WHAT, ME WORRY? A goofy snap of France's president goes viral
It's silly season in France. Not for any lack of serious subjects. Unemployment is hovering around 11%, the government is pushing an unpopular pension reform, President François Hollande is trying to win support for a punitive strike in Syria. But the thing that caused the biggest buzz this week was a goofy photo of the president taken during a class visit on the first day of school. Snapped at an unfortunate moment, the photo makes Hollande look like a cross between Daffy Duck and Alfred E. Neumann. The French wire service AFP initially distributed the photo along with a routine story on the president's school visit. The image immediately sparked howls of laughter and went viral on the Internet. Seeking to preserve the president's dignity, AFP withdrew the photo—but not before it had been widely copied and distributed on the web. That unusual step by the French wire service led to charges that the government had intervened to censor the image. Both the Elysée and AFP denied this, but the attempt to remove the picture from circulation only drew more attention to it. At a time when Hollande's approval ratings are at an all-time low, the photo flap was the last thing he needed. But at least no one in France is demanding to see his birth certificate.