Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eric Rouleau is dead

Eric Rouleau is dead.  This is a unique foreign correspondent who belonged to a group of distinguished foreign correspondents that we don't see today.  How sad. The Western media coverage of the Middle East has become an anthology of recycled cliches; they all repeat what everyone else is saying. What is the difference between Anne Barnard of the Times or Liz Sly of the Post in their coverage of Syria. They talk (or skype) with the same people, and share the same sources and repeat the same cliches.  Eric Rouleau (like Arnold Hottinger or David Hirst or Peter Mansfield or even Patrick Seale--before he fell in love with House of Asad AND House of Saud) was an independent foreign correspondent who charted his own course of coverage.  His knowledge and insights far exceeded those of academic specalists of the Middle East.  Just read this classic article by him in New Left Review from 1967 ("The Syrian Enigma: What Is the Baath?") to decide about his qualify.  He was fluent in Arabic (but he didn't know Hebrew, contrary to some articles about him) and conducted interviews in Arabic. He struck up friendships with Nasser, Haykal, Arafat, Kamal Jumblat and other Middle East political figures.  Politically speaking, Rouleau can be criticized: when he served as French ambassador in Tunisia (in the administration of Mitterrand) he pretty much covered up the human rights violations and corruption of the Bin Ali regime--like a typical Western ambassador.  He also pressured PLO and Arab Left leaders over the years to establish contacts and undertake dialogue with Israeli "leftist" parties.  But how much the quality of Western media journalism has changed: from Eric Rouleau to Thomas Friedman or Georges Malbrunot, for that matter.