France’s ambassador to the U.S., Gérard Araud, has taken on a much more prominent role in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, including leading a March beginning at the Newseum last Sunday in solidarity with the much larger demonstration in Paris. He’s also made enthusiastic use of Twitter to call out what he sees as misleading coverage of the events in the U.S. media, or as the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg calls it, a “massive subtweeting exercise”:
All these debates on France, on US tv channels, without one French! A deluge of cliches.; Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) January 15, 2015
I love these self-proclaimed experts who speak about a imaginary country they call France. Fairy tales.; Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) January 15, 2015
My preferred quote? "France should give up her gaullist racist policy". As we say : "les bras m'en tombent".; Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) January 15, 2015
This has been going on for days now:
To whomever is concerned : (1) there are dangerous neighborhood in France like in the US, because of crime not because of Islam!; Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) January 13, 2015
To whomever is concerned : (2) there is no "sharia court" in France. It is so ridiculous than I am ashamed to be obliged to react.; Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) January 13, 2015
Slate has also not been immune to Araud’s scorn:
.@Slate Racist? Didn't you notice that it used the same caricatures for the Catholics who were by far their favorite targets? And for Jews?; Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) January 9, 2015
Araud, who assumed his current post after five years as ambassador to the United Nations and served as ambassador to Israel before that, seems to relish his reputation as a loose cannon. A recent New Yorker profile of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power quoted Araud saying, “As a Frenchman, I’m not condemned to be politically correct, and one day we were on the Security Council, and I sent her an SMS saying, ‘On behalf of the French delegation, I want to tell you, you are very beautiful.’ ” (Power replied, according to the New Yorker, “This is one of the nicest SMSs I have ever received.”) “I think she likes me because she knows how to manage me. Really, she has seduced me,” Araud told the magazine.
“Don’t let his epic charm fool you,” Power recently told Vogue. “Gérard is a master strategist, a diplomatic and bureaucratic samurai.”
Araud is one of a growing number of diplomats—former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul was another example—willing to show some personality and engage with critics on Twitter. In addition to links to current-events articles and facts about France, he’s fond of inspirational quotes, news of the weird, and Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. As the Vogue article recounts, Araud has also used the medium to pick a fight with the head of Human Rights Watch over Western Sahara, decry the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq, and criticize America’s gun culture: “Americans killed by Ebola today: 0. Americans killed by ISIS today: 0. Americans killed by guns today: 86.”
Whatever you think of Araud’s shtick—“I was born on the Mediterranean coast. My shortcoming is that I am talkative,” he told Vogue—his feed is almost never boring, which in the world of diplomatic communications is saying something.