compared to the earlier climb. Official 2011 statistics show offense rates on par with levels last seen in the 1960s for property crimes and in the early ‘70s for violent crime.

The federal government began taking victimization surveys from a nationally representative sample of households in the 1970s. The victimization picture is clouded by recall errors and other survey methodology challenges, but it’s less distorted by unreported crime than the official statistics. Because the survey was re-designed in 1992, we show only the trend in property and violent victimizations from 1993 onward.

Like the official statistics, the victimization data also show a broad-based and long-term crime decline, though there is some evidence of a slight uptick by 2011. There is a drop in violent victimizations through 2009 and a drop in property victimizations through 2010 (apart from a slight rise in 2006 that followed a change in survey methodology). Over this time, violent victimizations fell by 55% (from approximately 50 per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 1993 to 23 per 1,000 in 2011). Property crimes fell by 57% (from 319 per 1,000 households in 1993 to 139 per 1,000 households in 2011). In both cases, the victim data suggest that the crime drop may be even larger than that suggested by the official statistics.

It isn’t just one type of crime that fell. All seven of the “Part I” offenses reported in the police statistics and the closest corresponding victimization offenses declined by at least 35% from 1993 to 2011. Although the specific offense categories are not directly comparable, similar types of crimes dropped in both the official statistics and the victimization data. For example, the steepest drops occurred for motor vehicle theft, which fell by 62% in official statistics and 74% in the victimization data. Taken together, this provides firm evidence that the crime drop is real, long-lasting, and broad in scope.

Six Social Sources

The big crime drop implies that either fewer people are participating in crime or that those who do participate are committing crime less frequently. But a society’s rate of crime is not a simple aggregation of the number of “crime-prone” individuals with particular psychological or biological characteristics. Under the right or, more precisely, the wrong social conditions, we are all prone to commit criminal acts. Communities therefore attempt to organize social life in ways that make crime less likely. While we often associate crime with institutions such as the police or courts, anything that alters patterns of human interaction can drive the crime rate up or down. This includes the technology in our cars, the places we go for entertainment, and the medical advances affecting reproduction and aging.

The idea that crime is social rather than individual is a prominent theme in much of the best new research. The crime drop partly reflects the work of institutions that are explicitly designed to increase social control, but it also reflects changes in other institutions designed to perform different societal functions.

Scholars have yet to neatly partition the unique contribution of the six social sources of the crime drop, but we can summarize current thinking about their likely impact.

Formal Social Control and Criminal Opportunities

Punishment

Punishment. No discussion of recent U.S. crime trends would be complete without considering our nation’s prison population, which increased from 241,000 in 1975 to 773,000 in 1990 to over 1.6 million in 2010. Because incarceration rose so rapidly, it is tempting to attribute the lion’s share of the crime drop to the incapacitating effects of prison. But if this were the case, as law professor Franklin Zimring points out, we should have seen an earlier crime drop (when incarceration first boomed in the 1970s). Instead, since crime is closely tied to the demography of the life course, new cohorts of potential offenders are always replacing those removed via incarceration. Moreover, many criminologists believe that prisons are actually criminogenic in the long-run, strengthening criminal ties and disrupting non-criminal opportunities when inmates are released.

In one of the most sophisticated studies of the effect of imprisonment on crime, sociologist Bruce Western estimates that roughly nine-tenths of the crime drop during the 1990s would have occurred without any changes in imprisonment. Economist Steven Levitt attributes up to one-third of the total decline to incarceration. Rising rates of imprisonment thus account for at least some of the crime drop in the 1990s and 2000s, with scholars attributing anywhere from 10 to 30% of the decline to America’s incarceration boom.

Policing

Policing. Both public and private policing strategies have changed considerably over the past several decades, as have the technologies available to law enforcement. Zimring and others conclude that “cops matter,” especially in explaining New York City’s crime decline. More specifically, criminologists David Weisburd and Cody Telep identify targeted policing of high-crime “hot spots,” gun crimes, and high-rate offenders, as well as proactive problem-oriented policing and the use of DNA evidence as police practices that reduce crime. In contrast, they find little evidence for the effectiveness of policing tactics like random preventive patrol, follow-up visits in domestic violence cases, and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (the DARE program).

While Levitt is skeptical about the role of new policing strategies, he attributes a portion of the 1990s crime drop to increases in the number of officers on the street. Because of the criminogenic effects of prison, scholars such as economist Steven Durlauf and criminologist Daniel Nagin propose shifting a greater share of criminal justice funding in policing. Effective law enforcement is part of the picture, says criminologist John MacDonald, but he also argues that public-private security partnerships such as targeted “business improvement districts” have helped to sustain the decline. The unique contribution of policing to the current crime drop is likely significant, but limited—accounting for perhaps 10 to 20% of the overall decline. Moreover, the effectiveness of the formal social controls provided by police depends, in large part, on support from informal social controls provided by families and communities.

Opportunities

Opportunities. Apart from changes in prisons and policing, the opportunities for crime have changed rapidly and dramatically since the 1990s. Technology isn’t an obvious social source of the crime drop, but people have been connecting in fundamentally different ways in the past two decades, altering the risks and rewards of criminal behavior. When it comes to “target hardening” (crime prevention through environmental design), simple changes can make an enormous difference. Recall that the biggest drop among all crime categories was in auto theft—in the United States and around the world, new technologies like car immobilizers, alarms, and central locking and tracking devices have effectively reduced this crime.

More generally, surveillance provides guardianship over ourselves and our property. It may even deter others from acting against us. With regard to a now-common technology, economists Jonathan Klick and Thomas Stratmann and criminologist John MacDonald point to the amazing proliferation of cell phones. They argue that cells increase surveillance and a would-be offender’s risk of apprehension, which affects the perceived costs of crime. Many potential victims now have easy access to a camera and are within a few finger-swipes of a call to 9-1-1. In a follow-up interview with the authors about his research, MacDonald said that the crime drop is “driven in part by target hardening, in part by consumer technological shifts, and in part by the movement of people’s nighttime activities back to the house.” In sum, where we spend our time and who is watching us likely plays a big role in the recent crime decline.

Of course, efforts to constrain criminal opportunities can also constrain non-criminal activities—and while most of us welcome the declining crime rates that accompany greater surveillance, we are far more ambivalent about being watched ourselves. As criminologist Eric Baumer explained to the authors, “not only are we spending more time off the streets and on a computer, but we are being watched or otherwise connected to some form of ‘social control’ pretty constantly when we are out and about.” It is difficult to quantify how myriad small changes in criminal opportunities affected the crime drop, but their combined contribution may be on a par with that of formal policing or prisons.

Social Trends and Institutional Change

Economics

Economics. More than 90% of the “Part I” crimes reported to the police involve some kind of financial gain. The relationship between crime and the economy is more complicated than the simple idea that people “turn to crime” when times are tough, though. Contrary to popular expectations, for example, both victimizations and official crime showed especially steep declines from 2007 to 2009, when unemployment rates soared. Robbery, burglary, and household theft victimizations had been falling by a rate of about 4% per year from 1993-2006, but fell by an average of 6 to 7% per year during the Great Recession.

This is not because crime is unrelated to economic conditions, but because crime is related to so many other things. For example, when people have less disposable income, they may spend more time in the relative safety of their home and less time in riskier places like bars. As noted above regarding opportunities, another reason crime rates are likely to drop when cash-strapped residents stay home at night in front of a television or computer screen is that their mere presence can help prevent burglary and theft.

Criminologists Richard Rosenfeld and Robert Fornango suggest that consumer confidence and the perception of economic hardship may account for as much as one-third of the recent reduction in robbery and property crime. Nevertheless, while economic recessions and consumer sentiment are likely to play some role, they cannot account for the long and steady declines shown in the charts above—boom or bust, crime rates have been dropping for twenty years. For this reason, most criminologists attribute only a small share of the crime drop to economic conditions.

Demography

Demography. Crime, it seems, is largely a young man’s game. For most offenses, crime and arrests peak in the late teen years and early twenties, declining quickly thereafter. During the 1960s and 1970s, the large number of teens and young adults in the Baby Boom cohort drove crime rates higher. In societies that are growing older, such as the contemporary United States, there are simply fewer of the young men who make up the majority of criminal offenders and victims. Due to these life course processes, the age and gender composition of a society is an underlying factor that structures its rate of crime.

An influx of new immigrants might also be contributing to lower crime rates. According to research by sociologist Robert Sampson and his colleagues, immigration can be “protective” against crime, with first-generation immigrants being significantly less likely to commit violence than third-generation Americans, after adjusting for personal and neighborhood characteristics.

While criminologists estimate that demographic changes can account for perhaps 10% of the recent crime drop, these factors are changing too slowly to explain why crime was essentially halved within the course of a single generation.

Social Dynamics

Longer-term Social Dynamics. Drawing back the historical curtain on U.S. crime rates puts the recent drop in perspective. So argued historian Eric Monkkonen, who showed that the urban homicide rates of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were on a par with the “peak” rates observed in the early 1990s. In fact, historical evidence amassed by scholars including psychologist Steven Pinker and historical criminologist Manuel Eisner convincingly shows that personal violent crime began declining in Western nations as early as the sixteenth century. While this research has emphasized violent crimes, similar processes may hold for crime more generally. Perhaps the rising crime rate from World War II through the early 1990s was simply a small spike that temporarily obscured a much longer downward trend.

This long historical sweep may offer little solace to those confronted by crime today, but the encouraging long-term trend suggests explanations with deep roots. Eisner points to subtle shifts in parenting occurring over a long time span; Pinker suggests greater interdependence and broadened circles of people with whom we can empathize. Both draw on classic sociological work by Emile Durkheim and Norbert Elias, who attributed historical changes in crime and social disorder to changes in the relation between individuals and society. The centuries-long crime story is perhaps best explained by the gradual development of formal and informal social controls on our behavior. In this light, Baumer argues that we should at least think more expansively about the contemporary crime drop. We cannot say for certain where the crime rate will be in five years, but if we had to bet where the crime rate would be in one hundred years, we could be reasonably confident it’d be measurably lower than it is today.

Room for Improvement

Criminologists almost universally acknowledge a sizeable crime drop over the last twenty years. This does not mean that everyone’s neighborhood became safer or that crime in the United States is low relative to other industrialized nations. In fact, U.S. homicide rates are more than double those of Canada, Japan, and much of Europe. Nevertheless, the U.S. crime picture has improved markedly, with significant across-the-board drops in violent and property offenses. Moreover, as Baumer points out, even behaviors like drinking, drug use, and risky sex are declining, especially among young people.

We cannot explain such a sharp decline without reference to the social institutions, conditions, and practices shaping crime and its control. In particular, social scientists point to punishment, policing, opportunities, economics, demography, and history, though there is little consensus about the relative contribution of each. Further disentangling each factor’s unique contribution is a worthy endeavor, but it should not obscure a fundamental point: it is their entanglement in our social world that reduces crime.

Recommended Reading

Eric P. Baumer and Kevin Wolff. Forthcoming. “Evaluating the Contemporary Crime Drop(s) in America, New York City, and Many Other Places,” Justice Quarterly. An up-to-the-minute appraisal of explanations for local, national, and global crime trends.

Manuel Eisner. 2003. “Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime,” Crime and Justice. A rich treatment of the decline in European homicide rates from the 16th to 20th centuries.

Steven D. Levitt. 2004. “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not,” Journal of Economic Perspectives. A systematic appraisal of explanations for the crime decline by the renowned economist and Freakonomics author.

Eric H. Monkkonen. 2002. “Homicide in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago,” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. A careful historical examination of homicide in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Franklin E. Zimring. 2007. The Great American Crime Decline. A well-written and thoroughgoing account of the U.S. crime drop.

- See more at: http://thesocietypages.org/papers/crime-drop/#sthash.craHnp8m.dpuf

Voir encore:

America’s falling crime rate

Good news is no news

Americans are committing fewer crimes, though nobody seems to know quite why

Jun 2nd 2011

INTUITIVE theories are often easier to believe in than to prove. For instance: conventional wisdom says that the crime rate should rise during a recession. When people are out of work and out of money, the thinking goes, they turn to crime. But the evidence backing this theory is at best equivocal. There seem to be some links between crime and economic conditions, but they are neither as direct nor clear as one might assume. Crime rose during the Roaring Twenties then fell in the Depression. America’s economy expanded and crime rates rose in the 1960s. Rates fell throughout the 1990s, when America’s economy was healthy, but they kept falling during the recession in the early 2000s (see chart).

And during the current downturn, the unemployment rate rose as the crime rate fell. Between 2008 and 2009 violent crime fell by 5.3% and property crime by 4.6%; between 2009 and 2010, according to the preliminary Uniform Crime Report released by the FBI on May 23rd, violent crime fell by another 5.5% and property crime by 2.8%. Robberies—precisely the crime one might expect to rise during tough economic times—fell by 9.5% between 2009 to 2010. The decline in violent crimes was sharpest in small towns, where the rate dropped by more than 25%, and among regions sharpest in the South, which saw a 7.5% decline. Only two cities with more than 1m people—San Antonio and New York—saw their crime rates rise. And some perspective is warranted there: in 1991 around 2,200 people were murdered in New York. Last year just 536 were. Overall, America’s violent-crime rate is at its lowest level in around 40 years, and its murder rate at its lowest in almost 50.

According to the social scientists, this was not supposed to happen. In 1995 James Wilson, who came up with the “broken windows” theory of crime prevention widely credited with making New York safer, warned that by 2000 there would be “30,000 more young muggers, killers and thieves than we have now. Get ready.” One year later John DiLulio, another political scientist who studies crime, warned of a wave of “juvenile super-predators” wreaking havoc by 2010. Yet even as they wrote, the violent-crime rate had already begun to fall. Except for a bit of a rise from 2004 to 2006, it has fallen every year since 1991.

Although nobody predicted the striking decline in crime during the 1990s, in hindsight theories explaining it abound. Some give credit to smarter police tactics: particularly quantitative methods and “broken windows” policing. Others point to the increased availability of legal abortion in the 1970s, resulting in fewer children born to teenage, unwed and poor mothers: precisely the sorts of children who commit crimes at high rates during adolescence. There is also the waning of violence associated with the crack market, and the increased incarceration rate, which keeps more criminals off the street for longer (though at tremendous cost).

Although these factors explain the drop since the late 1980s, they do not explain the sharp drop in the past two years. For that Al Blumstein, a criminologist who heads the National Consortium on Violence Research, posits an “Obama effect”, in which the election of America’s first black president inspires a significant number of young black men away from violence. And indeed between 2008 and 2009, the numbers of blacks arrested for murder and robbery each declined by over 2%, though this theory has more narrative than evidentiary appeal.

Another theory concerns lead. Exposure to lead in childhood has been linked to aggression and criminal behaviour in adults. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, an economist at Amherst College, argues that the decline in American children’s exposure to lead since it was phased out of gasoline in the 1970s and removed almost entirely by 1985, accounts for much of the decline in violent crime in the 1990s. It may account for even more, as more of America’s unleaded children enter adolescence and their early 20s. And then there are those perennial bogeymen, video games and the internet, affordable forms of entertainment that keep people inside, and away from real crime and drugs.

Voir de même:

America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead

New research finds Pb is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing.

Kevin Drum

Mother Jones

Jan. 3, 2013

When Rudy Giuliani ran for mayor of New York City in 1993, he campaigned on a platform of bringing down crime and making the city safe again. It was a comfortable position for a former federal prosecutor with a tough-guy image, but it was more than mere posturing. Since 1960, rape rates had nearly quadrupled, murder had quintupled, and robbery had grown fourteenfold. New Yorkers felt like they lived in a city under siege.

Throughout the campaign, Giuliani embraced a theory of crime fighting called « broken windows, » popularized a decade earlier by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an influential article in The Atlantic. [8] « If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, » they observed, « all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. » So too, tolerance of small crimes would create a vicious cycle ending with entire neighborhoods turning into war zones. But if you cracked down on small crimes, bigger crimes would drop as well.

Giuliani won the election, and he made good on his crime-fighting promises by selecting Boston police chief Bill Bratton as the NYPD’s new commissioner. Bratton had made his reputation as head of the New York City Transit Police, where he aggressively applied broken-windows policing to turnstile jumpers and vagrants in subway stations. With Giuliani’s eager support, he began applying the same lessons to the entire city, going after panhandlers, drunks, drug pushers, and the city’s hated squeegee men. And more: He decentralized police operations and gave precinct commanders more control, keeping them accountable with a pioneering system called CompStat that tracked crime hot spots in real time.

The results were dramatic. In 1996, the New York Times reported [9] that crime had plunged for the third straight year, the sharpest drop since the end of Prohibition. Since 1993, rape rates had dropped 17 percent, assault 27 percent, robbery 42 percent, and murder an astonishing 49 percent. Giuliani was on his way to becoming America’s Mayor and Bratton was on the cover of Time. It was a remarkable public policy victory.

But even more remarkable is what happened next. Shortly after Bratton’s star turn, political scientist John DiIulio warned that the echo of the baby boom would soon produce a demographic bulge of millions of young males that he famously dubbed « juvenile super-predators [10]. » Other criminologists nodded along. But even though the demographic bulge came right on schedule, crime continued to drop. And drop. And drop. By 2010, violent crime rates in New York City had plunged 75 percent from their peak in the early ’90s.

All in all, it seemed to be a story with a happy ending, a triumph for Wilson and Kelling’s theory and Giuliani and Bratton’s practice. And yet, doubts remained. For one thing, violent crime actually peaked in New York City in 1990, four years before the Giuliani-Bratton era. By the time they took office, it had already dropped 12 percent.

The PB Effect

What happens when you expose a generation of kids to high lead levels? Crime and teen pregnancy data two decades later tell a startling story.

Second, and far more puzzling, it’s not just New York that has seen a big drop in crime. In city after city, violent crime peaked in the early ’90s and then began a steady and spectacular decline. Washington, DC, didn’t have either Giuliani or Bratton, but its violent crime rate has dropped 58 percent since its peak. Dallas’ has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los Angeles: 78 percent.

There must be more going on here than just a change in policing tactics in one city. But what?

There are, it turns out, plenty of theories. When I started research for this story, I worked my way through a pair of thick [11] criminology tomes [12]. One chapter regaled me with the « exciting possibility » that it’s mostly a matter of economics: Crime goes down when the economy is booming and goes up when it’s in a slump. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t seem to hold water—for example, crime rates have continued to drop recently despite our prolonged downturn.

Another chapter suggested that crime drops in big cities were mostly a reflection of the crack epidemic of the ’80s finally burning itself out. A trio of authors identified three major « drug eras » in New York City, the first dominated by heroin, which produced limited violence, and the second by crack, which generated spectacular levels of it. In the early ’90s, these researchers proposed, the children of CrackGen switched to marijuana, choosing a less violent and more law-abiding lifestyle. As they did, crime rates in New York and other cities went down.

Another chapter told a story of demographics: As the number of young men increases, so does crime. Unfortunately for this theory, the number of young men increased during the ’90s, but crime dropped anyway.

There were chapters in my tomes on the effect of prison expansion. On guns and gun control. On family. On race. On parole and probation. On the raw number of police officers. It seemed as if everyone had a pet theory. In 1999, economist Steven Levitt, later famous as the coauthor of Freakonomics, teamed up with John Donohue to suggest that crime dropped because of Roe v. Wade [13]; legalized abortion, they argued, led to fewer unwanted babies, which meant fewer maladjusted and violent young men two decades later.

But there’s a problem common to all of these theories: It’s hard to tease out actual proof. Maybe the end of the crack epidemic contributed to a decline in inner-city crime, but then again, maybe it was really the effect of increased incarceration, more cops on the beat, broken-windows policing, and a rise in abortion rates 20 years earlier. After all, they all happened at the same time.

To address this problem, the field of econometrics gives researchers an enormous toolbox of sophisticated statistical techniques. But, notes statistician and conservative commentator Jim Manzi in his recent book Uncontrolled [14], econometrics consistently fails to explain most of the variation in crime rates. After reviewing 122 known field tests, Manzi found that only 20 percent demonstrated positive results for specific crime-fighting strategies, and none of those positive results were replicated in follow-up studies.

Did Lead Make You Dumber?

Even low levels have a significant effect.

So we’re back to square one. More prisons might help control crime, more cops might help, and better policing might help. But the evidence is thin for any of these as the main cause. What are we missing?

Experts often suggest that crime resembles an epidemic. But what kind? Karl Smith, a professor of public economics and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has a good rule of thumb for categorizing epidemics [15]: If it spreads along lines of communication, he says, the cause is information. Think Bieber Fever. If it travels along major transportation routes, the cause is microbial. Think influenza. If it spreads out like a fan, the cause is an insect. Think malaria. But if it’s everywhere, all at once—as both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and the fall of crime in the ’90s seemed to be—the cause is a molecule.

A molecule? That sounds crazy. What molecule could be responsible for a steep and sudden decline in violent crime?

Well, here’s one possibility: Pb(CH2CH3)4.

In 1994, Rick Nevin was a consultant working for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on the costs and benefits of removing lead paint from old houses. This has been a topic of intense study because of the growing body of research linking lead exposure in small children with a whole raft of complications later in life, including lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

But as Nevin was working on that assignment, his client suggested they might be missing something. A recent study had suggested a link between childhood lead exposure and juvenile delinquency later on. Maybe reducing lead exposure had an effect on violent crime too?

That tip took Nevin in a different direction. The biggest source of lead in the postwar era, it turns out, wasn’t paint. It was leaded gasoline. And if you chart the rise and fall of atmospheric lead caused by the rise and fall of leaded gasoline consumption, you get a pretty simple upside-down U: Lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early ’40s through the early ’70s, nearly quadrupling over that period. Then, as unleaded gasoline began to replace leaded gasoline, emissions plummeted.

Gasoline lead may explain as much as 90 percent of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

Intriguingly, violent crime rates followed the same upside-down U pattern. The only thing different was the time period: Crime rates rose dramatically in the ’60s through the ’80s, and then began dropping steadily starting in the early ’90s. The two curves looked eerily identical, but were offset by about 20 years.

So Nevin dove in further, digging up detailed data on lead emissions and crime rates to see if the similarity of the curves was as good as it seemed. It turned out to be even better: In a 2000 paper [16] (PDF) he concluded that if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

And with that we have our molecule: tetraethyl lead, the gasoline additive invented by General Motors in the 1920s to prevent knocking and pinging in high-performance engines. As auto sales boomed after World War II, and drivers in powerful new cars increasingly asked service station attendants to « fill ‘er up with ethyl, » they were unwittingly creating a crime wave two decades later.

It was an exciting conjecture, and it prompted an immediate wave of…nothing. Nevin’s paper was almost completely ignored, and in one sense it’s easy to see why—Nevin is an economist, not a criminologist, and his paper was published in Environmental Research, not a journal with a big readership in the criminology community. What’s more, a single correlation between two curves isn’t all that impressive, econometrically speaking. Sales of vinyl LPs rose in the postwar period too, and then declined in the ’80s and ’90s. Lots of things follow a pattern like that. So no matter how good the fit, if you only have a single correlation it might just be a coincidence. You need to do something more to establish causality.

As it turns out, however, a few hundred miles north someone was doing just that. In the late ’90s, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes was a graduate student at Harvard casting around for a dissertation topic that eventually became a study she published in 2007 as a public health policy professor at Amherst. « I learned about lead because I was pregnant and living in old housing in Harvard Square, » she told me, and after attending a talk where future Freakonomics star Levitt outlined his abortion/crime theory, she started thinking about lead and crime. Although the association seemed plausible, she wanted to find out whether increased lead exposure caused increases in crime. But how?

In states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime declined slowly. Where it declined quickly, crime declined quickly.

The answer, it turned out, involved « several months of cold calling » to find lead emissions data at the state level. During the ’70s and ’80s, the introduction of the catalytic converter, combined with increasingly stringent Environmental Protection Agency rules, steadily reduced the amount of leaded gasoline used in America, but Reyes discovered that this reduction wasn’t uniform. In fact, use of leaded gasoline varied widely among states, and this gave Reyes the opening she needed. If childhood lead exposure really did produce criminal behavior in adults, you’d expect that in states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime would decline slowly too. Conversely, in states where it declined quickly, crime would decline quickly. And that’s exactly what she found [17].

Meanwhile, Nevin had kept busy as well, and in 2007 he published a new paper looking at crime trends around the world [18] (PDF). This way, he could make sure the close match he’d found between the lead curve and the crime curve wasn’t just a coincidence. Sure, maybe the real culprit in the United States was something else happening at the exact same time, but what are the odds of that same something happening at several different times in several different countries?

Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well. When I spoke to Nevin about this, I asked him if he had ever found a country that didn’t fit the theory. « No, » he replied. « Not one. »

Just this year, Tulane University researcher Howard Mielke published a paper [19] with demographer Sammy Zahran on the correlation of lead and crime at the city level. They studied six US cities that had both good crime data and good lead data going back to the ’50s, and they found a good fit in every single one. In fact, Mielke has even studied lead concentrations at the neighborhood level in New Orleans and shared his maps with the local police. « When they overlay them with crime maps, » he told me, « they realize they match up. »

Location, Location, Location

In New Orleans, lead levels can vary dramatically from one neighborhood to the next—and the poorest neighborhoods tend to be the worst hit.

Maps by Karen Minot

Put all this together and you have an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes [20]. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

When differences of atmospheric lead density between big and small cities largely went away, so did the difference in murder rates.

Like many good theories, the gasoline lead hypothesis helps explain some things we might not have realized even needed explaining. For example, murder rates have always been higher in big cities than in towns and small cities. We’re so used to this that it seems unsurprising, but Nevin points out that it might actually have a surprising explanation—because big cities have lots of cars in a small area, they also had high densities of atmospheric lead during the postwar era. But as lead levels in gasoline decreased, the differences between big and small cities largely went away. And guess what? The difference in murder rates went away too. Today, homicide rates are similar in cities of all sizes [21]. It may be that violent crime isn’t an inevitable consequence of being a big city after all.

The gasoline lead story has another virtue too: It’s the only hypothesis that persuasively explains both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and its fall beginning in the ’90s. Two other theories—the baby boom demographic bulge and the drug explosion of the ’60s—at least have the potential to explain both, but neither one fully fits the known data. Only gasoline lead, with its dramatic rise and fall following World War II, can explain the equally dramatic rise and fall in violent crime.

If econometric studies were all there were to the story of lead, you’d be justified in remaining skeptical no matter how good the statistics look. Even when researchers do their best—controlling for economic growth, welfare payments, race, income, education level, and everything else they can think of—it’s always possible that something they haven’t thought of is still lurking in the background. But there’s another reason to take the lead hypothesis seriously, and it might be the most compelling one of all: Neurological research is demonstrating that lead’s effects are even more appalling, more permanent, and appear at far lower levels than we ever thought. For starters, it turns out that childhood lead exposure at nearly any level can seriously and permanently reduce IQ. Blood lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter, and levels once believed safe—65 μg/dL, then 25, then 15, then 10—are now known to cause serious damage. The EPA now says [22] flatly that there is « no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood, » and it turns out that even levels under 10 μg/dL can reduce IQ by as much as seven points. An estimated 2.5 percent of children nationwide have lead levels above 5 μg/dL.

Is there lead in your house? [2]

Is There Lead in Your House? [2]

But we now know that lead’s effects go far beyond just IQ. Not only does lead promote apoptosis, or cell death, in the brain, but the element is also chemically similar to calcium. When it settles in cerebral tissue, it prevents calcium ions from doing their job, something that causes physical damage to the developing brain that persists into adulthood.

Only in the last few years have we begun to understand exactly what effects this has. A team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati has been following a group of 300 children for more than 30 years and recently performed a series of MRI scans that highlighted the neurological differences between subjects who had high and low exposure to lead during early childhood.

High childhood exposure damages a part of the brain linked to aggression control and « executive functions. » And the impact turns out to be greater among boys.

One set of scans [23] found that lead exposure is linked to production of the brain’s white matter—primarily a substance called myelin, which forms an insulating sheath around the connections between neurons. Lead exposure degrades both the formation and structure of myelin, and when this happens, says Kim Dietrich, one of the leaders of the imaging studies, « neurons are not communicating effectively. » Put simply, the network connections within the brain become both slower and less coordinated.

A second study [24] found that high exposure to lead during childhood was linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain associated with aggression control as well as what psychologists call « executive functions »: emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility. One way to understand this, says Kim Cecil, another member of the Cincinnati team, is that lead affects precisely the areas of the brain « that make us most human. »

So lead is a double whammy: It impairs specific parts of the brain responsible for executive functions and it impairs the communication channels between these parts of the brain. For children like the ones in the Cincinnati study, who were mostly inner-city kids with plenty of strikes against them already, lead exposure was, in Cecil’s words, an « additional kick in the gut. » And one more thing: Although both sexes are affected by lead, the neurological impact turns out to be greater among boys than girls.

Other recent [25] studies link [26] even minuscule blood lead levels with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Even at concentrations well below those usually considered safe—levels still common today—lead increases the odds of kids developing ADHD.

In other words, as Reyes summarized the evidence in her paper, even moderately high levels of lead exposure are associated with aggressivity, impulsivity, ADHD, and lower IQ. And right there, you’ve practically defined the profile of a violent young offender.

Needless to say, not every child exposed to lead is destined for a life of crime. Everyone over the age of 40 was probably exposed to too much lead during childhood, and most of us suffered nothing more than a few points of IQ loss. But there were plenty of kids already on the margin, and millions of those kids were pushed over the edge from being merely slow or disruptive to becoming part of a nationwide epidemic of violent crime. Once you understand that, it all becomes blindingly obvious. Of course massive lead exposure among children of the postwar era led to larger numbers of violent criminals in the ’60s and beyond. And of course when that lead was removed in the ’70s and ’80s, the children of that generation lost those artificially heightened violent tendencies.

Police chiefs « want to think what they do on a daily basis matters, » says a public health expert. « And it does. » But maybe not as much as they think.

But if all of this solves one mystery, it shines a high-powered klieg light on another: Why has the lead/crime connection been almost completely ignored in the criminology community? In the two big books I mentioned earlier, one has no mention of lead at all and the other has a grand total of two passing references. Nevin calls it « exasperating » that crime researchers haven’t seriously engaged with lead, and Reyes told me that although the public health community was interested in her paper, criminologists have largely been AWOL. When I asked Sammy Zahran about the reaction to his paper with Howard Mielke on correlations between lead and crime at the city level, he just sighed. « I don’t think criminologists have even read it, » he said. All of this jibes with my own reporting. Before he died last year, James Q. Wilson—father of the broken-windows theory, and the dean of the criminology community—had begun to accept that lead probably played a meaningful role in the crime drop of the ’90s. But he was apparently an outlier. None of the criminology experts I contacted showed any interest in the lead hypothesis at all.

Why not? Mark Kleiman [27], a public policy professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who has studied promising methods of controlling crime, suggests that because criminologists are basically sociologists, they look for sociological explanations, not medical ones. My own sense is that interest groups probably play a crucial role: Political conservatives want to blame the social upheaval of the ’60s for the rise in crime that followed. Police unions have reasons for crediting its decline to an increase in the number of cops. Prison guards like the idea that increased incarceration is the answer. Drug warriors want the story to be about drug policy. If the actual answer turns out to be lead poisoning, they all lose a big pillar of support for their pet issue. And while lead abatement could be big business for contractors and builders, for some reason their trade groups have never taken it seriously.

More generally, we all have a deep stake in affirming the power of deliberate human action. When Reyes once presented her results to a conference of police chiefs, it was, unsurprisingly, a tough sell. « They want to think that what they do on a daily basis matters, » she says. « And it does. » But it may not matter as much as they think.

So is this all just an interesting history lesson? After all, leaded gasoline has been banned since 1996, so even if it had a major impact on violent crime during the 20th century, there’s nothing more to be done on that front. Right?

Wrong. As it turns out, tetraethyl lead is like a zombie that refuses to die. Our cars may be lead-free today, but they spent more than 50 years spewing lead from their tailpipes, and all that lead had to go somewhere. And it did: It settled permanently into the soil that we walk on, grow our food in, and let our kids play around.

That’s especially true in the inner cores of big cities, which had the highest density of automobile traffic. Mielke has been studying lead in soil for years, focusing most of his attention on his hometown of New Orleans, and he’s measured 10 separate census tracts there with lead levels over 1,000 parts per million.

To get a sense of what this means, you have to look at how soil levels of lead typically correlate with blood levels, which are what really matter. Mielke has studied this in New Orleans [28], and it turns out that the numbers go up very fast even at low levels. Children who live in neighborhoods with a soil level of 100 ppm have average blood lead concentrations of 3.8 μg/dL—a level that’s only barely tolerable. At 500 ppm, blood levels go up to 5.9 μg/dL, and at 1,000 ppm they go up to 7.5 μg/dL. These levels are high enough to do serious damage.

« I know people who have moved into gentrified neighborhoods and immediately renovate everything. They create huge hazards for their kids. »

Mielke’s partner, Sammy Zahran, walked me through a lengthy—and hair-raising—presentation about the effect that all that old gasoline lead continues to have in New Orleans. The very first slide describes the basic problem: Lead in soil doesn’t stay in the soil. Every summer, like clockwork, as the weather dries up, all that lead gets kicked back into the atmosphere in a process called resuspension. The zombie lead is back to haunt us.

Mark Laidlaw, a doctoral student who has worked with Mielke, explains how this works [29]: People and pets track lead dust from soil into houses, where it’s ingested by small children via hand-to-mouth contact. Ditto for lead dust generated by old paint inside houses. This dust cocktail is where most lead exposure today comes from.

Paint hasn’t played a big role in our story so far, but that’s only because it didn’t play a big role in the rise of crime in the postwar era and its subsequent fall. Unlike gasoline lead, lead paint was a fairly uniform problem during this period, producing higher overall lead levels, especially in inner cities, but not changing radically over time. (It’s a different story with the first part of the 20th century, when use of lead paint did rise and then fall somewhat dramatically. Sure enough, murder rates rose and fell in tandem.)

And just like gasoline lead, a lot of that lead in old housing is still around. Lead paint chips flaking off of walls are one obvious source of lead exposure, but an even bigger one, says Rick Nevin, are old windows. Their friction surfaces generate lots of dust as they’re opened and closed. (Other sources—lead pipes and solder, leaded fuel used in private aviation, and lead smelters—account for far less.)

We know that the cost of all this lead is staggering, not just in lower IQs, delayed development, and other health problems, but in increased rates of violent crime as well. So why has it been so hard to get it taken seriously?

There are several reasons. One of them was put bluntly by Herbert Needleman, one of the pioneers of research into the effect of lead on behavior. A few years ago, a reporter from the Baltimore City Paper asked him why so little progress had been made recently on combating the lead-poisoning problem. « Number one, » he said without hesitation [30], « it’s a black problem. » But it turns out that this is an outdated idea. Although it’s true that lead poisoning affects low-income neighborhoods disproportionately, it affects plenty of middle-class and rich neighborhoods as well. « It’s not just a poor-inner-city-kid problem anymore, » Nevin says. « I know people who have moved into gentrified neighborhoods and immediately renovate everything. And they create huge hazards for their kids. »

Tamara Rubin, who lives in a middle-class neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, learned this the hard way when two of her children developed lead poisoning after some routine home improvement in 2005. A few years later, Rubin started the Lead Safe America Foundation [31], which advocates for lead abatement and lead testing. Her message: If you live in an old neighborhood or an old house, get tested. And if you renovate, do it safely.

Another reason that lead doesn’t get the attention it deserves is that too many people think the problem was solved years ago. They don’t realize how much lead is still hanging around, and they don’t understand just how much it costs us.

It’s difficult to put firm numbers to the costs and benefits of lead abatement. But for a rough idea, let’s start with the two biggest costs. Nevin estimates that there are perhaps 16 million pre-1960 houses with lead-painted windows, and replacing them all would cost something like $10 billion per year over 20 years. Soil cleanup in the hardest-hit urban neighborhoods is tougher to get a handle on, with estimates ranging from $2 to $36 per square foot. A rough extrapolation from Mielke’s estimate to clean up New Orleans suggests that a nationwide program might cost another $10 billion per year.

We can either get rid of the remaining lead, or we can wait 20 years and then lock up all the kids who’ve turned into criminals.

So in round numbers that’s about $20 billion per year for two decades. But the benefits would be huge. Let’s just take a look at the two biggest ones. By Mielke and Zahran’s estimates, [32] if we adopted the soil standard of a country like Norway (roughly 100 ppm or less), it would bring about $30 billion in annual returns from the cognitive benefits alone (higher IQs, and the resulting higher lifetime earnings). Cleaning up old windows might double this. And violent crime reduction would be an even bigger benefit. Estimates here are even more difficult, but Mark Kleiman suggests that a 10 percent drop in crime—a goal that seems reasonable if we get serious about cleaning up the last of our lead problem—could produce benefits as high as $150 billion per year.

Put this all together and the benefits of lead cleanup could be in the neighborhood of $200 billion per year. In other words, an annual investment of $20 billion for 20 years could produce returns of 10-to-1 every single year for decades to come. Those are returns that Wall Street hedge funds can only dream of.

Memo to Deficit Hawks: Get the Lead Out

Lead abatement isn’t cheap, but the return on investment is mind-blowing.

There’s a flip side to this too. At the same time that we should reassess the low level of attention we pay to the remaining hazards from lead, we should probably also reassess the high level of attention we’re giving to other policies. Chief among these is the prison-building boom that started in the mid-’70s. As crime scholar William Spelman wrote a few years ago, states have « doubled their prison populations, then doubled them again, increasing their costs by more than $20 billion per year »—money that could have been usefully spent on a lot of other things. And while some scholars conclude that the prison boom had an effect on crime, recent research suggests that rising incarceration rates suffer from diminishing returns: Putting more criminals behind bars is useful up to a point, but beyond that we’re just locking up more people without having any real impact on crime. What’s more, if it’s true that lead exposure accounts for a big part of the crime decline that we formerly credited to prison expansion and other policies, those diminishing returns might be even more dramatic than we believe. We probably overshot on prison construction years ago; one doubling might have been enough. Not only should we stop adding prison capacity, but we might be better off returning to the incarceration rates we reached in the mid-’80s.

So this is the choice before us: We can either attack crime at its root by getting rid of the remaining lead in our environment, or we can continue our current policy of waiting 20 years and then locking up all the lead-poisoned kids who have turned into criminals. There’s always an excuse not to spend more money on a policy as tedious-sounding as lead abatement—budgets are tight, and research on a problem as complex as crime will never be definitive—but the association between lead and crime has, in recent years, become pretty overwhelming. If you gave me the choice, right now, of spending $20 billion less on prisons and cops and spending $20 billion more on getting rid of lead, I’d take the deal in a heartbeat. Not only would solving our lead problem do more than any prison to reduce our crime problem, it would produce smarter, better-adjusted kids in the bargain. There’s nothing partisan about this, nothing that should appeal more to one group than another. It’s just common sense. Cleaning up the rest of the lead that remains in our environment could turn out to be the cheapest, most effective crime prevention tool we have. And we could start doing it tomorrow.

Support for this story was provided by a grant from the Puffin Foundation Investigative Journalism Project.

Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

Links:

[1] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

[2] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-poisoning-house-pipes-soil-paint

[3] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/12/soil-lead-researcher-howard-mielke

[4] http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/01/lead-shooting-ranges-osha

[5] http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/does-lead-paint-produce-more-crime-too

[6] http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/08/lead-in-tap-water

[7] http://www.motherjones.com/topics/lead-and-crime

[8] http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/03/broken-windows/304465/

[9] http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/20/nyregion/new-york-crime-rate-plummets-to-levels-not-seen-in-30-years.html?pagewanted=all&amp;src=pm

[10] http://www.city-journal.org/html/6_2_my_black.html

[11] http://www.powells.com/biblio/61-9780521681483-1

[12] http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=0195399358

[13] http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/dialogues/features/1999/does_abortion_prevent_crime/_2.html

[14] http://www.powells.com/biblio/64-9780465023240-0

[15] http://modeledbehavior.com/2012/01/08/on-lead/

[16] http://www.ricknevin.com/uploads/Nevin_2000_Env_Res_Author_Manuscript.pdf

[17] http://www.nber.org/papers/w13097

[18] http://pic.plover.com/Nevin/Nevin2007.pdf

[19] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412012000566

[20] http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050101

[21] http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/city.cfm

[22] https://www.motherjones.com/documents/531159-americas-children-and-the-environment-epa#document/p42/a84512

[23] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2789851/

[24] http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0050112

[25] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2810427/

[26] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17185283

[27] http://publicaffairs.ucla.edu/mark-ar-kleiman

[28] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896970700842X

[29] http://urbanleadpoisoning.com

[30] http://www2.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=9738

[31] http://www.leadsafeamerica.org/leadsafeamerica.org/Home.html

[32] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969710012672

Voir aussi:

Lead and Crime: Baselines vs. Crime Waves

Kevin Drum

Mother Jones

Jan. 10, 2013

Whenever you write about a complicated subject, you struggle with how best to explain things. In the end, you always hope you got your point across in a way that sinks in, but you’re never quite sure. And one of the things I’m not sure I explained well in my piece about the link between lead and violent crime [1] is precisely how important the effect of lead on crime is. After all, the causes of crime are varied and complex. Surely lead isn’t the whole answer?

It’s not, and I don’t want anyone to come away from my article thinking that. If we eliminated every microgram of lead from the planet, we’d still have plenty of crime. So here’s a way to think about it. If you take a look at violent crime rates in America, you’d expect to see a sort of baseline level of crime. That level will depend on lots of things: poverty, drugs, guns, race, family structure, etc. But starting in the mid-60s, we saw an enormous rise in crime, well above any sensible sort of baseline. Then, in the 90s, we saw an equally enormous decline. The chart below illustrates this. (The numbers themselves aren’t precise, so don’t take them too seriously. I’m just trying to illustrate a point.)

The baseline crime rate is the light red portion at the bottom. It goes up and down a bit over time, but also—and I’m guessing here—shows a steady, modest rise since the 60s. Most likely, the reason for this lies with all the usual suspects.

But then, in dark red, there’s the huge crime wave that lasted nearly 50 years from start to finish. That’s the part the lead hypothesis aims to explain. And the reason we need an explanation is simple: the usual suspects simply don’t seem to do a very good job of accounting for a gigantic, temporary rise and fall in violent crime rates. Within the criminology community, literally no one predicted the huge decline in crime that began in the early 90s. Their focus was on all the usual sociological causes, and they had no reason to think those were going to suddenly improve.

And they were right. For the most part, they didn’t improve. It’s true that the crack epidemic of the 80s burned out, but no one really knows the underlying reason for that. Policing tactics changed in some places, but crime dropped everywhere, so that’s not a very compelling explanation either. Aside from that, poverty didn’t change much, and neither did race or guns or demographics or the number of broken familes or anything else.

The truth is that there’s just not a good conventional explanation for both the huge rise and the huge fall in crime of the past half century. That’s one of the reasons the lead hypothesis deserves such serious consideration. Not only does it fit the data well and make sense based on what we know about the neurological effects of lead. It’s also just about the only good explanation we’ve got. Other factors are still important, and they probably explain rises and falls in the baseline rate of crime. But lead is the best explanation we have for the rest of it.

Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-baselines-vs-crime-waves

Links:

[1] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

Voir enfin:

From the Archives: Is Lead Really the Main Cause of Violent Crime?

No. But it is the main cause of the great crime wave of 1965-2010.

Kevin Drum

Mother Jones

Aug. 13, 2013

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but over the past week I’ve suddenly gotten a flurry of new responses to my January piece about lead and crime. [1] Roughly speaking, they’re mostly complaints that crime has lots of causes, and it’s a mistake to claim that lead is preeminently important. I understand where this criticism comes from, but here’s the thing: I agree with it. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly what the lead hypothesis claims to explain: not all crime, but only the specific crime wave of 1965-2010. (In America, anyway. The dates vary in other regions of the world.) So because this has cropped up again, I’m going to reproduce a post [2] I wrote shortly after the article came out. Of all the things I didn’t explain well enough in the original piece, this is the one I most wish I had illustrated more clearly.

Whenever you write about a complicated subject, you struggle with how best to explain things. In the end, you always hope you got your point across in a way that sinks in, but you’re never quite sure. And one of the things I’m not sure I explained well in my piece about the link between lead and violent crime [3] is precisely how important the effect of lead on crime is. After all, the causes of crime are varied and complex. Surely lead isn’t the whole answer?

It’s not, and I don’t want anyone to come away from my article thinking that. If we eliminated every microgram of lead from the planet, we’d still have plenty of crime. So here’s a way to think about it. If you take a look at violent crime rates in America, you’d expect to see a sort of baseline level of crime. That level will depend on lots of things: poverty, drugs, guns, race, family structure, etc. But starting in the mid-60s, we saw an enormous rise in crime, well above any sensible sort of baseline. Then, in the 90s, we saw an equally enormous decline. The chart below illustrates this. (The numbers themselves aren’t precise, so don’t take them too seriously. I’m just trying to illustrate a point.)

The baseline crime rate is the light red portion at the bottom. It goes up and down a bit over time, but also—and I’m guessing here—shows a steady, modest rise since the 60s. Most likely, the reason for this lies with all the usual suspects.

But then, in dark red, there’s the huge crime wave that lasted nearly 50 years from start to finish. That’s the part the lead hypothesis aims to explain. And the reason we need an explanation is simple: the usual suspects simply don’t seem to do a very good job of accounting for a gigantic, temporary rise and fall in violent crime rates. Within the criminology community, literally no one predicted the huge decline in crime that began in the early 90s. Their focus was on all the usual sociological causes, and they had no reason to think those were going to suddenly improve.

And they were right. For the most part, they didn’t improve. It’s true that the crack epidemic of the 80s burned out, but no one really knows the underlying reason for that. Policing tactics changed in some places, but crime dropped everywhere, so that’s not a very compelling explanation either. Aside from that, poverty didn’t change much, and neither did race or guns or demographics or the number of broken familes or anything else.

The truth is that there’s just not a good conventional explanation for both the huge rise and the huge fall in crime of the past half century. That’s one of the reasons the lead hypothesis deserves such serious consideration. Not only does it fit the data well and make sense based on what we know about the neurological effects of lead. It’s also just about the only good explanation we’ve got. Other factors are still important, and they probably explain rises and falls in the baseline rate of crime. But lead is the best explanation we have for the rest of it.

Links:

[1] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/11/criminal-element

[2] http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-baselines-vs-crime-waves

[3] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

Voir par ailleurs:

http://www.scienceshumaines.com/pourquoi-la-criminalite-chute_fr_31470.html

Pourquoi la criminalité chute

Achille Weinberg

Sciences humaines

03/10/2013

Mensuel N° 253 – novembre 2013

Comment expliquer le déclin de la criminalité constaté depuis quinze ans dans beaucoup de grands pays occidentaux ? Les spécialistes émettent plusieurs hypothèses.

Pour celui qui écoute régulièrement l’actualité, entendre dire que la criminalité chute est pour le moins surprenant. Que dites-vous ? La criminalité chute ? Et la série de meurtres à Marseille ? Et les bijouteries ou bureaux de tabac dévalisés ? Et les vols de portables ou de sacs dans le métro ? Précisons donc de quoi l’on parle.

La chute de la criminalité dont il est question ici est un constat massif qui concerne les principaux pays occidentaux sur une période de plus quinze ans. Le constat est assez unanime chez les spécialistes, mais les causes restent très disputées. The Economist a consacré sa couverture à cette énigme en juillet 2013.

Une tendance de fond

L’article commence par livrer quelques chiffres impressionnants. Pour frapper les esprits, le cas de l’Estonie est mis en avant : depuis 1995, les homicides ont chuté de 70 %, les vols de voitures de presque autant. Mais ce petit État postsoviétique n’est pas une exception. Dans les pays développés, la même tendance s’observe. Aux États-Unis, la chute a commencé en 1991 ; en Grande-Bretagne, autour de 1995. En France, la baisse date de 2001. Au Canada également ainsi que dans plusieurs pays d’Europe. Mais de quels crimes parle-t-on ? Un tableau l’illustre : principalement des vols (vols de voitures, cambriolages) et des atteintes aux personnes (homicides, coups et blessures).

Arrêtons-nous sur le cas américain, le plus impressionnant. La criminalité urbaine avait atteint des sommets au début des années 1990. Certains voyaient New York ou Los Angeles comme des jungles urbaines aux mains d’une faune de dealers, mafieux, proxénètes et squatters.

Puis, contrairement aux prévisions, un véritable miracle s’est produit. La criminalité s’est mise à chuter à partir des années 1990. Globalement, elle a baissé d’un tiers dans les grandes villes, mais dans certains cas, elle a chuté de plus de 50 % ! À New York, le cas le plus spectaculaire, la criminalité a été divisée par quatre (- 78 %) entre le milieu des années 1990 et les années 2000 (encadré ci-dessous) ! Que s’est-il donc passé ?

Où sont passés les délinquants ?

Les explications des experts ne manquent pas.

• Le travail de la police. La première explication qui vient à l’esprit est celle de l’action policière. Dans les grandes villes, des politiques offensives de reprise en main de la situation ont été menées. L’intervention policière a été déterminante. Pour certains criminologues, la criminalité a baissé parce qu’une partie des délinquants est désormais sous les verrous ! Aux États-Unis, le nombre de prisonniers a doublé dans les vingt dernières années. En Grande-Bretagne et en Australie aussi. Le message serait donc clair : la répression paye. Sauf que cette théorie répressive ne marche pas partout. Aux Pays-Bas et au Canada, la criminalité a également chuté alors que le nombre de prisonniers n’a pas augmenté et qu’il n’y a pas eu de mobilisation générale de la police. À New York, le taux d’incarcération est beaucoup moins important qu’à Los Angeles ou Chicago et les résultats se révèlent bien meilleurs ! Il faut donc trouver d’autres explications que la seule action policière.

• Une baisse démographique ? Certains experts ont avancé un argument démographique : le vieillissement de la population. Il y a moins de jeunes donc moins de délinquants. Steven Levitt a même soutenu dans son best-seller Freakonomics que l’avortement, dans les années 1970, avait été un facteur déterminant : dans les milieux les plus défavorisés où se recrutent le plus de délinquants, on fait désormais moins d’enfants.

Cependant, ce facteur démographique a lui aussi été contesté. À Londres et dans nombre de villes américaines, le taux de jeunes n’a pas diminué de façon significative alors que la criminalité s’est effondrée. C’est peut-être alors que les jeunes sont désormais scolarisés plus longtemps, donc mieux éduqués ? L’économiste Jessica Wolpaw Reyes a inventé une théorie pour le moins étonnante : la rénovation du plomb dans l’essence serait l’explication du déclin de la violence. En somme, moins de plomb entraîne moins de débiles (par saturnisme) donc moins de délinquants !

• La fin de l’« épidémie de crack ». Un autre phénomène semble avoir compté : la chute de la consommation du crack (un dérivé de la cocaïne). Cette drogue avait fait des ravages durant les années 1980 : elle exacerbait non seulement la guerre des gangs, mais poussait les drogués à commettre de nombreux délits pour se payer leur dose. L’épidémie de crack a commencé à baisser aux États-Unis au début des années 1990, et cette chute épouse celle de la criminalité. Cela ne veut pas dire que la consommation de drogue diminue globalement, mais elle est moins criminogène. Les « junkies » des années 1980 sont moins nombreux et la drogue a changé de nature.

• Les alarmes et la surveillance. Si les atteintes aux biens baissent, c’est, selon le criminologue néerlandais Jan Van Dijk, parce qu’il est moins facile de voler : magasins, entreprises, habitations, automobiles sont équipés de dispositifs de surveillance de plus en plus nombreux et sophistiqués. La chute spectaculaire des vols de voitures est incontestablement liée aux alarmes et aux puces électroniques antivol dont elles sont équipées. En revanche, les « vols à la tire » de portefeuilles et de téléphones portables ont explosé, même s’ils font l’objet de beaucoup moins de plaintes.

• Retour de la croissance. La dynamique de croissance qui a marqué les États-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne dans les années 1990-2000 a également été évoquée. Mais dans ce cas, la crise depuis 2008 aurait dû s’accompagner d’une flambée de la criminalité dans les pays les plus touchés par la crise. Cela n’a pas été le cas. The Economist plaide pour une convergence de facteurs tout en reconnaissant qu’au final, la chute de la criminalité reste à la fois une sorte de petit miracle et une énigme non résolue.

Partager :

Le cas new-yorkais

À fin des années 1980, le taux de criminalité a atteint des pics à New York. C’est alors que fut élu le républicain Rudolf Giuliani (1994-2001). Il décida de chasser de la ville criminels,
 prostituées, SDF…
La présence policière fut renforcée, des actions commandos mises en place, une politique de contrôle systématique imposée à la population. Entre 1993 et 1998, le nombre annuel de 
meurtres a été divisé
par trois, la délinquance ordinaire a chuté. 
Certains ont parlé d’un véritable miracle et proposé que le « peace maker » R. Giuliani soit lauréat du prix Nobel de la paix : grâce à lui, des milliers de vies et de victimes potentielles ont été épargnées.

Les experts criminologues sont plus dubitatifs. Dans son livre The City That Became Safe (2012), Franklin M. Zimring, criminologue à Chicago, avance deux idées clés. Le rôle de la police a été décisif. F.M. Zimring n’hésite pas à le dire et à se démarquer des positions habituelles des criminologues prompts à considérer que seules les politiques sociales peuvent durablement venir à bout de la criminalité. Selon l’auteur, la chute de la criminalité
à New York s’est effectuée à niveau socio-économique équivalent. C’est donc bien l’action de la police qui a été déterminante.

Pour autant, ce n’est pas la politique de « tolérance zéro » qui a payé. À New York, le nombre de criminels mis sous les verrous a moins augmenté qu’ailleurs (20 % dans les années 1990-2000). L’action principale de la police a consisté à déminer le terrain par des quadrillages ciblés, concentrés sur des points chauds, accompagnés de contrôles systématiques (procédures de « stop and frisk ») : arrestations, fouilles, harcèlement des criminels ont abouti à nettoyer une à une les zones de trafics et d’agressions.

Achille Weinberg

Voir aussi:

États-Unis: le crime à son plus bas niveau

À New York, le changement a été radical. Au début des années 90, 700 000 crimes étaient rapportés chaque année. L’an dernier, moins de 105 000 crimes ont été signalés aux autorités.

Nicolas Bérubé

La Presse

15 juillet 2012

(Los Angeles) Durant des années, un gardien armé était posté jour et nuit devant les ateliers remplis d’outils spécialisés du Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, rue Hoover. Puis, un matin, le gardien n’était plus là.

«Ça fait deux ou trois ans de cela, se souvient Carlos Mendes, propriétaire d’une petite boutique d’antiquités, en face. La protection intensive, ça fait partie d’une autre époque. Aujourd’hui, le quartier est beaucoup plus sûr.»

La nuit, M. Mendes avait l’habitude de s’endormir au son des rotors d’hélicoptères de la police de Los Angeles (LAPD), qui patrouillaient dans le secteur. «Maintenant, les jeunes familles achètent des maisons par ici et font des rénovations. Les gens se promènent le soir. C’est un changement radical.»

Ce qui se passe rue Hoover n’est pas un cas isolé. Les actes de violence et les crimes sont à leur plus bas niveau en 40 ans aux États-Unis, selon les données du gouvernement fédéral.

À Los Angeles, le nombre de crimes chute chaque année depuis 10 ans. L’an dernier, 298 homicides ont été commis sur le territoire du LAPD. Au milieu des années 90, plus de 1200 meurtres étaient enregistrés annuellement. Tout ça, dans une ville dont la population croit constamment.

Même les quartiers durs ont vu la violence diminuer. Compton, par exemple, a connu 17 meurtres en 2011, une baisse de 60 % par rapport à 2007.

À New York, le changement a aussi été radical. Au début des années 90, 700 000 crimes étaient rapportés chaque année. L’an dernier, moins de 105 000 crimes ont été signalés aux autorités.

Qu’est-ce qui a changé? George Tita, professeur au département de criminologie de l’Université de la Californie à Irvine, dit être surpris de voir la violence et la criminalité baisser, et ce, malgré la hausse du taux de chômage.

«Le nombre d’Américains qui vivent dans la pauvreté a augmenté depuis la crise financière de 2008, dit-il en entrevue avec La Presse. Le stress, la frustration, le manque de revenus: tout ça semble laisser présager une hausse de la criminalité. Or, le contraire s’est produit.»

Les experts ont cité plusieurs causes possibles, allant de la fin de l’épidémie de crack des années 90 à la hausse du niveau d’incarcération, ce qui garde les criminels loin de la rue.

Pour M. Tita, ces facteurs jouent un rôle, tout comme l’émergence de l’internet et des téléphones cellulaires.

«Avant, les vendeurs de drogue occupaient les coins de rue, ce qui créait un climat d’intimidation. Aujourd’hui, ils correspondent avec leurs clients par messages texte.»

Les jeunes hommes – groupe traditionnellement responsable d’une partie importante des crimes – passent aussi plus de temps à l’intérieur.

«La violence survient quand il y a des jeunes qui n’ont rien à faire, dit M. Tita. Depuis quelques années, les jeunes sont sur Facebook ou devant des jeux vidéo. Ils trainent moins dans la rue.»

La passion du moment

Dans un récent entretien au réseau NPR, l’ancien chef de la police de New York et de Los Angeles, William Bratton, a dit qu’il faut d’abord remercier la police pour la baisse de la criminalité.

Sous sa supervision, la police de New York et de Los Angeles a commencé à travailler sur les crimes dits «liés à la qualité de vie». Les gens qui sautaient les tourniquets dans le métro, par exemple, ou les petits revendeurs de drogue qui opéraient impunément au coin des rues.

«En contrôlant les comportements, la police a, dans les faits, lancé le message que la loi est là pour être respectée, a-t-il dit. Une personne est prise dans la passion du moment et décide de commettre un crime. C’est ici que la police entre en jeu. La police est là pour contrôler les comportements.»

Frank E. Zimring n’y croit pas. Professeur de droit à l’Université Berkeley et auteur de plusieurs livres sur la violence dans la société américaine, M. Zimring est l’un des experts les plus souvent cités en matière de prévention de la criminalité aux États-Unis.

Les efforts des policiers dans les quartiers chauds de New York et de Los Angeles sont louables et ont contribué à améliorer la qualité de vie des résidants, note-t-il. «Mais ces changements n’expliquent pas tout. Ceux qui y voient une réponse définitive font fausse route», explique-t-il en entrevue téléphonique.

Si la baisse s’expliquait par des changements dans le fonctionnement de la police dans les grandes villes, alors pourquoi observe-t-on une diminution du crime de façon uniforme, partout aux États-Unis? demande-t-il.

M. Zimring fait remarquer que l’Occident au complet – et notamment le Canada – a connu une baisse du taux de criminalité au cours des 20 dernières années.

«L’internet, les cellulaires et les jeux vidéo ne peuvent expliquer la baisse, car les crimes ont commencé à chuter de façon uniforme dans les années 90, avant que ces inventions ne prennent leur envol», dit-il.

Et, pour la première fois depuis les années 70, le taux d’incarcération a commencé à baisser aux États-Unis, en 2007. Jumelé avec une hausse spectaculaire du chômage, cela aurait dû créer un mélange explosif, note M. Zimring.

Voir également:

ÉTATS-UNIS

Mais pourquoi la criminalité baisse ?

Malgré la récession, les crimes et délits sont en net recul. Les spécialistes se creusent les méninges pour expliquer le phénomène.

The Economist

traduction Courrier international

23 juin 2011

Voilà qui semble une évidence : en période de récession, le taux de criminalité augmente. Pourtant, depuis le début de la crise financière, la hausse du taux de chômage s’est accompagnée d’une baisse du taux de criminalité. Entre 2008 et 2009, les crimes avec violence ont reculé de 5,3 % et les infractions contre les biens de 4,6 %. La baisse s’est poursuivie de 2009 à 2010, avec une diminution de 5,5 % et 2,8 % respectivement. Le vol qualifié (une infraction que l’on pourrait s’attendre à voir se multiplier en temps de crise) a même reculé de 9,5 % entre 2009 et 2010. D’une manière générale, les crimes avec violence sont à leur niveau le plus bas depuis quarante ans et les homicides à leur niveau le plus bas depuis cinquante ans.

A en croire les spécialistes, cela n’aurait pas dû se produire. James Wilson, l’auteur de la fameuse théorie du “carreau cassé” en matière de prévention de la délinquance [selon laquelle il faut réparer immédiatement toute dégradation sous peine de les voir se multiplier] avait annoncé en 1995 que le pays compterait en l’an 2000 “30 000 jeunes agresseurs, meurtriers et voleurs de plus qu’aujourd’hui”. Un an plus tard, le politologue John DiLulio mettait en garde contre un raz-de-marée d’“adolescents superprédateurs” qui, à l’horizon 2010, allaient semer le chaos. Pourtant, au moment même où ils formalisaient leurs prédictions, la criminalité avait déjà commencé à baisser et, hormis une légère hausse entre 2004 et 2006, elle n’a cessé de reculer depuis 1991.

Si personne n’avait prévu la baisse spectaculaire de la délinquance des années 1990, les théories pour l’expliquer rétrospectivement abondent. Certains l’attribuent à l’amélioration des stratégies policières. D’autres mettent en avant l’accès de plus en plus large à l’avortement, qui a permis de diminuer les naissances d’enfants de mères adolescentes, célibataires et pauvres – ceux, en d’autres termes, qui ont le plus de risques de sombrer dans la délinquance à l’adolescence. Parmi les autres facteurs avancés figurent le déclin des violences liées au trafic de crack et l’augmentation du taux d’incarcération.

Mais si ces facteurs peuvent expliquer la baisse de la criminalité depuis la fin des années 1980, ils ne disent rien de sa chute spectaculaire au cours des deux dernières années. Pour cela, le criminologue Al Blumstein, qui dirige le National Consortium on Violence Research (NCOVR), avance un “effet Obama” : l’élection du premier président noir de l’histoire des Etats-Unis aurait éloigné de la violence un nombre important de jeunes Noirs. De fait, entre 2008 et 2009, le nombre de Noirs arrêtés pour homicide ou vol a reculé de 2 %. Une autre hypothèse pointe du doigt le plomb. En effet, des liens ont été mis en évidence entre exposition au plomb dans l’enfance et comportement délinquant à l’âge adulte. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, économiste au Amherst College, estime que la moindre exposition des petits Américains au plomb explique pour une bonne part la diminution des crimes violents dans les années 1990. D’autres enfin mettent en cause ces éternels épouvantails que sont les jeux vidéo et Internet, arguant qu’ils permettent de maintenir les individus à l’intérieur de leur foyer et donc de les tenir éloignés du crime et des drogues.

Voir enfin:

La criminalité continue de baisser dans les pays riches malgré la crise

Grégoire Fleurot

Slate

22 juillet 2013

Que vous soyez spécialiste de la question ou pas, vous avez sans doute déjà entendu cette théorie: quand les temps sont durs, la criminalité augmente. Pourtant, malgré une croissance économique stagnante et un chômage élevé, la criminalité a baissé dans la plupart des pays riches au cours de la dernière décennie.

L’hebdomadaire britannique The Economist s’est intéressé dans un long article à cette tendance plutôt contre-intuitive qui a commencé en 1991 aux Etats-Unis, autour de 1995 en Grande-Bretagne et en 2001 en France pour les atteintes aux biens.

Comment expliquer cette tendance générale qu’un rapide coup d’œil aux statistiques des Nations unies suffit à vérifier? Si la démographie est sans doute un facteur (la population vieillit, alors que ce sont les hommes de 16 ans à 24 ans qui commettent la plupart des crimes), The Economiste souligne qu’elle ne peut pas expliquer à elle seule la baisse spectaculaire d’un certain type de criminalité dans des villes comme New York, Los Angeles ou Londres.

D’autres hypothèses, comme l’augmentation du nombre de prisonniers, sont difficiles à prouver: si la population carcérale a doublé en Grande-Bretagne, en Australie et aux Etats-Unis, elle a diminués au Canada et aux Pays-Bas, pays qui ont aussi connu une baisse de la criminalité.

Le blog de «factchecking» de la chaîne britannique Channel 4 s’est également posé la question, alors que les autorités viennent d’annoncer une nouvelle baisse de la criminalité malgré des réductions budgétaires significatives, et rappelle que «la plupart des experts concluent que les causes du crime sont si complexes que les changements économiques seuls ne l’emportent pas forcément sur d’autres facteurs».

Le Guardian expliquait quand à lui en avril dernier que certains autres éléments concrets, comme de meilleurs antivols sur les voitures ou des portes et serrures plus résistantes rendaient les atteintes aux biens plus difficiles aujourd’hui. La technologie, qu’il s’agisse des tests d’ADN, de la localisation par téléphone portable ou des caméras de surveillance, a augmenté le risque de se faire prendre.

Selon The Economist, l’explication la plus convaincante est plus simple encore. La police fait mieux son travail:

«Une combinaison du fait que les policiers parlent aux habitants des quartiers où ils travaillent et du ciblage intensif des endroits mal famés a transformé la manière dont les rues sont protégées.»

Si le poids de chaque facteur reste impossible à déterminer, la majorité des experts semblent aujourd’hui s’accorder sur un point: l’augmentation de la criminalité qui a eu lieu un peu partout entre les années 1950 et les années 1980 ressemble de plus en plus à une anomalie de l’histoire.


Diversité: L’enfer, c’est les autres, mais j’ai besoin des oeufs ! (Hell is other people, but I need the eggs ! – How diversity is eating away at trust)

1 décembre, 2013
https://i1.wp.com/consumertraveler.com/wp-content/uploads/In-God-.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/edge.liveleak.com/80281E/ll_a_s/2013/Oct/23/LiveLeak-dot-com-f83_1382554898-USHasSpent37TrillionOnWelfareOverPast5Yearsprev.jpgMais, quand le Fils de l’homme viendra, trouvera-t-il la foi sur la terre? Jésus (Luc 18: 8)
Ne croyez pas que je sois venu apporter la paix sur la terre; je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix, mais l’épée. Car je suis venu mettre la division entre l’homme et son père, entre la fille et sa mère, entre la belle-fille et sa belle-mère; et l’homme aura pour ennemis les gens de sa maison. Jésus (Matthieu 10: 34-36)
Je pensais à cette vieille blague, vous savez, ce-ce-ce type va chez un psychiatre et dit : « Doc, euh, mon frère est fou. Il se prend pour un poulet. » Et, euh, le docteur dit : « Et bien, pourquoi ne le faites-vous pas enfermer ? » Et le type dit : « J’aimerais bien, mais j’ai besoin des œufs. » Et bien, je crois que c’est ce que je ressens au sujet des relations. Vous savez, elles sont totalement irrationnelles et folles et absurdes et… mais, euh, je crois qu’on continue parce que, euh, la plupart d’entre nous ont besoin des œufs…  Woody Allen
Nous venons de terminer le cinquième exercice depuis que le président Obama a pris ses fonctions. Durant ces cinq années, le gouvernement fédéral a dépensé un total de 3,7  mille milliard de dollars pour environ 80 programmes sous condition de ressources différents contre la pauvreté et de protection sociale. La caractéristique commune des programmes d’aide sous condition de ressources est qu’ils sont gradués par apport au revenu d’une personne et que, contrairement aux programmes tels que la sécurité sociale ou l’assurance-maladie, ils sont un avantage gratuit sans aucune contribution du bénéficiaire. La somme énorme dépensée pourl’assistance sous condition de ressources est près de cinq fois supérieure au montant combiné consacré à la NASA et à l’éducation et à tous les projets de transport de compétence fédérale au cours de cette époque. (3,7 mille milliards de dollars n’est pas encore la totalité du montant dépensé pour le soutien fédéral de la pauvreté, les États membres contribuant pour plus de 200 milliards de dollars chaque année à ce lien fédéral, principalement sous forme de soins de santé gratuits à faible revenu.) Parce que le budget de l’aide sociale est tellement fragmenté — les coupons alimentaires ne sont qu’un des 15 programmes fédéraux qui fournissent une aide alimentaire, cela rend le contrôle efficace presque impossible, tout en masquant l’étendue tant aux contribuables qu’aux législateurs. Par exemple, il est plus facile pour les législateurs opposés aux réformes de s’opposer à des économies de coupons alimentaires en occultant le fait qu’un ménage qui reçoit des coupons alimentaires a souvent simultanément  droit à une myriade de programmes d’aide fédéraux y compris l’assistance de trésorerie, les logements subventionnés, les soins médicaux gratuits, la garde d’enfants gratuite et l’assistance énergétique à la maison. Commission sénatoriale du Budget
« Il est temps que l’Amérique comprenne que beaucoup des plus grandes disparités de la nation, de l’éducation à la pauvreté et à l’espérance de vie sont de plus en plus liées à la position de classe économique, » a déclaré William Julius Wilson, professeur de Harvard spécialiste des questions raciales et de la pauvreté. Il note par ailleurs que, malgré la persistance des difficultés économiques, les minorités sont plus optimistes quant à l’avenir après l’élection d’Obama, ce qui n’est pas les blancs qui se débattait. « Il y a la possibilité réelle que l’aliénation blanche va augmenter si des mesures ne sont pas prises pour mettre en évidence et lutter contre l’inégalité sur un large front, » a dit Ted Wilson. Parfois appelé « les pauvres invisibles » par les démographes, les blancs à faible revenu sont généralement dispersés dans les banlieues, mais aussi les petites villes rurales, où plus de 60% des pauvres sont blancs. Concentrés dans les Appalaches à l’est, ils sont également nombreux dans le Midwest industriel et  à travers le cœur de l’Amérique, du Missouri, de l’Arkansas et de l’Oklahoma jusqu’aux grandes plaines. Plus de 19 millions de blancs sont tombésen dessous du seuil de pauvreté de 23 021 $ pour une famille de quatre, représentant plus de 41 % de la nation démunis, près du double le nombre de pauvres noirs. CS monitor
« L’enfer c’est les autres » a été toujours mal compris. On a cru que je voulais dire par là que nos rapports avec les autres étaient toujours empoisonnés, que c’était toujours des rapports infernaux. Or, c’est tout autre chose que je veux dire. Je veux dire que si les rapports avec autrui sont tordus, viciés, alors l’autre ne peut être que l’enfer. Pourquoi ? Parce que les autres sont, au fond, ce qu’il y a de plus important en nous-mêmes, pour notre propre connaissance de nous-mêmes. Quand nous pensons sur nous, quand nous essayons de nous connaître, au fond nous usons des connaissances que les autres ont déjà sur nous, nous nous jugeons avec les moyens que les autres ont, nous ont donné, de nous juger. Quoi que je dise sur moi, toujours le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Quoi que je sente de moi, le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Ce qui veut dire que, si mes rapports sont mauvais, je me mets dans la totale dépendance d’autrui et alors, en effet, je suis en enfer. Et il existe une quantité de gens dans le monde qui sont en enfer parce qu’ils dépendent trop du jugement d’autrui. Mais cela ne veut nullement dire qu’on ne puisse avoir d’autres rapports avec les autres, ça marque simplement l’importance capitale de tous les autres pour chacun de nous. Sartre
Chacun se croit seul en enfer et c’est cela l’enfer. René Girard
De toutes les menaces qui pèsent sur nous, la plus redoutable, nous le savons, la seule réelle, c’est nous-mêmes. René Girard
Ce ne sont pas les différences qui provoquent les conflits mais leur effacement. René Girard
Aucun nombre de bombes atomiques ne pourra endiguer le raz de marée constitué par les millions d’êtres humains qui partiront un jour de la partie méridionale et pauvre du monde, pour faire irruption dans les espaces relativement ouverts du riche hémisphère septentrional, en quête de survie. Boumediene (mars 1974)
Un jour, des millions d’hommes quitteront le sud pour aller dans le nord. Et ils n’iront pas là-bas en tant qu’amis. Parce qu’ils iront là-bas pour le conquérir. Et ils le conquerront avec leurs fils. Le ventre de nos femmes nous donnera la victoire. Houari Boumediene (ONU, 10.04.74)
Nous avons 50 millions de musulmans en Europe. Il y a des signes qui attestent qu’Allah nous accordera une grande victoire en Europe, sans épée, sans conquête. Les 50 millions de musulmans d’Europe feront de cette dernière un continent musulman. Allah mobilise la Turquie, nation musulmane, et va permettre son entrée dans l’Union Européenne. Il y aura alors 100 millions de musulmans en Europe. L’Albanie est dans l’Union européenne, c’est un pays musulman. La Bosnie est dans l’Union européenne, c’est un pays musulman. 50% de ses citoyens sont musulmans. L’Europe est dans une fâcheuse posture. Et il en est de même de l’Amérique. Elles [les nations occidentales] devraient accepter de devenir musulmanes avec le temps ou bien de déclarer la guerre aux musulmans. Kadhafi (10.04.06) 
Et si Raspail, avec « Le Camp des Saints », n’était ni un prophète ni un romancier visionnaire, mais simplement un implacable historien de notre futur? Jean Cau
Le 17 février 2001, un cargo vétuste s’échouait volontairement sur les rochers côtiers, non loin de Saint-Raphaël. À son bord, un millier d’immigrants kurdes, dont près de la moitié étaient des enfants. « Cette pointe rocheuse faisait partie de mon paysage. Certes, ils n’étaient pas un million, ainsi que je les avais imaginés, à bord d’une armada hors d’âge, mais ils n’en avaient pas moins débarqué chez moi, en plein décor du Camp des saints, pour y jouer l’acte I. Le rapport radio de l’hélicoptère de la gendarmerie diffusé par l’AFP semble extrait, mot pour mot, des trois premiers paragraphes du livre. La presse souligna la coïncidence, laquelle apparut, à certains, et à moi, comme ne relevant pas du seul hasard. Jean Raspail
Qu’est-ce que Big Other ? C’est le produit de la mauvaise conscience occidentale soigneusement entretenue, avec piqûres de rappel à la repentance pour nos fautes et nos crimes supposés –  et de l’humanisme de l’altérité, cette sacralisation de l’Autre, particulièrement quand il s’oppose à notre culture et à nos traditions. Perversion de la charité chrétienne, Big Other a le monopole du Vrai et du Bien et ne tolère pas de voix discordante. Jean Raspail
Ce qui m’a frappé, c’est le contraste entre les opinions exprimées à titre privé et celles tenues publiquement. Double langage et double conscience… À mes yeux, il n’y a pire lâcheté que celle devant la faiblesse, que la peur d’opposer la légitimité de la force à l’illégitimité de la violence. Jean Raspail
La véritable cible du roman, ce ne sont pas les hordes d’immigrants sauvages du tiers-monde, mais les élites, politiques, religieuses, médiatiques, intellectuelles, du pays qui, par lâcheté devant la faiblesse, trahissent leurs racines, leurs traditions et les valeurs de leur civilisation. En fourriers d’une apocalypse dont ils seront les premières victimes. Chantre des causes dé sespérées et des peuples en voie de disparition, comme son œuvre ultérieure en témoigne, Jean Raspail a, dans ce grand livre d’anticipation, incité non pas à la haine et à la discrimination, mais à la lucidité et au courage. Dans deux générations, on saura si la réalité avait imité la fiction. Bruno de Cessole
Délinquants itinérants issus des gens du voyage ou «petites mains» pilotées à distance par des mafias des pays de l’Est, ces bandes de cambrioleurs ignorant les frontières n’hésitent plus à couvrir des centaines de kilomètres lors de raids nocturnes pour repérer puis investir des demeures isolées. En quelques années, les «voleurs dans la loi» géorgiens sont devenus les «aristocrates» de la discipline. Organisés de façon quasi militaire et placés sous la férule de lieutenants, ces «Rappetout» venus du froid écument avec méthode les territoires les plus «giboyeux» du pays, notamment dans le Grand Ouest, les régions Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur ou encore Languedoc-Roussillon. Selon une estimation récente, la valeur marchande de leur colossal butin frise les 200.000 euros par semaine. Continuant à se propager dans les grandes villes, le fléau gangrène à une vitesse étourdissante les campagnes et les petites agglomérations: entre 2007 et 2012, le nombre de villas et résidences «visitées» en zone gendarmerie a bondi de 65 %. Soit 35.361 faits constatés de plus en cinq ans. En plein cœur du département de la Marne, où les cambriolages ont flambé de 47 % en un an, des clans albanais retranchés près de Tirana ont dépêché des «soldats» pour piller des maisons de campagne situées dans des villages jusque-là préservés tels que Livry-Louvercy, aux Petites-Loges ou encore à Gueux. Le Figaro
Le tout virtuel ne marche pas. Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise. A la longue, communiquer uniquement par mail ou par téléphone devient pénible. Gauthier Toulemonde
En présence de la diversité, nous nous replions sur nous-mêmes. Nous agissons comme des tortues. L’effet de la diversité est pire que ce qui avait été imaginé. Et ce n’est pas seulement que nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui ne sont pas comme nous. Dans les communautés diverses, nous ne faisons plus confiance à ceux qui nous ressemblent. Robert Putnam
Page appelle ça le « paradoxe de diversité. » Il pense que les effets à la fois positifs et négatifs de la diversité peuvent coexister dans les communautés, mais qu’il doit y avoir une limite. » Si l’investissement civique tombe trop bas, il est facile d’imaginer que les effets positifs de la diversité puissent tout aussi bien commencer à s’affaiblir. Michael Jonas
Americans don’t trust each other anymore. We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away. These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people. (…) Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists. What’s known as “social trust” brings good things. A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth. Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities. Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher. “It’s like the rules of the game,” Clark said. “When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.” (…) There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust. The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust. Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II. Connie Cass

A l’heure où même les plus démagogiques de nos dirigeants atteignent des sommets d’impopularité …

Et où, attirés par le grand festin de l’Etat-tout-Providence, les réfugiés économiques du Tiers-Monde comme les nouveaux barbares de l’est déferlent par vagues entières sur nos côtes et nos villes …

Pendant que, par manque de contact humain, un chef d’entreprise français, pourtant armé des dernières technologies numériques et d’un sacré sens de l’auto-promotion, se voit contraint après 40 jours à peine de mettre un terme à son expérience de Robinson virtuel …

Comment ne pas voir avec les résultats d’une grande enquête américaine sur les modes de vie …

Que contre les prédictions les plus naïves ou les plus roublardes de nos hérauts de la diversité …

Mais conformément aux prévisions des plus lucides de nos sociologues ou, accessoirement, de nos propres Evangiles …

Ce n’est pas nécessairement, derrière les spectaculaires et indéniables prodiges de nos nouvelles technologies, à plus de paix et d’harmonie que va aboutir le formidable rassemblement de population – proprement inouï dans l’Histoire de l’humanité – que nous connaissons actuellement …

Mais bien, très probablement, à des niveaux de conflit dont nous n’avons pas encore idée ?

In God we trust, maybe, but not each other

Connie Cass

WASHINGTON (AP) — You can take our word for it. Americans don’t trust each other anymore.

We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away.

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

“I’m leery of everybody,” said Bart Murawski, 27, of Albany, N.Y. “Caution is always a factor.”

Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists.

What’s known as “social trust” brings good things.

A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.

Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities.

Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher.

“It’s like the rules of the game,” Clark said. “When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.”

There’s no easy fix.

In fact, some studies suggest it’s too late for most Americans alive today to become more trusting. That research says the basis for a person’s lifetime trust levels is set by his or her mid-twenties and unlikely to change, other than in some unifying crucible such as a world war.

People do get a little more trusting as they age. But beginning with the baby boomers, each generation has started off adulthood less trusting than those who came before them.

The best hope for creating a more trusting nation may be figuring out how to inspire today’s youth, perhaps united by their high-tech gadgets, to trust the way previous generations did in simpler times.

There are still trusters around to set an example.

Pennsylvania farmer Dennis Hess is one. He runs an unattended farm stand on the honor system.

Customers pick out their produce, tally their bills and drop the money into a slot, making change from an unlocked cashbox. Both regulars and tourists en route to nearby Lititz, Pa., stop for asparagus in spring, corn in summer and, as the weather turns cold, long-neck pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies.

“When people from New York or New Jersey come up,” said Hess, 60, “they are amazed that this kind of thing is done anymore.”

Hess has updated the old ways with technology. He added a video camera a few years back, to help catch people who drive off without paying or raid the cashbox. But he says there isn’t enough theft to undermine his trust in human nature.

“I’ll say 99 and a half percent of the people are honest,” said Hess, who’s operated the produce stand for two decades.

There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust.

The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust.

Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II.

University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, puts the blame elsewhere: economic inequality.

Trust has declined as the gap between the nation’s rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They’ve lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth.

“People who believe the world is a good place and it’s going to get better and you can help make it better, they will be trusting,” Uslaner said. “If you believe it’s dark and driven by outside forces you can’t control, you will be a mistruster.”

African-Americans consistently have expressed far less faith in “most people” than the white majority does. Racism, discrimination and a high rate of poverty destroy trust.

Nearly 8 in 10 African-Americans, in the 2012 survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with principal funding from the National Science Foundation, felt that “you can’t be too careful.” That figure has held remarkably steady across the 25 GSS surveys since 1972.

The decline in the nation’s overall trust quotient was driven by changing attitudes among whites.

It’s possible that people today are indeed less deserving of trust than Americans in the past, perhaps because of a decline in moral values.

“I think people are acting more on their greed,” said Murawski, a computer specialist who says he has witnessed scams and rip-offs. “Everybody wants a comfortable lifestyle, but what are you going to do for it? Where do you draw the line?”

Ethical behavior such as lying and cheating are difficult to document over the decades. It’s worth noting that the early, most trusting years of the GSS poll coincided with Watergate and the Vietnam War. Trust dropped off in the more stable 1980s.

Crime rates fell in the 1990s and 2000s, and still Americans grew less trusting. Many social scientists blame 24-hour news coverage of distant violence for skewing people’s perceptions of crime.

Can anything bring trust back?

Uslaner and Clark don’t see much hope anytime soon.

Thomas Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar launched by Putnam, believes the trust deficit is “eminently fixable” if Americans strive to rebuild community and civic life, perhaps by harnessing technology.

After all, the Internet can widen the circle of acquaintances who might help you find a job. Email makes it easier for clubs to plan face-to-face meetings. Googling someone turns up information that used to come via the community grapevine.

But hackers and viruses and hateful posts eat away at trust. And sitting home watching YouTube means less time out meeting others.

“A lot of it depends on whether we can find ways to get people using technology to connect and be more civically involved,” Sander said.

“The fate of Americans’ trust,” he said, “is in our own hands.”

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Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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Online:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

General Social Survey: http://www3.norc.org/GSS+Website

Voir aussi:

L’exil du patron Robinson sur une île déserte touche à sa fin

Isabelle de Foucaud

le Figaro

18/11/2013

Gauthier Toulemonde est parti 40 jours sur une île de l’archipel indonésien pour démontrer que le télétravail n’est plus une utopie avec les technologies de communication.

Gauthier Toulemonde, qui a décidé de passer 40 jours sur une île au large de l’Indonésie pour tester des conditions «extrêmes» de télétravail, a pu gérer son entreprise sans encombre. Il sera de retour en France d’ici à la fin de la semaine.

Gauthier Toulemonde prépare ses valises avec le sentiment du devoir accompli. Il doit quitter mardi son île déserte de l’archipel indonésien, longue de 700 mètres, large de 500 et située à cinq heures de bateau du village le plus proche, sur laquelle il vient de passer 40 jours dans des conditions extrêmes. «J’appréhende le retour à la vie moderne après cette longue période de solitude. Je ne sais plus ce que c’est de prendre le métro ou d’être coincé dans les embouteillages», confie-t-il au figaro.fr par téléphone satellitaire ce lundi, à la veille de son départ.

A 54 ans, l’entrepreneur de Saint-André-lez-Lille (Nord), qui a partagé son expérience sur un blog, ne voulait pas seulement réaliser un «rêve d’enfant» en montant cette expédition à la Robinson Crusoé. Certes, il a passé ce séjour dans l’isolement total, mais ultra connecté. Un ordinateur, une tablette numérique et deux téléphones satellitaires alimentés par des panneaux solaires étaient du voyage. «Mon but était de démontrer que je pouvais continuer à gérer mon entreprise à distance, grâce aux nouvelles technologies», explique Gauthier Toulemonde , propriétaire de la société Timbropresse qui publie le mensuel Timbres magazine, et par ailleurs rédacteur en chef de L’Activité immobilière.

Un pari réussi. «Nous avons bouclé, avec mon équipe à distance, chaque magazine dans les délais et avec les mêmes contenus et paginations que d’habitude», se réjouit-il, en assurant avoir assumé sans encombre l’ensemble de ses responsabilités. Choix des sujets, attribution aux journalistes et pigistes, réalisation d’interviews et lancement des pages en production … «Les communications étaient réduites a minima et je privilégiais les échanges par mail plutôt que par téléphone satellitaire, ces appels étant beaucoup plus coûteux.» Le patron Robinson est parti avec un budget de «moins de 10.000 euros», sans sponsor, et s’est fixé comme limite stricte 20 euros de frais Internet par jour.

Les limites du «tout virtuel»

Autre complication: le décalage horaire de six heures (en plus) qui a considérablement rallongé les journées de Gauthier Toulemonde afin qu’il puisse «croiser» un minimum sa dizaine de salariés en France. «Lorsque je prenais du retard sur la rédaction d’un article, en revanche, ce décalage devenait un sérieux avantage pour moi en me donnant un peu plus de temps.»

Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent et fonctionnent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise

Des délais souvent bienvenus alors que ce chef d’entreprise – parti quand même avec des rations de survie de pâtes et de riz – devait en plus assurer sa subsistance en pêchant, chassant ou cueillant des végétaux dès 5 heures du matin. Le tout dans un environnement dominé par des rats, serpents et varans. «Ma plus grande crainte était de perdre ma connexion», confie cependant l’aventurier. Parti en pleine saison des pluies, il a subi des intempéries qui l’ont parfois fait vivre pendant quelques jours sur ses réserves d’énergie.

Ces frayeurs ont-elles refroidi l’enthousiasme de l’entrepreneur pour le télétravail? «Le tout virtuel ne marche pas. Si les solutions pour travailler à distance existent, rien ne remplace le contact humain nécessaire au bon fonctionnement d’une entreprise», conclut Gauthier Toulemonde, en confiant au passage qu’«à la longue, communiquer uniquement par mail ou par téléphone devient pénible».

Voir encore:

Real-life Robinson Crusoe who decided to run his Paris business from a remote Indonesian island goes home after being put off by the snakes, spiders and sky-high phone bills

Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, moved to a 700×500-metre island for 40 days

He scavenged for vegetables and fish, and ‘detoxed from modern life’

Only companion was a ‘rented’ dog that scared off wildlife for him

Says lack of human contact and fear of losing web signal was unbearable

Mia De Graaf

The Daily Mail

 30 November 2013

A French businessman who realised his childhood dream to relocate to a desert island has been driven home by wild Indonesian creatures and unaffordable phone bills.

Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, had been getting increasingly frustrated with his stagnant life commuting from Lille to Paris every day to his office job as a publicist.

Last Christmas, the sorry sight of distinctly un-merry Parisians lugging presents through the station compelled him to finally take a leap.

Deserted: Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, relocated his work as a publicist to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands

Deserted: Gauthier Toulemonde, 54, relocated his work as a publicist to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands

Moving to one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands like Robinson Crusoe moved to Trinidad, Mr Toulemonde ‘detoxed from modern life’ by scavenging for food, being in touch with nature, and having little to no contact with other human beings.

His only companion was Gecko, a dog borrowed from a Chinese woman, to scare off the wildlife.

He told The Guardian he wanted to be the first ‘Web Robinson’ to persuade French people to abandon the tiring, demoralising commute and work remotely.

He added: ‘I found myself in Gare Saint Lazare in Paris just before Christmas watching the continuous stream of people passing by.

Idyllic: He was bound by Indonesian law to keep the exact location of the 700×500-metre island a secret

Idyllic: He was bound by Indonesian law to keep the exact location of the 700×500-metre island a secret

‘Web Robinson': Toulemonde filmed his experiment testing if it was possible to work this far from the office

‘Web Robinson': Toulemonde filmed his experiment testing if it was possible to work this far from the office

‘They had this sad look on their faces, even though they were carrying Christmas presents. It had long seemed to me absurd this travelling back and forth to offices.

‘My idea of going away had been growing for a while, but it was on that day, I decided to leave.’

It took him six months – and numerous run-ins with the Indonesian government – to find the perfect uninhabited island for a six-week trial run. Although he managed to persuade officials to let him go, he was ordered by law not to reveal the exact location of the hideaway, that is just 700-by-500 metres.

Finally, in October he set off – with just a tent, four solar panels, a phone, a laptop, rice and pasta for supplies.

Guard dog: Gecko, a dog he borrowed from a Chinese woman, helped scare off the wildlife

Guard dog: Gecko, a dog he borrowed from a Chinese woman, helped scare off the wildlife

Isolated: Toulemonde was banned from revealing the exact location of the uninhabited island

Isolated: Toulemonde was banned from stating the exact location of the uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean

Every day he woke at 5am and went to bed at midnight.

He would scavenge for vegetables on the island and fish in the sea before simply reclining to ‘detox from modern life’.

‘Those days, for me it was like being in quarantine,’ he told Le Figaro.

‘I used the time as a detox from modern life.’

He told Paris Match: ‘What gave me most joy was living – stripped bare – in the closest possible contact with nature. Every day was magical.’

However, it was not stress-free: his company had to publish two editions of Stamps Magazine.

Snakes: Toulemonde was surrounded by Indonesia’s wildlife ranging from small snakes to giant pythons

Snakes: Toulemonde was surrounded by Indonesia’s wildlife ranging from small snakes to giant pythons

Rats: He said living on the island with pests such as rats for any more than 40 days would be too much to handle

Rats: He said living on the island with pests such as rats for any more than 40 days would be too much to handle

Diary: He wrote a blog and made videos tracking his progress. He admitted he won’t go out again

Diary: He wrote a blog and made videos tracking his progress. He admitted he won’t go out again

He allowed himself 20 euros a day for internet to email his employees – and abandoned extortionate phone calls early on.

But after completing his trial, Mr Toulemonde has conceded that he cannot do it forever.

Although he claims the ‘telecommuting’ experiment was a success, he told French broadcasters My TF1 News that the snakes and rats were intolerable – and fear of losing Internet connection was even worse.

The biggest challenge was lack of human contact.

He said: ‘Telecommuting really works but doing everything virtually has its limits. Working from distance might be doable, but nothing can replace human contact.’

Voir par ailleurs:

Exclusive: Signs of declining economic security

Hope Yen

Jul. 28, 2013

ECONOMIC INSECURITY

Chart shows cumulative economic insecurity by age; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to « rebuild ladders of opportunity » and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy « poor. »

« I think it’s going to get worse, » said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it doesn’t generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.

« If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work, » she said. Children, she said, have « nothing better to do than to get on drugs. »

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines « economic insecurity » as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

« It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position, » said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty.

He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama’s election, while struggling whites do not.

« There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front, » Wilson said.

___

Sometimes termed « the invisible poor » by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Still, while census figures provide an official measure of poverty, they’re only a temporary snapshot. The numbers don’t capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person’s lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.

« Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them’, it’s an issue of ‘us’, » says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. « Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need. »

Rank’s analysis is supplemented with figures provided by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau.

Among the findings:

—For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households who were living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.

—The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods — those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more — has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teen pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17 percent of the child population in such neighborhoods, up from 13 percent in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.

The share of black children in high-poverty neighborhoods dropped sharply, from 43 percent to 37 percent, while the share of Latino children ticked higher, from 38 to 39 percent.

___

Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, which is conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.

The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify as working class: 49 percent say they think their children will do better than them, compared with 67 percent of non-whites who consider themselves working class.

In November, Obama won the votes of just 36 percent of those noncollege whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among that group since 1984.

Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential « decisive swing voter group » if minority and youth turnout level off in future elections.

« They don’t trust big government, but it doesn’t mean they want no government, » says Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who agrees that working-class whites will remain an important electoral group. « They feel that politicians are giving attention to other people and not them. »

___

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Debra McCown in Buchanan County, Va., contributed to this report.

Voir aussi:

Report: U.S. Spent $3.7 Trillion on Welfare Over Last 5 Years

Dutch King: Say Goodbye to Welfare State

AMSTERDAM September 17, 2013 (AP)

Toby Sterling Associated Press

King Willem-Alexander delivered a message to the Dutch people from the government Tuesday in a nationally televised address: the welfare state of the 20th century is gone.

In its place a « participation society » is emerging, in which people must take responsibility for their own future and create their own social and financial safety nets, with less help from the national government.

The king traveled past waving fans in an ornate horse-drawn carriage to the 13th-century Hall of Knights in The Hague for the monarch’s traditional annual address on the day the government presents its budget for the coming year. It was Willem-Alexander’s first appearance on the national stage since former Queen Beatrix abdicated in April and he ascended to the throne.

« The shift to a ‘participation society’ is especially visible in social security and long-term care, » the king said, reading out to lawmakers a speech written for him by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government.

« The classic welfare state of the second half of the 20th century in these areas in particular brought forth arrangements that are unsustainable in their current form. »

Rutte may be hoping that the pomp and ceremony surrounding the king and his popular wife, Queen Maxima, will provide a diversion from the gloomy reality of a budget full of unpopular new spending cuts he revealed later in the day.

A series of recent polls have shown that confidence in Rutte’s government is at record low levels, and that most Dutch people — along with labor unions, employers’ associations and many economists — believe the Cabinet’s austerity policies are at least partially to blame as the Dutch economy has worsened even as recoveries are underway in neighboring Germany, France and Britain.

After several consecutive years of government spending cuts, the Dutch economy is expected to have shrunk by more than 1 percent in 2013, and the agency is forecasting growth of just 0.5 percent next year.

« The necessary reforms take time and demand perseverance, » the king said. But they will « lay the basis for creating jobs and restoring confidence. »

Willem-Alexander said that nowadays, people expect and « want to make their own choices, to arrange their own lives, and take care of each other. »

The ‘participation society’ has been on its way for some time: benefits such as unemployment compensation and subsidies on health care have been regularly pruned for the past decade. The retirement age has been raised to 67.

The king said Tuesday some costs for the care of the elderly, for youth services, and for job retraining after layoffs will now be pushed back to the local level, in order to make them better tailored to local circumstances.

The monarchy was not immune to cost-cutting and Willem-Alexander’s salary will be cut from around 825,000 euros ($1.1 million) this year to 817,000 euros in 2014. Maintaining the Royal House — castles, parades and all — costs the government around 40 million euros annually.

A review of the government’s budget by the country’s independent analysis agency showed that the deficit will widen in 2014 to 3.3 percent of GDP despite the new spending cuts intended to reduce it.

Eurozone rules specify that countries must keep their deficit below 3 percent, and Rutte has been among the most prominent of European leaders, along with Germany’s Angela Merkel, in insisting that Southern European countries attempt to meet that target.

Among other measures, the government announced 2,300 new military job cuts. That follows a 2011 decision to cut 12,000 jobs — one out of every six defense employees — between 2012 and 2015.

However, the government said Tuesday it has decided once and for all not to abandon the U.S.-led « Joint Strike Fighter » program to develop new military aircraft. The program has suffered cost overruns and created divisions within Rutte’s governing coalition.

A debate over the budget later this week will be crucial for the future of the coalition, as it does not command a majority in the upper house, and it must seek help from opposition parties to have the budget approved.

Challenged as to whether his Cabinet may be facing a crisis, Rutte insisted in an interview with national broadcaster NOS on Tuesday that he ultimately will find support for the budget.

« At crucial moments, the opposition is willing to do its share, » he said.

Geert Wilders, whose far right Freedom Party currently tops popularity polls, called Rutte’s budget the equivalent of « kicking the country while it’s down. »

——–

History suggests that era of entitlements is nearly over

Michael Barone

The Examiner

January 11, 2013

It’s often good fun and sometimes revealing to divide American history into distinct periods of uniform length. In working on my forthcoming book on American migrations, internal and immigrant, it occurred to me that you could do this using the American-sounding interval of 76 years, just a few years more than the biblical lifespan of three score and ten.

It was 76 years from Washington’s First Inaugural in 1789 to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural in 1865. It was 76 years from the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865 to the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Going backward, it was 76 years from the First Inaugural in 1789 to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which settled one of the British-French colonial wars. And going 76 years back from Utrecht takes you to 1637, when the Virginia and Massachusetts Bay colonies were just getting organized.

As for our times, we are now 71 years away from Pearl Harbor. The current 76-year interval ends in December 2017.

Each of these 76-year periods can be depicted as a distinct unit. In the Colonial years up to 1713, very small numbers of colonists established separate cultures that have persisted to our times.

The story is brilliantly told in David Hackett Fischer’s « Albion’s Seed. » For a more downbeat version, read the recent « The Barbarous Years » by the nonagenarian Bernard Bailyn.

From 1713 to 1789, the Colonies were peopled by much larger numbers of motley and often involuntary settlers — slaves, indentured servants, the unruly Scots-Irish on the Appalachian frontier.

For how this society became dissatisfied with the Colonial status quo, read Bailyn’s « The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. »

From 1789 to 1865, Americans sought their manifest destiny by expanding across the continent. They made great technological advances but were faced with the irreconcilable issue of slavery in the territories.

For dueling accounts of the period, read the pro-Andrew Jackson Democrat Sean Wilentz’s « The Rise of American Democracy » and the pro-Henry Clay Whig Daniel Walker Howe’s « What Hath God Wrought. » Both are sparklingly written and full of offbeat insights and brilliant apercus.

The 1865-to-1941 period saw a vast efflorescence of market capitalism, European immigration and rising standards of living. For descriptions of how economic change reshaped the nation and its government, read Morton Keller’s « Affairs of State » and « Regulating a New Society. »

The 70-plus years since 1941 have seen a vast increase in the welfare safety net and governance by cooperation among big units — big government, big business, big labor — that began in the New Deal and gained steam in and after World War II. I immodestly offer my own « Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan. »

The original arrangements in each 76-year period became unworkable and unraveled toward its end. Eighteenth-century Americans rejected the Colonial status quo and launched a revolution, then established a constitutional republic.

Nineteenth-century Americans went to war over expansion of slavery. Early-20th-century Americans grappled with the collapse of the private-sector economy in the Depression of the 1930s.

We are seeing something like this again today. The welfare state arrangements that once seemed solid are on the path to unsustainability.

Entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — are threatening to gobble up the whole government and much of the private sector, as well.

Lifetime employment by one big company represented by one big union is a thing of the past. People who counted on corporate or public-sector pensions are seeing them default.

Looking back, we are as far away in time today from victory in World War II in 1945 as Americans were at the time of the Dred Scott decision from the First Inaugural.

We are as far away in time today from passage of the Social Security in 1935 as Americans then were from the launching of post-Civil War Reconstruction.

Nevertheless our current president and most politicians of his party seem determined to continue the current welfare state arrangements — historian Walter Russell Mead calls this the blue-state model — into the indefinite future.

Some leaders of the other party are advancing ideas for adapting a system that worked reasonably well in an industrial age dominated by seemingly eternal big units into something that can prove workable in an information age experiencing continual change and upheaval wrought by innovations in the market economy.

The current 76-year period is nearing its end. What will come next?

Michael Barone,The Examiner’s senior political analyst, can be contacted at mbarone@washingtonexaminer.com

———-

America’s Fourth Revolution: The Coming Collapse of the Entitlement Society-and How We Will Survive It

James Piereson

The United States has been shaped by three far-reaching political revolutions: Jefferson’s “revolution of 1800,” the Civil War, and the New Deal. Each of these upheavals concluded with lasting institutional and cultural adjustments that set the stage for new phases of political and economic development. Are we on the verge of a new upheaval, a “fourth revolution” that will reshape U.S. politics for decades to come? There are signs to suggest that we are.

America’s Fourth Revolution describes the political upheaval that will overtake the United States over the next decade as a consequence of economic stagnation, the growth of government, and the exhaustion of post-war arrangements that formerly underpinned American prosperity and power. The inter-connected challenges of public debt, the retirement of the « baby boom » generation, and slow economic growth have reached a point where they can no longer be addressed by incremental adjustments in taxes and spending, but will require profound changes in the role of government in American life. At the same time, the widening gulf between the two political parties and the entrenched power of interest groups will make it difficult to negotiate the changes needed to renew the system.

America’s Fourth Revolution places this impending upheaval in historical context by reminding readers that Americans have faced and overcome similar challenges in the past and that they seem to resolve their deepest problems in relatively brief but intense periods of political conflict. In contrast to other books which claim that the United States is in decline, America’s Fourth Revolution argues that Americans will struggle over the next decade to form a governing coalition that will guide the nation on a path of renewed dynamism and prosperity.

Voir enfin:

L’enfer c’est les autres

1964 et 1970

L’existentialisme athée

par Jean-Paul Sartre

Extrait du CD « Huis clos » et de « L’Existentialisme est un humanisme »

* * *

L’enfer, c’est les autres [1]

Quand on écrit une pièce, il y a toujours des causes occasionnelles et des soucis profonds. La cause occasionnelle c’est que, au moment où j’ai écrit Huis clos, vers 1943 et début 44, j’avais trois amis et je voulais qu’ils jouent une pièce, une pièce de moi, sans avantager aucun d’eux. C’est-à-dire, je voulais qu’ils restent ensemble tout le temps sur la scène. Parce que je me disais que s’il y en a un qui s’en va, il pensera que les autres ont un meilleur rôle au moment où il s’en va. Je voulais donc les garder ensemble. Et je me suis dit, comment peut-on mettre ensemble trois personnes sans jamais en faire sortir l’une d’elles et les garder sur la scène jusqu’au bout, comme pour l’éternité. C’est là que m’est venue l’idée de les mettre en enfer et de les faire chacun le bourreau des deux autres. Telle est la cause occasionnelle. Par la suite, d’ailleurs, je dois dire, ces trois amis n’ont pas joué la pièce, et comme vous le savez, c’est Michel Vitold, Tania Balachova et Gaby Sylvia qui l’ont jouée.

Mais il y avait à ce moment-là des soucis plus généraux et j’ai voulu exprimer autre chose dans la pièce que, simplement, ce que l’occasion me donnait. J’ai voulu dire « l’enfer c’est les autres ». Mais « l’enfer c’est les autres » a été toujours mal compris. On a cru que je voulais dire par là que nos rapports avec les autres étaient toujours empoisonnés, que c’était toujours des rapports infernaux. Or, c’est tout autre chose que je veux dire. Je veux dire que si les rapports avec autrui sont tordus, viciés, alors l’autre ne peut être que l’enfer. Pourquoi ? Parce que les autres sont, au fond, ce qu’il y a de plus important en nous-mêmes, pour notre propre connaissance de nous-mêmes. Quand nous pensons sur nous, quand nous essayons de nous connaître, au fond nous usons des connaissances que les autres ont déjà sur nous, nous nous jugeons avec les moyens que les autres ont, nous ont donné, de nous juger. Quoi que je dise sur moi, toujours le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Quoi que je sente de moi, le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Ce qui veut dire que, si mes rapports sont mauvais, je me mets dans la totale dépendance d’autrui et alors, en effet, je suis en enfer. Et il existe une quantité de gens dans le monde qui sont en enfer parce qu’ils dépendent trop du jugement d’autrui. Mais cela ne veut nullement dire qu’on ne puisse avoir d’autres rapports avec les autres, ça marque simplement l’importance capitale de tous les autres pour chacun de nous.

Deuxième chose que je voudrais dire, c’est que ces gens ne sont pas semblables à nous. Les trois personnes que vous entendrez dans Huis clos ne nous ressemblent pas en ceci que nous sommes tous vivants et qu’ils sont morts. Bien entendu, ici, « morts » symbolise quelque chose. Ce que j’ai voulu indiquer, c’est précisément que beaucoup de gens sont encroûtés dans une série d’habitudes, de coutumes, qu’ils ont sur eux des jugements dont ils souffrent mais qu’ils ne cherchent même pas à changer. Et que ces gens-là sont comme morts, en ce sens qu’ils ne peuvent pas briser le cadre de leurs soucis, de leurs préoccupations et de leurs coutumes et qu’ils restent ainsi victimes souvent des jugements que l’on a portés sur eux.

À partir de là, il est bien évident qu’ils sont lâches ou méchants. Par exemple, s’ils ont commencé à être lâches, rien ne vient changer le fait qu’ils étaient lâches. C’est pour cela qu’ils sont morts, c’est pour cela, c’est une manière de dire que c’est une « mort vivante » que d’être entouré par le souci perpétuel de jugements et d’actions que l’on ne veut pas changer.

De sorte que, en vérité, comme nous sommes vivants, j’ai voulu montrer, par l’absurde, l’importance, chez nous, de la liberté, c’est-à-dire l’importance de changer les actes par d’autres actes. Quel que soit le cercle d’enfer dans lequel nous vivons, je pense que nous sommes libres de le briser. Et si les gens ne le brisent pas, c’est encore librement qu’ils y restent. De sorte qu’ils se mettent librement en enfer.

Vous voyez donc que « rapport avec les autres », « encroûtement » et « liberté », liberté comme l’autre face à peine suggérée, ce sont les trois thèmes de la pièce.

Je voudrais qu’on se le rappelle quand vous entendrez dire… « L’enfer c’est les autres ».

Je tiens à ajouter, en terminant, qu’il m’est arrivé en 1944, à la première représentation, un très rare bonheur, très rare pour les auteurs dramatiques : c’est que les personnages ont été incarnés de telle manière par les trois acteurs, et aussi par Chauffard, le valet d’enfer, qui l’a toujours jouée depuis, que je ne puis plus me représenter mes propres imaginations autrement que sous les traits de Michel Vitold, Gaby Sylvia, de Tania Balachova et de Chauffard. Depuis, la pièce a été rejouée par d’autres acteurs, et je tiens en particulier à dire que j’ai vu Christiane Lenier, quand elle l’a jouée, et que j’ai admiré quelle excellente Inès elle a été.

L’existence précède l’essence [2]

Est-ce qu’au fond, ce qui fait peur, dans la doctrine que je vais essayer de vous exposer, ce n’est pas le fait qu’elle laisse une possibilité de choix à l’homme ? Pour le savoir, il faut que nous revoyions la question sur un plan strictement philosophique.

Qu’est-ce qu’on appelle existentialisme ? La plupart des gens qui utilisent ce mot seraient bien embarrassés pour le justifier, puisque aujourd’hui [1945], que c’est devenu une mode, on déclare volontiers qu’un musicien ou qu’un peintre est existentialiste. Un échotier de Clartés signe l’Existentialiste ; et au fond le mot a pris aujourd’hui une telle largeur et une telle extension qu’il ne signifie plus rien du tout. Il semble que, faute de doctrine d’avant-garde analogue au surréalisme, les gens avides de scandale et de mouvement s’adressent à cette philosophie, qui ne peut d’ailleurs rien leur apporter dans ce domaine ; en réalité c’est la doctrine la moins scandaleuse, la plus austère ; elle est strictement destinée aux techniciens et aux philosophes. Pourtant, elle peut se définir facilement. Ce qui rend les choses compliquées, c’est qu’il y a deux espèces d’existentialistes : les premiers, qui sont chrétiens, et parmi lesquels je rangerai Jaspers et Gabriel Marcel, de confession catholique ; et, d’autre part, les existentialistes athées parmi lesquels il faut ranger Heidegger, et aussi les existentialistes français et moi-même. Ce qu’ils ont en commun, c’est simplement le fait qu’ils estiment que l’existence précède l’essence, ou, si vous voulez, qu’il faut partir de la subjectivité. Que faut-il au juste entendre par là ? Lorsqu’on considère un objet fabriqué, comme par exemple un livre ou un coupe-papier, cet objet a été fabriqué par un artisan qui s’est inspiré d’un concept ; il s’est référé au concept de coupe-papier, et également à une technique de production préalable qui fait partie du concept, et qui est au fond une recette. Ainsi, le coupe-papier est à la fois un objet qui se produit d’une certaine manière et qui, d’autre part, a une utilité définie, et on ne peut pas supposer un homme qui produirait un coupe-papier sans savoir à quoi l’objet va servir. Nous dirons donc que, pour le coupe-papier, l’essence — c’est-à-dire l’ensemble des recettes et des qualités qui permettent de le produire et de le définir — précède l’existence ; et ainsi la présence, en face de moi, de tel coupe-papier ou de tel livre est déterminée. Nous avons donc là une vision technique du monde, dans laquelle on peut dire que la production précède l’existence.

Lorsque nous concevons un Dieu créateur, ce Dieu est assimilé la plupart du temps à un artisan supérieur ; et quelle que soit la doctrine que nous considérions, qu’il s’agisse d’une doctrine comme celle de Descartes ou de la doctrine de Leibniz, nous admettons toujours que la volonté suit plus ou moins l’entendement, ou tout au moins l’accompagne, et que Dieu, lorsqu’il crée, sait précisément ce qu’il crée. Ainsi, le concept d’homme, dans l’esprit de Dieu, est assimilable au concept de coupe-papier dans l’esprit de l’industriel ; et Dieu produit l’homme suivant des techniques et une conception, exactement comme l’artisan fabrique un coupe-papier suivant une définition et une technique. Ainsi l’homme individuel réalise un certain concept qui est dans l’entendement divin. Au XVIIIe siècle, dans l’athéisme des philosophes, la notion de Dieu est supprimée, mais non pas pour autant l’idée que l’essence précède l’existence. Cette idée, nous la retrouvons un peu partout : nous la retrouvons chez Diderot, chez Voltaire, et même chez Kant. L’homme est possesseur d’une nature humaine ; cette nature humaine, qui est le concept humain, se retrouve chez tous les hommes, ce qui signifie que chaque homme est un exemple particulier d’un concept universel, l’homme ; chez Kant, il résulte de cette universalité que l’homme des bois, l’homme de la nature, comme le bourgeois sont astreints à la même définition et possèdent les mêmes qualités de base. Ainsi, là encore, l’essence d’homme précède cette existence historique que nous rencontrons dans la nature.

L’existentialisme athée, que je représente, est plus cohérent. Il déclare que si Dieu n’existe pas, il y a au moins un être chez qui l’existence précède l’essence, un être qui existe avant de pouvoir être défini par aucun concept et que cet être c’est l’homme ou, comme dit Heidegger, la réalité humaine. Qu’est-ce que signifie ici que l’existence précède l’essence ? Cela signifie que l’homme existe d’abord, se rencontre, surgit dans le monde, et qu’il se définit après.

L’homme, tel que le conçoit l’existentialiste, s’il n’est pas définissable, c’est qu’il n’est d’abord rien. Il ne sera qu’ensuite, et il sera tel qu’il se sera fait. Ainsi, il n’y a pas de nature humaine, puisqu’il n’y a pas de Dieu pour la concevoir. L’homme est seulement, non seulement tel qu’il se conçoit, mais tel qu’il se veut, et comme il se conçoit après l’existence, comme il se veut après cet élan vers l’existence ; l’homme n’est rien d’autre que ce qu’il se fait. Tel est le premier principe de l’existentialisme.

C’est aussi ce qu’on appelle la subjectivité, et que l’on nous reproche sous ce nom même. Mais que voulons-nous dire par là, sinon que l’homme a une plus grande dignité que la pierre ou que la table ? Car nous voulons dire que l’homme existe d’abord, c’est-à-dire que l’homme est d’abord ce qui se jette vers un avenir, et ce qui est conscient de se projeter dans l’avenir. L’homme est d’abord un projet qui se vit subjectivement, au lieu d’être une mousse, une pourriture ou un chou-fleur ; rien n’existe préalablement à ce projet ; rien n’est au ciel intelligible, et l’homme sera d’abord ce qu’il aura projeté d’être. Non pas ce qu’il voudra être. Car ce que nous entendons ordinairement par vouloir, c’est une décision consciente, et qui est pour la plupart d’entre nous postérieure à ce qu’il s’est fait lui-même. Je peux vouloir adhérer à un parti, écrire un livre, me marier, tout cela n’est qu’une manifestation d’un choix plus originel, plus spontané que ce qu’on appelle volonté. Mais si vraiment l’existence précède l’essence, l’homme est responsable de ce qu’il est. Ainsi, la première démarche de l’existentialisme est de mettre tout homme en possession de ce qu’il est et de faire reposer sur lui la responsabilité totale de son existence.

Ma volonté engage l’humanité entière [3]

Ainsi, notre responsabilité est beaucoup plus grande que nous ne pourrions le supposer, car elle engage l’humanité entière. Si je suis ouvrier, et si je choisis d’adhérer à un syndicat chrétien plutôt que d’être communiste, si, par cette adhésion, je veux indiquer que la résignation est au fond la solution qui convient à l’homme, que le royaume de l’homme n’est pas sur la terre, je n’engage pas seulement mon cas : je veux être résigné pour tous, par conséquent ma démarche a engagé l’humanité tout entière. Et si je veux, fait plus individuel, me marier, avoir des enfants, même si ce mariage dépend uniquement de ma situation, ou de ma passion, ou de mon désir, par là j’engage non seulement moi-même, mais l’humanité tout entière sur la voie de la monogamie. Ainsi je suis responsable pour moi-même et pour tous, et je crée une certaine image de l’homme que je choisis ; en me choisissant, je choisis l’homme.

L’angoisse et la mauvaise foi [4]

Ceci nous permet de comprendre ce que recouvrent des mots un peu grandiloquents comme angoisse, délaissement, désespoir. Comme vous allez voir, c’est extrêmement simple. D’abord, qu’entend-on par angoisse ? L’existentialiste déclare volontiers que l’homme est angoisse. Cela signifie ceci : l’homme qui s’engage et qui se rend compte qu’il est non seulement celui qu’il choisit d’être, mais encore un législateur choisissant en même temps que soi l’humanité entière, ne saurait échapper au sentiment de sa totale et profonde responsabilité. Certes, beaucoup de gens ne sont pas anxieux ; mais nous prétendons qu’ils se masquent leur angoisse, qu’ils la fuient ; certainement, beaucoup de gens croient en agissant n’engager qu’eux-mêmes, et lorsqu’on leur dit : « mais si tout le monde faisait comme ça ? » ils haussent les épaules et répondent : « tout le monde ne fait pas comme ça. » Mais en vérité, on doit toujours se demander : qu’arriverait-il si tout le monde en faisait autant ? Et on n’échappe à cette pensée inquiétante que par une sorte de mauvaise foi. Celui qui ment et qui s’excuse en déclarant : tout le monde ne fait pas comme ça, est quelqu’un qui est mal à l’aise avec sa conscience, car le fait de mentir implique une valeur universelle attribuée au mensonge. Même lorsqu’elle se masque l’angoisse apparaît. C’est cette angoisse que Kierkegaard appelait l’angoisse d’Abraham.

Vous connaissez l’histoire : Un ange a ordonné à Abraham de sacrifier son fils : tout va bien si c’est vraiment un ange qui est venu et qui a dit : tu es Abraham, tu sacrifieras ton fils. Mais chacun peut se demander, d’abord, est-ce que c’est bien un ange, et est-ce que je suis bien Abraham ? Qu’est-ce qui me le prouve ? Il y avait une folle qui avait des hallucinations : on lui parlait par téléphone et on lui donnait des ordres. Le médecin lui demanda : « Mais qui est-ce qui vous parle ? » Elle répondit : « Il dit que c’est Dieu. » Et qu’est-ce qui lui prouvait, en effet, que c’était Dieu ? Si un ange vient à moi, qu’est-ce qui prouve que c’est un ange ? Et si j’entends des voix, qu’est-ce qui prouve qu’elles viennent du ciel et non de l’enfer, ou d’un subconscient, ou d’un état pathologique ? Qui prouve qu’elles s’adressent à moi ? Qui prouve que je suis bien désigné pour imposer ma conception de l’homme et mon choix à l’humanité ? Je ne trouverai jamais aucune preuve, aucun signe pour m’en convaincre. Si une voix s’adresse à moi, c’est toujours moi qui déciderai que cette voix est la voix de l’ange ; si je considère que tel acte est bon, c’est moi qui choisirai de dire que cet acte est bon plutôt que mauvais. Rien ne me désigne pour être Abraham, et pourtant je suis obligé à chaque instant de faire des actes exemplaires. Tout se passe comme si, pour tout homme, toute l’humanité avait les yeux fixés sur ce qu’il fait et se réglait sur ce qu’il fait. Et chaque homme doit se dire : suis-je bien celui qui a le droit d’agir de telle sorte que l’humanité se règle sur mes actes ? Et s’il ne se dit pas cela, c’est qu’il se masque l’angoisse. Il ne s’agit pas là d’une angoisse qui conduirait au quiétisme, à l’inaction. Il s’agit d’une angoisse simple, que tous ceux qui ont eu des responsabilités connaissent. Lorsque, par exemple, un chef militaire prend la responsabilité d’une attaque et envoie un certain nombre d’hommes à la mort, il choisit de le faire, et au fond il choisit seul. Sans doute il y a des ordres qui viennent d’en haut, mais ils sont trop larges et une interprétation s’impose, qui vient de lui, et de cette interprétation dépend la vie de dix ou quatorze ou vingt hommes. Il ne peut pas ne pas avoir, dans la décision qu’il prend, une certaine angoisse.

Tous les chefs connaissent cette angoisse. Cela ne les empêche pas d’agir, au contraire, c’est la condition même de leur action ; car cela suppose qu’ils envisagent une pluralité de possibilités, et lorsqu’ils en choisissent une, ils se rendent compte qu’elle n’a de valeur que parce qu’elle est choisie. Et cette sorte d’angoisse, qui est celle que décrit l’existentialisme, nous verrons qu’elle s’explique en outre par une responsabilité directe vis-à-vis des autres hommes qu’elle engage. Elle n’est pas un rideau qui nous séparerait de l’action, mais elle fait partie de l’action même.

L’homme est condamné à être libre [5]

Et lorsqu’on parle de délaissement, expression chère à Heidegger, nous voulons dire seulement que Dieu n’existe pas, et qu’il faut en tirer jusqu’au bout les conséquences. L’existentialiste est très opposé à un certain type de morale laïque qui voudrait supprimer Dieu avec le moins de frais possible.

Lorsque, vers 1880, des professeurs français essayèrent de constituer une morale laïque, ils dirent à peu près ceci : Dieu est une hypothèse inutile et coûteuse, nous la supprimons, mais il est nécessaire cependant, pour qu’il y ait une morale, une société, un monde policé, que certaines valeurs soient prises au sérieux et considérées comme existant a priori ; il faut qu’il soit obligatoire a priori d’être honnête, de ne pas mentir, de ne pas battre sa femme, de faire des enfants, etc., etc.. Nous allons donc faire un petit travail qui permettra de montrer que ces valeurs existent tout de même, inscrites dans un ciel intelligible, bien que, par ailleurs, Dieu n’existe pas. Autrement dit, et c’est, je crois, la tendance de tout ce qu’on appelle en France le radicalisme, rien ne sera changé si Dieu n’existe pas ; nous retrouverons les mêmes normes d’honnêteté, de progrès, d’humanisme, et nous aurons fait de Dieu une hypothèse périmée qui mourra tranquillement et d’elle-même.

L’existentialiste, au contraire, pense qu’il est très gênant que Dieu n’existe pas, car avec lui disparaît toute possibilité de trouver des valeurs dans un ciel intelligible ; il ne peut plus y avoir de bien a priori, puisqu’il n’y a pas de conscience infinie et parfaite pour le penser ; il n’est écrit nulle part que le bien existe, qu’il faut être honnête, qu’il ne faut pas mentir, puisque précisément nous sommes sur un plan où il y a seulement des hommes. Dostoïevsky avait écrit : « Si Dieu n’existait pas, tout serait permis. » C’est là le point de départ de l’existentialisme. En effet, tout est permis si Dieu n’existe pas, et par conséquent l’homme est délaissé, parce qu’il ne trouve ni en lui, ni hors de lui une possibilité de s’accrocher. Il ne trouve d’abord pas d’excuses. Si, en effet, l’existence précède l’essence, on ne pourra jamais expliquer par référence à une nature humaine donnée et figée ; autrement dit, il n’y a pas de déterminisme, l’homme est libre, l’homme est liberté. Si, d’autre part, Dieu n’existe pas, nous ne trouvons pas en face de nous des valeurs ou des ordres qui légitimeront notre conduite. Ainsi, nous n’avons ni derrière nous, ni devant nous, dans le domaine lumineux des valeurs, des justifications ou des excuses. Nous sommes seuls, sans excuses. C’est ce que j’exprimerai en disant que l’homme est condamné à être libre. Condamné, parce qu’il ne s’est pas créé lui-même, et par ailleurs cependant libre, parce qu’une fois jeté dans le monde, il est responsable de tout ce qu’il fait.

L’existentialiste ne croit pas à la puissance de la passion. Il ne pensera jamais qu’une belle passion est un torrent dévastateur qui conduit fatalement l’homme à certains actes, et qui, par conséquent, est une excuse. Il pense que l’homme est responsable de sa passion. L’existentialiste ne pensera pas non plus que l’homme peut trouver un secours dans un signe donné, sur terre, qui l’orientera ; car il pense que l’homme déchiffre lui-même le signe comme il lui plaît. Il pense donc que l’homme, sans aucun appui et sans aucun secours, est condamné à chaque instant à inventer l’homme.

Le désespoir [6]

Quant au désespoir, cette expression a un sens extrêmement simple. Elle veut dire que nous nous bornerons à compter sur ce qui dépend de notre volonté, ou sur l’ensemble des probabilités qui rendent notre action possible.

Quand on veut quelque chose, il y a toujours des éléments probables. Je puis compter sur la venue d’un ami. Cet ami vient en chemin de fer ou en tramway ; cela suppose que le chemin de fer arrivera à l’heure dite, ou que le tramway ne déraillera pas. Je reste dans le domaine des possibilités ; mais il ne s’agit de compter sur les possibles que dans la mesure stricte où notre action comporte l’ensemble de ces possibles. À partir du moment où les possibilités que je considère ne sont pas rigoureusement engagées par mon action, je dois m’en désintéresser, parce qu’aucun Dieu, aucun dessein ne peut adapter le monde et ses possibles à ma volonté. Au fond, quand Descartes disait : « Se vaincre plutôt soi-même que le monde », il voulait dire la même chose : agir sans espoir.

[1] Extrait audio et texte de Jean-Paul Sartre, Huis clos, Groupe Frémeaux Colombini SAS © 2010 (La Librairie Sonore en accord avec Moshé Naïm Emen © 1964 et Gallimard © 2004, ancien exploitant).

[2] Jean-Paul Sartre, L’Existentialisme est un humanisme, Éditions Nagel © 1970, pages 15 à 24.

Extrait audio de Luc Ferry, Mythologie, Frémeaux & Associés © 2010, CD2-[8], L’invention de la liberté, 0:07 à 3:34.

[3] Ibid. pages 26 et 27.

[4] Ibid. pages 27 à 33.

[5] Ibid. pages 33 à 38.

[6] Ibid. pages 49 à 51.

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