OUR BIG INVESTIGATION – Is the "pope of the investigation" actually an unscrupulous ideologue? For a long time, the director of Mediapart was considered the model of the "independent journalist". A flattering image that has been fading for a few weeks. Accused of complacency towards Tariq Ramadan, of flirting with Islamism and of making irresponsible remarks against Charlie Hebdo, Edwy Plenel is now under the fire of criticism from his colleagues. Back on the route of the former boss of the World.
“He has the laughing look and the mustache of Brassens.” Edwy Plenel, in his austere uniform, blue shirt-black suit, smiles. This November 22, the amphitheater Boutmy is packed. A young student from Sciences Po paints his portrait: he tastes once again the pleasure of admiration. For a month, the boss of Mediapart has been in turmoil and these few words reassure him. In front of the students of the rue Saint-Guillaume, the eye curls, the mustache quivers and the parallel with the singer from Sète enchants him: “I am touched by this comparison. I always thought that La Mauvaise Reputation was to be the anthem of investigative journalism. Besides, this song was written in 1952, the year of my birth.
The organizer, Benjamin Duhamel, is delighted: he has never seen so many people for a “big oral”. In this school, which celebrates "hijab day", the author of For Muslims was greeted with thunderous applause. At the heart of this microcosm in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a stone's throw from the Café de Flore and the Deux Magots, the official rebel is at home. “He is a personality that I admire a lot, I hope he will put Manuel Valls in his place,” says a veiled student. Others, however, are more skeptical: “I'm curious to hear him discuss his journalistic practice. He presents himself as a fairly neutral investigative journalist, but doesn't he defend certain opinions?
Until now, for many of his colleagues, he was a mixture of Émile Zola and Bob Woodward (the Watergate investigator). The man of the Irish of Vincennes and the Rainbow Warrior. For a few weeks, however, this image has faded and the one that is emerging is much less flattering. Accustomed to donning the prosecutor's costume, Plenel finds himself this time in the dock. The reason? Too much complacency with Tariq Ramadan, irresponsible words with regard to Charlie Hebdo .
"War on Muslims"
Back to cartoons. On November 1, after the discovery of the accusations of rape and violence hanging over Ramadan,Charlie Hebdodraws the preacher in the grip of an impressive erection with this subtitle “The 6th pillar of Islam”. The reactions are not long in coming: to read tweets and Facebook post, it is no longer enough to spare the Prophet, any mockery of Ramadan is akin to blasphemy. Death threats rain down on Charlie. The newspaper's defenders are stepping up to the plate but Mediapart, despite being at the forefront of the "Balance your pork" movement which denounces sexual violence, remains silent.
The following week, four portraits by Coco of Edwy Plenel made the front page of Charlie. He appears, in a reference to the wise monkey, covering his eyes, ears and mouth with his mustache. In the middle of the drawings, an ironic title: “Ramadan case, Mediapart reveals: “We did not know”. Between the lines Plenel is accused of concealing the supposed crimes of Tariq Ramadan. Edwy Plenel reacts in a grandiloquent tweet where he qualifies this drawing as a “red poster” in reference to the resistance fighters of the Manouchian network shot by the Germans at Mont Valérien.
On the airwaves of France Info, he bluntly denounces a plot: “The front page of Charlie Hebdois part of a broader campaign that the current leadership of Charlie Hebdo spouse. Mr. Valls and others, including those who follow Mr. Valls, a lost left, a left that no longer knows where it is, allied to a right or even an identity extreme right, he explains, before launching , and others find any pretext, any slander to return to their obsession: the war on Muslims, the demonization of everything related to Islam and Muslims. "War on Muslims": three words too many. Three words that, for many, legitimize violent actions. Three words that echo those that preceded the January 7 massacre. Three “unforgivable” words according to Riss.
For journalists from Charlie Hebdo, this little sentence is all the more unacceptable as they continue to live in fear. The bunkered writing such as "Fort Knox" is still haunted by the death of their friends who fell under the bullets. The places, and the security around them, make them present every second, confides a member of the editorial staff ofCharlie Hebdo, who prefers to remain anonymous: “It's been three years. But, for us, the wound is still raw.” Riss, director of Charlie Hebdo, still bruised in his flesh by a bullet in the shoulder, reacts in an implacable and chilling editorial. He accuses Edwy Plenel of having launched a "call for murder" against Charlie Hebdoand to dub "those who tomorrow will want to finish the job of the Kouachi brothers".
Attacked as well by the right as by the left, Plenel does not answer. The defense strategy is one of silence. Opposite, tongues are loosened: “Plenel will not pass on information that goes against his convictions. And if information goes in the direction of his convictions, he can twist it a little to make it even more convincing. Especially since he has the absolute certainty that he is on the side of good and that he is the embodiment of it in the press”, confides Franz-Olivier Giesbert. “There is a difference between bringing the iron into the wound and making a wound and bringing the iron into it afterwards,” Philippe Val mocks, while Caroline Fourest (who was the first to show Ramadan’s double game) affirms: “It demonstrated in a few days that in him ideology could make you blind. It's very bad for an investigative journalist."
Stunned by this uppercut, Plenel had promised in a press release not to return to the case*. A post published on Mediapart and entitled "Why we media apart" serves as a general response. But that evening, in front of the students of Sciences Po, he was combative. “Inquisition”, “McCarthyism”, “relentlessness”: he responds. He excuses Riss (“he has the right to be excessive, there are immeasurable sorrows”), what else could he do? He prefers to choose his adversary and move the dispute to the political level.
He takes advantage of the excessive language of Manuel Valls to attack him head on. He launches the duel with the former prime minister, the Turkish head of part of the left and of a disintegrated suburban youth. Manuel Valls who speaks loudly, too loudly and who wants to make Mediapart "throat". Manuel Valls, whom Plenel's friends compare to Marcel Déat. If Plenel accuses the journalists of having staged his truncated sentence on the "war on Muslims", he himself takes a decontextualized extract from the interview with the former Prime Minister in El Paiswhere the latter speaks of the "problem of Islam, of Muslims". “Listen to this language, it is in a logic of war!” he hammers.
Manuel Valls is accused of all evils. “He was in the front row in the defense of Cahuzac. It violates freedom of the press. It violates the Constitution”, jumps the journalist. “Plenel is an expert in dialectics. Impeached, he accuses in turn. But he carries his response on the ground where he is most comfortable, that of emotional reflection, not on the ground where he is attacked, that of objective facts", said of him his former colleague from the World Alain Rollat. A well-rehearsed tactic that he reproduces here: "This virulence, I already experienced it fifteen years ago during the affair of the World, I was then a CIA agent”, he says.
"The Hidden Face of World»
It was fifteen years ago, in fact. At the time, Edwy Plenel was the king of Paris. The one of World each day dictates the political and ideological agenda. The publication of The Dark Side of the World, the essay by Pierre Péan and the late Philippe Cohen introduced him to his first fall. Sold 60.000 copies on the first day, this investigation causes an earthquake. The authors have “investigated the investigator”. For Péan and Cohen, Le Monde is not the model of transparency that it claims to be. On the contrary, it has insidiously slid from its role of counter-power towards the permanent abuse of power.
Plenel played a central role in this drift, using his power of intimidation, his intimate relations with the police and judges to make and break careers, to pillory politicians, bosses and intellectuals, tracking down the "slippages" of " neo-reactionaries”, shamelessly slandering suspects (Pierre Bérégovoy, Dominique Baudis), seeking at all costs their political or social death. For the two journalists, Plenel is not an investigator, but an informer. In the same movement, he suspects, accuses and condemns. In a chapter entitled "L'appel de Fouché", Cohen and Péan show a Plenel haunted by Napoleon's Minister of Police, whose Memoirs he even prefaces. Under his pen, the inventor of the modern police becomes nothing less than the inventor of “modern politics”.
Pierre-André Taguieff remembers the young education journalist who, in the early 1980s, became a regular at Place Beauvau. “I knew him in the 1980s when he was just a small journalist in the World. He was already a fanatic about police things. The underside of the cards, what was happening behind the scenes was his passion. He was always looking for the pot of roses, the hidden treasures. He had a very clear conspiratorial impregnation,” he explains.
The historian remembers dinners at Plenel with police union officials who always arrived with documents. And to conclude: “In matters of investigation, he did nothing other than copy the general information sheets and take up the materials that his police unionist friends brought him regularly. He then had his entrances to the Ministry of the Interior. It was from the “police affairs” section, which would be his laboratory, that Plenel experienced a meteoric rise. A decade and many "scoops" later, becoming boss of the World, he will make “investigative journalism” and “revelations” on “business” the daily showcase.
Péan and Cohen also highlight the deeply ideological dimension of his journalism. In the 1970s, the future boss of the World is Comrade Krasny, his pseudonym in the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR). In the early 2000s, he criticized Lionel Jospin for having hidden his Trotskyist past. He himself never really broke up with Krasny. The latter will remain his evil double. “Trotskyism as an experience and as a legacy is forever part of my identity,” he himself admits in Secrets of Youth (2001).
To the workers, this Trotskyist prefers those whom Frantz Fanon calls the "damned of the earth", the colonized. An anecdote alone sums up the character. It goes back to the land of childhood. Edwy Plenel was only 3 years old when his family arrived in Martinique. From the terrace of Alain Plenel's official apartment, the whole bay of Fort-de-France is offered to the eyes of the young Edwy. His father, a senior official of the National Education, is vice-rector in Martinique at the same time as an "anti-colonialist" militant.
At 6 and a half years old, he was asked at school to draw his family. "I drew my parents, they had black skin," he says. The founding event? His father took up the cause of the “independence” rioters. He had to leave Fort-de-France at the beginning of the 1960s. The young Edwy experienced the forced departure from Martinique as a wrench. This episode of his childhood is perhaps the intimate key to his grudge against the State, the Republic and France.
A grudge which, according to Péan and Cohen, helped to tip Le Monde in the ideology of minorities and repentance. For the boss of World, “Vichy and the war in Algeria have become files still to be investigated, note Péan and Cohen in the chapter “They don't like France”. Because both periods have the common denominator of presenting the French state in its most unfavorable light. Because they constitute infectious diseases of the Republic, or rather symptoms of its disappearance…” Weakened within the newspaper, he resigned from the management in November 2004, before leaving the newspaper definitively on October 31, 2005.
Touched, but not sunk. In 2008, the creation of Mediapart was a success. The election of Nicolas Sarkozy is an editorial boon. At the Théâtre du Châtelet, in 2009, the cream of the moral left attended an evening for a free and independent press where we find Le Nouvel Observateur, Les Inrockuptibles, Marianne, Rue89, but also Mediapart and… Charlie Hebdo. All left-wing media unite in hating the head of state. Nobody can imagine that the same ones will clash eight years later with such violence. For the moment, Plenel, "the independent", is still the good conscience of journalists. With the Cahuzac affair, in 2013, he returned to the peak of his glory.
The turning point of January 7
In September 2014, appears For Muslims. After the colonized and the Palestinians, he found a new Other to defend. This plea against systemic Islamophobia skilfully mixes republican references (Péguy, Jaurès, Zola) with postcolonial thinkers (Edward Saïd, Angela Davis). He denounces the "hatred of religion" that is rampant on the left, and a misguided "secularism" that stigmatizes. He appeals to Robespierre and to the “combat of the Incorruptible against a hatred of religion which, in truth, concealed a fear of the populace”. "The release of For Muslims was a turning point, believes Caroline Fourest. He knows nothing about this question and arrives on this subject with purely ideological blinders without any desire for objectivity.
In this book imitating the For the Jews of Zola, he states a simple idea: "Islamophobia today fulfills the cultural function devolved yesterday to anti-Semitism." This turning point led him to become the tireless destroyer of “Islamophobes” in public debate. Throughout TV shows and interviews, he quotes this sentence from Gramsci which has become his mantra: "The old world is dying, the new world is slow to appear and, in this chiaroscuro, monsters arise." The monsters of course are the Islamophobes: Finkielkraut, Valls, Zemmour, and… Houellebecq.
On January 6, 2015, Edwy Plenel runs the sets to warn against the publicity made to Get a Quote , a novel by an “author who has long been known to be Islamophobic”. He warns against a "murderous ideology" and the growing place taken by "Islamophobic" intellectuals. Tragic irony: the next day, January 7, another "murderous ideology" strikes. It is no longer about words but about live ammunition. Writing Charlie Hebdo is decimated with the Kalashnikov to the cries of Allah Akbar. That day in the kiosks, the weekly displayed on its one "The predictions of the mage Houellebecq".
The director of Mediapart, never stingy with collective moments, will not take part in the January 11 march. This absence is experienced as a betrayal by the survivors. “In the face of death, Plenel did not have the modesty to show support on the face of it. I feel more anger towards him than towards the Kouachi, who are nobody, executors, "explains Zineb El Rhazoui, former journalist of the satirical weekly and today the most protected woman in France.
On January 17, Plenel aggravates his case: while France is still mourning its dead, he holds a joint meeting with Tariq Ramadan. That evening in a good-natured and militant atmosphere, hundreds of Muslims gathered at the call of community associations in a room in the industrial suburb of Brétigny-sur-Orge. Veiled women and a few bearded men in djellabas and sneakers listen to the preacher and the "high priest" of journalism. The two display their complicity without complex. "He has the brain of Albert Einstein and the physique of George Clooney," said the host of the evening about a Tariq Ramadan welcomed as a rock star. Edwy Plenel is also acclaimed, some brandishing his booklet like a little red book. The director of Mediapart comes to talk about "common causes". Referring to "the unhappy childhood of the Kouachi brothers", he describes the terrorists as "agents provocateurs of these policies, which will add fear to fear, terror to terror".
Between the theoretician of Islamist Gramscism and that of Trotskyist Gramscism, the one who sees homosexuality as forbidden and the one who sees progress in marriage for all, there will be no debate. Communing in defense of the discriminated against Muslim, new proletarian for one, always colonized for the other, they both claim a form of “non-charlism”. If Tariq Ramadan says bluntly "I am not Charlie", Edwy Plenel is more ambivalent: "I am one of those who think that one can say at the same time I am Charlie and I am not Charlie, I will not publish caricatures that offend any religion.”
A few days later, on the set of the “Petit journal” he persists and signs, qualifying Tariq Ramadan as a “respectable intellectual”. “I read it, I listen to it, I do not see any ambiguities. What does 'double talk' mean, does it mean that he is a bit deceitful, because he is an Arab?” He has this terrible sentence: "Hate cannot have the excuse of humour", which makes even the journalist of "Arrêt sur images" Daniel Schneidermann jump: "How can we remain in solidarity with the murdered caricaturists, and still whistle the end of recess, the end of the little incendiary drawings?
For Caroline Fourest, it's a break: “From January 7, Mediapart became the home, not only of those close to Tariq Ramadan, but of all anti-Charlie. We must also remember the promotion by Mediapart of the CCIF and of Marwan Muhammad, who is Tariq Ramadan junior.
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Willingness to pledge or authentic investigative work? In April 2016, Mediapart published a series of five articles of nearly 25.000 characters each on the figure of Tariq Ramadan, described as “Zemmour upside down”. The preacher responds in a video titled “When Mediapart makes Mariannewhere he denounces, according to him, the inaccuracies of the journalist Mathieu Magnaudeix. It is however with the Ramadan affair that Plenel will definitely lose his halo of patron saint of journalists. Some consider his exit on the “war on Muslims” revolting. “Until now, Plenel has retained his aura, as he rather attacks the powerful and the strong. There, he is opposed to a newspaper which has just been decimated by an attack, still full of wounds and wounds. Frantz-Olivier Giesbert analysis. “It's not a battle of egos, but the story of an ego that can't bear to make a caricature like we do on everyone. Plenel takes himself for Muhammad, he must not be caricatured.
The varnish cracked and the mask fell: “From now on, a whole part of the intellectual and media world will be forced to come down to earth and work on reality and not on its opinions. Between those who flirt with the Natives of the Republic and the true Republicans, the camps will have to be well defined. Valls is right to point out that there are two irreconcilable lefts”, thus estimates the former director of Charlie, Philippe Val. The front lines are in place. Side Charlie, there is an imminent danger, “Islamic totalitarianism”.
On the Mediapart side, it is Islamophobia that threatens our society above all. "Islamism as such is not in itself a serious thing," said Jade Lindgaard, co-president of the society of journalists at Mediapart. “State racism”, yes. Because the Plenel left is also the one that swears by "intersectionality", this notion imported from deconstructivist sociology which advocates the union of the dominated (LGBT, Muslims, women) against a single enemy: the white male western. The cult of minorities of the director of Mediapart leads him to espouse all the causes in the air of the time: he is of course for inclusive writing and for "separate meetings of 'racialized' people", that is- that is, meetings from which white people are excluded.
For Péan, we finally perceive the militant agenda of a man who proclaimed himself the herald of independent journalism: “Plenel has not changed. Through the media he uses, like a XNUMXst century Jean-Paul Marat, he wants to redo The friend of the people multiculturalist fashion. He doesn't see his readers as mature people, because he doesn't just say or explain. He denounces and re-educates, because he wants to achieve political ends. What is happening today is the consequence of this conception of journalism.
In his honeyed tone and his tireless preaching on the love of the Other, Edwy Plenel is more like a priest than an anarchist, “a lachrymal Trotskyist” says Pierre-André Taguieff. A priest who uses the “religion of modern societies” (Balzac) which is journalism to disseminate his ideas. A messianic vision of his own vocation as a vigilante which condemns him to end up one day himself in the media court that he helped to create. It's a lesson of history and revolutionary dynamics: the guillotiners always end up being guillotined. Brassens could have made a song out of it.
*Asked by us, he did not wish to answer our questions.
- Alain Finkielkraut: “Weinstein, Ramadan, Plenel… the lessons of a tsunami”
- "The Islamists are not Muslims, and Edwy Plenel is not their prophet"
- Zineb El Rhazoui: "The collaborationists of Islamic fascism are numerous in France"
Source: © Islamism, Charlie Hebdo: Edwy Plenel, the prosecutor in the dock