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French press review 14 May 2016


Should we be worried about the vertiginous value of companies like Apple and Google? Could their market domination and global coverage eventually see them replace old-fashioned nation states? What is happening in the unhappy ranks of the French Socialist Party? What is happening in French universities? And is French politics riven by macho sexism?


The daily paper Libération looks at the growing power of companies like Google, Apple and Facebook, suggesting that they are now stronger than most states.

Apple and Google between them are currently worth 1,000 billion euros. That's one followed by 12 zeros. And it dwarfs most national budgets. Facebook has more users in one month than the entire population of China.

Those are realities which few national governments seem to be in a position to understand, says Libé, going on to point out that the information companies have always managed to keep several steps ahead of lumbering legislation and claim to be the proponents of a revolution which will leave us all better informed, better off and freer.

Libération asks us to remember the tragic legacy of the petrol multinationals, once the all-powerful supporters of governments, promising a radiant future for all. They were lying, as we discovered too late, it says. What if the same scenario repeats itself with the web giants? Who is making sure we have alternatives and counterbalances necessary to keep these stateless entities under control?

And, since these are commercial operations driven by greed, what are they likely to contribute to a future world of sharing and solidarity?

Unruly rulers

The main story in Le Monde says the French government's decision to force its labour legislation through parliament without a vote is tearing the ruling Socialist Party asunder.

The centrist paper says several ministers and MPs have called for action against Socialist rebels, saying that allowing the internal revolt to continue unchecked would be an admission of weakness.

But there are other stresses within the governing party, Le Monde reporting that the recent public altercation between Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Economy's Emmanuel Macron is further testimony to the lack of cohesion in the ruling bloc.

Degrees of difficulty

Right-wing Le Figaro looks at the complicated business of getting into a French university.

For courses like medicine, where there's huge demand and a sharp limit on available places, the universities try to attract the best students while still adhering to the official obligation of equality. Some institutions are forced to select students by drawing names out of a hat, a situation which the conservative paper describes as inefficient, hypocritical and unjust.

This government seems determined, say Le Figaro, to do away with the idea of merit, motivated by the absurd desire to offer the same chance to everyone, refusing to recognise that the situation contains its own control mechanism which sees nearly half of all first-year students drop out after their first 12 months, never to return.

Hundreds of thousands of students are thus failed by the system and added to the dole queues every year. A tragic irony, says Le Figaro, given that French President François Hollande opened his mandate in 2012 promising to make the nation's youth his priority.

Politics and predation

On its inside pages Le Monde looks at sexism in French politics.

Recent accusations about the sexual predation allegedly practised by certain male politicians has opened public eyes to a hidden vice in the corridors of power, corridors to which women were admitted relatively recently.

Le Monde points to the fact that the case that sparked this debate was uncovered by the press, not by the justice system, suggesting a kind of toleration of what would elsewhere be called and condemned as sexual harrassment.

The sad fact is that, if you are a woman and you want to continue working in politics, there are men in positions of power who are happy to take advantage of your precarious status. The only good news is that, with an increasing number of women now elected to parliament, macho modes of thinking and talking are less acceptable. The boys may finally be forced to grow up and behave like gentlemen.

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