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Fox Still Doesn't Like France

Reported by Judy - October 5, 2004 -

Fox and Friends wallowed in their anti-French bias again today (Oct. 5) in an interview with one of the authors of a book casting France as an enemy of the U.S. for centuries.

The author was Mark Molesky, who wrote Our Oldest Enemy (Random House of Canada, October 2004) with John J. Miller, who writes for the conservative National Review. Molesky says the book argues that France's support for our new nation during the American Revolution was a deviation from France's "pattern of hostility" against the U.S. He called France "a cauldron of noxious anti-Americanism" which he attributed to French jealousy over rising American international influence at a time when France's empire was disintegrating. "They used to have an empire and now they don't," Molesky said. Molesky did not attempt to distinguish between the people of France and its government, or French attitudes toward the people of this nation and its government.

Molesky's book cherry-picks incidents to prove his (or is it Miller's?) point. One example is a 1704 French attack on settlers in what is now Massachusetts. Although Molesky calls this an attack on "Americans," no one at the time would have described it that way. The settlers did not see themselves as "Americans" (those were Indians). They considered themselves British citizens, British colonists, loyal subjects of the king. Whites on this continent did not begin to consider themselves "Americans" until the Revolutionary War. In fact, the rationale for the revolution was that King George was mistreating British citizens on this continent by not granting them the same rights of representation on taxation matters that other British citizens had. France would have seen the whites in Massachusetts as British as well, not Americans.

Americans seem to consider as inevitable this nation's eventual emergence and supremacy over most of North America, but the truth is, the British were late-comers to this continent. The Spanish arrived in the early sixteenth century and staked its claim to much of the southwestern U.S. in that century when the British were nowhere near Plymouth Rock or Virginia. Throughout the sixteenth century, this continent was a battleground where the great European powers played out their rivalries, which had absolutely nothing to do with whether France liked the United States. Had some of those wars turned out differently, vast areas of this nation might be speaking French.

Molesky also blames France for the United States' debacle in Vietnam, saying that if France had heeded Roosevelt's advice and created a democracy in Vietnam after World War II, the war would have been avoidable. The U.S. could have taken its own advice and promoted Ho Chi Minh as a nationalist instead of labeling him as a communist after the war. And the fact that France learned its lesson in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu did not require Dwight Eisenhower to step in and begin supporting the South Vietnamese.

Overall, Molesky seemed to take the approach that France was never responding to anything the U.S. might have done and was simply acting irrationally against this nation. One reviewer called the book "opinionated," and judging from the interview that probably is an understatement.

Molesky's credentials in French-American history were not established during the interview. He is a former non-tenured teacher at Harvard and has recently been hired as an assistant professor at Seton Hall. Molesky is obviously a junior scholar. His previous work includes a book review in the Summer 2003 issue of the journal Judaism titled, "Freud, Moses and the Intifada" and another book review in the Spring 2002 issue of the journal "Modern Age" dealing with Basel in the Age of Burckhardt: A Study in Unseasonable Ideas, by Lionel Gossman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) and Jacob Burckhardt and the Crisis of Modernity, by John R. Hinde (Montreal &Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2000).

Near the end of the second review, Molesky reveals his conservative prejudices, writing, "Nevertheless, modern-day conservatives will find much of interest in this important work. As we survey our civilization at the beginning of the twenty-first century and ponder its relative decline, we-like the Basel scholars of the nineteenth century-must decide what of value should be saved. But unlike those who see their own values in the deeds of the radical modernists, we find ourselves unable to muster the same optimism for the future. For conservatives, the tensions between progress and decline, individual responsibility and resignation, still remain at the heart of our dilemma."

The selection of Molesky as co-author of this work may have more to do with his conservative politics than with any scholarly credentials he brings to the subject.