France Is Becoming More Like America. But Not How You May Think

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tags: France, culture war

It’s become a familiar refrain in French political life. From President Emmanuel Macron and his cabinet to the far-right opposition, from print columnists to talking heads, “Americanization” is increasingly held responsible for a whole set of social ills ailing the nation.

For some of these critics, it’s the reason so many young people — adopting the view of Black Lives Matter activists — believe police violence is a problem. For others, it explains why the quality of academic research is in decline, as fanciful ideas concocted on American college campuses like intersectionality and post-colonialism supposedly flourish. To others still, it’s why people can’t speak their mind anymore, suffocated by the threats of “cancel culture.”

Perhaps the most common gripe is that ideas and practices imported from the United States are making the French obsessed with ethnic, religious and sexual difference at the expense of their shared identity as citizens of the universal Republic.

They’re not wrong: French politics are, in fact, becoming Americanized. But the problem is not left-wing theories or censorious scolds. It is instead the rise of an insular, nationalistic, right-wing discourse driven by a belligerent style of press coverage. Distinctively French in content, the form this discourse takes — grievance-wallowing hosts conjuring embittered conversations about national decline, immigration and religion — follows America’s lead. As in the United States, the result is a degraded political landscape that empowers the far right, dragging mainstream politicians into its orbit.

Culture wars are America’s true gift to France.

Leading the charge is CNews, often called the French Fox News for its mimicry of the codes and conventions of American cable news. Launched in 2017 by a conservative billionaire, Vincent Bolloré, the network has attracted viewers by offering polemical debate marked by a hard-right bent — hitting an important milestone last month when it recorded the highest ratings of any 24-hour news network in France. The network’s star panelist is the nationalist essayist Éric Zemmour, a man convicted several times of hate speech against racial minorities and Muslims, while its star host, Pascal Praud, plays the role of objective moderator. Much like Tucker Carlson, he has a penchant for incendiary stories that allow him to speak in the name of the country’s victimized silent majority.

Read entire article at New York Times