Reviews | Vincent Bolloré, the nabob behind Marine Le Pen and the French right
It was only a matter of time. The three big candidates to Mr. Macron’s right have marinated in a common culture of grievance and paranoia. The most moderate of the three, Ms Pécresse, spoke of the need to “eradicate non-France zones”, in an attempt to ape the language of the hard right as in a February 13 speech in which she also complained about the “big replacement”. This is the basis of a possible marriage between the supporters of the national populism of the Le Pen family and the more polite conservatism of the Republicans.
Mr. Bolloré presents himself as above the partisan fray, but by building an integrated media apparatus for hysterical and inflamed conservatism, he has reshaped French political life. France, according to CNews, is on the brink of a breakdown in order and civility, one spark away from civil war. American-inspired “wokists” and “Islamo-leftists” – terms used haphazardly as synonyms for progressive activists, intellectuals and politicians – are concocting a plot to emasculate France and its republican traditions. Immigrants are the massive bearers of the collapse.
It is obviously tempting to see in Mr. Bolloré a Gallic Rupert Murdoch, an oligarch turned rogue who is dragging the whole country into the abyss because of entrenched ideological convictions. This has become the common narrative in the relentless media coverage of the multi-billionaire.
The reality, however, is more complicated – and perhaps even more disturbing. According to audience estimates, audiences for CNews and Europe 1 radio are relatively weak: Mr. Bolloré’s media influence lies not just in numbers, but in the sharpness with which his press articles articulate far-right talking points that the rest of the media and the political class are only too happy to relay.
And Mr. Bolloré himself is more opportunist than reactionary. Throughout his career, he was known for cultivating connections across the ideological spectrum of France – a necessity for someone invested in the high-stakes game of international development and trade. Before CNews, Mr. Bolloré’s media holdings were appendages to his harder investments, not pawns in a cohesive ideological project. His role as godfather of the new right is quite recent.
In 2017, Mr. Macron’s victory was heralded as the end of the left-right divide in France. And in a speech to supporters outside Paris over the weekend, he again vowed to stand up to “those who try to sow the poison of division, to fragment, to fracture men”.
But his government’s opportunistic borrowings from the far right say otherwise. In January, to cite just one recent example, the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, delivered the introductory speech of a two day conference at the Sorbonne on the perils of “wokism” and progressive identity politics. Representative of a government that wants to be a bulwark against reactionary nationalism, Mr. Blanquer was followed by Mathieu Bock-Côté, a polemicist who currently holds the position of Mr. Zemmour. prime time slot on CNews.