Beware of mikes in French airplane seats

ROGER SIMON

October 07, 1991|By ROGER SIMON

WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A BASEBALL-FREE ZONE. THIS COLUMN DOES NOT PROVIDE ANY NOSTALGIA, INFORMATION OR OBSERVATIONS ON THE OLD STADIUM, THE NEW STADIUM, OR ANY POSSIBLE FUTURE STADIUMS. SORRY, I WAS JUST TOO EMOTIONALLY DRAINED.

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Enemies are a necessary thing. They give us goals and direction. They give us someone to whom we can feel superior. They motivate us to strive harder.

Having just lost the Soviet Union as an enemy, we are lucky, therefore, that another country has come along to fill the void:

France.

I know what you're saying. You're saying that France already is your enemy and has been ever since a cab driver ran over your foot on the Champs Elysees and then tried to charge you for the damage to his car.

But France has technically been an ally of our country for a long time. Now, however, we have official reason to transfer France to our enemies list.

Recently, the NBC show "Expose" revealed that the French government has been spying on the United States for a decade or more.

The show said that on Air France, the state-owned airline, American businessmen may regularly have been eavesdropped upon. "Along with the champagne, the caviar and the chateaubriand on these flights," the show said, "there may be microphones hidden in the seats and French government spies posing as passengers or flight attendants."

This threw me into a panic. A few years ago, I flew on Air France. And now I wonder if I said anything that the French government could have used.

I can't remember my exact words back then, but I do know what I say on all flights:

* "I think I saw some flames come out of that engine a second ago."

* "Are you sure the pilot is sober?"

* "My dinner roll seems to be frozen."

Could any of this be helpful to the French government? I do not know. We know so little about the French government. For instance, we all know that the Minister of Justice in France is Henri Jallet, but did you know that the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry is Louis Mermaz?

See what I mean?

In any case, "Expose" went on to interview the former chief of the French Secret Service who said he had set up a spy network in the United States in 1981 to spy on U.S. companies and American businessmen.

This, I think we can all agree, is intolerable. What if the French had set up a spy ring in Detroit and had stolen all our auto secrets?

Then they, too, would be in a position to make cars that could not compete with the Japanese.

While the government of France refused to comment on the NBC report, the allegations match up with what we have long suspected about the French.

For starters, we all know they can be very sneaky. Take language. The way they shrug their shoulders and mutter when you speak perfectly good English to them, you'd assume most French people don't speak our language.

Untrue! In fact, 99 percent of all French people understand English if you speak it slowly enough and loudly enough.

Many Americans are duped, however, into believing that the French only speak French. And so when Americans travel to France, they buy phrase books that are full of useless phrases like:

"How do I get to the library?"

"Does the bus to the seashore stop here on Tuesdays?"

"Would you please close the window? I think I feel a chill."

But if you meet French people who actually don't speak English, the real phrases you'd need would be:

"Where have you taken my spouse?"

"Why does this croissant cost $40?"

"What is this microphone doing in my soup?"

Why are the French spying on us? Because they are angry with us, that's why. They see McDonald's taking over their cuisine, Walt Disney taking over their entertainment industry, and Madonna replacing Brigitte Bardot in the hearts and minds of their countrymen.

Though the French should be proud of their own accomplishments, instead they are jealous of ours.

So I think there is only one thing we can do: We should spy back. We should flood their country with agents and operatives and hide listening devices on all our planes.

What could we learn from all this? Plenty.

For starters: What really does go into French dressing?

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