Dieudonne's QUENELLE: STRONGARM TACTICS FROM FRANCE'S MOST CONTROVERSIAL COMEDIAN
Translation by:Garen Gent-Randall
The crass and controversial humour of French comedian Dieudonné, who has multiple convictions for hate speech and incitement to hatred, is still stirring up trouble in France. Manuel Valls, the Interior Minister, recently announced his determination to ban Dieudonné's shows. But the gesture known as the 'quenelle' has spread like wildfire among his fans online
WHAT IS THE QUENELLE?
Officially, it's a gesture made famous about ten years ago by Dieudonné's shows, and which involves pointing your arm out and down, palm facing behind you, and putting your other hand on your shoulder. A sign of belonging to the Dieudosphere. Unofficially, at best it's an anti-establishment bras d'honneur (similar in meaning to the middle finger), but with a slightly different meaning: 'Up yours with a quenelle' (a French dish comprising a roughly cylindrical blob of creamed fish or meat). At worst, it's a kind of Nazi salute. And when you take into account his fans' favourite game, taking selfies in front of symbols of Jewish culture, such as synagogues, it can only be seen as hatred.
French newspaper Le Monde, in an article called 'the quenelle: how an anti-Semitic gesture became an emblem', discusses the origins of this movement: 'Although it is difficult to put a date on the precise origins of the quenelle, its first use goes back to the European elections in 2009. He explained what it meant at a press conference at the Main d'Or theatre: 'Shoving a quenelle right up the arse of Zionism.' This is emblazoned on a campaign poster, where he posed with the extreme-right ideologist Alain Soral. Le Figaro also talks about his story: 'Ten years ago, in 2003, was one of Dieudonné's first anti-Semitic scandals. On France 3 [a major TV channel – Ed.], he appeared in camouflage, with a balaclava, his hair in payot, and an orthodox Jewish kippah on his head. At the end of the sketch, he raised his arms, crying: 'IsraHeil!' .The comedian himself doesn't hide his true intentions: it's 'a symbol of not submitting to the system' which 'will sweep away the lying elite' and which will lead to 'revolution', or even 'a coup d'état'. A powerful conspiracy theory, which can be seen in this Youtube video.
QUENELLE MUGS AND T-SHIRTS
The gesture, deemed anti-Semitic, has swept through the army, the sporting world, and television. Many celebrities have copied this 'fashionable gimmick' without even knowing what it means. Take the example of the French basketball player Tony Parker,or Yann Barthès (a famous French television presenter), who has since apologised profusely, claiming on his Twitter account that at the time he had no idea what the gesture meant. Less famous people are also jumping on the quenelle bandwagon. And then finding it's got square wheels. Did Nabil shoot himself in the foot? The former kids' club employee, interviewed by French website Rue89, who by his own admission agrees with Dieudonné, lost his job after having struck the pose in front of the children he was looking after. He saw the quenelle 'as a joke'.
A persona non grata in the media for several years now, Dieudonné and his controversies have built quite the faithful following online. The quenelle, as well as the official page which collects the 'best' photos, is being transformed into t-shirts and edited logos, and stamped all over everyday objects. 'It has become a unit of language. Here it is as a parody of the Facebook logo, 'a Zionist social network', says la Toile. With a weakness for culinary references, Dieudonné hasn't stopped at the quenelle. In his anti-Zionist frenzy, he made the pineapple into another symbol, one which the layman wouldn't understand at first glance. Take this report by Slate, on the 'Quenelle Ball', yet another way for the comedian to keep tabs on his sheep, as an example: 'As for the pineapple, appearing throughout the evening in various forms (fresh pineapple at the buffet, a huge pineapple fresco outside, souvenir t-shirts, costumes, etc), it is omnipresent to remind people of why Dieudonné was convicted of incitement to hatred: the song Shoananas [from the Hebrew word for the Holocaust, Shoah, and the French word for 'pineapple', ananas], which he sings along with his audience at each show, based on Annie Cordy's song 'Chaud Cacao' ('Hot Cocoa). Dieudonné has appealed against the judgement.
STILL NOT CONVINCED?
Then you only have to read this article by an AFP journalist who had the bright idea of going to the Main d'Or theatre, owned by Dieudonné and the only place he can still perform, to judge for himself with his own eyes. Some extracts from his article: 'In the theatre, a wall of 'quenelles' greets the audience. Anonymous audience members sneak a quick photo of the gesture in front of a 'Holocaust' sign...' Or 'Stop with all this anti-Semitism... You're just giving me publicity. I'm not saying I never will be . I'm giving myself time to think.' The journalist's verdict, seconded by several media outlets, was unanimous: 'In the 75-minute show, there's not five minutes without a jibe at 'the Jews', 'the Jewry', 'kippah city', or 'slave-driving bankers''.
Translated from La quenelle de Dieudonné : le bras de fer français