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And that’s why Britain should stay in the EU! Cringiest hot takes after Notre Dame fire

And that’s why Britain should stay in the EU! Cringiest hot takes after Notre Dame fire
Watching perhaps the most visceral act of live destruction on TV since 9/11, it was hard to find the right words. But that didn’t stop the media reaching for the wrong ones.

After all, what better time to push your political agenda?

“At a moment like this, how foolish it seems to pretend that we are not all Europeans. We stand with France in its hour of heartbreak. We will never, ever, turn away,” is the note on which the Guardian finished its editorial, as the fire was still rummaging inside Notre Dame Cathedral.

Do they think that just because they didn’t use the word ‘Brexit’ that no one noticed the insinuation? Since, unless there are, probably, people in England who are boasting “We don’t care about that old cathedral burning, we are not European anymore,” that is exactly what this is.


While few others were so brazen, a mood of portentous symbolism descended on leader writers everywhere.

The New York Times made it all about the Yellow Vests, on account of Emmanuel Macron having to cancel a speech addressing the movement due to the conflagration, writing “France is burning.”

“An anguished, restless nation has struggled to cope with the monthslong uprising and with the frayed social safety net that spurred the protests. Generations that had come to rely on this social safety net, as a matter of national pride and identity, see it going up in smoke,” wrote Michael Kimmelman.

“On Monday, so was the cathedral, which for centuries has enshrined an evolving notion of Frenchness. The symbolism was hard to miss.”


The Washington Post went with “the fall of Notre Dame is a body blow to Paris and all it represents.”

It listed the recent terrorist acts that befell the French capital – the Charlie Hebdo attack, and the shootings in November 2015.

“Through all of these nightmares, there has been one constant, collective refrain. This was the comforting reality — or at least the comforting belief — that somehow, through it all, Paris was indestructible. The idea that Paris will always be Paris felt truer nowhere else than in front of Notre Dame,” wrote the local bureau correspondent James McAuley.

One wonders if the relatives of those who died in the Bataclan, or even those who merely witnessed terrorists spray bullets into streetside cafes, really did think “Well, at least the Notre Dame is still there.” Or if New Yorkers were reassured that the Empire State Building was untouched when the Twin Towers went down. Put like that, it borders on the offensive.


Of course, McAuley and others are making a bigger, more abstract point, but there is an argument against this type of sentiment too.

Can’t a fire, which has destroyed one of the most famous buildings in the world after standing for 800 years, be tragic in itself? Can’t we just mourn what was an almost universally sad moment in peace? Does it have to represent something else? Why the need for the pretentious language, the forced metaphors, the additional meaning where there is enough happening in front of our eyes.

Also on rt.com Heart-wrenching aftermath of Notre Dame fire in aerial 360 PANORAMA

When a disaster of historic magnitude takes place – and this exactly what it was, in the most literal sense – it is a natural social instinct to draw importance from this, to relate to others with a reaction to a shared experience. And it is churlish to judge people for what, trolling and politicking apart, was a clumsy but well-meaning expression of human spirit.

But if you have to say something at all, a suggestion: what if instead of straining for that big thought, on such occasions we recollect something personal.

Yes, your story of visiting the Notre Dame may be identical to that of the 13 million tourists who go there each year, and indeed students have been eating lunch on the bench outside for centuries. But at least that will be honest and sincere, and a genuine tribute to the cathedral itself.

Igor Ogorodnev

Igor Ogorodnev is a Russian-British journalist, who has worked at RT since 2007 as a correspondent, editor and writer.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.