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French weekly magazines review 18 March 2018

__ DR

Efforts by the far-right French National Front party to change its name and reputation are discussed in this week's French magazines. Ther's a look at the enduring popularity of despots like Putin, Erdogan and al-Sisi, the secret world of spies, the truth about Tariq Ramadan. And what the French think about in vitro fertilisation and surrogate motherhood.


Satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné looks ironically at the efforts of the National Front to change its name and, crucially, its image.

The weekly points out that the proposed new name, "Rassemblement national" (National Rally), chosen by party leader Marine Le Pen and to be validated by members in a postal vote, is not new at all, having already been used by a Nazi-collaborationist group in 1941, when the aim was "the protection of the race". So much for the new image.

Dearly beloved despots

Weekly magazine Marianne gives the front page to the apparent enigma of despotic leaders like Russia's Vladimir Putin, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, chaps who stamp out anything vaguely resembling a democratic freedom, and yet seem to be loved by an overwhelming majority of their people.

Spying in the dot-com era

Le Point offers to reveal the secrets of French spies.

Needless to remark, you won't learn anything worthy of James Bond.

But it is interesting to note that spying is the coming thing: there are now nearly 11,000 employees in the combined internal and external French intelligence services, compared to 8,300 just three years ago. And most of the new recruits are cyberspecialists, ladies and gentlemen who do their spying by computer.

That's a tendency which is likely to be confirmed when the 6,000 new jobs promised under the government's military development plan are filled between now and 2025.

How real is support for Tariq Ramadan?

L'Express offers "Revelations in the case of Tariq Ramadan," the Islamic specialist who now faces at least three separate accusations of rape and violence against women.

These "revelations" are no more surprising than Le Point's "secrets".

But L'Express does point to the contradiction between the virulent campaign on behalf of the theologian involving several thousand internet accounts, and the handful of supporters who showed up for a demonstration at the Paris Trocadero earlier this month.

Either the vast majority of the internet accounts are false, sending out automatic messages, or Ramadan depends on individuals who are happier to hide behind their computer screens than appear personally in public.

An Islamic specialist interviewed by L'Express says even Ramadan's theology is suspect, being based more on magic and mumbojumbo than on a serious analysis of Muslim thinking. "He's not interested in the truth. He plays with appearances."

Has science changed the way we think about the family?

And then there's L'Obs, which has been asking French people what they think about medically assisted pregnancies and surrogate mothers. The French, if you accept a sample of 1,019 people as representative, are broadly in favour of both.

Fifty-five percent of those questioned said they approved of the use of surrogate mothers to allow infertile couples to start a family, but 22 percent of those were against homosexual couples raising a child. And the Obs's opinion poll shows a greater preparedness to allow lesbian couples to have children than male homosexual partnerships.

While accepting that advances in medical science now allow us to make a detour around the normal means of human reproduction, the vast majority (77 percent) of those responding to the poll believe that the best place in which to bring up children, even if they're conceived in a testtube, remains the old-fashioned heterosexual family.

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