In the aftermath of the London bombings perpetrated by homegrown jihadists, Europeans are rethinking their approach to multiculturalism in general and their tolerance for hate speech—especially the sermons of radical imams—in particular. In France, which has long had hate-speech laws, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy moved swiftly in July to announce the expulsion of a dozen radical imams, though only two have actually been deported. But even as public alarm grows about radical sermons another form of incitement common in France has gone largely unnoticed—namely, anti-French rap music.
But the kingpin of rapping French Francophobes is Mr. R. In his latest single—entitled “FranSSe,” from the March 2005 album “PolitiKment IncorreKt”—he likens France to the Third Reich, singing: “France is a bitch, don’t forget to f—her to exhaustion. You have to treat her like a whore, man! . . . France is one of the bitches who gave birth to you. . . I am not at home and I don’t give a damn, and besides the state can go f—itself. . . I pee on Napoleon and General De Gaulle. . . My niggers and my Arabs, our playground is the street with the most guns. . . F—ing cops, sons of whores. . . France is a lousy mother who abandoned her sons on the sidewalk. . . My Muslim brothers are hated like my Jewish brothers were during the Reich”—at which point Mr. R’s video shows footage of Hitler and of Nazi concentration camps.
The video borders on pornography. It shows violent acts supposedly committed by the French Army. France is represented by two naked white women called “Gauloises” (a reference to the ancient inhabitants of France) who perform lewd acts with the French flag while a group of blacks make an obscene gesture. As a disclaimer Mr. R says, “When I speak of France, I don’t mean the French people but their leaders. They’ve been exploiting us for a long time, from slavery to colonization, and they’re still jerking us around.” Tellingly, in the last words of the song, “France” is replaced by “Europe”: “Europe is a bitch, don’t forget to f—her to exhaustion. You have to treat her like a whore, man!”—which suggests that the rapper’s grievances extend past France to include much of the West.
French intellectuals, journalists, and music critics have taken all this in stride. Fnac, the largest French chain of music stores, selected “PolitiKment IncorreKt” as its top featured album. Fnac’s fawning review of the CD says: “And what if the subversive spirit of rock had made its way into French rap? . . . Monsieur R: a revelation.” On July 16, Mr. R was among the lead performers at the prestigious Francofolies music festival in La Rochelle.
Last month, Francois Grosdidier, a member of parliament from President Chirac’s party, called on the minister of Justice to ban the broadcast of the video and take up legal action against Mr. R for “incitement to racism and hatred.” The press reacted with outrage—against Grosdidier. The left-wing daily Libération denounced this harassment of rappers as futile. Mr. R, responding to the charge of anti-French racism, stuck to his guns: He’s only talking about French leaders, he said, not the French people. As he told the newsmagazine Le Point, “I am not anti-French. I am a Belgian citizen.”