French weekly magazines review 11 June 2017


More about that man Macron, most of it lavish praise. And Salman Rushdie warns that the Western world has tragically failed to understand the impact of Islamic radicalisation over the past 50 years.


Looking at this week's front pages, you'd never guess there was a parliamentary election taking place today here in France.

Well, not immediately.

Le Point and L'Express do give the front-page honours to President Emmanuel Macron. And you could argue that he's central to the outcome of the election's two rounds, since a decent majority for his supporters at the National Assembly will make his job a bit easier than having to strike deals with political opponents in order to get every miserable shred of law through parliament.

A president with pride, without prejudice

Le Point looks at the way Macron has imposed his style on the top job. With becoming modesty, he has promised to act like Jupiter, the god of gods, listening to all without prejudice, ignoring previous party lines, doing what is right for France.

Le Point finds Macron little changed since he got the top job.

A bit more serious, perhaps, but that goes with the territory. Still very tough on his coworkers. Not given to lavish compliments. Or expressions of gratitude. Three hours' sleep per night. Work, work, work. Already very much at home in the Elysée Palace. And very much in control. No leaks to the press, no comments off, no secret documents. Politics for Macron is very much a question of story-telling. He wants to be sure his version is heard first.

Macron walks on water!

And then there's L'Express. Less respectful, with a front-page copied from a pop magazine for pre-teens. "Macronmania" is the theme: "He walks on water," we are assured; "He'll win a landslide," "He'll save the planet from Trump".

Perhaps he will. But L'Express retains a certain number of doubts about this latest and so far flawless candidate for canonisation.

How will he deal with public opinion now that he's likely to face criticism? How much of the public image is a clever construction? Will it resist the inevitable storms and setbacks? Is Macron too sure of himself and thus likely to suffer the fate reserved by history for other brilliant young men?

L'Express says he is an expert manipulator of symbols, and the proof that French politics has entered the era introduced by John F Kennedy in the United States, an era where people vote for a personality rather than a political platform.

If Macron's efforts to end the left-right division in French politics fail, what will be left beyond the film star looks and a remarkable intelligence?

When will the opposition wake up?

The weekly Marianne imagines that Macron's people will have no difficulty obtaining the necessary overall majority. But then the question becomes, who will act as the political opposition?

For Marianne, the Socialists are dead and buried. The Republicans are a headless chicken. The left- and right-wing extremes have completely lost the plot. And the trade unions are divided.

Even the press is being deprived of its traditional role as a counterbalance by Macron's strict control of inside information.

Says Marianne, the president's promise to reform the structure of government calls for an equally broad reform of the means of opposition. It's not clear that anyone outside the Macron marching machine has realised just how great that challenge is.

Perhaps next Sunday night's definitive election results will bring a few people to their senses?

Rushdie on radical Islam

Le Nouvel Observateur devotes its front page to the Indian writer Salman Rushdie, still the object of an Iranian fatwa decreeing an Islamic death sentence for the alleged blasphemy in his 1988 best-selling novel The Satanic Verses.

Rushdie knows a thing or two about Islamic terrorism. He is, himself, from a Muslim background. And he says, without apology, that far-right leader Marine Le Pen has shown a better understanding of Islamic radicalisation than the "politically correct" French left. For Rushdie, the attempt by some Western politicians and police forces to deny the fundamental change which has swept the Muslim world in the past half century is simple, dangerous blindness.

Not all Germans in the '30s and '40s were Nazis, not all Russians were in favour of the goulag, says Rushdie. And yet Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany really existed. With all their murderous excesses. Obviously, not all Muslims are extremists but when a system of behaviour or belief tends towards an extreme, there is always a danger that it will devour the system from the inside, he says. And that, according to Salman Rushdie, is what is happening with Islamic extremism.

The current extremists are the children of the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution or the descendants of the Saudi-funded dispersion of Wahhabi extremism. They are not a marginal phenomenon, according to Rusdhie, they are central. And their ambition is the annihilation of the societies in which we live. Along with everything else denied by their regressive violence.

Until the West recognises that fact and acts in consequence, says Salman Rushdie, we will continue to mourn the victims of a terrorism that we mistakenly think of as an aberration.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning