Beyond Freedom Fries and Indignity: On Francophobia

Francophobia (coined in the late 19th century), French bashing, or Gallophobia, the American racism and bigotry of choice, has been around for too long to go away.  Many of the things said in Francophobic discourse would be totally unacceptable if they were aimed at any other group.  We have the internet to thank for reminding us in the US about how critical of the French we have been as far back as 1945

112 Gripes about the French

and of course, renowned Canadian journalists Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow have enhanced our understanding of this issue in their Sixty Million Frenchmen Cannot Be Wrong (Naperville, IL: Sourcebook, Inc., 2003).

The most recent and quite politcized frenzy appears to come from a confluence of situations  1) 911 galvanized an OK to mass open verbal and symbolic expression of patriotism among Americans.  2) Once France raised objections to our choice to go to war in Iraq, a politically engineered pro-patria campaign found a convenient Judas figure in France.  It was easy to sell France's objection as betrayal, because of the emotional state of the public and the complicity (knowing or unknowing) of a press which had been under attack for liberal bias. To a certain extent, French bashing became a form of entertainment (Bill O'Reilly, more recently Glenn Beck, and others)  3) Add to this the residual of Francophobia that pre-dated the war, some of it in  objection to the independence of Gaullist politics under Chirac, and the socialist legacy of François Mitterrand.    4) Before this, there is the underlying malaise created by cultural, economic and military conflicts between French and English-speakers, both in Europe and North America.  Of course there are neo-con activist authors who have devoted whole books to  venomous attacks, such as

Kenneth R. Timmerman, The French Betrayal of America (New York: Random House, 2004)

Thomas L. Friedman flattened the world of many a Francophile with a mean-spirited article  in the September 18, 2003 New York Times, in which he claimed France was "becoming our enemy". published the reaction of the Editor in Chief of The French Review:

GUEST EDITORIAL []: Christopher P. Pinet, Editor in Chief, French Review FEBRUARY 2004

This is essentially the article which appears in print in the AATF National Bulletin, Vol. 29.4 (April 2004).

The political villainizing of France has been effective, even beyond the era of active boycotts.  According to Rasmussen polling Wednesday December 21, 2005, 57% of American voters had an unfavorable view of France.  31% believed that France was our enemy in the war on terror.

There is a ray of hope in the erosion of some the political symbolism created to diminish and demean the French image in the world.  Do you remember the "Freedom fries'' issue on Capitol Hill shortly after the beginning of the war in Iraq? 

The Congressional renaming

What has become of those responsible for the renaming?

On June 16, 2005, North Carolina congressman Walter B. Jones joined with three other Congress members (Neil Abercrombie, Dennis Kucinich, and Ron Paul) in introducing a resolution calling for the start of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq to begin by October 2006.  Also in 2005, Jones made a public admission that he wished the renaming had never happened.

'Freedom fries' lawmaker's U-turn

Do you want 'Freedom Fries' with that?  Where will Bob Ney be working next year?  Well, it certainly won't be in Congress, but he might learn to really treasure the word "freedom".  August 7, 2006, with an ethics scandal cloud still hanging over him, sixth-term Ohio Congressman Bob Ney officially decided to no longer seek re-election in Ohio’s 18th Congressional District.

Rep. Bob Ney won't seek re-election

Prosecutors Opt for Wide Probe of Rep. Ney

Some time in July, "Freedom fries" and "Freedom toast" quietly became "French fries" and "French toast" again on Capitol Hill cafeteria menus:

Hill fries free to be French again

Republicans abandon 'freedom fries'

No More 'Freedom' for Your Fries

Au revoir, freedom fries

I have watched


stand their ground against the folly of Factor Freaks and other French-basher roadies.  But I only recently discovered that we have a Franco-American Congressional Caucus, a

French-American Foundation



The French are and have been our "real" allies for a long time, even before the

Treaties of 1778  Between the United States and France (Avalon Project)

I say this as I reflect upon their efforts to be our partners in peace for the most recent crisis in Lebanon, even though we still have differences:

U.S. and France back resolution to end Lebanon fight

Today, because of the collaborative effort with our ally, the UN has a cease-fire resolution to implement. All of us should be mindful of the mound of other evidence that points toward France's friendship and support:

France, our ally then and now.

The war on terror today

Today, August 15, 2006, I watched Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's Colbert Report do a brilliantly deconstructive summary of the "Freedom Fries" era in the Congressional cafeteria.  He had an electric deep fryer under his desk and some personalized bottles of Heinz Ketchup as he spun his mirth. His tongue in cheek remark that the "Freedom Fries" etiquette was the most meaningful thing done by this Congress demonstrates that the fashion of highly political, mean spirited Francophobia may soon wind up having the kind of mileage you would expect from a gargantuan Hummer.

When will we discover that we cannot learn a method to win the "war on terrorism", while our hearts are learning from the same book of hate as the enemies who would terrorize and kill us?

TennesseeBob Peckham

Globe-Gate Research