“Fall of France”: Newsweek Piece Sparks Outrage, Fact-Checking

Written by Paris-dweller Janine di Giovanni, “The Fall of France” uses personal anecdotes and the experiences of the author’s “friends” to re-hash common themes on why France’s economy is surely about to collapse. The title, which blares from the website of the once-great weekly Newsweek (now appearing only on the Internet), is eye-catching, provocative and utterly clickable.

But what of the claims (over 1500 words-worth) that follow? If you’re familiar with Anglo writing on French politics and economics, it will be nothing new to you. Or then again maybe it will, since in this instance each claim — largely un-attributed — is more inflated than the last. Choice nuggets include high taxes (“a great many pay [a tax rate] in excess of 70%”), people taking advantage of the benefits they spend their careers paying into (um…. gasp?), and the price of milk which she claims can go for as much as $4 for half a liter (that’s $2 per cup, folks).

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In fact, there are so many claims of such a dubious nature that an article in Le Monde does the herculean job of refuting them one by one, taking on the tax rate, the France-pays-new-moms-to-tone-thier-abs claim, and brain-drain-due-to-taxation claim. You can read that rebuttal in the Les Décodeurs section of their website. Point number 5, the price of milk, is particularly entertaining.

“Even if Janine di Giovanni lives in the very expensive 6th arrondissement of Paris, we wonder where she could possibly do her grocery shopping: the most expensive organic milk we could find was 1,42 euros per liter, or four times less expensive than the price given by Mme. di Giovanni.”

In addition to the piece in Le Monde, angry tweeters also took up the task of defending France from potentially un-founded critiques. But, as the saying goes, there’s no use crying over spilt $32-per-gallon milk, especially when that milk is imaginary.