Sarkozy and the case of the missing love handle

French citizens are scratching their heads over a magazine's decision to photoshop French President Nicolas Sarkozy's love handles from a vacation snapshot. Recently released photos clearly show that someone has removed the offending flab. Judge for yourself:

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Definitely more svelte in the second shot, n'est-ce pas?

Of course, this would all be somewhat amusing were it not for the fact that the missing love handles are the latest example of Sarkozy's intimate- and once you get into the realm of body fat, we're talking very intimate- relationship with French media barons.

Paris Match magazine, the publisher of the doctored pics, is owned by Arnaud Lagardère. Lagardère once described his relationship with Sarkozy as 'close as brothers'. He also killed a story claiming the President didn't vote in the presidential election, and fired an editor for printing a picture of Ms. Sarkozy with another man while separated from her husband.

And the list of buddy-buddy media relations doesn't stop there. Check out this butcher's bill (from CBC.ca):

  • Serge Dassault, owner of historically conservative Le Figaro newspaper, is a senator from the President's right-wing party, the Union for the Democratic Movement.
  • Martin Bouygues, godfather to Mr. Sarkozy's youngest son, controls the biggest French television channel, TF1.
  • Vincent Bolloré, a billionaire with stakes in several media and polling companies, hosted the President on his yacht for a post-election holiday off Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Bernard Arnault, chairman of the luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH and reputedly the richest man in France. Arnault was the best man at Mr. Sarkozy's wedding 11 years ago and owns a controlling interest in a string of regional newspapers. He is now in negotiations with the British press group, Pearson Plc, to buy France's most prestigious financial newspaper, Les Echos.

Unsurprisingly, French journalists are a bit uncomfortable about all this. Said a coalition of journalist unions:

“Rarely in the course of the last decades has the media risked becoming so much the instrument of a single mindset, and yet at the same time so scorned by people in power.”

Indeed. Nevertheless, I hope someday to have the kinds of friends who, in the face of journalistic scorn, will photoshop unsightly photos of me. That's dedication. Or a total collapse of the fourth estate. I can never tell.