Why this story matters:
It is on the whole unsurprising that Valeurs Actuelles, known for its anti-Muslim and racist leanings, published a special release glorifying France's colonial past. But the newspaper's romanticized depiction of colonialism does not simply put a revisionist spin on facts -- it omits crucial events whenever convenient.
For example, it describes France as "the benefactor of Madagascar" without mentioning the apartheid system in place under French rule. The authors call the Sahara desert "the treasure of France" while failing to describe the French nuclear tests that caused so much devastation in the area.
The special release describes colonization as "a long history of conquests, fascination and love between the metropolis and its overseas territories".
Considering that most colonized countries were left poor and unstable after French rule, and therefore dependent on the French state for support, such declarations of 'love' are simply laughable.
Moreover, this ode to colonialism couldn't come at a worse time. Tensions are sky-high while the country deals with terrorist attacks, labor strikes and violence on campuses. At the moment, France needs a history lesson to learn from its mistakes and create a more inclusive society -- not a one-sided account like the one offered by Valeurs Actuelles.
Details from the story:
- Like most European monarchies after the 15th century, France expended its kingdom in many areas of the world, and didn't stop when it became a Republic.
- France used to control a large part of the African continent. It also briefly controlled part of North America, Asia (the former "Indochine") and the Middle East.
- During the 19th century, France justified colonization by claiming a duty to bring civilization and French values to others.
- France invaded Algeria, which wasn't a country at the time, in 1830 and left in 1962 following a bloody war.
- In 2012, President François Hollande said colonization was "unfair and brutal" while he was visiting Algeria.