COLUMN

Severing the French connection

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM August 21 1995
COLUMN

Severing the French connection

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM August 21 1995

Severing the French connection

COLUMN

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM

Your humble agent is against, on principle, the “should” and “must” school of journalism. Readers, let alone governments, don’t like being told what they “should” do, or “must” do. It has about as much effect as your mother telling you that you must wash behind your ears and that you should not go out with that boy who rides a motorcycle.

Much more effective is the Olympian overview, offering readers only mountainous wisdom, vast erudition and insightful insights. Let them figure it out for themselves.

Once every decade, however, this stout rule is broken. Such is the time. I am going to bring France to its knees.

The subject, naturally, is the vainglorious decision of Jacques Chirac to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific. There is a worldwide call for boycotts on French products.

I have never been a great fan of boycotts. Going all the way back to Cesar Chavez and his friend Bobby Kennedy trying to convince us all not to buy California grapes at the supermarket because of the plight of migrant workers.

Boycotts usually don’t work because there is always a way around them. When Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, defied the Harold Wilson government in London and declared its Unilateral Declaration of Independence, the rest of the world decided to freeze the white settlers out of existence. A total boycott of trade with Rhodesia was imposed.

Years passed. One day I walked into a pub in the capital of Salisbury, now Harare, and behind the bar was every single brand of Scotch whisky sold on earth. Some boycott.

On France and the South Pacific, however, I’m getting serious. Every time I seek out a fine wine I am going to march resolutely past the France shelves in my local establishment. And purposely find a good South African grape, just to help their evolving economy and my friend Nelson Mandela.

Every time I am in need of some Brie or Camembert, I am going to find a Danish substitute, or perhaps a Quebec one—just to

help out my enemy Lobster Jack. I am going to bring France to her knees.

The eight nuclear tests, scheduled to begin next month on an atoll in French Polynesia, would break a three-year moratorium. In a piece of logical nonsense known only to the French, the Chirac government says the tests are needed to develop computer simulations that will make further testing unnecessary—and has promised to sign a test-ban treaty next year.

New Zealand is taking France to the International Court of Justice, supported by Australia. But it’s the boycott that’s going to hurt. Paris seems to have learned little from what happened to Shell Oil.

Last month Shell, given the OK from the British government, planned to sink in the North Sea a huge oil rig that it no longer needed. Just dump it in the drink. While Greenpeace daredevils parachuted onto the

deck of the abandoned rig to delay the sinking, a massive boycott of Shell gas stations in Europe gained astonishing speed.

It stunned Shell. In Germany, which has always had this romantic link with nature, the Greens—named after Greenpeace and the environment—are now a formidable force in political life. Dutch and Belgian environmentalists convinced millions of motorists to bypass the Shell pump.

What shocked Shell the most, however, was the French public—previously the most indifferent population in Europe to such issues. The panicked Shell executives agreed to abandon the dump-in-the-sea idea and instead towed the rig to shore in Scotland and dismantled it—moving an enraged John Major to call them “wimps.”

Wimps indeed. They just couldn’t stand the heat as their sales at the pump plummeted. It’s going to be the same with this boycott of French products. Some 62 per cent of the French public think Chirac should cancel the tests, according to a Harris poll last week, conducted for Votre Dimanche newspaper.

Le Monde has urged Chirac to back down. A New Zealand flotilla headed by the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior II (the original sunk in Auckland harbor by French intelligence agents last decade, killing a photographer) is headed for the Mururoa test site in French Polynesia.

But what’s going to work is the boycott. Once the word gets through the vineyards that Dr. Foth is stopping drinking French wine, the vintners from Burgundy, Beaujolais, Bor8 deaux, Cognac and Cham| pagne will be assaulting o Paris, hurling stones at Chirac’s mansion and burning park benches from the Bois de Bologne in the streets. This is a massive threat, but these are desperate times.

There is word already out of Papeete in French Polynesia—Marlon Brando we assume being safely barged out of the territory—that the startled French are trying to speed up the tests before the worldwide protests gather more steam.

Originally planned to stretch from September to next May, the first test may now take place by Aug. 25, -with the others to quickly follow before the protest flotilla can arrive.

Brie-eaters of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your taste buds. Beaujolais nouveau will never touch my lips again. Chirac thinks he’s a junior Charles de Gaulle, but all he will accomplish is that pâté de foie gras will never again sully my table.

It’s the only way to deal with tyrants. Hit them in the kitchen.