In the video below, a major French news magazine is found to have invented whole-cloth during its reporting on immigrant issues.

Le Point had recently promised to “say it like it is” in its issue on the hot political topic of the day in France, immigration.

There has been enormous controversy over immigration for the last ten years. The French extreme right (Le Front national) rode to the final round of presidential elections in 2001 by pounding home the “insecurity” issues, in which immigrants were scapegoated as the cause of all social ills. Sound familiar?

Le Front National is not the national forehead but the party of racists, fascists, and bigots whose solutions to the problems in French society include reinstating the death penalty, withdrawing from the European Union and reinstating the French franc as national currency, and sending all immigrants back to there country of origin while sealing the borders. Purebloods only in France. Here is a funny recent video of him singing a racist nationalist hymn at a fundraising party. Its eery how obviously fascist he is, yet how far his party has gone, a bit like the TeaPartiers here (who love to pledge allegiance and sing our national hymn).

Well, how do you get to power on the right when the extreme right has grown to ten percent? You absorb their issues as well and suck in their votes. Hence, Sarkozy has made a big noise about all the same “insecurity” and “immigrant” issues, and has recently caused a huge uproar by forcibly exporting Romas, the PC term for gypsies, back to Romania. This is a huge problem because there is free travel for all EU citizens within the EU zone, meaning that a Frenchman is allowed to cross the border into Germany if he wants to. The EU commissioner compared the Sarkozy tactics to “something I didn’t think we would have to see after WWII.” (video here) That hit Sarko the wrong way for sure and he had a yelling match with one of the other commissioners the next day.

The Left in France has been accusing Sarkozy of being more right than the Front National. He is catering to the extreme right while simultaneously creating an easy campaign cause where he can pronounce himself strong. Never mind that social problems are deep, structural, and belong to complicated causalities. If you can deport a few hundred people overnight and make a media splash, the voters might approve your narrative and vote you in again.

So back to the magazine Le Point. In its “shocking” revelations of life in immigrant France, it reveals, among other things, confessions of a polygamist. In its “in depth coverage” part, it reveals a sensational story of polygamy. What, polygamy?! Exactly.

There is a guy with four wives, and here is an interview of one of his wives. She is beautiful, black, with scarring on each cheek, but not too much . And the poor woman is one of several wives, «une jeune femme au joli visage légèrement scarifié de chaque côté des yeux». So reported these three journalists about their visit with her. They end with the question: is Samba’s life turning bad because she’s stuck in polygamy? And then the journalists premeditated response: of course! Polygamy is an awful thing and there are plenty of statistics we can orchestrate to show how it destroys families and has links to juvenile delinquency and crime rates. It’s not so much about whether their conclusions are right or wrong. What’s so problematic is that they are willing to invent fictions in an article that is supposed to be giving a vision of the real world. And now they’ve been caught.

It turns out the journalists began with their conclusions, and then went in search of evidence, and were none too scrupulous about how they got it. If the polygamous woman had responded that everything was great, life is good, my children beautiful and my husband adoring, how would that have fit into their narrative?

Does today’s bad journalism ever do more than reproduce our most well-worn cliches and stereotypes? So it turns out that the whole interview was a farce: the journalists never met with the “woman with the pretty face lightly scarred near the eyes.” Instead, they put her on the phone, and made up the rest. Because it turns out the “young woman” was actually a young man, duping them and calling them at their game. He just fed them their stereotypes (ya, my husband beats me and he’s never home, etc). And they ate it up.

This recalls a scene in Thierno Monenembo’s novel L’aine des orphelins, which recounts the horrors of the Rwandan genocide. In the aftermath of media gluttony, the little Faustin, sole survivor of a church massacre, goes around telling his story. He doesn’t tell his real story though, because he knows what the cameramen and interviewers really want to hear. He feeds their expectations back to them, giving them plenty of pity-shots about a poor starving African boy and survivor of senseless African violence.

Anyway, here is the video interview of the man who pretended, on the phone, to be a polygamous woman:

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