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French weekly magazines review 2 October 2016


Bruce Springsteen looks back on life, music and American politics from Reagan to Trump. A former advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy publishes a less-than-flattering book about the man who hopes to get another shot at being French president. And, as India finally signs the cheque for 36 French Rafale fighter jets, some angry voices in New Delhi say the money would have been better spent on health care.


Bruce Springsteen is all over the magazines, because his autobiograpy is out in French. Le Nouvel Observateur gives him the front-page honours, asking the question "Where is America headed?"

The Boss, who famously criticised Ronald Reagan in Born in the USA, is disappointed by the rise and rise of Donald Trump, seeing the billionaire presidential candidate as a demagogue offering simple answers to enormously complicated questions. Springsteen says no political figure has dealt with the fact that America is now a post-industrial society, that the working class have lost their place and their livelihoods, that the gap between rich and poor is now wider than the continent. The gap between black and white Americans is not getting any narrower either.

Springsteen thinks Obama has been a great president, broadening access to health care for millions, putting a few curbs on the rapacious wolves of Wall Street. The Boss will be voting for "hard-working" Hillary Cinton, because she's a Democrat, because she's a woman and because, he believes, she has proved she has the steel for the job.

Sarkozy brought to book

Nicolas Sarkozy is on the front page of L'Express, because they have a so-called exclusive on the book by Sarko's former right-hand man, Patrick Buisson, a 500-page tome which is less than gentle with the reputation of the politician who hopes to win the Republicans' nomination for next year's presidential race. Sadly for L'Express, the speed of modern communications meand that we've read all the best, or worst, bits of Buisson's book in this week's daily papers. So the "exclusive" is a bit of a damp squib.

L'Express does get to quote Buisson denying that he's Valérie Trierweiler, a reference to the book by the woman President François Hollande jilted. Clearly, there's a world of difference between a disgruntled former associate and a very hurt and humiliated former girlfriend.

Buisson, who was central to the 2007 electoral campaign and who has kept his peace for a long time since, certainly got the timing right if his aim is to add to Sarko's difficulties in the primary race.

The image he sketches of a man who regards politics the way bond traders regard the market, a short-term thinker with a taste for risky deals, is unlikely to damage Sarko's well-battered image among his supporters in the Republicans party. But it will surely boost enthusiasm for Sarkozy's rival Alain Juppé among the undecided.

Who really rules the roost?

Marianne gives front-page prominence to a debate between Emmanuel Macron and Jean-François Kahn, the first a former economy minister, the second a historian, "revolutionary centrist" and founder of Marianne.

The pair rake over the ashes of the Hollande presidency, which they agree has been a total flop. Part of the blame has to be shouldered by the nation's intellectual, media and business elites, who have failed in the crucial task of keeping the administration up to the mark, they find.

According to Macron, the real problem is that we're currently living through a dangerous divorce between capitalist market economics and democracy. In other words, the politicians are history; the real power is now in the hands of the managing directors of the multinationals. It remains for governments to ensure the social and environmental protection of their citizens in the face of that new world order. Macron does not explain how the clash between the maximisation of profit and the protection of the weak might be made to work.

French arms industry doing very nicely, thank you

Weekly satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaîné notes that the French arms industry is doing very nicely under the Socialist government, exporting 70-billion-euros-worth of weapons of destruction, to Egypt, Qatar, Australia and, most recently, to India.

New Delhi has just signed the long-anticipated deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from Serge Dassault, the man who owns Le Figaro, and who has described current Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as the best holder of the post, ever.

Which may be a bit of an embarrassment for some of his fellow Socialists, anxious about world peace and disarmament. But 70 billion euros is hard to resist, and it does create jobs for aircraft and submarine manufacturers.

The Rafale deal has also caused a bit of controversy in Delhi, where the eight billion euros which will be needed to pay for the 36 new fighter jets represents the equivalent of 18 months of federal health spending.

Brave new world, and it's all in your head

And Le Point gives the front page to Idriss Aberkane, a 30-year-old who already has three doctorates to his name and who believes that we can live better, think better and learn better thanks to the latest advances in the field of neuroscience. The secret of a brighter future is hidden in each individual's grey matter: we just have to learn how to exploit the extraordinary resources sleeping inside our skulls.

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