Something Smells Vichy in France

October 14, 2013

Multiple Pages
Something Smells Vichy in France

Can anyone point me in the direction of the far right? How far is it, say, from the center? Is it more “out there” than the extreme right? Is the far right limitless, or do you eventually reach a dead end? I suppose that if the world were flat, one could hypothetically sail so far rightward that they’d fall right off the right end…right?

In mainstream press accounts, the term “far right” sticks like glue to the name “Marine Le Pen” and that of the political party her father founded, the National Front. One quickly is given the impression that she and her party are so far right, you’d be lucky to see them even if you had binoculars. They’re so far right, they’re outta sight. The best you can do is look straight over your right shoulder and squint.

On this Google map of “Nationalist and Populist Parties of the European Union,” the first thing you learn about National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen is that he has “several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism.” Skimming the Net, one also quickly learns that Le Pen is a “Holocaust denier and anti-semite [sic]” who founded his party along with “a group of second world war [sic] Nazi collaborators.” Le Pen notoriously referred to Germany’s occupation of France in WWII as “not especially inhumane.” In 1999, a Munich court found him guilty of “minimizing the Holocaust” as a result of this statement:

If you take a 1,000-page book on World War II, the concentration camps take up only two pages and the gas chambers 10 to 15 lines. This is what one calls a detail.

In short, you will hear plenty about how Monsieur Le Pen is a stinking bucket of Jew-hating Nazi garbage and very little about his positions on immigration, unemployment, cultural cohesion, euthanasia, abortion, and the European Union.

“It seems that in the twinkling of an eye, France’s ‘far right’ has become its center, which may throw Europe’s entire political checkerboard off-balance.”

Similarly, any mention of his daughter Marine Le Pen will bring shrill declamations that she is a cave-dwelling Islamophobic pig who was accused of inciting racial hatred by comparing the throngs of obstinately unassimilated Muslims who pray en masse in France’s streets to Nazi occupiers during World War II. Mademoiselle Le Pen should have known that it is only those on the political left who are entitled to compare people to Nazis.

But what many will find disorienting to the point of dizziness is that according to a poll released last Wednesday, this blonde-haired, ample-bosomed woman from the far-right fringe leads what is currently France’s most popular political party. This is the first time since the National Front’s 1972 founding that it has led in the national polls. The news “shocked” the French mainstream, which had already been “jolted” by a recent National Front victory in a local election.

French film actor Alain Delon, who is undoubtedly more handsome than all leftist males in France combined, approved of the National Front’s sudden emergence into the mainstream:

For years, the Le Pen father and daughter team have been fighting, but they’ve been fighting a lonely battle….Now, for the first time, they are no longer alone. They have the French people….

Last Wednesday, Marine Le Pen announced that she is ready to become France’s next president. A lawyer and a savvy marketer, she is repackaging French nationalism as mainstream and has threatened to sue any journalist who describes the National Front as “far right,” claiming that the term is “defamatory,” “insulting,” and goes “against the standards of journalistic impartiality.”

It seems that in the twinkling of an eye, France’s “far right” has become its center, which may throw Europe’s entire political checkerboard off-balance. Time to recalibrate everything. It might even be time to panic.

The modern triumphalist leftist mindset, despite its arrogant gloating that history is on its side and that their ideological opponents have been forever crumpled up and banished to history’s dumpster, remains comically paranoid that the slightest victory from anything deemed remotely “right-wing” will immediately usher in a Fourth Reich and a sequel of the Holocaust. It might even bring the Hitler mustache back in style overnight.

Therefore, news that the National Front is polling ahead of the pack and winning regional victories led to hysterical op-eds about an “ominous” and “frightening” resurgence of fascists, racists, xenophobes, neo-Nazis, and all the other two-dimensional murderous cartoon goblins that haunt leftist fever dreams.

But obviously, no one—not even fanatical leftists—is as two-dimensional as the mythical right-wing hatemonsters who supposedly huddle together like vampire bats amid the cold darkness of the far right. Nationalist movements across Europe likely feel as justified in their gripes and grievances as anyone else does. They’re concerned about real things that the press and most politicians ignore—about Muslim schoolchildren bullying indigenous European kids, about being indentured to a European Union that is more autocratic than democratic, and about how their financial overlords want to smash every border and erase all cultural identity and are willing to ostracize, defame, and even jail anyone who so much as complains. They worry that the European Union is hell-bent on obliterating anything that is truly European.

France is the country that originated the practice of using the terms “left” and “right” to denote political orientations. But by modern standards, its national hero Charles Martel would be a far-right extremist serving time for Islamophobic hate crimes. And people who merely want to keep France, well, somewhat French are demonized as barbarians at the gates rather than the gates’ defenders. That’s a complete inversion of reality. It’s not far right or even far out—it’s completely upside down.

I don’t have much of an opinion on nationalism—I guess mostly it hinges on whether I’m fond of the nation in question—but I know it’s at least one step down from internationalism, so whether it’s “far right” or not, it’s a step in the right direction.


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