Saturday, July 09, 2005

How About If We "Contest" A Little French Power, Pierre?

A French middle school is studying 9/11 as "Protest":

The following figured among the essay topics in the final exam in history and geography given in French junior high schools [collèges] last week, i.e. to 14-15 year old students:

“How was American power contested on September 11, 2001?”

This amounts to presenting the Islamist attacks against the world’s greatest democracy ... as one form of contestation among others. A good illustration of the training in anti-Americanism provided by the Ministry of Education.

John Rosenthal at Tran-Atlantic Intelligencer comments:

The original French version of the topic reads: “Comment la puissance américaine a-t-elle été contestée le 11 septembre 2001?” In order to provide the grammatically most similar English rendering and avoid charges of tendentiousness, I have used the English cognate "[to] contest".

But in current French usage the verb contester bears a very strong connotation of political protest and, notably, protest against a given political order: it implies not just a “challenge” – a term which is politically comparatively neutral – but a challenge to legitimacy.

The French expression for “protest” as a mass phenomenon is indeed la contestation.

To put the question in perspective let's pose another question:

How was French power contested when, on May 10, 1940, Germany invaded France?

Google it yourself: French Military Victories.