The Long Tail of Bigotry: Don Martin and France in Afghanistan

donmartin.jpgCanadian columnist resorts to Anti-French slurs

We at, are not interested in editorializing France’s position vis à vis NATO, nor Nicolas Sarkozy’s new commitment to Afghanistan. Political experts and well-versed columnists often discuss the merits of those foreign policy choices at length. However, when a columnist, likely under the pressure of a deadline, resorts to parroting stale clichés and pop culture references borrowed from the likes of Jonah Goldberg, it’s time once again to take a stand.

If current French Bashing (2003-2007) was originally based on the trickle-down model of hatred, the long tail best describes the permanent – yet low frequency usage of offensive language by such mini me’s as Don Martin of the Calgary Herald (and Craig Ferguson for that matter …).

Being Goldberg’s Canadian laggard might be Martin’s pathetic raison d’être, and defending hate speech might be his pet project on occasion, but the fact no one at the National Post sees anything offensive in this abject caricature of French and European history is worrisome:

After six years of lollygagging around Kabul — shopping for carpets along Chicken Street, munching fresh lamb kebabs and generally wearing the cheese-eating surrender monkey uniform like a legion of honour — French troops reluctantly will step into the line of Taliban fire later this year.

Reducing the horrors suffered by France during World War II to a catch phrase once uttered by a yellow cartoon character might have given Goldberg the necessary pop-culture edge to break away from the pack in 2003, but in Martin’s column, it’s past the due date.

Source: National Post
Contact: [email protected] – Please be polite and informative.
Merci à P.L.

Note: In statistics, the long tail is a feature of the new distribution of online markets and human behaviour. Prominently featured in articles about Web 2.0, the concept might just as well apply to the politics of bigotry and parrot-like punditry.

17 Replies to “The Long Tail of Bigotry: Don Martin and France in Afghanistan”

  1. Thanks to for bringing us these sad events. Here’s the email I sent to Mr. Martin:

    Dear Mr. Martin

    it’s with great regret that I’ve read your column on the French engagement in Afghanistan. I’m saddened to see that you use your role of journalist to pass down, bigoted, racist and xenophobic view regarding the French. The “cheese-eating surrender monkey uniform” crosses the lines of acceptability and decency. Frenchmen and women are humans, not monkeys. I never thought I would one day have to explain this to anyone, even less to a journalist. Then again, perhaps you do not really believe in what you write. However, are you aware that you are participating in creating a background of hatred against an entire people -which is bad enough- based on no tangible facts?
    Something in your piece also strikes me as absurd. You write “French troops will reluctantly step into the line of Taliban fire”. The implication being that somehow French soldiers are not courageous enough. Well, sir, would you happily step into any line of fire? There is not any sane person on this planet eager or even remotely pleased to be in the cross-sight of any gun, anywhere.

    I’m not concerned whether you approve or not of French foreign policy. What matters to me is that you can intelligently make the difference between policies and people. If you are still having trouble understanding my point of view, just re-read your column replacing the word “French” by “Canadian”.

    I hope you realize what the effect of your column can have on less informed people or those who have had no contact with the French. What you are doing is called disinformation. I am calling you, for the sake of journalism and the character of my country men and women, to refrain from engaging again in this deplorable activity. If you can acknowledge my remarks have any merit, then please write an article about what you just did and how it was wrong. You will come out of it as a man of greater thought and integrity.


  2. My response, gentlemen

    Dear Mr. Martin

    I sincerely lament having to write to you under such unpleasant circumstances, and I would like to assure you that I’d rather not be, in the first place, in the violent situation of my country and countrymen being consistently insulted with such vehemence. I refer, of course, to your column on French military assistance in Afghanistan, in which, through the cheap and tiresome phrase “cheese-eating surrender monkey” catchphrase you dismiss an entire nation as a band of grotesque, sub-human cowards.

    I assume, sir, that as an educated man you grasp the gravity of such a discourse. Anyone who would write words even remotely as hateful about possibly any other ethnic group, say, African-Americans, Jews, or Mexicans, in a serious newspaper would be fired in no time and strongly attacked by anti-defamation lobbies.

    In the first place, I assume you either ignore or dismiss military procedures. Soldiers don’t stand around “lollygagging around Kabul — shopping for carpets along Chicken Street, munching fresh lamb kebabs” because they don’t feel like fighting. Surely you are aware that not attacking when ordered to would have implications as severe as a court martial and the ensuing consequences. Just as soldiers do not attack unless ordered to, if ordered to attack, they don’t stay back. Any alleged “cowardice” does not enter the equation.

    Secondly, sir, I am no coward, and neither are most of my countrymen. If you ever feel curious or have some spare time, read up on French history; it’s a fantastic read, and you’ll feel rewarded. I can guarantee it. When reading, you shall have a taste of everything: Of heroic acts, of crushing victories, and also of humiliating defeats and moments of shame. A country as old as France has gone through everything you can imagine, from being a small, fragmented feudal kingdom to an empire to a nation-state. And French history has got plenty of great military victories to spare, if that would quench your curiosity. The French soldiers in Afghanistan are all well-trained and brave professional military personnel. I hope you are aware of that.

    And I can assure you, Mr. Martin, that when ordered to do so, they will not “reluctantly” step into the line of fire.

    Although my letter may be read as somewhat hostile, as is understandable (as any proud Canadian would react, if they were called cowards, monkeys, and a plethora of dismissing insults) I wouldn’t like to end on a bitter note. I hope, sir, that you shall forego your mistake, correct it, and you will have proven yourself a wiser and better man.

    Best regards,

  3. My sis lives in Calgary and told me that this Don Martin fellow has a chip on his shoulder! He is to be pitied — as a Canadian, he’s looked at by Americans in contemptuous manner while French Canadians despise him.

    Don Martin is nothing but a jerk!

  4. The guy is also a joke — he envies and is jealous of everything French. The guy seriously uncouth and has not much by way of culture. Long winters in Calgary probably has frozen his brain.

  5. “Now now, no personal attacks. Come on, none of us are George Clooney either…”

    Thank God we’re not.


    Pulling their weight

    Don Martin’s statement that French troops will reluctantly step into the line of Taliban fire after six years of lollygagging around Kabul wearing “cheese-eating surrender monkey uniforms like a legion-of-honour” completely disregards France’s commitment in Afghanistan. It is disrespectful to the 1,500 French troops present in Afghanistan since day one, who have contributed in protecting the Afghan institutions and securing the area of Kabul, and to the 14 French soldiers lost in this country.

    President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to send 700 additional troops in the east, near the Pakistan boarder, which is as dangerous as the south. There are three strategic regions in Afghanistan and France is in all of them: Kabul, threatened by increasing Taliban infiltration; the south, where the French air force has six fighter planes in Kandahar assisting Canadian troops on the ground; and the east, where most of the French operational mentoring and liaison teams are already posted. French instructors embedded in Afghan battalions are not in classrooms: they are fighting alongside the Afghan soldiers. There are no caveats for the French troops or any deadline imposed by our parliament.

    Daniel Jouanneau,
    Daniel Jouanneau is France’s ambassador to Canada.

  7. It’s fair to say that 99.9% percent of French people do not really care about what the Americans may think of us.

    It is very easy to lie to the American people: Most of them are unable to understand any language apart from English, and they have no source of information apart US and UK’s ones. Given the 1000 years old rivalry (and friendship too…) between UK and France, it is difficult to say that their official point of view is completely fair. The Americans should remember that their former Kingdom lies just 20 miles away from France, took about 25% of its language into theirs, and an important part of its genetic pool.

    Anyway, this bashing might have a deeper motive: Maybe some kind of fear to realize that after having been nearly destroyed twice in the XX-th century, France is still living, with its industry, its language, its culture, and still do not plan to be a satellite country of USA.

    Despite that, Americans are welcome in France, and we generally consider us as friends of USA and UK – whatever the way their Government intoxicate them.

    If you want to have a more accurate idea of what France really is, just ask to the millions of British people going to France what they saw.

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