“Macron and the media’s benevolent amnesia”

by Natacha Polony, French columnist

jpv. In the middle of June intrepid journalist Natacha Polony was removed as an employee from two French television stations (Paris Première, Europe 1). Obviously, the French media landscape hardly supports any longer independent analyzes and opinions on current social and political issues. At the moment, only the weekly column in “Le Figaro” is remaining for her. In the following article, she comments on some of the statement of the new President of the Republic, presented in his first major interview from the end of June.

Do you not smell this new wind, this freshness making a vigorous and desirable country out of France? This week the commentators compete for originality. One praises his “attractiveness”, his way, “to shake off any kind of torpor”. Just as Jack Lang in May 1981, a former Minister of Economic Affairs seems to tell us: “France is coming out of the shadow into the light”. Europe as well. Yes, since Macron “even Europe is thinking spring”.
Anyone who believes that it is the role of the media to link various aspects in the democratic discussion, as well as to point out factual and intellectual elements that allow to penetrate the surface of the events, is a dreamer. Intelligence: from Latin inter-ligere: interconnects things (the fool says “I do not see there any connection”). Latin, however, has long ceased to belong to the cursus honorum, the “official career” of professional commentators. We live in the age of sequels – one chasing the other. The Jupiter-like president chases the election campaign away, the light chases the shadow of populism away, the celebration of the good chases away the general and obligatory mobilisation against the spectre of the evil.

Change or chameleon-like speeches?

In the past, it was necessary to defend oneself against the emergence of “protectionism”, threatening to tumble down the European construct built over decades. Candidate Macron nowadays celebrates the mobility of the workers in Europe, the French are benefitting from, and he whips “isolationistic” tendencies. Today the President explains: “Europa is the only space that does not defend itself. I am not a protectionist but a defender of fair protection.” One could also call this “intelligent protectionism”. But it gets even better. In his first big interview, which he gave to eight European daily newspapers, he said: “You can not continue to build Europe in study rooms and allow everything to fall apart. The posted worker directive has led to absurd situations. Do you think I can tell the French middle class that companies close down in France in order to move to Poland because it is cheaper there, and that companies here from the private and public construction sector hire Polish workers because they get paid less? This system does not work straight” Medial applause. All the better! But one claims the right to be surprised.
In the past, Bashar al-Assad, “the murderer of his people”, had to be condemned, just as autocrat Putin, both clinging to power. Anyone daring to suggest that in case France wants to have an influence in the world, it should not only cater to the American hawks, but also speak with the Kremlin chief, was called by the columnists a “friend of the dictators” or “fan of Putin and Assad”. Candidate Macron, by the way, was very concerned about this dangerous “dependency”. Today, however, the French President even receives Putin and invites the Syrian President to the negotiating table without calling the resignation of Assad as a precondition, on the grounds that till now “no legitimate successor had been presented to him”. Medial admiration. All the better! But one keeps wondering.

Journalists with a brief memory or if two do the same …

The fact that the president represents a policy whose guidelines are similar to those of a Hubert Védrine, a Jean-Pierre Chevènement or a Philippe Séguin is rather reassuring. But the journalists’ amnesia is not. They now get enthusiastic about the affairs of MoDem [Mouvement démocrate, founded by François Bayrou], concerning the employment of parliamentary collaborators, but they were careful not to take up this issue when, during the presidential election campaign, all were united in the struggle against the Front National and its dishonesty in … the employment of parliamentary collaborators. The same journalists also disclosed an investigation for favoring Business France [National Agency for the Internationalisation of the Economy of France] which at that time was still presided by the present Minister of Labor, Muriel Pénicaud. On 8 March the French newspaper “Le Canard enchaîné” had published a small article on an evening event organised at the “French Tech Night” in Las Vegas (USA). This was carried out without an official announcement in January 2016 for more than 380,000 by Havas [worldwide operating French advertising agency] on behalf of Business France, in order to provide to the then Minister of Economic Affairs [Macron] the opportunity to seduce – pardon – to get to know French start-up entrepreneurs from the digital sector. An article on the same newspaper page which mobilised the whole attention of the press spoke of a credit of 50,000 euros that François Fillion had received from a friend.

The questions remain

One can make fun of this “benevolent” amnesia. Especially when it helps to make policy in the interest of France and its middle and its social class. But one question subsists. Is it possible to come to power without committing oneself to the Atlantic and neoliberal dogmas that have led the country into deindustrialisation and the social classes into the arms of the Front National? And since a president of the state can stand for a cause and also for its opposite, the question is whether these new accents, combining regulation and appropriate diplomatic measures, do not serve to ascertain concessions to the 60% of the electorate who, in the second election of the parliamentary elections, submitted their ballot blank or not at all? The economic policy system, for decades imposing on us free trade and technocratic governance, will soon demand its rights again – without regard for the “vanes”     •

*     Le Figaro (F), Le Soir (B), Le Temps (CH), the Guardian (GB), Corriere della Sera (I), El Pais (E), Süddeutsche Zeitung (D), Gazeta Wyborcza (PL)

Source: Le Figaro, from 23.6.2017

(Translation Current Concerns)