France: Magazine Tells Fairy Tales about Polygamy in Immigrant Families

Le Point, a French weekly news magazine, was the victim of a “militant” of the new order that is rising up against the portrait being painted of residents of immigrant communities. In a short article entitled “LE POINT, un magazine engagé” (LE POINT, an activist magazine), the blog called L’Offusqué (Taking Offence) explains [fr]:

We’ll get right to the point. Issue no. 1895 of the magazine Le Point, in a cover story on “Things We Can’t Say,” contains an article written by its publication director, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, also the bravest reporter in France, called “One Husband, Three Wives.” The article was meant to tar and feather those horrid French polygamists of ever-increasing numbers whose public assistance payments are growing to obscene amounts.

The blog Le scan de la diversité (The survey of diversity) [4] continues[fr]:

But it turns out that the main article in the story, based on the testimony of an alleged polygamist’s wife, has no basis in fact. The testimony that Le Point received is from “Bintou,” the 32-year-old third wife of a Frenchman of Malian descent with eight children, including one who is turning bad. The reporter never met with Bintou, who doesn’t exist. Why not?

CCM reveals a technique used by French journalists who are interviewing foreign-born Frenchmen of modest surroundings, many of whom live in the suburbs [fr]. The article is Journaliste en banlieue et correspondant de guerre, même combat ? (Journalist in the suburbs and war correspondent—same combat?) [fr] , the reporter called on a “fixer,” because for some people, reporting from the suburbs is like being a special envoy to Bagdad:

Le Point got taken by a “fixer.” What exactly is a “fixer”? The term is usually used for “interpreter-guides” that assist journalists in Iraq and in war zones in general, as explained by Marc Epstein in a report on these shadow men and women in L’Express in 2005

In a post called The manipulating and manipulated press, the blog Des petits riens reports [fr]:

The latest posting from the news site Arrêt sur images contains a gem: How a “fixer” (indispensable aide for a journalist who wants to gain access to an area considered to be dangerous) tricks a journalist from the very “respectable” weekly Le Point : The magazine wanted to write an article on “suburban polygamists,” a juicy subject for enhancing the stigmatization of these people from other countries. The fixer was the young and brazen man, Abdel. Tired of the negative image of these communities, played up by the media, he pretended he was the wife of a polygamist. Everyone should watch the video, it’s hysterical.

Here is how the journalist @si introduced the video and the article on Twitter:

dan_asi « Le Point piégé : la femme du polygame s'appelait… Abdel (article + vidéo). #exclu :-) »

dan_asi: Le Point Gets Pranked : The Polygamist’s Wife was Named…Abdel article and video #exclusive

Le Point en flagrant délit de bidonnage – @si
Uploaded by asi. – Watch the latest news videos.

The sociologist Eric Fassin used the hoax as the basis for the article “Polygamy: Le Point and the Societal-Media Fabrication of Moral Panic ,”[fr] showing how journalists and others in French society came to believe that many families living in the suburbs are polygamists:

In fact, there is only one verified figure in this field: one sample showed 65 out of 4439 adolescents were from a polygamist father, in other words, fewer than 1.5%.

We find the following information in an article on polygamy in Senegal[fr] (where many of these people are from):

According to a survey of Senegalese households published in 2004 by the Senegalese Institute for Statistics and Demographics [20], 6.6% of women in Dakar in 2002 entered into this type of marriage. In rural areas, the figure was twice that.

Fassin continues:

“Today, the debate has taken shape…the problem with polygamous families is that they cause delinquency.”

In Senegal, reactions to the impact of polygamy on society are minimal and opinions are divided. The Comments section of the blog Chez Gangoueus offers a detailed exchange on the effects of polygamy in Senegal [fr].

1 comment

  • As i am running a website in german and english about the freedom to freely choose your form of marriage this article is valuable to me. This is the kind of journalism that too often is overlooked. At least i can only remember reading the lies about a french minister naming polygamy as the cause of riots in french suburbs, but nothugn about this. Great work, Viktor

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