THE RUMOR IN ORLEANS by Edgar Morin

THE RUMOR IN ORLEANS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In May 1969, Orleans, France (pop. 88,000) was swept by a grotesque -- and entirely groundless -- rumor: the Jews were abducting miniskirted maidens into the white slave trade; hapless victims, drugged by hypodermics, were vanishing from the town's fashionable boutiques, spirited away via a secret network of underground tunnels. Sociologist Morin and a team of assistants from the Center for the Study of Mass Communication in Paris rushed down to investigate the genesis and life-cycle of this fantastic reverberation of medieval panics and atavistic terrors. Their 'sociological dragnet' yielded scant quarry since, by the time they got there, the sobered citizens were mostly too embarrassed to talk freely. As a result, this glimpse into the ""dark corners of mass culture and modern mythology"" is more speculative than empirical. Morin convincingly suggests that the tall tale dovetailed with the phobias of an uptight city where the provincial ideal was dead, the metropolitan still suspect. White slavery suited the matrons secretly convinced that miniskirts led straight to prostitution and provided the schoolgirls and stenographers among whom the myth incubated with an ideal vehicle for repressed sexual fantasies. The anti-Semitic element -- which quickly became a political football -- is less satisfactorily accounted for except as an archaic survival in the collective unconscious of provincial France. The investigation of ""airy impalpabilities"" disseminated by ""everyone and no one"" will frustrate those looking for hard, quantifiable data, but as a symptom of ""our own Middle Ages"" it's both entertaining and disconcerting.

Pub Date: July 29th, 1971
Publisher: Pantheon