Have you ever wondered about the origins of the expression “pardon my French”? Some say that it originated in the 19th century and was used as an apology by people who used French words in conversations. Nowadays it’s used apologetically after swearing. How wonderful language can be. I’m sure that Marine Le Pen, leader of the French extreme-right-wing Front National and presidential runner in 2017, would appreciate my “sens d’humour”, if she pardons my French that is. I’m not going to be rude, although I do feel like letting her hear a few of my favourite British and French swearwords. That’s the advantage of having been brought up in a bilingual environment. I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to swearwords.
The timing of the BBC interview of Marine Le Pen was unfortunate. She appeared on the Andrew Marr Show on Remembrance Sunday, and he began the interview (which turned out to be a “une femme” show) by justifying his decision to broadcast the interview on such an emotional day. It was important, he said, to give an opportunity for a potential French president who claimed that Donald Trump had “changed the world” to let her views be known to the British public. Well Donald Trump hasn’t changed the world yet, as he officially begins at the end of January, so I suppose that the interview could have waited a week.
Marine Le Pen, a dangerous paradox
It’s not so much the timing of the interview that bothered me, but its content. I was expecting an aggressive and sharp Andrew Marr exposing every fallacy in Marine Le Pen’s policies and pushing her reasoning to the limit. Instead, Marr proved to be too polite and discreet. Some of the questions he posed just begged further questioning and probing into Le Pen’s reasoning. But that never happened. Some would argue that politicians like Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are partisan of fascist ideologies. They preach xenophobia, national preference and the desire to have a strong state. But these politicians and their political parties are much more dangerous than your “average” fascist party. They have successfully claimed eligibility by putting forward a new kind of extremism that we can describe as “ethnocratic liberalism”. This form of liberalism combines their extremist ideologies with a democratic constitutionalism. Their ideology infiltrate middle ground liberalism and that’s what makes ethnocratic liberalism such a dangerous paradox.
“Do you want a multicultural society like the English speaking countries where Islam is progressing?”
Problems associated with the integration of migrant communities has always been at the core of extreme-right ideologies. The peaceful integration of Muslim communities in France has become extremely difficult, if not impossible. The repeated terrorist attacks has lead to a profound mistrust of these communities. What Marine Le Pen seems to forget is that the problem of Islamic fundamentalism transposing itself into terrorist attacks is largely specific to France. It is now clear that a significant number of these terrorists are, in fact, young people originating from run down city suburbs and having been radicalised in French prisons. Is the “surge of Islam” really worse in English speaking countries, as Marine Le Pen suggests? I really don’t think so. The root of the problem is to be found in the derelict suburbs of a large number of French towns and cities, French prisons, and the highly secular nature of the French Republic. In publicly singling out English speaking countries as being prone to the surge of Islam, Marine Le Pen wanted to “reach out ” to the American people who have put Donald Trump in office, and voters in the UK who want a break-up of the European Union.
“We cannot welcome hundreds of thousands of migrants because our primary obligation is to help the French people.”
In the interview, Marine Le Pen claims that not one of her party manifesto proposals has a racist undertone, and she challenged Andrew Marr to disprove her. Well, instead of remaining silent, Andrew Marr could have managed to find at least one that not only is xenophobic, but also discriminatory. It concerns the acquisition of French nationality. I, like many others, possess dual citizenship (in my case, British-French). I would feel very aggrieved and shocked if I were to be forced to choose between one or the other. How can Marine Le Pen expect individuals to erase their origins and ignore what is, in fact, an integral part of what they are. Nothing could be more degrading and hurtful. Furthermore, her proposal is directed against citizens from countries outside the European Union (dual French-EU citizenship would be allowed), and although she didn’t admit it, primarily directed against Muslim countries.
“Dual nationality will no longer be authorised apart from the case of dual nationality with another country from the Euopean Union: concerned people will be brought to choose between the two nationalities.” (Notre Projet: Politique du Front National p16)
“I borrowed from a Russian bank. It could have just as well been a bank from Guatemala or Spain.”
A cynical answer to Andrew Marr’s question concerning the 9 million euro’s her party received from a Russian bank in 2014. The Front National, together with other extreme-right-winged parties in Europe, makes no secret of its profound admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin. In 2014, Marine Le Pen described the referendum over Crimea as “legitimate”. Whilst describing the European Union as a “democratic monster”, she admired Putin for doing “what is best for Russia and the Russian people”. She has even said that the Russian president was “defending the Christian heritage of Europe”. Maybe Marine Le Pen should reopen the history books and read about the 1938 Munich agreement in which Hitler was allowed to annex a region of Czechoslovakia in an attempt to appease him. We all know what happened next.
It is clear that, in allowing the financing of right-wing political parties, Putin is trying to drive a wedge between the people of Europe and their governing “elite”, be it national or European. Furthermore, by participating in the random bombing in Syria, causing the uncontrolled influx of migrants into the Europe, Putin is also contributing to destabilise the Union. The question of whether this is his main reason for intervening in Syria, remains open for discussion.
“A military attack from Russia? Just saying that brings a smile to my face.”
Marine Le Pen also questions the continuing usefulness of NATO. She claims that there is no justification for the continuing presence of the organisation because “the threat on which NATO was formed in the first place, no longer exists”. Try saying that to the people of Ukraine, Chechnya, and elsewhere. The world order, according to Vladimir Putin, is one of “reasoned protectionism” comprising the protection of one’s own country and its identity. This is much to the liking of Marine Le Pen and her party.
The problem with Marine’s vision is that, the broader the smile on her face, the more she has to be taken seriously and the more she frightens us.