On BHL, in the pages of The Financial Times. Political Observer comments

Mocking BHL is easy should be the title of this interview/essay by Mr. Kuper. M. Levy’s shtick never seems to grow old for a certain strata of journalists. M. Levy provides the pretext ,the rhetorical frame, of this extended exploration of the effect of Brexit on both France and Britain. The list of quoted Experts/Technocrats  and even a billionaire is impressive:

Peter Ricketts, Georgina Wright, Robin Rivaton, Ross McInnes, Xavier Niel, Catherine Fieschi, Hans Kundnani, Hervé Bizeul, Nicolas Sarkozy,

Kuper offers the added piquancy of the exploration of the idea of a French animus, indeed schadenfreude, that the Brexit excites in the French political/moral imagination as confected by Kuper.

‘When I mentioned to one French official that the French in 2016 might also have voted to leave the EU, he replied, “Yes. But we wouldn’t have been dumb enough to hold a referendum.” ‘

Some selective quotation from the remainder of this essay with my comments:

But Frexit could come back from the dead. BHL sees little difference between French and British nationalism: “In both cases there’s the fantasy of a return to a lost identity.” He warns that compared with previous anti-democratic movements such as Marxism, Nazism and Islamic fundamentalism, “Populism may be the one that works best, that’s most convincing. Macron is fragile.”

Let me offer this, Macron is ‘fragile’ because nearly 37% of French voters rendered their ballots uncountable, allied to this reality are the ‘Rolling Strikes’ conducted by French Unions!

Few in Britain will even notice the European parliamentary elections of May 2019, but they loom large on Macron’s calendar. He aims to beat the FN, and win a moral mandate for the rest of his five-year term. To make sure Frexit stays dead, Brexit has to be costly. Britain can’t have back doors into the single market. If it leaves, France wants to make sure it’s entirely out.

Does/Can Macron’s ‘Moral Mandate’ have anything like political legitimacy, or can he acquire this elusive moral/political quantity ? The 37% of uncountable ballots in the final election are subject to an ideological erasure.

That would also assuage France’s biggest fear for post-Brexit Britain: that the UK sets itself up as a low-regulation zone on Europe’s doorstep. British officials keep assuring the French that this isn’t the plan. The French largely believe this, but they ask: what does the UK do in five years, if Brexit goes badly? Then slashing regulations on everything from food to environmental to worker standards might prove irresistible. French companies have lobbied Brussels to ensure this doesn’t happen, says Georgina Wright of London think-tank Chatham House.

The ‘as if’ here is that the EU and its regulatory regime is the final expression  of European Union , as refracted through the Neo-Liberalism avant le lettre of Monnet’s Common Market, as it has evolved into a tool of German power, and its cudgel of the European Central Bank. The case of the Greeks offers the starkest lesson in this abuse of power,  by four time defaulter Germany. Didn’t Henry Ford opine that  ‘history is bunk‘? The possibility in Mr. Kuper’s essay is the effect of the Brexit on French British relations, that features the melodramatic possibility that the ‘Brexit goes badly’.

If anyone can turn Paris into the new capital of liberal Europe, it’s France’s most liberal president. Already, he has liberalised France’s labour markets and cut taxes. BHL sees a kindred spirit: “Macron, like me — though he’s younger — couldn’t exist without English ideology. He’s an Englishman of France.” In fact, Macron could have been a Londoner. He had agreed to become a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics when in 2014 he was appointed French economy minister.

BHL postulates the notion that he and ‘the Liberal‘, read Neo-Liberal, Macron are of the same political mind. As argued by BHL , he and Macron are Englishman of France, again read Neo-Liberals.

Indicative of Macron’s seemingly unslakable ambition for a place on the World Stage , Mr. Kuper offers this on the EII as an adjunct/alternative to NATO? :

Now Macron is mooting a new European Intervention Initiative. The EII — which could be launched next month — would be a coalition of the willing, for countries inside and outside the EU to join ad hoc military actions. (Brexiters needn’t worry about an EU army ever emerging: the pacifist Germans have defanged even a very modest French push for integration.) The EII has potential to become a mostly Franco-British vehicle. London likes it in principle, says Hans Kundnani of Chatham House. Already British brigadier Nick Nottingham is deputy commander of a French army division; French brigadier Hervé Bizeul has the same role in the British army’s First Division. It’s imaginable that one day the two armies could share bases abroad, a French official suggests.




Compare this to the 2013 essay from the Financial Times on BHL:

Headline : Bernard-Henri Lévy: ‘I don’t care much about my image’

Sub-headline: France’s philosopher dandy and most public of public intellectuals talks about saving Europe, toppling tyrants and his new ‘rendezvous with the question of art’


M. Levy, is in American terms, a ‘Publicity Hound‘ . His career was built on the camera, both still and television, that has captured this self-appointed successor to Sartre and Camus, in his Activism for the cause of ‘Right’ : as he defines it and as opportunities presents themselves.  Opportunism and Publicity are the twin pillars of his career as Philosophical Oligarch. A modern day Plato, who is his own Socrates!  Levy’s stage is that constructed by unrelenting Public Relations, as perfected by Edward Bernays, Madison Ave. and Hollywood. We shouldn’t forget Dr Goebbels

“The only thing I can say is that I define my own agenda.” The implication is that others do not and this is a source of jealousy and attacks. “I act as a free man.” Having a fortune helps, I suggest. “Of course, to have money makes things easier.” But Lévy suggests that his critics’ envy is also down to the fact that he lives the way a public intellectual should. “What is the opposite of what we are describing? The opposite is the intellectual that is the voice of the prince or the voice of the people or the voice of the trend, or the voice of the mob.” He creates his own mandate – “I listen to nobody.”

As quoted in this essay Perry Anderson offers this telling critique of M. Levy:

Perry Anderson, the British historian, has written that Lévy is a “crass booby” and a “grotesque” indictment of the French intellectual.

Here is a link to Prof. Anderson’s full text, and a selective quotation of the paragraph that Mr. Kuper quotes from:

The world of ideas is in little better shape. Death has picked off virtually all the great names: Barthes (1980); Lacan (1981); Aron (1983); Foucault (1984); Braudel (1985); Debord (1994); Deleuze (1995); Lyotard (1998); Bourdieu (2002). Only Lévi-Strauss, at 95, and Derrida, at 74, survive. No French intellectual has gained a comparable international reputation since. Lack of that is not a necessary measure of worth. But while individual work of distinctive value continues to be produced, the general condition of intellectual life is suggested by the bizarre prominence of Bernard-Henri Lévy, far the best-known ‘thinker’ under 60 in the country. It would be difficult to imagine a more extraordinary reversal of national standards of taste and intelligence than the attention accorded this crass booby in France’s public sphere, despite innumerable demonstrations of his inability to get a fact or an idea straight. Could such a grotesque flourish in any other major Western culture today?


For an expose of M. Levy the reader should look to:

BHL in Wonderland May 282018

The Impostor
BHL in Wonderland
A quote from the two reviews of this book are arresting:

“A familiar figure in the celebrity media, friend of the stars, big bosses and politicians of Left and Right, accompanied or not by Arielle Dombasle, BHL appears, in this effective investigation, as an intellectual with “an oversized ego whose commitments serve his personal interests.””


“Cruel enough to be funny, serious enough to be credible … The angle and method of the two journalists has the merit of simplicity: to take Bernard-Henri Lévy at face value, in other words to read his books, articles, interviews, to watch his films, to listen to his public talks and interventions in the media.”

John McDermott’s pronouncement on Levy speaks to the kind of ‘Journalism’ that he practices:
The question of whether philosophy or image has triumphed is also an apt one when it comes to Lévy himself. Few people doubt his smarts or his bravery.
So much more to be said about my favorite Fake French Philosopher!
Political Observer



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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