How television became a tool of power

One of the subjects of the film in any case, the new forms that censure takes in the major forms of media and notably on television, and that is something which has been of interest to me for a long time. These are also themes which have concerned Pierre Bourdien, the sociologist and commentators on contemporary affairs such as Serge Halini, or in North America Noam Chomsky the linguist, and in France, in any case film subjects or documentaries or media reports have rarely or never addressed these questions. And it seemed important to me that the audience be able to recognise bias in a film. There are new forms of censure which have been created in the major forms of media which consist of inviting dissident thinkers but not giving them the chance to really develop their analyses and I wanted in the film to discuss these questions.

The film director Pierre Carles talks about his last film ‘Enfin Pris!’. Clever and provocative, this film asks profound questions about television today. Why do we always have this feeling of complicity between television journalists and the ideas received? Does their self appointed objectivity for the facts not serve to hide the true mechanisms of power? Addressing those ideas, which pose a threat, which cannot find a place in restricted media space, nor in debates chaired by presenters who transmit their own prejudices derived from their own position in society. The explanation of new ideas is more complex than an appeal to the established consensus.

Carles explores these themes following the path of Daniel Schneidermann, a French television journalist much seen on TV5 [1] in the program ‘Arret sur Images’. With a fine satirical touch, Pierre Carles shows how his former collaborator, Schneidermann in this case, started his career as a keen critic of the world of power and in the end joined it.

We live in a world where it is very difficult, where it is very difficult not to be a turncoat, where it is very difficult not to make concessions, compromises, where it is not difficult, where it is difficult… to abandon the ideas of your youth, your youthful convictions, you see, so… why? Because… there are two things: there is right away, the people who get access to power, to some forms of power such as the case with the star journalist Daniel Schneidermann, who appears in my film. Starting from there you are entering into the television system where you are a star presenter, you have privileges linked to this job, you earn a lot of money, you are well known, people order your books, you become a panel member for literary prizes or the chairman for literary prizes as is the case for Daniel Schneidermann, then you don’t want to lose these privileges any more. You want to keep them, so you are ready at any price to keep them, and then, that means compromising on them, squashing your convictions denying your speeches from the past, or you attitudes in the past, what you have done on television in the past. So, that’s one thing but afterwards I think that they are concerned about that, that is, we are in a society where you can only with difficulty unmask hypocrites, unmask double talk, not play bats as the psychoanalyst would say, that is present aspects of some people and others to others depending on our interests.

I think that at the same time there is conscious behaviour and then there is also unconscious behaviour. I think that there is a mixture of all that. Why? In the end, personally I do not have an answer to that. I notice. Personally I am happy to take note, to deliver factual elements, documents from the records which show that at one time that they used to behave in certain ways with the bosses of the media, being very critical in their views, as was Daniel Schneidermann with Serge July, the boss of the newspaper Liberation [2] and fifteen years later he is keeling over [3] before Jean-Marie Messier, the boss of Vivendi [4] when he welcomes him in his program and he’s licking his boots [5] and he’s showing himself very complacent in his views. There you are, after all, why? What are the mechanisms in all that… I bring some ideas, in the end, or explanations, or attempts at explanation, but are they good ones? I don’t know.

His style is far from the weightiness you may fear on this subject. Some smart clippings and especially the frankness and clarity of ideas make the film hilarious.

I think that when I’m making a film, it is something very egotistic, eh… First of all I really want to do it for my own pleasure. Personally, my sense of humour is like that, by the fact of making films like that, that is telling about things relatively serious in a playful way or in any case in not preventing myself from doing it in that way. So, there are… I don’t know, there can be a somewhat comic dimension in my work as in the film ‘Enfin Pris!’. There you are, that’s me. I claim, as the director, the right of the power… not necessarily to talk of serous things in a solemn, laboured way.

But if the journalists of La Guinguette have been amused, in the broadsheets we find that it is not funny at all. Some of the reviews of ‘Enfin Pris!’ have been really bad and it is frankly difficult to believe in the good motives of the editors.

It is rather self protection on their part. It is not that they have not understood, it is that they don’t want us to know. If Le Monde [6] denigrates the film, well that speaks for itself perfectly. Daniel Schneidermann, the main person in the film, is a journalist at Le Monde, besides also being the chairman and presenter of the program ‘Arret sur Images’, he is a journalist at Le Monde. So it only natural that Le Monde protects its employee, protects and does not denigrate him and does not say what there is in the film so that people go to form their own opinion, and rather coming out of the film saying ‘Yes, that guy is not what I thought he was, because that would reflect badly on Le Monde, the fact of employing him. They would say to themselves, that Le Monde is perhaps also a newspaper which deceives us. That is the explanation for the other broadsheets too. I think that if Liberation ignored the release of the movie, it is because Serge July is the perfect example of a turncoat, and they do not want to remind you of him.

We could talk about it for a whole pile of newspapers. In the end, I think that the film touches the truth and so one way of attacking it is to ignore it or of talking about it negatively and beyond that we have been served, but that is relatively normal. In the end, there is nothing unforeseen there.

Encouraged by a much warmer reaction in the cinemas themselves, Carles has already started on his next project: the refusal to work in our society.

Yes, there is a film in the works which is a documentary based on the question of the refusal to work and in which we ask ourselves some questions, we ask why some people, notably young people, notably… the young generation, there is among these people opinions on refusal to work. They don’t want to work any more. The don’t want some jobs any more. They don’t want to go wasting their life earning a living in insecure jobs and these people are never, or rarely, represented or heard in the major media. So we are interested in this question which is relatively taboo, it seems to me in France, knowing that there is a refusal to work by a part of the population which is a minority but which is more and more important and if these people refuse to go to take up these jobs, it is because the jobs which are created today are jobs which are not obviously very fulfilling for the individuals. So we ask some questions on… We try to tackle that theme and it is a film which is innovative, a film of counter information in so far as this subject is relatively taboo.

[1] TV5 is an French language international television channel widely available throughout the world by cable, satellite and digital distribution. There is also a domestic television channel in France called France 5. The two are quite different.

[2] Liberation is a left of centre daily newspaper founded by Jean-Paul Sartre in the 1970s to counter the right of centre views of the established broadsheets at that time.

[3] Se coucher means to go to bed, but also has a nautical sense meaning to capsize.

[4] Jean-Marie Messier and Vivendi – at the time of this article, Jean-Marie Messier was the controversial CEO of Vivendi, one of France’s largest companies.

[5] Cire les pompes is literally to wax the pumps (ballet shoes); the equivalent expression is to lick the boots.

[6] Le Monde is the principal broadsheet of influence in France rather like The Times in the UK or The New York Times in the US.

[7] Enfin Pris! – The move is available on DVD on web sites such as www.amazon.fr.

$Id: 2002_10_soc.htm 35 2021-02-12 12:17:35Z alistair $

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