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French Journalist Laurence Haim: ‘It’s Like the Morning After 9/11’

French journalist Laurence Haim is a veteran reporter who has covered the White House for Canal Plus for the past seven years. She spoke with Variety about the mood in France in the wake of the deadliest violence since World War II and nation’s rising fear of a young generation of French-born radicals.

How are people feeling today?

People are shocked and angry. It’s very, very deep. I spoke with a lot of people today. They’re really angry. We don’t know which direction the story is going to go. I’ve heard people say let’s use an atomic bomb on them like we did in World War II. People are talking a lot about what happened to France in World War II. We know how to (endure) a lot.

After the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January were people on high alert?

It’s the main problem we face. We were all on high alert for Christmas time. We all had sources telling us something big was going to happen. We were expecting something like (the 2008 attacks in) Mumbai — a big place taken over and people shot one by one. This is not a surprise for people working inside the French intelligence community.

How does the French media establishment respond to something like this? It was clear there was coordination with the government to drop live signals from the Bataclan concert hall as it was stormed by police.

We have to be extremely careful. After Charlie Hebdo there was a big debate about one of the 24-hour news channels broadcasting reports from a person hiding inside the building the who called the network. The French population was so upset that the channel did that because the terrorists could have found out where the person was hiding. … The news environment moves very fast. French (media) unanimously cut off broadcasts from the Bataclan. I think journalists are feeling the individual responsibility they have in covering these stories.

You’ve reported on the rising tide of radicalism among French-born youth. Do you think that’s a factor here?

In the past 10 years we’ve seen a lot of things happening with that. In my mind I fear the (people behind the attacks) were born in France. I think we’ll find out that the people inside the theater are the same story as Charlie Hebdo. We’re going to have France one more time discovering the radicalized French.

How will this affect France’s political situation?

We don’t know in which way the story is going to go. There is an election in three weeks, a regional election that is like a midterm election. We don’t know how this is going to play out with the far right party that has been rising. Everything is possible. The anger is there. The French are going to show unity now like they did with Charlie Hebdo. The massive problem is, what’s next?

How do you think this will affect popular culture in France?

People are in shock. It’s like the morning after 9/11. You wake up and and now it’s war. It’s there and people feel it is happening. In mind this is the first time you have suicide bombers in France. This is something you usually have in the Middle East — not in France on a Friday night when you are having dinner in a restaurant or when you go to a concert.

 

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