Why Are We So Willing to Believe the French Will Say Crazy Things About Us?

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A guy like this would never say anything bad about a Kennedy. Photo: Getty Images

Seriously, this is a question we've been pondering as we've thought about the Times correction from this morning, in conjunction with Sarah Palin's famous gullibility when she was called by Canadian radio pranksters pretending to be Nicolas Sarkozy. Why, when an e-mail in vaguely broken English showed up in a Times in-box purporting (with no backup) to be from Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, were hapless editorial assistants so quick to believe it was genuine? (Our friend Eve Fairbanks over at the New Republic has been wondering the same thing.) "We French have been consistently admiring of the American Constitution, but it seems that recently both Republicans and Democrats are drifting away from a truly democratic model," the writer argued. "The Kennedy era is long gone, and I guess that New York has plenty of more qualified candidates to fill the shoes of Hillary Clinton. Can we speak of American decline?" What? Someone really believed that was written by the French Michael Bloomberg?

Here's the question: does this problem come from our willingness to believe that French people just naturally will say harsh, nonsensical things? Or from our willingness to humbly accept harsh, nonsensical things coming from the French? In other words, is this how we feel about them, or ourselves? Either way, kudos to the Times and Sarah Palin for finding common ground!

Kennedy, Seen From Paris (Editor's Note Appended) [NYT]
Other Best Editor's Note Ever [New Republic]