by Agnes Poirier
Thursday, 11
February 2021
Explainer
14:34

The dark fantasy of a new Vichy France

There is an undercurrent of Anglo-titillation with a Le Pen victory
by Agnes Poirier
Young French voters are turning to Le Pen. Credit: Getty

Yesterday, Politico published an article titled: “The Return of Marine Le Pen” with a dramatic first sentence: “Marine Le Pen has never been closer to seizing power in France than she is now”. This must be a case of early election fever. France’s next Presidential elections are taking place in May 2022, and we are starting to see the first polls and commentators beside themselves with catastrophile excitement.

The first surveys by Ipsos and Harris institutes are placing Marine Le Pen slightly ahead of Emmanuel Macron in the first round, around 25-28% against 24-27% for the current French president. Since her father Jean-Marie Le Pen and his National Front party made a splash in French politics thanks to the introduction of proportionality in the legislative electoral system in 1986 (proportionality since then revoked), the story of the French far Right has certainly been one of electoral ascent.

However, and to put it bluntly, this does not make Marine Le Pen any closer to seizing power. Why? Mostly because the two rounds of the French presidential elections will always work against her. It is a tradition, almost a culture, for French voters to vent their anger on the first round, hence the high scores of the Far Right at this stage. At the second round, French voters choose the better of the top two candidates or, as some would put it, the lesser of two evils.

In recent years though, a sense of titillation among both parts of the French electorate and the Anglo commentariat, have nourished an unhealthy climate, one that is betting on, and secretly wishing, a Le Pen victory in France. In France, that “après moi le déluge” spirit among the far Left was already apparent in 2017. In an interview to The Guardian in May 2017, the writer Laurent Binet summed up the French far Left rhetoric:

“I’ll vote Macron, but I hate having to do it. I hate those who force me to make such a choice and I understand those who won’t, because I hate this blackmail: choose between the fascist plague or the financial capitalist tuberculosis.”
- Laurent Binet, The Guardian

No doubt, we will hear as much, if not more of that, next year.

Among the Anglo commentariat — people who don’t actually cast a vote in those elections — the titillation of a Le Pen victory is a purely conceptual one as they won’t be the ones suffering its direct consequences. And this dark desire of theirs makes the subtext of many comments and articles.

This sentiment is grounded, I believe, in old and new prejudices about France and the belief that, at heart, France is far more Vichy than it cares to admit. For instance, back in November, on French public radio, the New York Times bureau chief Adam Nossiter judged that Charlie Hebdo cartoons mocking Religion was equal to the antisemitic propaganda exhibition organised by the Nazi administration in 1941 in German occupied Paris.

This alone informs us why instead of seeing, for instance, Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to root out Islamist separatism in France as a way to stop the rise of the far Right, they see it, on the contrary, as evidence that France is really just made of fifty shades of Le Penism. This is of course a point of view like any other, but it is also a more pernicious one than many others. Let’s hope the French will prove both Le Pen and catastrophiles wrong again in May 2022.

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Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago

But would a Le Pen victory be a “catastrophe”? You say yourself that some NYT idiot equated the Hebdo cartoons with rabid anti-Semitic propaganda, so clearly we are dealing with a group-thinking, censorious, hard left MSM; the same MSM which views France’s Front National in the same distorted light. But what does the party propose? Gulags? Camps? Torture? Pogroms? Apartheid? No. It simply wants immigration cut from unprecedented levels to sustainable ones – and yes, that might include something fairly close to zero whilst our societies do their best to assimilate and accommodate the vast numbers who have taken advantage of the open borders bonanza. As Mme Le Pen declared, nationality should be “merited or inherited”. If it is handed out to anyone, with an added rider that it is their right, since we in the west are the origin of all their ills, is it any wonder that we face a foundering, fissiparous and disunited future? Is it any wonder that Islamic terror finds willing recruits? The left is its active recruiting sergeant. The MSM has told us that Brexit would mean bankruptcy; that Trump would bring about WWIII and that the world will end – repeatedly. Their hysterical, neo-communist lies about Le Pen are from the same stable. All they have is their old stand-by – guilt by association, such that because old man Le Pen was an anti-Semitic windbag his daughter must be the same – an argument so feeble, so pathetic that it could only pass muster in the cowed, conformist, unreflecting present day.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Up ticked you for use of fissiparous, only ever came across that word once before in a biology text years ago!

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
1 year ago

Dear Ms Poirier,

There is always, inevitably, a relationship between the public and Journalism, whether it be journalism broadcast on airwaves or in print. This relationship can be a happy trustful one or it can be that of two spouses who no longer feel there is any point in talking to one another and who are simply seeking divorce.

For some years now, the overwhelming majority of journalists have approximated far more to propagandists serving a brainwashing operation, rather than people who seek to find out what is going on – in the world, the cosmos – and then inform their fellow-creatures, while additionally talking truth to power. (The profession constantly makes that boast but this can only elicit a horselaugh from anybody who has watched the unmitigated worship of Barack Obama by nearly every one of them since 2007, and the no less blanket 24/7 denunciation of Donald Trump for the past five years.)

I suspect that nearly half of us in the western world are at the end of our tether with a ‘journalism’ which designates any opinion ‘far right’ or ‘Vichy’ that is the least bit at variance with ‘woke’ thinking, political correctness, and what in fact amount to really quite Loony Left assumptions about society.

This is why new online publications such as ‘Unherd’ have sprung up. Millions are so weary of the canting humbug that is the stock in trade of the automatic reach-me-down ready-made premisses behind so much mainstream journalism.

When something is extremely far removed from reality, sooner or later it breaks down. It cannot mesh with what people experience with their own senses. The Germans found that out at Stalingrad. Even their regime in Berlin could not pretend that their forces had there achieved a victory or even a stalemate.

A day is coming in which the ‘Liberal’ Left nostrums will be discredited and most current ‘journalism’, i.e. thinking based on the current bien-pensant parrot-cries, will be junked.

Are many journalists in what we may call pole position for changing their views of nearly everything drastically in time not to become unemployed?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Thank you, an excellent post that expresses all then contempt that so many of us now have for so-called journalists and the MSM. There was time when I would buy and/or read three of four serious newspaper every day. These days I glance at the Daily Mail website and get my news and views from various sources such as UnHerd, Tim Pool, Jimmy Dore, the Duran, and many, many other excellent commentators.

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

A day is coming when liberal left journalism will be discredited? I would say you’d need to look a long way behind to see that day.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Bleddy well said old boy.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

There are still actual journalists that are left leaning, but most of them have left their traditional publications behind. I would recommend reading both Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi on Substack. For those of you who don’t know, Greenwald was the one who left the Intercept, a publication he cofounded, after they censored him from writing about the Biden laptop scandal.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

An excellent post – I applaud your line about “canting humbug”; and yes, those who have given it vent should be ashamed of themselves. The trouble is, they appear to enjoy such a stranglehold over the leading institutions of society, such a muffling monopoly over the media and such powerful remnants of authority over a sleepy, ageing, native populace, that I feel serious doubts about our chances of toppling them. They have successfully demoralised, atomised and indoctrinated the public, such that united, purposeful opposition is all but impossible. Their last, greatest victory has been the capture of the Conservative party itself, and the miserable, clapped out clown who leads it.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I’m sorry to have to say that I agree with you, but hope upon hope that we are both wrong.

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

This being the clapped out clown who actually got us out of the EU swamp, as promised, and whose government has managed to vaccinate more than twice as many of its people as any other country in Europe, I presume. Time to clean your spectacles I think.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
1 year ago

Very telling that the possibility of a right wing candidate being voted in to power is described as “seizing”. It seems that some people simply can’t cope with even a chance of the electorate voting the ‘wrong’ way.

David Probert
David Probert
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

It illustrates the way in which the Left has been allowed to hijack our language from the very first days of its ‘Politically Correct’ Language offensive as far back as the late 1990s . The “conquest” is now so complete that the journalists don’t even realise that they are using leftist clichés and ideologically loaded phrasing.

The’ Long March ‘through our language has effectively banned the vocabulary of opposition to Cultural Marxism by forcing opponents to use Marxist terms of dialectic and discourse.

They did tell us they were doing this of course.

(“The limits of my language are the limits of my world” Wittgenstein)

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
1 year ago

I don’t know if Marine Le Pen will win the French presidency next year. What I do know, however is that

a) Fascism is a thing of the left, not of the right;
b) When seismic shifts in electoral patterns come, they come very suddenly, they come without warning and they take everyone by complete surprise;
c) When they happen, they usually happen because people are sick, weary and tired of being forced through an ever narrowing window of politically acceptable thought.

As far as I can see, a) and c) are present in France (as they are in just about every other country in the west). The only question is, is 2022 the year that b) is going to happen. I wouldn’t bet the house on it, but I think Le Pen might be worth a tenner on the nose.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

Totally agree. I reckon Le Pen has a sporting chance. The French realise that with Macron they bought a pig in a poke. He is a weirdo, both politically and personally, and I don’t think is up to much. Many French people voted for him because they could bring themselves to vote for her, but that might not be such a strong emotion next time and they might want to overthrow the ‘old order’.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Macron is a vainglorious window dresser who imagines that summits and big talk are an adequate substitute for addressing the pressing problems of our day. And as to those problems, he is clearly subject to all the “end-of-history” illusions which has fostered them. The ice flows of conformity to “woke” are melting; the deluge when it comes will surprise everyone by its volume and its force.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

B & C. One word: Brexit

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
1 year ago

On its face, the idea of a bunch of small and medium sized European countries banding together to increase their footprint is not a stupid one. It worked well enough for the first thirty or so years when the EU confined itself to being essentially just a souped-up trade bloc with a load of bells and whistles. It wasn’t paradise, but as a general rule, it was more positive than negative.

Then came those fatal words, “ever closer union” and the whole thing just exploded. I can’t see the EU surviving long term. It will eventually shatter unless it goes back to just being a trading area. If Le Pen does win next year and takes France out, end of story. The EU can survive well enough without the UK, but if France goes, it’s all over.

David Platzer
David Platzer
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

A good point that Fascism is, in essence, “a thing of the left and not the right.” Mussolini started as a socialist as did Sir Oswald Mosley, a friend of FDR’s — the two were both patricians drawn to the left. Jonathan Guinness, Mosley’s stepson, observed in his House of Mitford, that Mosley, in later life a champion of “Europe” remained always a man of the left. He thought that Fascism would be a better bet to implement his socialist policies than the complacent Labour Party.

David Probert
David Probert
1 year ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Yes – the Left’s ongoing 70 year campaign to disown and disinherit their b*stard relation has been very successful.
Fascism never had anything to do with old fashioned Conservatism.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
1 year ago

Agnes, Adam Nossiter is not “Anglo”. Anglophone, peut-être, but not Anglo.

The worldview of the uber woke, anti-British New York Times, has very little in common with mainstream opinion in the UK. You would be hard pressed to find many people in the country sympathetic to his ideas.

And the reason people were interested in recent French polls was not because of the first round predictions, but the second round (which you have chosen to ignore) where Le Pen was very surprisingly only a few points behind Macron (at least in one poll) whereas the previous assumption was that she stood absolutely no chance.

Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
1 year ago

“the New York Times bureau chief Adam Nossiter judged that Charlie Hebdo cartoons mocking Religion was equal to the antisemitic propaganda exhibition organised by the Nazi administration in 1941 in German occupied Paris.”

Has the New York Times always been as abysmal as it is now? Almost every word I’ve read recently has been disingenuous, a lie, or just bizarre.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

The Guardian of the Americas

David Platzer
David Platzer
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

I think the NY Times has a long history of badness. In the 1930s, its Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, waa Stalin’s mouthpiece, The NYT allowed him to mislead America as to what Stalin was doing, This had an effect and must of influenced Roosevelt in the war into allowing Stalin to take over half of Europe at war’s end. In the past, the books and arts pages in the paper could be separated by the editorial sections, I hear from America that this is no longer the case now and the arts sections are today as woke as the rest. When the history of the decline and fall of the United States is written, the NYT will be seen as a chief culprit.

stephen f.
stephen f.
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

“All the News That’s Print to Fit”

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago

‘ … nourished an unhealthy climate, one that is betting on, and secretly wishing, a Le Pen victory in France.’.

If a party is lawful and democratic (and indeed one that appears to enjoy popular support in opinion polls), what exactly is ‘unhealthy’ about the prospect of its enjoying electoral success?

That it might ‘seize power’ or something?

Tom Adams
Tom Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

I tend to the Left.
You squat in the centre.
He lurches to the right.

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago

” the Anglo commentariat ” people who don’t actually cast a vote in those elections ” says the French commentator beloved of the BBC elite who doesn’t cast a vote in our elections but often gets to cast her ill-informed commentary on them. Pot, kettle, black?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

A very, very poor article that takes us for idiots. Why do so many ‘journalists’ seem to think they know more than we do when the reverse so often applies?
One hardly knows where to start with this piece, but I will say that I don’t see how the ‘consequences’ of a Le Pen victory could be any worse than the ‘consequences’ suffered by working class and rural French people over recent decades. And why would a Le Pen victory herald some sort of Vichy regime? Surely Le Pen would at least make a show of standing up to the Germans.

Last weekend I watched a far superior and infinitely more balanced analysis of current French politics and Le Pen’s chances on the Danube Debates or whatever they’re called. This particular debate featured the excellent Ann Eilzabeth Moutet. In their various ways the contributors sensed that Le Pen would not win next year’s election, largely because she is simply not a very good politician or communicator, as evidenced by the fact that she had recently defenestrated her smartest colleague. But we have known for some years that Le Pen is not very bright. If her party were led by a skilled politician and communicator it would probably win the presidency.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

If her party were led by a skilled politician and communicator it would probably win the presidency.

Which is why she is leading it I guess.

UK has Yaxley-Lenon, who I also suspect is being “allowed”, if you know what I mean.

Tom Adams
Tom Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

You think Tommeh is the eqivalent to Le Pen? Wow.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Adams

How is he different?

Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

To know pretty well the French media ecosystem, classism is very strong among French journalists even if they’re not fully aware of it. The overwhelming majority of French journalists:

1.come from privileged backgrounds
2. live and work in downtown Paris

This article is typical of this caste’s worldview.

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago

I’ve always liked Agnes, mainly because she’s French and I like her accent. I’m guessing she lives in London or Paris and has always done. I live near Poitiers, on Le Diagonale, a line across France running SW to NE, where no one of any interest to les métropoles or chattering classes live – they’re gilets jaunes, Penistas, whatever, and I suspect they are about to bite you in the bum, just as the Brexiteers, the MAGAs, Fidesz, AFD and all the rest have done. Not because they are stupid, bigoted fascists, but because they have had enough of not even being seen, never mind heard, listened to or understood.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
1 year ago

Dear Agnes Poirier,
Please circulate this article widely throughout France. You have just convinced me to vote Le Pen.

J StJohn
J StJohn
1 year ago

My French friends tell me this: In the first round we vote with our Heart; a gauche. On the second round, with our wallet; a droite. Thing is, if Marine can pull off the trick of an appeal to the wallet, she may just swing it. Think she’s grabbed the giletjaune vote already.

David Probert
David Probert
1 year ago

I respect your journalism Ms Poirier and I love France as a former now much missed, second home .

Marine Le Pen is no Fascist and you know that.

But E Macron is a Globalist Technocrat who has actually expressed contempt for the Gallic nature of the French people – his version of Clinton’s famous ‘deplorables’, now being persecuted in Biden’s US.

Which of the two better represents the current aspirations of the French people?

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
1 year ago

It would be fantastic to see a Le Pen victory. Anything to cause the neo-feudalists heartburn is good for what remains of Western civilization.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

Who are the “Anglo commentariat” of which you speak ?

Sounds like a convenient generalisation to me ….

Are you quite sure that Macron has started to reflect the French electorates view on Islamic separatism to “prevent the rise of the far right” or could it just possibly be a cynical (and possibly disingenuous) grab for more votes … ?

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I think it is…us

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

Tell me more about my “dark desires” ….

Dominic Rudman
Dominic Rudman
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

What’s your avatar doing with its other hand?

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic Rudman

It is a classic pose for that sort of thing, so i’m told…

stephen f.
stephen f.
1 year ago

When I think of Vichy, I think of “going along to get along”…I think of neighbors informing on neighbors…I think of draconian restrictions on commerce, communication and travel. I think of Britain as it is becoming.

Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
1 year ago

“It is a tradition, almost a culture, for French voters to vent their anger on the first round, hence the high scores of the Far Right at this stage. At the second round, French voters choose the better of the top two candidates or, as some would put it, the lesser of two evils.”

Well I’m French, coming from a lower middle-class background with Tunisian ancestry and I will not vote for Macron in the second round. And I’m not alone in that. Apart from the most “woke” of them, most of my friends will not vote for Macron either. I think France is heading for a 2016 scenario, especially if the economic situation does not improve. Only French journalists who are locked in their Parisian bubble don’t see it.

Marine Le Pen is deeply uncharismatic, yet, she has a chance to win the ultimate prize which says something about the quality of the French political class. Her niece, Marion Marechal would be a far more formidable adversary for Macron.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

So the Left prefers to support the bankers and the Enarques instead of developing policies that resonate with the French working class?

Sean MacSweeney
Sean MacSweeney
1 year ago

Nowadays, quoting the NYT is akin to quoting the Sunday sport rag, both “newspapers” are alien when it comes to facts and truth

Charles Knapp
Charles Knapp
1 year ago

Here’s a thought: it’s a French election in 2022, so why don’t we – who have neither a vote nor any influence in that contest – just watch the process without the need to pass judgment.

France is a mature democracy and its own people, who are the primary ones who will live with the consequences, are entitled to make their choice. Hyperventilating over LePen seems a form of anticipatory schadenfreude meant to project our own fears and concerns safely onto another society.

In so doing does the old UK-France rivalry rear its head, as it does in the US as we try to convince ourselves of the innate strength and superiority of our respective system of government. In this telling, the French remain the perennial losers who refuse to follow our example uncomplainingly .

We in the US have a particularly complicated relationship with France and have mostly written it out of our creation story, the Revolutionary War. France’s contribution is mostly limited to the exploits of the youthful and dashing LaFayette and perhaps the organizational skill of Rochambeau and, if one is what passes for a student of history, the tactical cleverness of Admiral DeGrasse. The truth is that without the timely intervention of the Bourbon Alliance, we might still be speaking English.

So let the French make their own choice. Whatever it may be, I am confident that the Anglospbere is capable of making whatever adjustments are needed.