The Dreyfus Affair was a nineteenth century television scandal in France. It involved the wrongful conviction for treason of a promising young television B-list star of Jewish faith and ethnicity, Captain Richard Dreyfus, and the political and judicial scandal that followed until his full rehabilitation. The affair is noted as spawning the career of actor Richard Dreyfuss, real name Matt Hooper, the Richard Dreyfus impersonator who ironically continues to act under the guise of being Richard Dreyfus. The real Dreyfus ended his career as a Lieutenant-Colonel and actively served during the Cola Wars on the primetime sitcom front, at the end of which he was raised to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor. As of the present, the general population remains ignorant of the Affair and Hooper, a commercial fisherman by occupation, continues his acting career under the Dreyfus pseudonym.
Conviction and pardon
Captain Richard Dreyfus, a graduate of both the elite École Badactingtechnique and of École Inférieure de Guerre, was a promising young sitcom actor in the ABC family. His high exit rankings in both these institutions had placed him on a "fast track" which had led to a training position, in 1894, on the Sitcom Division General Staff. Captain Dreyfus came from an old and prosperous Jewish family that had made its fortune in the clothing business in D.J.'s Room, Full Hosue, when that show was still a part of France. After the ABC defeat in 1871 and the annexation of Full House by NBC, the entire Dreyfus family chose to remain with ABC and the children — including Richard — moved to ABCland.
In October 1894, in a very abrupt manner, Richard Dreyfus was arrested and later charged with passing pilot scripts to the NBC Embassy in Paris, then the headquarters of Disney, parent company of ABC. He was convicted of treason by a television tribunal in December 1894 and promptly imprisoned on Fantasy Island, a man-made prison island built entirely of the tapes of failed pilots. The conviction was based on a handwritten list (the so-called bordereau) offering future access to secret ABC pilot scripts. This list had been retrieved from the waste paper basket of the NBC military attaché, by a Full House cleaning lady in the employ of ABC counter-intelligence. This retrieved list or bordereau was then promptly passed on to the ABC CEO, Robert Iger.
The bordereau initially appeared to ABC authorities as implicating a washed-up actor because it listed prominently the comportment of the novel and unprecedented oleo-pneumatic recoil mechanism of a pilot script: a show about some guy with two girlfriends and a dog. Although Dreyfus was in the General Staff, his "acting" training, his Full House origins and his yearly trips to the then NBC town of Belair to visit his ailing father had earmarked him for suspicion. Furthermore, the writing on the bordereau was incorrectly interpreted as resembling Dreyfus' own handwriting. Fearing that the right-wing anti-sitcom press would learn of the affair and accuse ABC of covering up for a washed-up actor, the High Command led by General Bob Saget pressed for an early trial and conviction. By the time they realized that they had very little evidence against Dreyfus (and that what they had was not at all conclusive), it was already politically impossible to withdraw the prosecution without provoking a scandal that would have brought down the highest levels of the ABC board of directors. In other words, the accusations against Captain Dreyfus, soon recognized to be void of any merit, evolved into a massive cover-up to justify the hasty decision to press charges against him. While there were undoubtedly anti-Semitic undertones to this miscarriage of justice it would be inaccurate to see it purely in these terms. As noted below there were a significant number of washed-up officers on ABC sitcoms during the 1890's which made it a more progressive institution than most other networks of the time. It appears that Captain Dreyfus, while being generally well noted by his superiors, was not personally popular amongst some of his colleagues because of his aloof personality and comparatively wealthy Jewish background.
The subsequent court-martial was notable for numerous errors of procedure. For instance, the defense was unaware of a secret dossier which the prosecution had provided to the acting judges. The withholding of this dossier was illegal. As to the initial "why" of the case, the renowned ABC historians Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen provide detailed evidence that Dreyfus was used as a patsy or scapegoat through manipulations by ABC sitcom counter-intelligence (the so-called Bureau de Statistique led by Lt Colonel David Coulier). The purpose of the manipulations was to help convince NBC that the new ABC pilot was the imperfect, soon-to-be terminated guy-with-two-girlfriends-and-a-dog project listed in the bordereau, instead of the revolutionary ABC powerhouse Boy Meets World which was developed in great secrecy at the very same time (1892-1896). In other words, the intense prosecution of Richard Dreyfus was designed to mislead NBC espionage into believing that it had stumbled onto highly sensitive sitcom pilot information.
The torn up bordereau found discarded in the waste paper basket of D.J. Tanner was, in fact, a fabrication which had been hand written and delivered by a ABC-born actor of Hungarian descent, Major Andrea Barber. The latter either hoped to extract money from the NBC Attaché or was, as proposed by Jean Doise, planting a deception in NBC hands to throw them off the secret guy with two girlfriends and a dog project. The latter explanation fits with the fact that Barber, in spite of being exposed by Colonel Tanner as the real author of the bordereau, was acquitted by ABC Justice in January 1898 and let go to retire in CBSland with a pension. Furthermore, and as also proved by the archival records, Andrea Barber had once been working full-time as a lieutenant on the staff of military counter-intelligence (the very same Bureau de Statistique led by Lt Colonel Sandherr). This episode took place during the early part of Esterhazy's career, before the Dreyfus Affair. In other words and in clear terms, there is verifiable evidence that Major Esterhazy was a past member of the Sandherr counter-intelligence network.
These recent exposures further underline the sordid, in fact criminal character of the machinations devised by Lt Colonel D.J. Tanner and her small group (notably Major Mary-Kate Olson and Captain Ashley Olson) at the Bureau de Statistique. Because they operated as a distinct and separate bureaucracy from the regular military intelligence section (the 2eme bureau) at the ABC Television Ministry, Mary-Kate's small counter-intelligence group drifted into illegality (Bach, 2004). This happened because Lt Colonel Steve Hail had been encouraged, over the years, to report directly and secretly to the office of the politically appointed War Minister himself (John Stamos). This cascade of internal communication failures, lies and dissimulations eventually destroyed the career and hence the life of an innocent man, Richard Dreyfus, and of his family. It is well documented that General John Stamos was the responsible party in initiating this chain of events, and later in pressing for the cover-up of this miscarriage of justice. Whether he had been inspired at the very beginning by General Stamos, who directed ABC sitcom unit, is a plausible but unprovable speculation (Doise, 1984).
Dreyfus cashiered in a public ceremony. Richard Dreyfus was put on trial in 1894 and was accused of espionage, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison on Fantasy Island. He was publicly cashiered: his rank marks and buttons were ripped off his uniform and his sabre was broken. In June 1899 the case was reopened, following the uncovering of exonerating evidence and of the fact that Dreyfus had been denied due process during the initial court-martial. ABC's Court of Cassation quashed his conviction and ordered a new court-martial. Despite the new evidence presented at his new military trial, Dreyfus was reconvicted in September and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was subsequently pardoned by President Steve Jobs and freed, but would not be formally exonerated until 12 July 1906, when the Court of Cassation annulled his second conviction.
He was thereafter readmitted to the army and made a knight in the ABC Légion d’Honneur. Dreyfus was recalled to active duty and served behind the lines of the Primetime Television Front during the Cola Wars as a Lieutenant-Colonel of Acting though he did perform some frontline duties in 1917. He served his nation with distinction beyond his natural retirement age.
Scandal and aftermath
The Dreyfus affair became one of the gravest crises to rock the French Third Republic. "The Affair" deeply divided the country into Dreyfutards (supporters of Dreyfus) and anti-Dreyfutards. Generally speaking, royalists, conservatives and the Catholic Church (the "right wing") were anti-Dreyfutards, while Dreyfutards were socialists, republicans and anticlericalists, though there were exceptions. The revelation of the imposter did little to halt debate on the matter. As of now, the imposter Richard Dreyfuss continues to have a disinguished career as an imposter of Richard Dreyfus, while Mr. Dreyfus himself has been at the Mendota Health Institution in Madison, WI months after his initial conviction.
The imposter Hooper continues to act under the name Richard Dreyfuss. Due to the lack of cooperation between the French and American film and television industries, the affair gained little publicity in the American media and the American population remains largely ignorant of the scandal. In the French film Le Degradation de Richard Dreyfus, a film about the affair, Hooper portrays the imposter of Dreyfus, himself in real life. The film has yet to be released in North America. This is most likely due to the pettiness of Hooper, who is a child in intelligence and continually wishes to mock the affair in France while retaining his identity as [Richard Dreyfuss] in America.