While everyone else was relaxing and sunbathing and eating rosé-drenched lunches by the pool this summer, I actually learned something. Here’s what I learned: not all writers love France as much as I do.
It has come to my attention that some of my fellow journalists in other countries seem eager, if not contractually obligated, to spin any story from my adopted land to make it somehow negative. And the keyword in that sentence is “somehow” — any way they can.
I first noticed the phenomenon in May of this year when a medieval gravesite was discovered during excavations below the cellar of a Paris mass retail store. It was a significant historical and archaeological find, but one British newspaper chose to announce it with the hysterical and partially-logical headline “Parisians Carry On Shopping As Mass Graves are Exhumed Below Their Feet.”
Yes, that’s what we do here. We trample over rotting corpses to get to the bargain bin. That is, when we’re not stamping out all signs of tender affection and devotion.
I say this because just one month later the city of Paris removed tens of thousands of “love locks” from the famous Pont des Arts footbridge. Responsible, levelheaded news sources like C’est Ironique emphasized the danger that the weight of the locks posed to the structure, whereas other media proclaimed, “Paris breaks a hundred thousand hearts,” “The Most Romantic City In The World Just Decided To Be A Grouch,” etc., etc.
And now it turns out, if you believe everything you read (and for my own sake I hope you do), that Paris had to suffer through a famine this past August. If you were in town all that month, as I was, you probably didn’t notice. But if you weren’t, and were following the Francophobic press, you’re probably wondering how I even have the strength to finish typing this senten
Here’s what actually happened:
As part of an effort to cut red tape for business, the French government repealed a centuries-old law requiring bakeries to register their vacation closure dates in order to ensure that at least one remains open in every neighborhood.
Here’s how the story was reported in the French media:
As part of an effort to cut red tape for business, the French government has repealed a centuries-old law requiring bakeries to register their vacation closure dates in order to ensure that at least one remains open in every neighborhood.
And here’s how that very same information was presented in the French-bashing international press:
France is facing a baguette shortage! Right now! No, really! Angry, starving, hypoglycemic mobs will soon take to the streets rioting for bread! But none will be found! Bwahahahahaha!!!
In fact, this nightmare scenario was based on a semblance of reality — or rather potential reality — since the changed law made it theoretically possible for more than one bakery in a given area to close at the same time, especially in August, which in France is called “août,” which is actually an acronym for “Anything Open? Ûn-Thinkable!”
In another fact, this hypothetical situation apparently came to pass in one part of Paris: in a comment posted on a local Anglophone news site’s Facebook page, one resident mentioned that the two bakeries nearest to her place were both closed.
The Francovores jumped on that crumb of information like a skydiver hitting a trampoline. The report in The Local was immediately relayed in three British newspapers that all did their best to extrapolate that one lone Facebook comment into a vividly imagined shortage of Parisians’ “beloved baguettes.”
All of the stories that I found on the topic quoted that same person, and some managed to find one more English-speaking citizen who had also had a modicum of difficulty locating an open bakery. Two people! That makes nearly 0.000001 percent of the population of Paris! If that’s not a statistically significant sample, you can call me David!
In reaction to this overreaction, some Buzzfeed staffers tried an experiment: starting at a closed bakery, they walked around, hungrily, until they found an open one. This scientific process was repeated in a number of Paris neighborhoods, and the scientific results show that on the average it took one minute and 11 seconds to find a decent fresh baguette.
So as it turned out, given that the human organism has evolved to withstand significantly longer periods of gluten deprivation, the Great Baguette Famine had little effect on anyone’s meal plans, blood sugar levels or urge to throw paving stones.
By the end of August we had still seen no uprisings, no enraged mobs, no starving children and in fact no shortages of any kind, leaving everyone wondering: what will the Gaul-stoning journalists latch onto next?
To help my fellow scribes overcome this daunting challenge, along with their disappointment that no one started grinding up those newly-exhumed medieval skeletons to make flour, I hereby offer some suggested headlines for the year to come…
French Farmers Level Entire Fields, Killing Millions of Plants! Tons of Edible Grain and Vegetables Hauled Away to Unknown Destinations!
Confusion Grips France! Pandemic of Missed Appointments As Clocks Are Moved Back — Or Ahead? — By a Full Hour!
Paris Braces for Near-Zero Weather! Thermometers to Drop Drastically in Coming Weeks or Even Days! Temperatures Impossible to Predict With Accuracy!
Chaos Foreseen in France! Y2K-Like Computer Bug Expected to Shut Down All Technology Next Month! Why Only France? Why Now? Especially When Nothing Happened in 2000? Don’t Ask Us! We’re Just Sayin’!
French People Announce Sweeping Reforms in Their Personal Lives, But Most Are Doomed to Failure! Well-Meaning “Résolutions” Broken More Often Than the Tour de France Doping Rules!
Paris Faces Scarcity of Local Fresh Fruit! Growers Unable to Deliver! Peach and Strawberry Lovers Forced to Rely on Preserves or Imports!
Confusion Grips France Once More As Clocks Are Reset Again! French Seem Unable to Make Up Their Minds! Will the Madness Ever Stop?!
Showers Drench France with Pollution-Tinged Water Falling Directly From the Sky! Some Claim that Precipitation Will Bring Mass Blossoming of So-Called “Fleurs” Later! Our Analysts See No Reason for Such Optimism!
French Government Forces All Citizens to Reveal Income, Confiscates a Calculable Percentage of Their Earnings! Failure to Comply Means Arrest!
Foreign Hordes Invade Paris! Transportation, Food Supplies and Even Sidewalk Space Are Strained to the Limit as Swarms of Oddly-Dressed People, Speaking in Tongues, Arrive by the Planeload!
France Braces for Baguette Shortage As Bakeries Fail to Coordinate Closures! Oh Wait! We Already Tried This Last Year! And It Was Utter Crap!
French-Hating Journalists Face Unprecedented Crisis! Shortage of Topics Leaves Some Papers With Nothing To Write About! Whole Pages Left Blank!
I have one final tip for my esteemed colleagues. Remember: you can’t spell “Parisian correspondent” without the letters “i-r-r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i.” Of course, that’s not a complete word, but you’re already supplying the “bull.”
© 2015 Paris UpdateFavorite
An album of David Jaggard’s comic compositions is now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, for purchase (whole or track by track) on iTunes and Amazon, and on every other music downloading service in the known universe, under the title “Totally Unrelated.”
Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is available from Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.