Toby Young says Paris terrorist attack reminds us Frenchmen are cowards

English chauvinism is of no help in fighting 'murderous fascists'


Writer Toby Young apparently believes what’s missing from coverage of the thwarted terrorist attack on a Paris train is some good old-fashioned English chauvinism.

His article for the Spectator (which I shalln’t link to, since I suspect he only wrote it for clicks), is titled:

‘Once again, the French are relying on Americans and Brits to protect them from murderous fascists’.

Young starts as he means to go on, announcing: ‘Boy, am I glad I’m not a Frenchman.’ He could (should?) have stopped there really, since that’s basically the essence of the piece.

Alas, he goes on, claiming French people present for the attack acted in a cowardly fashion, while Americans and Brits risked their lives to save everyone. (There is an implied reference to how ‘we’ rescued ‘the French’ in the Second World War, a mythologised version of which looms large in the minds of many conservatives.)

Young has a spot of bother with evidence, though. He repeatedly cites a news report on the day of the attack claiming French train staff ‘ran away’ (i.e. tried not to be killed), probably following some awful rehearsed counter-terrorism procedure. The fact that an off-duty French train driver helped subdue the gunman once he was unarmed appears to have escaped his attention.

Other evidence causes him strain. Young writes:

“…to be fair […] Mark Moogalian, was a French passport-holder and the first to tackle the monster. But it’s quite hard for any self-respecting Frenchman to salvage much national pride from his actions, because Moogalian was also an American, with dual citizenship.”

Another way of putting this would be: the first person to tackle the monster was French. It was after this initial move that Young’s Anglo-American heroes got involved.

But apparently, citizenship isn’t the issue. ‘Moogalian was also an American’ must mean in his blood or genes, or perhaps he just inhaled freedom, bravery and martial virtues growing up on US soil.

Young then imagines, (he says ‘half-expected’, so we can assume he was half-joking), while learning of the attack on holiday in France, that he and his family might be spared the ‘barely concealed contempt by surly waiters and hotel receptionists’ – you know those French, so rude! – and instead:

“…we would be greeted as national saviours, like Allied troops in Paris after the liberation.

But no. The turkey-cocking arrogance of the typical French male, the absolute conviction that he sits at the top of the human food chain, was completely unaffected by what had happened on the train.

There seemed to be no shame, no sense of national humiliation. Just the standard Gallic shoulder shrug. I suppose I should know by now that the vanity of the French is unassailable.”

Here we see Young’s chauvinism and bigotry in full plumage. The shrugging! The vanity! The arrogance! Every French national stereotype save the baguettes, and all because they didn’t feel ‘national humiliation’ after being saved by Brits and Yanks again. It seems never to have occurred to Young that perhaps French people (or French males, his particular target), don’t look at problems of terrorism as tribally as he does.

In fact, when was the last time Britain honoured a citizen of a foreign country for their courage? Young dwells on the ceremony at which his heroes received the Légion d’honneur from President Hollande, but forgets the many French veterans who received the same honour for fighting bravely against ‘murderous fascists’ in his favourite war. Or indeed that the Frenchman who invented the prize, Napoleon Bonaparte, was hardly a clucking pansy when it came to warfare.

More recently, French pilots played a crucial role in defeating forces loyal to Col Gaddafi in Libya and liberating Mali from the Jihadist tyranny of Ansar Dine – ‘murderous fascists’ by any measure.

France has been the subject of a number of terrorist attacks this year. In each case, French people behaved with great courage and solidarity.

Is Young going to claim officer Ahmed Merabet, who lost his life protecting the staff of Charlie Hebdo, was not really French because he was also an Arab Muslim?

Would he say the same for Mali-born Lassana Bathily, who had to wait until after he had saved the lives of Jewish shoppers in the same attack to be granted French citizenship?

If so he demonstrates an attitude towards national identity that has more to do with how you look or where you were born than what you do. Dividing people in this way, thinking of oneself or of others as being part of a particular tribe, rather than as individuals with rights, belongs in the same backwoods ideas-dump as those of the ‘murderous fascists’ he purports to despise.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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Read more: 

Tory press cheers Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to force mentally ill people to work

Toby Young’s spurious claim that the BBC’s election coverage had a left-wing bias

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28 Responses to “Toby Young says Paris terrorist attack reminds us Frenchmen are cowards”

  1. blarg1987

    Be interesting to know what Toby Young would do in such a situation, would he run away or actually try and stop said perpetrator? Of course in any such scenario there are thousands of what if’s i.e. would he have an opportunity to do something etc.

  2. Pascal Rascagneres

    He’d cry.

  3. Pascal Rascagneres

    Which brings to mind the events of 1939 when British troops ran away back to England in the face of the German onslaught to wait for the USA to join the fight and left the French to their fate. The organised resistance without which the D day landings would have been a failure shows little in the way of cowardice. And finally the thousands of French fighters joining De Gaule in England one of them my father who flew with the RAF in the battle of Britain. Mr Young would do well to read some history books.

  4. Mc

    It’s shameful that there wasn’t a trigger warning at the top of the article, warning that it could cause PTSD in gentler souls who can’t abide racist Tory scum. Does Left Foot Forward not have a policy to prevent such an unacceptable omission in future?

  5. David

    What a shame that Mr Barnett couldn’t avoid a bit of casual homophobic stereotyping in his article; “Or indeed that the Frenchman who invented the prize, Napoleon Bonaparte, was hardly a clucking pansy when it came to warfare.” Seems it’s not just Toby Young that needs to take a look at himself.

  6. Alec

    I had to check the dictionary definition of this informal word to see that it could be seen as referring to homosexuality. More likely, it’s become as “nonce” for sex offenders which also has been linked to such (“nancy-boy”).

  7. JohnRich

    “Cheese eating surrender monkeys” is the post-9/11 term.

  8. JoeDM

    The trendy-lefties really don’t like it when their islamofascist “friends”
    (as Corbyn puts it) get what they deserve.

  9. Matthew Blott

    Pretty sure the talentless pampered son of a Lord who has never had to fight (or even work very hard) for anything in his life would look for the nearest person he could find to hide behind.

  10. Sophie C.

    You seem like a very intelligent, humanistic and good hearted person 🙂 Everyone loves you. Gros gros gros groooos bisous partout <3 (I might have bad breath though..seems logical since I'm a smelly French young woman..I've been eating too much cheese as well..hope you don't mind it John. Mwah! Have a fabulous night with you significant other full of french kissing and lots of romantic parisian french cowardly love, with lacy lingerie of course 🙂 and please keep using the English language as your language of choice for expressing your wonderful opinions..It's full of French words 😀 Maybe we are cousins perharps ? Maybe you share some of my cowardliness ? 🙁 Love you John <3 Too bad I'm not here with you now with my hairy underarms close to your genitals giving you a wonderful French infused passionate blow job. I'll focus on the tip especially <3 Your penis is so brave and strong <3 You know how we dirty…I hope I'll be able to bring you to my relatives who died in battle..we will both celebrate their cowardly behaviour by spitting on the bloody land where they all rest now 😀 Deeply buried in the land. <3 Que Dieu te bénisse John, tu es si courageux et fier. Une merveille de la nature <3 Pleins de poutous-poutous. Des bécots. Je t'aime 🙂

  11. Sophie C.

    I’m sorry I think I misprounounced your name.. I am so deeply sorry for my arrogant Frenchness…Bisous bisous !

  12. Polaris

    If a member of staff in his school shared such bigoted views in their classroom, they would be facing disciplinary action.

    The DFE Teachers Standards say:
    – showing tolerance of and respect for the rights of others
    – not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs

    Young’s comments are clearly at odds with the spirit of these; so it makes me wonder whether he will be disciplined for this? Probably not!

  13. joselle53

    French Resistance WW2? French soldiers are brave..ask any country in Europe specially Spanish what about the Legion…

  14. Asteri

    Toby Young reminds me of the British culture of nepotism for getting talentless Oxbridge oafs into high positions.

  15. jed shed

    With Australian, Irish and South African grandparents the Hon Toby Young makes me wonder what it is to be a true Brit these days. I am minded to start agreeing with the seething right-wing keyboard warriors here on LFF. More strict immigration control a century or so ago could surely not have been a bad thing.

    And to boot, his hand-wringing liberal lefty father may never have dirtied this once great sceptered isle.

  16. jed shed

    Hence why feels so strongly about Free Schools. First get rid of the tiresome LEA’s. Next remove all DfE involvement. Free at last to educate his children in his Right and proper way.

  17. Terry Kelly

    I have often wondered what makes someone brave, are they “born brave, do they achieve bravery or do they have bravery thrust upon them”. I find Mr. Toby Young’s explanation that if you are born in a certain place you are ‘de facto’ brave difficult to substantiate, It might be bloody rubbish Mr, Young but ‘by jingo’ it’s bloody good old British rubbish, you do talk a good fight though I’ll give you that.

  18. carolyncastaneda

    Access Best Thinks leftfoot Read More


    What kind of lubrication do you use?


    The British troops being disciplined were ordered to retreat along with thousands of French and they made up the backbone of the army that invaded Normandy. And you cannot run over water. Do not be an arse. The British army rearguard protecting the evacuation lost many. And De Gaule hated the fact that he needed the help from Britain and that is one of the reasons he vetoed British entry to the EU. If he had hung on a bit longer we would not be in the EU and subsidising the Frogs.


    Terry it is an instantaneous act and unpredictable as a veteran explained to me.

  22. Keith M

    Who the hell is this young guy?

  23. michellerschneider

    Access Best Thinks leftoo Read More

  24. swat

    he’s right hit the terrorist hard, where it hurts.

  25. DemSoc93

    Crikey, Harry Hill’s let himself go.

  26. Pascal Rascagneres

    He was Italian though… Napoléon.

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  28. UnionJihack

    Toby Daniel Moorsom Young is well-know for associating with this rather sorry lot. He is of course guilty of comical negligence.

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