Can You Imagine if Bush Did This?

From Times(UK) via Samizdata:

PRESIDENT CHIRAC stormed out of the first session of a European Union summit dominated by a row over French nationalism because a fellow Frenchman insisted on speaking English.

Einstein was right: Nationalism is an infantile disease:

When M Seillière, who is an English-educated steel baron, started a presentation to all 25 EU leaders, President Chirac interrupted to ask why he was speaking in English. M Seillière explained: “I’m going to speak in English because that is the language of business.”

Without saying another word, President Chirac, who lived in the US as a student and speaks fluent English, walked out, followed by his Foreign, Finance and Europe ministers, leaving the 24 other European leaders stunned

But it gets better:

Embarrassed French diplomats tried to explain away the walk-out, saying that their ministers all needed a toilet break at the same time.

LOL or even ROTFL doesn’t quite cover it.

[update 2006-03-24 14:58:13: Commenter veryretired makes a very good point below that the very fact that we view this episode as merely funny says a great deal about the standing of France in the world. It just doesn’t matter anymore if the leader of France is a fruitcake or not ]

18 thoughts on “Can You Imagine if Bush Did This?”

  1. No, it’s called dumb-ass, some we Americans understand, but not as well as you nuanced types. Maybe John Kerry can give us lessons, it worked so well for him.

  2. Temper, temper. I suspect that first comment was ironic. We haven’t stopped laughing yet. All this confirms, incidentally, something that became obvious during the last lot of riots (not this latest lot): Chirac has lost it. And, of course, it means that people have for once paid some attention to the European Council.

  3. Wait… isn’t FRENCH the international language of Wussiness?

    Oh he said international language of BUSINESS…. my bad.

  4. “Embarrassed French diplomats tried to explain away the walk-out, saying that their ministers all needed a toilet break at the same time.”

    D-mn straight they needed a toilet break; their whole country needs a toilet break. An EXTENDED toilet break.

    Finally some sense from these guys.

  5. We found during the Montreal Olympics that French was forced on everyone for the official announcements. The international crowd there gathered would have understood English best. That didn’t matter: the French way or no way.
    (One felt–via TV– that the Italians seemed much more nuanced in hosting the Torino games.)

  6. Shannon’s question is pertinent in a much more significant way than just pointing up the double standards of the media. Of course, if Bush or any major figure on the right had such a foolish tantrum, it would be front page news for days, including endless speculation that he was having some type of nervous breakdown or other psychological problem.

    But the really interesting part of this is that it will be dismissed as typical French language snobbery, without causing much of a ripple, simply because Chirac, and the French in general, are not very important anymore.

    If the President of the US, or China, or even Iran, says or does bizarre things, the media, and people in general, are interested because these countries are important in the world.

    France is living on past glory. It has not been deserving of much world attention, or its inflated powers at the UN, for decades. About the only thing that the French have done worth noting lately is shill for Saddam.

  7. Does anyone remember this. Oh what fun the late night comedians had with Bush simply because of his legitimate need to engage in a normal bodily function. Will they have similar fun with this ludicrous suggestion of the need for a French group toity? Don’t (you should excuse the expression) hold your water.

  8. Instapundit has a link to a blog/opinion piece in the Guardian where the author characterizes the French mindset as resisting English language imperialism, with the State as guarantor and protector of the French language.

    By all means, let them do so. Let them also fight against the tyrrany of the X86 chipset line; the chains of the VHS format; the reaction of the Gregorian calendar against the Revolutionary calendar; the slavery of the metric system — oh wait, that one went the wrong way.

  9. France’s president Jacques Chirac walked away from the last european council in protest over M.Seilliere talking english.
    To be precise, Chirac did not walked away from the European Council because M.Seilliere spoke english (Chirac is fluent in english and has certainly no problem with the language), but because M.Seilliere, who started his speech in french, suddendly turned to english because he said “english is the language for business”.
    English is no more the language of business than french is the language of poetry, italian the language of arts or spanish the language of flamenco dancing
    Any speech can be given in any language; a language is not used according to the content of a speech but according to your audience. In this case, the audience was the european council and as far as I know, the very vast majority of attendants don’t have english as their mother tongue. All speeches are translated anyway and english was absolutely not necessary.
    M. Chirac was right to point out this anomaly, but wrong to walk out, he should have said to the audience “Et maintenant, mesdames et messieurs, we are going to hear M.Seilliere speech”. That would have had much more impact… Anyway, the wrong thing to do would have been to do nothing.

  10. Patrick EMIN,

    English is no more the language of business than french is the language of poetry

    No, but English is the language of business in the way that French is the language of cooking. Just like it is nearly impossible to seriously talk about cooking in English without employing French loan words, it is nearly impossible to talk about modern business in virtually any language without using some English.

    I image that M.Seilliere simply grew tired of either inserting English phrases into French or using clumsy French versions of the phrases so he just switched to English. Given the forum, there was no practical reason not to give the speech in English.

    At any particular point in time, different languages dominate different fields of endeavor. German was once the language of science and engineering. Prior to WWII, anyone wanting to stay current needed to know German. When I was in college in the 80’s, all the techies still took German or Russian so they could read technical papers and people in the humanities took romance languages so they could read historical materials.

    My children’s peers all seem to have picked up a little Japanese from being saturated in Japanese pop culture exports. I imagine that fields of animation and game design will use lots of japanese loan words.

  11. Well, you will all be glad to know that the EU still publishes all its documents in French first, though the number of countries where French is spoken as second or even third language is negligible.

  12. Veryretired is right. The french system is out, what is sound is that anyone can see, so it is the end. French people (some) deserve more than this. The link to the Guardian (see Mitch) is very documented, again it is the french system not all the french who think like this, the ‘intelligentsia’ does. Right now it is quite like the Titanic, want the record, get the iceberg. The passengers are trapped.

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