Top French Geek

Friday, June 19th, 2009

French Prime Minister François Fillon is a geek, and he’s proud of it. He was quick to declare his “geekness” in an interview he gave to the tech magazine SVM (“le mag!”), which appears in July/August 2009 issue. That link provides some of that interview – in French of course – but only part of it, as SVM naturally wants you buy “le mag” to be able to read it in its entirety.

But we don’t have to do that, since Benjamin Ferran of Le Figaro picked up on Fillon’s declaration, and in a recent article examines more closely Fillon’s alleged geeky credentials. As a good first step, he defines his terms: what is a “geek,” anyway? For that, he turns to France’s Secretary of State for the Digital Economy, currently one Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, who states that geeks are persons “that you don’t want to cross” because they can spend “8 to 20 hours in front of a screen,” something which “gives them that light tan.”

Well . . . it’s at least fair to say that Ferran would have been better-off turning to the prime minister himself for a definition, as his in-depth examination of Fillon certainly shows that the latter was not just just whistling Dixie when boasting about his tech know-how to SVM. Among other things, Ferran notes that Fillon speaks knowledgeably in that interview about “RSS feeds” (his reader of choice is Newswire) and of the “open-source CMS software Drupal“; he reads on-line “the sites of the biggest French, English, and American newspapers” (including, nota bene, the Journal du Geek); he was surfing the Internet as early as 1993, using the original NCSA “Mosaic” browser; and as for equipment, he carries both an iPhone 3G and a Nokia E61i, and he has worked with over thirty computers over the years, starting with the “Toshiba T2100 portable.” (He probably means here instead the Toshiba T1000.)

On the other hand, while he now uses Apple equipment (specifically, two MacBook Pros and an iMac), he only made the PC-to-Mac switch six months ago; for many, that marks him as a hopeless computer dilettante. And anyway, as Ferran points out (implicitly kicking aside the expert contribution to the debate from Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet cited above), many people’s definition of “geek” necessarily include heavy involvement in computer games. On that subject, Fillon does not utter a word, other than in his revealing response to an interview question about whether his eight-year-old son Arnaud is into such things: “Unfortunately, yes! DS, Playstation and Wii. My wife is trying to supervise that.”

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