BHL... l'effroyable imposteur

It's only been out a few days, but the American intelligentsia is ripping apart Bernard Henry Levy's book on modern America. A well-deserved put-down, which colleagues back in France should take note of. This review by Garrison Keillor is a fantastic send-up.

If you're not familiar with him, BHL is France's most media-savvy public intellectual and a film-maker. Although he describes himself as a philosopher, he's an essayist at best and occasionally dabbles in current affairs and cinema. (His wife Arielle Dombasle, a kind of French Angelina Jolie, is an actress.) There are many reasons BHL is deserving of scorn--his pandering to the media, his apparent humorlessness when he appeared on the Daily Show recently, his intellectual shallowness, or his automatically pro-Zionist stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But two occasions stands out in particular: in 1998, BHL visited Algeria to report on the civil war there. He produced a four-page article for Le Monde and appeared on TV countless times after that. But it turned out that not only there were a lot of factual errors in his reporting, but the entire time he was accompanied with government minders and basically bought the government's line about an Islamist insurgency hook, line and sinker. He has done the same kind of of dubious journalism with his investigation into the murder of Daniel Pearl and other issues.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.