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While the last episode of the documentary version of Metronome is broadcast on France 5, it's time to take stock of the phenomenon Lorànt Deutsch /Metronome. We will come back to this quickly, as well as to the character himself, which remains largely an enigma. But what it will be interesting to discuss is also the phenomenon Metronome, which overtook Deutsch, and the reactions it elicited, if not the lack of it, among the media, politicians ... and historians.
A few updates
In recent weeks, Lorànt Deutsch's (all too rare) critics have often been criticized for attacking him on a so-called historian's lack of legitimacy. However, far from us the idea, to History for all, to claim that we are more legitimate than he as "historians". The site operates thanks to editors, some of whom have had a history in university, and others are simply enthusiasts, amateurs in the noblest sense of the term (and among them who appreciate Metronome). Some are not more legitimate than others. And even if we had all been doctors in history, the approach would not have changed because making history, if it is open to all (we speak of "public uses of history"), it is is above all a necessity of honesty, in particular methodological. And, we will come back to this, this is the first point on which Deutsch's work seems problematic to us.
Likewise, it is not a question of criticizing him in order to criticize him on his political opinions, but to point out that they sometimes appear in a caricatural way in his remarks, and that they represent an ideological basis very present in his work, and there is a need for information and illumination for the uninformed reader. Lorànt Deustch's various contradictory statements on the influence of his political ideas on his work confirm this necessity.
Who is Lorànt Deutsch really?
Through his statements in the media, then during our meeting at Fnac La Défense, or through internet messages signed with his name (but which he denies, we will come back to this), we can say that it is really difficult to know who Lorànt Deutsch is.
What are his political ideas and, above all, are they an integral part of his Metronome ? In 2010, at Laurent Ruquier's, he seemed embarrassed by the host when he told him that he was a royalist, and that this is perhaps what bothers him in the evocation of the Concorde and the guillotine. : “I'm not really here to talk about that, it's scary 'royalist', that means 'react', 'conservative' […]. We cut off his head, that's part of the story, it's up to us to live with that […] We didn't just cut off our king's head, I think we turned our backs on a lot of our roots […] ”. This last passage is fundamental to understanding the logic of Metronome. And yet, at the time, he claimed that his opinions had no bearing on his work. More recently, in Le Figaro of March 5, 2011, he declared: "For me, the history of our country ended in 1793, with the death of Louis XVI. This event marked the end of our civilization, we cut our heads off our roots (sic) and we have been looking for them ever since ”. On France Inter, in the show The Freedmen (April 18, 2012), he returned to the pointlessness of the presidential election and the loss of sovereign powers, in favor of "Of a European superpower", and above all he criticized historians who attack him by instrumentalizing history, while claiming that he himself prefers ideology to historical fact. Two quotes sum it all up: "Ideology should not be destroyed in the name of scientific fact, it is a bit of a fight between materialists and those who believe in something a little more ideological. The materialists destroy me as soon as they can ", and "If we can tend towards the scientific fact, so much the better, especially if it gives credence to my chapel, and what I think, my insight into history. For me, the historical truth is in a light ”.
Finally, on April 21 at FNAC La Défense, Lorànt Deutsch reaffirmed that he had no political ambition with Metronome, while insisting on the fact that, according to him, "The history of France is a subjective matter". A few minutes before, he dwelled on the critics accusing him of making a history of "Dominant", kings and saints and, in the permanent contradiction that characterizes him, he said that if he did not judge history, he had convictions, and that he was according to him difficult "Not to recognize that it is the Christian religion which made the history of France for more than a thousand years". In a quick exchange with him, Lorànt Deutsch insisted on making it clear that he is an Orleanist royalist (so "Moderate"), secular; this last point is curious, since in the interview with Figaro cited above, Deutsch complained of a desire “To make secularism triumph. Without religion and without faith, we are depriving ourselves of something that we will need in the years to come. We must reintroduce religion in France, we need a concordat ". But there are more troubling things. An Internet user signing Lorànt Deutsch spoke on the site of Goliards (and by email), and his posts were increasingly questionable, going so far as to invective and a signature "Pierre Gaxotte", it no longer very ambiguous… Lorànt Deutsch himself has denied us being the author of these posts (and he does not have an official Facebook page either), even affirming that he goes very little on the net , and wasn't going to start hunting down everyone who pretends to be him.
Of course, the problem - and we told him - is that the Metronome is regularly praised by far-right websites. It didn't seem to move him more than that. Above all, a lexical proximity between the way of expressing oneself and the terms used by Internet Deutsch and Deutsch irl, in particular "materialist historians", raises questions. In addition, we got the impression that his interventions on France Inter, and even more so at La Défense, were direct responses to articles written on History for all and Goliards, the most egregious example being a quote, at FNAC, almost line by line, from the article by Goliards on Deutsch and the Revolution! So either Deutsch lied and read the articles well, or indeed Deutsch posted the questionable messages; or his com team made him cards to put out the fire that was starting to take hold, and cut the grass under his feet to any criticism. Indeed, the stakes are very high (we will come back to this in the media aspect), he is preparing a History of France, and the emergence of criticisms, some of them virulent (the first to our knowledge), could threaten the image of the phenomenon's next media campaign. Everything remains on the net ...
So it's hard to know who Lorànt Deustch really is.
History and Lorànt Deutsch
Regarding his approach to history, we have largely mentioned it in the articles on the France 5 documentary, but we must come back to certain points, especially as Deutsch also evolved in his speech ( in reaction to criticism?). Is he making history? Because that is the main issue. Lorànt Deutsch does not believe in scientific history, although it should be noted that he tends to reduce historical discipline to the positivists of the late 19th century ... In the introduction to Metronome, he defines his work as "An instrument that marks the measure and gives rhythm to time", downright. At Ruquier again, he says to himself "History lover", who "[Must] transmit the history of France", which is no small burden. On France Inter, it is either mocking or contemptuous towards "The hard-line historians, the chartists" who, through their research, their "Dissection" (a term that comes up often in his mouth ... and in the texts of his internet avatar, real or supposed ...) and their " segmentation " of history would undermine his dream story (his example on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela speaks volumes).
At FNAC, he is more respectful towards historians (perhaps because his communication team told him that some had slipped into the room ...), even if he says he does not have the same approach as them: "I wanted to tell, not to dissect [Editor's note: once again ...] things, which is really the work of the historian, something on which (sic) I base myself as soon as possible because it is a exciting work […] ”. But, more importantly, he says, still at FNAC: "My book, I would classify it more in the section of historical novels than a book on the history of France". Which is great, considering that this is where we wanted it to go! After having said, for years, that he made history (admittedly not scientific), that historians (which?) Supported him, today Lorànt Deutsch confirms - finally - that he does historical novels, even that he invents facts, fabricates myth. He even said he was surprised that the Metronome has become "A reference, a historical tool, what it is not and was not initially". We agree, and we hope that it will be as clear for the work he is preparing on the history of France. It also remains to be seen whether it will be listened to, especially by the media and politicians.
The attitude of the media towards Metronome and Lorànt Deutsch
The media hype undergone for several weeks has shown the media surprisingly friendly, without any critical thinking or, when they had a start (as in the Freed) quickly put it away in the locker room. You should have seen Deutsch welcomed at Large Journal, and elsewhere, being able to come out of the enormities ("Atheist Clovis", on France Inter) without any contradiction! Why ? Hard to say. Deutsch looks nice like that, the picture Yop and The sky, the birds and your mother He still sticks to his skin, and he knows how to use humor a little to defuse when the going gets tough. And then in the head of a lambda "journalist", a young actor (not that much anyway), who writes an unpretentious and rather playful book about Paris, cannot have bad intentions. Then we let the journalistic panurgism do it ...
We must not be naive about the financial stakes of the phenomenon either. Metronome. Would the public channel France 5 have put a million euros on the table without having measured / controlled certain risks? And the editor, Michel Lafon? We can therefore understand the evolution of Deutsch's discourse, and a focus on certain topics, including the influence of his ideas on his writings. We had to calm things down.
Still, there is reason to be worried about the complacent attitude of the media, even if this is obviously nothing new.
The attitude of politicians to the phenomenon Metronome
A bit in the same panurgism, according to the media since they have not raised the hare, and adding opportunism, the policies are downright pathetic. Because many of those who support Deutsch are… socialists! Robert Hue (ex Communist!) Had done Metronome his crush on the show Medici Library from December 2009; he's talking about "Real historical size", even believing that Deutsch was trained as a historian! Better, according to the former minister, "This is not anecdote, a little story, it is really well founded, real historical work". The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, presented him with a medal in the name of the city! His assistant Anne Hildalgo (who is said to be a possible future candidate for succession) advertised the documentary on her twitter, etc. Socialists supporting someone who makes a fuss like this, isn't there a problem? Did they show a minimum of critical thinking, or were they content to follow popular success without asking questions? ...
University historians and the popularization of Metronome
Finally, what about the attitude, let's say passive, of academics (without making them into a homogeneous fantasy elite, as too often, and as many defenders of Deutsch do)? While they are very quick - certainly rightly - to react to the dubious work of one of them (the famous Gouguenheim affair, among others), or to study (and to encourage) "the public uses of history ”, it would seem that when it comes to popularization and history made by“ non-historians ”or“ non-politicians ”, they feel less concerned to make a critical study. We have no knowledge of a critical review of the work in a history journal, for example. This is often for good reasons, such as the fear of a counterproductive effect with the accusation of a defense of chapel, of corporatism. But is it enough? Isn't there a moment when this becomes worrying, the Lorànt Deutsch phenomenon still affecting at least a million people, becoming a reference including in some schools, even exceeding - as we said above - the author's primary will?
More broadly, we come back to the eternal debate on popularization in history, mentioned by JPerrin in the critique of Metronome book version. The damage of a certain type of popularization is perhaps greater than the manipulation of history by politicians, on the right and on the left.
Put an end to Lorànt Deutsch?
There is no particular animosity on our part towards Lorànt Deutsch, and we were even very willing at first to like Metronome, whose idea remains good. But it seemed important to us to make a critical study of it, not only for the book (and the documentary) as such, but even more for what the whole Deutsch phenomenon can teach us about the place of history. (and historians) in society, its popularization, and the attitude of the media in the face of issues that are not trivial. As we suggested in the article on historical sarkozysm, history has now become a political and ideological issue again, with a revival of reactionary and nationalist history, a desire to oppose it. decentered and global history, open to the world. Willingly or not, the Metronome de Lorànt Deutsch is situated in this current, far from being marginal.
When we know that he is preparing a history of France, we can wonder if we are really done with Lorànt Deutsch.
- Review of the book Métronome
- Review of the documentary Métronome (first part and following linked in the article).
- Radio Goliards on Lorànt Deutsch.
- read also Splendors and miseries of the history of France.