Riots In France Don't Mean Le Pen Has The Election


The recent riots throughout France against police brutality have painted a spectacular and grotesque picture of a country coming apart at the seams: the Presidential election threatens to put the final nail in the coffin of liberal democracy while the specter of terrorist attacks looms large, hiding around every Baroque corner.

If you’re watching Vice News or scrolling a bit esoterically through the Facebook ether it certainly must seem as though France is on the brink of a breakdown, and should you be particularly inclined to subscribe to the Daily Mail/Express/Breitbart/Fox News zeitgeist, the End of the World as We Know It is not far away. To be fair, it does all seem to be barrelling towards an inevitable showdown of somewhat apocalyptic proportions, and if you had never seen this side of France before it is probably quite a shock.

However, these things are neither new to French politics and society, nor are they any indication of a systemic failure of the State to control its institutions. Indeed, for those who have spent time watching France, protests, riots, the threat of the extreme right and a particularly skewed version of Islam in the country are very much part and parcel of contemporary France.

The philosopher Michel de Certeau once said, “in spite of a persistent fiction, we never write on a blank page but always on one which has already been written on.” The persistent fiction of ‘La Douce France’ as a harbour for artists, bohemians and intellectuals wading through the vulgar throngs of American tourists obscures the rather cruel reality of what France has become: the shrinking myth of what it means to be French, the persistent exclusion and characterization as ‘immigrant’ of a population that is anything but, and the simultaneous presence of an extreme right wing who have consistently tried to fit the country into its image, only to watch what is solid melt into air.


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