Rhinos and Hippos, Oh My!

Laurent Obertone and the Dangers of Domestication

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Louis Betty Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, USA

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Laurent Obertone is virtually unknown outside the French-speaking world. The author of bestselling fiction and nonfiction works on crime, immigration, and civil war in France, Obertone maintains a cult following despite being exiled from mainstream media. This article examines the motifs of Obertone's work, focusing on human domestication, that is, the tendency of prosperous societies to excuse criminal behavior due to guilt, virtue signaling, and fear of conflict. Obertone sees French judicial laxity as a product of misguided humanitarianism coupled with status competition among elites to show the greatest indulgence toward criminals. This attitude is pushing France toward civil conflict, as criminals take advantage of a culture de l'excuse. Ultimately, Obertone's critique is of the “open society” consensus of the postwar West. Anti-authoritarian impulses are maladaptive in a climate of mass immigration and rapid social change, and if France does not take maintaining order seriously, the result will be catastrophic.

Contributor Notes

Louis Betty is an associate professor of French at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the author of the book Without God: Michel Houellebecq and Materialist Horror, which was published by Penn State University Press. He has also translated essays by Michel Houellebecq for the online magazine Unherd. Dr. Betty received his PhD from Vanderbilt University and lives in Middleton, Wisconsin.

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