The question is : how future generations conceive the
world with the anglo saxon eye, or is it an other French
way to censure the world public from Internet access and
the raw news it contains?
Waiting for the Froggle engine research...
French President Jacques Chirac has vowed to launch a
new "counter-offensive" against American cultural
domination, enlisting the support of the British, German
and Spanish governments in a multi-million euro bid to
put the whole of European literature online.
Seeking help: Chirac wants Europe to join fight against
Google-Print project. The president was reacting this
month to news that the American search-engine provider
Google is to offer access to some 15 million books and
documents currently housed in five of the most
prestigious libraries in the English-speaking world.
The realisation that the "Anglo-Saxons" were on the
verge of a major breakthrough towards the dream of a
universal library seriously rattled the cultural
establishment in Paris, raising again the fear that
French language and ideas will one day be reduced to a
quaint regional peculiarity.
Chirac has met with Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de
Vabres and National Library president Jean-Noel
Jeanneney and asked them "to analyse the conditions
under which the collections of the great libraries in
France and Europe could be put more widely and more
rapidly on the Internet".
"In the weeks to come, the president will launch
initiatives in the direction of his European partners in
order to propose ways of coordinating and amplifying
efforts in this field," a statement said.
"A vast movement of digitalisation of knowledge is
underway across the world. With the wealth of their
exceptional cultural heritage, France and Europe must
play a decisive part. It is a fundamental challenge for
the spread of knowledge and the development of cultural
France fears 'omnigooglisation' will change perception
of the world and history It was Jeanneney who alerted
Chirac to the new challenge. In an article in the French
daily Le Monde, France's chief librarian conceded that
the Google-Print project, with its 4.5 billion pages of
text, will be a boon to researchers and a long-awaited
chance for poor nations to get access to global
But he went on: "The real issue is elsewhere. And it is
immense. It is confirmation of the risk of a crushing
American domination in the definition of how future
generations conceive the world.
"The libraries that are taking part in this enterprise
are of course themselves generously open to the
civilisations and works of other countries .... but
still, their criteria for selection will be profoundly
marked by the Anglo-Saxon outlook," he said.
Jeanneney drew as an example the 1989 celebrations to
mark the two hundredth anniversary of the French
revolution - which he himself was personally in charge
of. It would have been "deleterious and detestable" for
the image of France if the only texts popularly
consulted around the world for an interpretation of the
revolution were English-language ones, he said.
"It would have meant The Scarlet Pimpernel triumphing
over Ninety-three (Victor Hugo's eulogistic account of
the revolution); valiant British aristocrats triumphant
over bloody Jacobins; the guillotine concealing the
rights of man and the shining ideas of the Convention,"
Fear of American cultural hegemony has been a constant
of French policy since the first sticks of chewing gum
arrived during World War II.
The all-pervasive nature of the internet makes
protectionism impossible The country's instinctive
reaction has been protectionist, and today France
maintains a complex web of laws and subsidies to defend
its film, music and publishing industries. Only a few
voices are ever raised to argue that protectionism can
lead to introverted mediocrity.
But in the battle over what the French press has dubbed
omnigooglisation, protectionism is not an option. The
all-pervasive nature of the internet makes any attempt
to freeze out a competitor impossible. Which leaves no
alternative, Jeanneney said, but to "counter-attack".
France in fact already has a minuscule version of the
Google initiative already in hand. The Gallica project
has put some 80,000 works and 70,000 images on-line, and
is soon to make available the BNF's stock of 19th
But the programme's budget is less than one thousandth
of the USD 200 million that the US corporation is
prepared to spend.
So Chirac has decided to turn to Europe in the hope that
an alliance of nations can find the finance and
will-power to fight back. With his belief in the
so-called multipolar world, it is exactly the sort of
mission that he believes Europe is ordained to carry
Donnedieu de Vabres is to meet in April with experts
from several EU countries, and in May Chirac himself
will outline his ideas at a European culture week in
end of quotes