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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Analysis: 'Lucky' Chirac brushes off shooting
Jacques Chirac
Chirac's assailant is thought to have acted alone

Jacques Chirac's luck never seems to run out.

First of all he defies the pundits, succeeds in casting a pall of national amnesia over his alleged financial misdeeds and waltzes through to the biggest election victory since 1852.

And two months later he survives an assassination attempt.

Not only does he survive it, but with superb nonchalance he manages to convey the impression that it was all no more than a minor hiccup to his pressing functions as head of state.

The French have had difficulty making up their minds whether the attempted assassination of the head of state actually constitutes a story

According to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, when informed that he had been shot at at close range during the Bastille day parade by a far-right fanatic, Mr Chirac simply replied, "Oh, really?"

True or not, it was a masterly piece of image-building.

In fact though - and bizarrely - Mr Chirac's lack of concern about the affair seems to be shared by the whole of the French nation.

What shooting?

While the British press has gone berserk about the return of the "Jackal" - conjuring up images of a lone neo-Nazi stalking his prey through the cross-hairs - the French have had difficulty making up their minds whether the attempted assassination of the head of state actually constitutes a story.


As for the fall-out, it is clear the intelligence services are going to have to put increased resources into tracking the weirder fringes of the ultra-right

The tone was set during Mr Chirac's set-piece interview just after the parade. Set-piece is the word, because the journalists kept so rigidly to the script that they failed to ask a single question about the shooting.

On Monday things are a little better, with Liberation playing up the neo-Nazi angle and splashing with "In the Line of Fire."

But a serious newspaper like Le Figaro still manages to bury the attack beneath reams of copy about the president's economic policy. The financial dailies barely mention it at all.

Dozy journalists?

Maybe it is a sign of vast political maturity. After all, it seems clear that Maxime Brunerie was, in the words of Frederick Forsyth, a "nutter" who acted in a hopelessly unprofessional manner. So why exaggerate his significance?

But surely a far more likely interpretation is sheer journalistic doziness.

As for the fall-out of the affair, it is clear the intelligence services are going to have to put increased resources into tracking the weirder fringes of the ultra-right.

Maxime Brunerie may be unbalanced. But he was an accepted member of a group known as Radical Unity and clearly believed its rhetoric about the evils of the system and the need for action on the street.

See also:

15 Jul 02 | Europe
19 Jun 02 | Country profiles
17 Jun 02 | Europe
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