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Tabous dans les médias : immigration, Islam, insécurité
Publié le 

25 juillet 2019

Temps de lecture : 5 minutes
Accueil | Veille médias | Tabous dans les médias : immigration, Islam, insécurité

Tabous dans les médias : immigration, Islam, insécurité

Pre­mière dif­fu­sion le 05/03/2019

Du 28 février au 1er mars 2019 une conférence sur la liberté d’expression s’est tenue à Varsovie à l’initiative du SDP, le syndicat des journalistes polonais, présidé par Krzysztof Skowronsky. Claude Chollet, fondateur de l’Observatoire du journalisme, modérait la session III consacrée aux tabous dans les médias. Nos lecteurs anglophones trouveront ci-dessous un extrait (en anglais) de son intervention sur le sujet.

Taboos, past and present

Before com­ing to our sub­ject Taboos in the medias, I would like to present you a few taboos, past and present.

Sex and taboo : The Ori­gin of the world, L’Origine du monde, a famous paint­ing made by Courbet in 1866, ordered by Khalil Bey a Turk­ish diplo­mat was not to be seen pub­licly before the end of the last cen­tu­ry. The psy­chanal­ist Jacques Lacan was one of the last pri­vate own­ers, the paint­ing is now at Musée d’Orsay. A lot of con­tro­ver­sies arose around it and in 1994 in Paris a book repro­duc­ing the art­work as cov­er was removed of some book­sellers. And you cer­tain­ly can­not post it on Face­book to-day.

But there are oth­er taboos, reli­gious, and ali­men­ta­ry. Hin­douists cer­tain­ly do not eat cows, Mus­lims and reli­gious Jews do not eat pork, boud­dhists do not eat any meat, Catholics are sup­posed not to eat meat on Fri­day and so on and so forth.

Totem and taboo

But what is the scope of a taboo ? In 1913 Sig­mund Freud pub­lish­es Totem und Tabu. The book stud­ies the taboo of incest. Freud pro­pos­es that all mod­ern forms of social­iza­tion are shaped by the prim­i­tive cul­ture of ori­gin. In addi­tion to that, he states that all behav­iors of con­for­mi­ty spring from a com­mon prim­i­tive form. This means that to be a mem­ber of the tribe you must share the same taboos. Shar­ing the taboo you are con­nect­ed to the same totem, you belong to the group. Does this apply to some medias ? Or to the major­i­ty of them ? Do main­stream medias share com­mon taboos ? I shall try to answer to those tricky ques­tions.

HABITUS, my dear habit

Habi­tus is not some sort of Hob­bit of Tolkien. The French soci­ol­o­gist Pierre Bour­dieu defines habi­tus (close to habit) as the sym­bol­ic sys­tem allow­ing and indi­vid­ual to move him­self in soci­ety, that is one side. Habi­tus allows as well the indi­vid­ual to inter­pret soci­ety with the com­mon pat­terns of his social cat­e­go­ry. Habi­tus is not a rule of law, it is a col­lec­tion of atti­tudes, seman­tics, things that may be said and things that must not be said, and in what way they may be said or writ­ten. This process is main­ly uncon­scious. The link between taboos and habi­tus is clear, taboos are a sub­stan­tial part of the habi­tus. Now, do we find taboos in the French medias ? Please note that when I will use the word French medias that will be true let’s say for 80% of the medias, same if I use the gen­er­al term French jour­nal­ists, there will be many excep­tions. Let’s jump in our taboos. I will iden­ti­fy three of them, immi­gra­tion, inse­cu­ri­ty, Islam

Immigration as taboo number one

Extra Euro­pean immi­gra­tion in France is a recent pat­tern. It began in 1974 with Pres­i­dent Gis­card d’Estaing. The new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent allowed what he called fam­i­ly group­ing. This means that an extra Euro­pean work­er was enti­tled to be joined by his fam­i­ly, spous­es, chil­dren. Any for­eign­er vis­it­ing France, tak­ing the tube or walk­ing in the street can see that the aver­age human appear­ance of France is chang­ing. Glob­al­ly speak­ing, immi­gra­tion is seen, I should say must be seen as a pos­i­tive move in the main­stream medias. This is true for the more pro­gres­sive medias as Le Monde and Libéra­tion, with some shad­ings for the more con­ser­v­a­tive ones and def­i­nite­ly a stan­dard for the State owned radios and tele­vi­sions. I would say the same con­cern­ing our nation­al press adgency, Agence France Presse. In the main­stream medias it is almost impos­si­ble to address any neg­a­tive effect of immi­gra­tion con­sid­er­ing the eco­nom­ic, cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al side effects. The num­ber of for­eign­ers and descen­dants of for­eign­ers is impos­si­ble to know, only by using alter­nate and unof­fi­cial routes. This is our first big taboo. And a per­sis­tent one.

Islam as second taboo

The sec­ond taboo pre­sent­ing some links with the first one is Islam. There were around 10 mosques in France in 1962, now there are around 2000 mosques and 500 mosques are in con­struc­tion. This could be a won­der­ful sub­ject of inves­ti­ga­tion for a team of jour­nal­ists. How were built those mosques ? When ? With what mon­ey ? With what build­ing per­mits ? Deliv­ered by who ? Anoth­er top­ic on Islam in France could be how are split­ted the dif­fer­ent Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties by coun­try of ori­gin and what are the dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal influ­ences of the States of ori­gin. Except a cou­ple of very short arti­cles linked to the top­i­cal­i­ty of the day, I nev­er saw or read a sol­id inves­ti­ga­tion on those sub­jects. Why that ? Because Islam is con­sid­ered as too sen­si­tive a sub­ject to be addressed clear­ly and with­out a pri­ori. This is our sec­ond taboo.

Insecurity

The third taboo is inse­cu­ri­ty. You can speak of excep­tion­al events as the vio­lences dur­ing the Yel­low Jack­ets demon­stra­tions. But writ­ing or film­ing or broad­cast­ing about the com­mon, dai­ly inse­cu­ri­ty does not belong to the pat­terns of habi­tus. Prob­a­bly in order to calm down the pos­si­ble pan­de­mo­ni­um, the noise on the sub­ject .Or, this an hypoth­e­sis, more sim­ply to hide it. Let’s take a triv­ial exam­ple, car burn­ing. Around 1000 cars are burnt dur­ing the last night of the year in France and the same num­ber dur­ing the night fol­low­ing our nation­al feast July 14th. This is much more than the destruc­tions made by our yel­low jack­ets in three months. The French author­i­ties decid­ed to not issue any more offi­cial infor­ma­tion on the sub­ject. If you are not hap­py with the sta­tis­tics results then you can­cel the sta­tis­tics…

I should add as a gen­er­al top­ic the « ghost news ». By ghost news, I mean facts or details that will be nev­er heard off. I will take a fresh exam­ple of this very month. On Feb 16th 2019 in Paris the Jew­ish French writer and aca­d­e­mi­cian Alain Finkielkraut was threat­ened and insult­ed by a small group of yel­low jack­ets, three or four per­sons. Those demon­stra­tors do not rep­re­sent the move­ment of the yel­low jack­ets.

It took days to know the name of the main insul­ter, but not the full name, only Ben­jamin W. Why only a W ? And why giv­ing the first name and not the fam­i­ly name ? Most prob­a­bly because Ben­jamin (if this is his real first name) sounds Chris­t­ian. Prob­a­bly also because this man, with a father Alger­ian and a French moth­er, might have a name soud­ing islam­ic. Named Chol­let or Kowal­s­ki his name would be every­where. This is sim­ply hid­ing a part of real­i­ty. And this is not a cen­sor­ship by the State or by the medias own­ers, this is 99% self cen­sor­ship.

Taboos’ side effects

To the ques­tion : do taboos exist in the French medias ? My answer will be yes, not by law but by habi­tus. What are the ben­e­fits of those taboos ? Cer­tain­ly to con­sol­i­date a feel­ing of com­mu­ni­ty among a major­i­ty of the French jour­nal­ists. Shar­ing the same taboos, gath­er­ing around the same totem makes you a mem­ber of the group. Defy­ing the taboos can make you a pro­fes­sion­al pari­ah. Do those taboos have some neg­a­tive side effects ? A decrease of the qual­i­ty and cred­i­bil­i­ty of the infor­ma­tions brought to the pub­lic ? Do those taboos alter the faith of the French pop­u­la­tion in the medias ? I will leave the answers to your thoughts.

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