In the lead-up to France's presidential election, the political landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, with the right-wing ideologies taking center stage. While President Emmanuel Macron remains the favorite for a second term, the undeniable winner, even before the ballots are cast, is the French right. This dominance, fueled by themes of national identity, immigration, and Islam, has not only shaped the discourse but also propelled the far-right leader Marine Le Pen into a formidable position.
Macron's Rightward Pivot
In response to the right's surge, Macron has strategically shifted toward the right, prompting discussions about his potential classification as a center-right president. This pivot reflects the political realities and the influence the right has exerted on the overall narrative of the campaign.
Cultural Wars: A Decade in the Making
The recent ascendancy of the French right is not a sudden phenomenon; rather, it's the culmination of a decade-long cultural battle. Inspired by the American right, French conservatives have adeptly waged wars on multiple fronts—television, social media, and think tanks—to shape public opinion and attract a younger audience.
Media Landscape Transformation
The French right has successfully transcended social barriers, establishing its media presence through platforms like CNews, a Fox-style television news channel. This newfound visibility extends to an expanding network of think tanks and a growing presence on various social media platforms, capturing the attention of an increasingly younger audience.
The Zemmour Factor
At the forefront of the right's cultural battle is Éric Zemmour, a TV pundit and best-selling author. Zemmour's meteoric rise last year, with his provocative ideas centered around the perceived threat from Muslim immigrants and multiculturalism, has significantly influenced the campaign narrative. His success underscores the widening boundaries of political acceptability in France.
Social Media Mastery
Zemmour's impact is not limited to traditional media; he has harnessed the power of social media, particularly platforms like TikTok and Instagram, to engage with a younger demographic. Through daily messages, videos, and a "battle of the cool," Zemmour has managed to play down the radical content of his ideas while maintaining their substance.
The right's success in the cultural battle includes a countercultural approach on platforms like YouTube. Infused with humor and coded references, influencers like Papacito endorse Zemmour's ideas, creating a space that is both entertaining and ideologically aligned with patriotic and reactionary ideals.
Metapolitical Projects and Educational Influence
The far right's organizational efforts include metapolitical projects such as the creation of institutions like Issep, a conservative school in Lyon founded by Thibaut Monnier and Marion Maréchal. This alternative educational approach aims to counter the left's dominance in higher education.
The Weaponization of "Wokisme"
One of the most striking victories for the French right is the successful weaponization of the term "wokisme." Coined recently, the term has become a catchall for conservatives to blunt demands for social justice. Conservative publications, including Le Figaro, have played a significant role in popularizing this anti-woke movement.
Conclusion: The Unaddressed Challenge for the Left
As the French right claims victory in the culture wars, the left faces a significant challenge. The failure to produce alternative ideas and engage in a robust cultural battle has allowed the right to shape the narrative. The left's reluctance to confront attacks from the right has resulted in a strategic retreat, ceding ground in the ongoing ideological struggle.
In summary, the French right's dominance in the presidential campaign is not merely a product of recent events but a result of a meticulously executed cultural battle that has shaped the political discourse and influenced public opinion. The left's failure to counter this narrative has allowed the right to emerge victorious in the culture wars, with far-reaching implications for the upcoming election and the future of French politics.