March 19, 2013
A controversial book claiming France is becoming a "savage" nation with thousands of thefts, rapes and attacks going unreported daily has turned into an unlikely best seller.
Flying in the face of the traditional image of a country seen as the land of good living, ' France , A Clockwork Orange' claims that mainstream politicians and the media have long masked a far more disturbing reality: it is rapidly descending into mindless violence and incivility.
"Nobody should ignore the reality," the book claims, namely that "every 24 hours 13,000 thefts, 2,000 attacks and 200 rapes" take place in France – figures far higher than official national statistics.
Claiming to lift the lid on a taboo – "the 'ensavagement' of a nation" - it has been dismissed by some commentators and criminologists as biased, unscientific and downright racist, peddling far-Right theories linking crime and immigration.
Marine Le Pen urged everyone to "read it and get others to read it"
But since its release mid-January, the book by Laurent Obertone, the pseudonym of a previously unknown 28-year old journalist, has sold 35,000 copies and a fresh print run of 20,000 is on sale. It reached fifth in France's weekly Ipsos-Livres Hebdo bestseller list and is currently third in Amazon's most requested book rankings.
In the book, he clinically enumerates one gratuitous crime after another gleaned from the press, police and judiciary, before coming to the conclusion that "ultra-violent crime" is exploding in France.
"The real level of insecurity, probably the worst in the history of the French Republic, is around 12 million crimes per year," he claims. To reach this figure, the author contends that true crime rates are "three times higher" than official figures as these only take into account registered or solved crimes.
Speaking on France 2, Mr Obertone said: "I am fighting for a truth I have felt and that does not get the media exposure it deserves." The book, which calls for a hard line on prison sentences, has struck a nerve as France's parliament this week begins a debate on reforms aimed at making prison a "last resort" by using fines, probation, treatment and training for less serious crimes.
They are due to reverse a decade of "zero tolerance" crime policy under Nicolas Sarkozy, who made his name as Jacques Chirac's hardline interior minister before becoming president.
Sales of Mr Obertone's incendiary jumped after Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, urged everyone to "read it and get others to read it".
Mr Obertone denies being a far-Right sympathiser saying he has "no political commitment".
But Mediapart, the Left-wing investigative website, claims to have "outed" him as the author of a far-Right, racist blog. He denies the charge and intends to press charges for defamation.
The criminologist Laurent Muchelli said: "This accumulation of more or less accurate figures and truncated crimes serves one purpose: to reach the (perfectly explicit) conclusion that all this is the fault of Arabs and Blacks and that hundreds of thousands of new prison places should be opened to shut them up."
The reality, he went on, was that delinquency involving foreigners has consistently decreased as a percentage of the total population since the 1970s.