Dieudonné M'bala M'bala
The government of France has declared all-out war against Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, a French comedian whose comedy sketches are performed at large, sold-out venues and remain popular with French audiences despite the fact that he has long since been banned from appearing on national television. The comedian stands accused of 'anti-semitism', particularly in relation to a gesture he makes in his comedy sketches, 'La Quenelle', which has become widely popular in France.

Many charges have been brought against the comedian in recent years - some were successful and resulted in fines, others were thrown out of court. What's different this time around is that the French state itself is going after Dieudonné. Up until recently, French Jewish organizations have pressed charges 'on behalf of French Jews', on the grounds that Dieudonné's public comments and comedy sketches broke France's strict 'hate crimes' laws forbidding expressions of 'anti-semitism'.

The French state's strategy to date of ignoring Dieudonné and minimizing his access to mass audiences apparently changed between Christmas and the New Year when top government officials, including President François Hollande, publicly declared their intention to shut the comedian out of French public life altogether. The Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, declared he would "thoroughly examine all legal options that would allow a ban on Dieudonné's public gatherings, which no longer belong to the artistic domain, but rather amount to a public safety risk."

Despite being banned from mainstream media several years ago, Dieudonné's comedy material has since been widely shared via social media. Although the gesture that allegedly grossly offends French Jews has been part of the comedian's stand-up routines since 2005, it was only when the 'Quenelle' meme went viral last year - with thousands of members of the public submitting photographs of themselves making the gesture, often posing next to government ministers or other French VIPs - that the French government decided to confront the joke head on, declaring it a 'Nazi salute in reverse' and launching a heavy PR campaign at home and abroad to portray the gesture as yet another case of 'anti-semitism rearing its ugly head'.

Although the French government may succeed in passing off La Quenelle as 'a Nazi salute in reverse' to foreign audiences, back in France it's common knowledge that it is in fact an anti-establishment gesture, a fact which means their efforts to further isolate Dieudonné may completely backfire. Additionally, by attacking him, the French government is proving true much, if not all, of what Dieudonné has worked into his comedy routines over the years. Here Dieudonné mocks former U.S. president George 'Dubya' Bush and in the process introduces a young French audience to ideas and insights they never hear on TV.

You probably don't need to understand French to get the gist of what he's saying.

What is 'La Quenelle'?

© UnknownThis scale helps measure the intensity of the 'quenelle' to be dished out. Here Dieudonné is demonstrating the 'shoulder quenelle', a 3-foot long special.
'Quenelle' is in fact a traditional meat pie dish served up in the region around Lyon. Playing on its rolled-up sausage shape, Dieudonné punctuates his comedic sketches by pointing to a certain length of his outstretched arm to denote the size of the quenelle he thinks whichever public figure he is mocking deserves to have shoved 'where the sun don't shine'. And because he invariably makes this gesture at the tail-end of a lengthy monologue in which he has skilfully (and hilariously) exposed the public figure's lies, inconsistencies, or just plain ignorance, Dieudonné generally gives full marks to his subject by pointing all the way to the top of his arm - the message being that said public figure has spouted so much nonsense that he deserves having a generous portion of quenelle 'shoved up his backside'!

As this otherwise entertaining scandal progresses, and as members of the French government become ever more hysterical and hyperbolic in their threats to crack down on what little comedic relief is to be had in this depressed economic climate, a horrifying prospect looms on the horizon: by deliberately misinterpreting and exploiting a humorous, yet sincere, popular message to the French (and global) ruling elite that simply declares 'We're fed up with your lies!', the French government is pitching its Jewish population (Europe's largest) against the rest of the population, a move that runs the risk of producing real anti-Jewish sentiment.

Here is a selection of photos showing people doing 'La Quenelle', followed by the 'Quenelle anthem' and an exclusive translation of same.

© UnknownFrench soccer player Nicolas Anelka recently celebrating a goal he scored during an English Premier League match. He later said he dedicated this quenelle to Dieudonné.
French Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls poses unwittingly with French youths doing multiple quenelles.
Basketball star Tony Parker
French NBA basketball star Tony Parker doing a quenelle with Dieudonné.
Mamadou Sakhou, a member of France's national soccer team, displaying the quenelle with Dieudonné.
Dieudonné does la quenelle with the audience at another sold-out comedy performance in France.
© UnknownFrench SWAT police members pose for la quenelle.
A French gendarme poses for a quenelle.
© UnknownSocial media has been a factor in making la quenelle go viral.
Dieudonné posing in front of a polling station during election time.
French hospital staff pose for la quenelle.
Spontaneous mass outbreaks of la quenelle have been reported throughout France.
French president François Hollande next to someone posing for la quenelle.
Someone does la quenelle with French philosopher and keen supporter of overseas military intervention Bernard Levy.
Elite French military troops take a break from training to do la quenelle.
The song La Quenelle (adapted from Charles Aznavour's La Bohême) explains what the joke is actually about:

I speak of a time
Which those under 20 years old
Can't possibly know
Stretching out the arm swiftly
In order to put
The hand near the shoulder
And with a funny look
Mocking the elites
And the more famous they are
The more they deserve it
The more the arms are outstretched

The quenelle, the quenelle
Which means
'Shove it up your ass!'
The quenelle, the quenelle
All your lies are no longer wanted

In the neighboring cafés
As in distant countries
Everyone finds his glory
The quenelle anywhere
Makes many happy
Each one writes history
Through a funny gesture
Inconvenient at the apex
And sows in the web
A wind of freedom
Of national insolence
And a desire to stick it to them

The quenelle, the quenelle
Which means
We no longer believe!
The quenelle, the quenelle
Shove your claptrap up your hole!

And scribblers
Trying to explain it
Spend sleepless nights
Through their unhealthy minds
They see us as assassins
As Nazi enthusiasts
Reversing nonchalantly
The Nazi salute
And yelling blasphemy
Seeing our delighted grins
They do it anyway
Sliding it up at length...

The quenelle, the quenelle
Which means
'We do not care!'
The quenelle, the quenelle
We're no longer afraid to dare!