French neo-fascist Marine Le Pen’s National Front party emerged from France’s second round of regional elections without a single regional majority. Newspapers and television networks that had been presenting the elections with a lurid focus on Le Pen and her xenophobic, nationalist politics were quick to gloat over her defeat as a rejection of xenophobia and nationalism. It was not.
Since the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13, France has been led by a bridle of racism and fear down a rightward path that has seen the elimination of basic civil liberties, the assignment of broad and arbitrary powers of arrest to the police, and even the involvement of France in the imperialist war centered on Syria. All of this has been overseen by the Socialist Party of President Francois Hollande. Nevertheless, the corporate media in both France and the U.S. reserve the term “far right” for Le Pen and the National Front
The corporate media use buffoons like Le Pen and U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump to play a shell game with the public. Distracted by the outrageous and bellicose ravings of such political outliers, the public loses sight of the outrageous and bellicose direction of its mainstream politics. Take for example this excerpt from a New York Times article on the French elections, titled “Marine Le Pen Far From Humbled by National Front’s Bruising Defeat”:
Marine Le Pen’s concession speech after her National Front party lost in every region of France on Sunday was anything but conciliatory, despite more than 70 percent of voters rejecting the far-right leader’s message of hostility toward immigrants and open borders.
The Gray Lady doth protest too much. First, its disingenuous use of the 70 percent statistic neglects to mention that the National Front took 27% of the national vote, only five percentage points behind the Socialists. Le Pen’s party tripled its number of councilors, winning seats in every region of the Country for the first time in the party’s history. Such numbers hardly add up to a “bruising defeat.” In fact, it took a strategic withdrawal of Socialist candidates in France’s northern region to keep the regional presidency from Le Pen and give it to the conservative The Republic party of Nicolas Sarkozy. Second, and more importantly, in voting for the Socialist and Republic parties, the French electorate—those who voted—in no way rejected “hostility toward immigrants and open borders.” The truth is that the public has remained docile as Hollande has begun erecting a police state.
The question we must ask is whether the media realize what they are doing in providing cover for the advancement of fascistic authoritarian rule in France, the U.S. and throughout the West. The answer we must arrive at is that they do. The author of the Times article, Adam Nossiter, is a scholar of French society, and the persistence of Vichy fascism since World War II, with two books to his credit on the subject. Nossiter knows what is happening in France, what laws the Hollande government has instituted, that a permanent state of emergency has been declared. And he knows that the National Front made historic gains in the recent elections. His choice to portray those elections as a defeat for the far right and his cartoonish caricature of Le Pen as “the gravelly voiced party leader, perpetually sucking on an electronic cigarette” strive to make light of the threat to liberty, equality and fraternity, when any sober look at France sees that those republican principles are about to be snuffed out in that country.
In the U.S., the distraction is Trump the oaf, the racist, the fool, the front-runner. If we note the powerful popular despair that propels Trump through his campaign, we dare not laugh at him. But neither can we allow ourselves to see the state of politics in the U.S. the way the media wants us to, as a struggle between Trump the Oaf and a field of freedom-loving politicians. Our lurch to the right may have happened fourteen years before the events in France, but it was no less drastic, and we the people have not checked the slide. So that we are now the most surveilled population in history, with militarized domestic police and laws on the books that allow for the disappearance, torture, indefinite detention and even murder of citizens without so much as a warrant or legal charge. The Donald may well become president, but he is only a grotesque mask disguising the stern reality of our own impending fascism.
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