French hit back at Newsweek article

Commentators are upset at ‘anti-French’ claims including that milk costs three euros for a half-litre in France

7 January 2014

FRENCH journalists have reacted with anger to a Newsweek piece called “The Fall of France”, which they have described as “Frenchbashing” and full of errors, including claiming milk costs €3 for half a litre in France.

Written by an American, Janine di Giovanni, who has lived in Paris for 10 years after living in London, the piece takes aim at alleged excesses of French socialist policies and lack of competitiveness and entrepreneurialism.

It also claims that “business leaders, innovators, creative thinkers and top executives” are “all leaving France to develop their talents elsewhere”.

The views, while arguably exaggerated, are not far removed from those of some on the French right, however commentators have especially taken issue with what Le Monde’s Décodeurs blog called its “one thousand and one mistakes”.

Among other matters, di Giovanni says a half-litre of milk is four dollars (about €3), which was attacked as wildly off the mark.

She also claims nappies and nurseries are free, which is not the case. She says the state pays for all new mothers to have their stomachs toned to make them more desirable, describing this as a “baby-making” policy after World War One.

Le Monde said it is exercises for the perineum that are reimbursed, if the doctor thinks it necessary, not the abdomen, and it noted state reimbursements were only made standard from 1945.

Ms di Giovanni also takes aim at the supposed “75% top income tax bracket”, ignoring the fact that the top bracket is actually 45% and the so-called “75% tax” (in fact 50% plus social charges) is being levied on employers with employees earning over a million euros, not employees.

She says “a great many” people pay more than 70% tax, which Le Mondesaid could only be true for a small number of people and only if income tax, wealth tax and social charges were added up.

As for the idea that there is a mass exodus of top people, there is no hard evidence from statistics to back this up, Le Monde said.

The piece also alleges that France is “navel-gazing”, with no interest in the rest of the world, whereas Décodeurs said it is the EU’s third largest investor in other countries, including being the world’s largest investor in Africa.

Editor of www.huffingtonpost.fr Anne Sinclair also wrote a rebuttal, accusing Ms di Giovanni, who she said lives in Paris’s most expensive district and sends her son to one of the capital’s best private schools, of being out of touch with reality.

She said: “I’d like to ask her where she found her free state-funded nappies – no doubt in the same phantom supermarket where she buys her €3 half-litre cartons of milk.”

Photo: Janine Chedid/Wikimedia Commons

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