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Unformatted text preview: 21 21 Chapter 2 T HE C RITICAL P ERSPECTIVE As our coaches used to say, “OK, people, settle down and listen up.” We have been enjoying a lovely little spate of French-bashing here lately. Jonah Goldberg of The National Review, who admits that French-bashing is “shtick”—as it is to many American comedians—has popularized the phrase “cheese-eating surrender mon- keys” to describe the French. It gets a lot less attractive than that. George Will saw fit to include in his latest Newsweek column this joke: “How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris? No one knows, it’s never been tried.” That was certainly amusing. One million, four hundred thousand French soldiers were killed during World War I. As a result, there weren’t many French- men left to fight in World War II. Nevertheless, 100,000 French soldiers lost their lives trying to stop Hitler. On behalf of every one of those 100,000 men, I would like to thank Mr. Will for his clever joke. They were out-manned, out-gunned, out-generaled and, above all, out-tanked. They got slaughtered, but they stood and they fought. Ha-ha, how funny. In the few places where they had tanks, they held splendidly. . . .[Ivins, 2003] Texas-based syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins penned these words in early 2003 in response to the anti-French sentiment then sweeping the United States. Although the French were not alone in criticizing what they saw as an American rush to war against Iraq, they had become the primary target for American contempt. Americans were boycotting French wine and cheese and renaming their favorite reconstituted-potato-based fast-food “Freedom Fries.” CH02.QXD 7/30/2004 9:04 AM Page 21 22 UNIT I: INTRODUCTION TO CRITICISM Into this rhetorical environment, Molly Ivins issued this wake-up call. Her column begins with a direct, almost confrontational address to her readers, self-consciously borrowing an all-American (and typically male) mode of com- manding our attention with coachly authority. Then her tone immediately turns ironic as she reports on the social climate as if it were a season of holiday parties (“we have been enjoying a lovely little spate”). She names two conser- vative fellow columnists and quotes their anti-French jokes, glossing them with the label of “shtick,” implying a flaccid and facile humor beneath the dig- nity of these otherwise cogent thinkers. By quoting their put-downs rather than simply glossing them as “French-bashing,” Ivins invites readers to laugh or groan, if they are so inclined. But after mentioning “cheese-eating surren- der monkeys,” she conveys her disapproval, forecasting more serious trouble ahead with the assessment “It gets a lot less attractive than that.” And then she brings in the heavy weaponry, both literal and rhetorical. Immediately after quoting Will, Ivins provides a sad, cold accounting of a literal answer to his question (“How many Frenchmen . . . ?”): either 1.4 million or 100,000, de-question (“How many Frenchmen ....
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This note was uploaded on 04/12/2009 for the course COMM 401 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Maryland.
- Spring '08
- Ordinary People