“Le Pen’s program would mean the abolition of the constitutional principles of the Fifth Republic”

  • Interview with the semiotician Cécile Alduy, expert in the speeches of the French extreme right

Cecile Alduy (Boulogne-Billancourt, 1974) is a prestigious analyst of the discourses of the French extreme right. This professor of American literature and civilization at Stanford University in California published in February The Langue de Zemmour, a celebrated essay in France on the rhetoric of the xenophobic and ultra-nationalist polemicist who made rivers of ink run throughout the presidential campaign this Sunday (first round). In 2015 he had also analyzed the communication of Marine Le Pen and her strategy of diabolisation (demonization) in Marine Le Pen prize aux mots.

The leader of Reconquista and that of the National Regrouping (RN) represent two different sides of the same ultra coin in these elections. While zemour monopolized media attention for months thanks to its discursive brutality, Le Pen went unnoticed and now it is perceived as a moderate by a growing part of the electorate. According to the polls, which should be taken with a grain of salt, Le Pen will be second on Sunday (24-20%) and has options to beat Emmanuel Macron in a hypothetical second round against the president. Instead, Zemmour is relegated to fourth position (10-8%)

Why has the leader of the RN stopped frightening many French? How has the polemicist contributed to it? These are some of the main questions that hover over these presidential elections. There is no better expert to solve them than Alduy, daughter of the former mayor of Perpignan, Jean-Paul Alduy.

How does Zemmour’s discursive violence convey a climate of anxiety and violence in French society?

His language is saturated by the vocabulary of “war”. It is the third word you use most often! He also constantly talks about conflict, combat, death, survival and domination. This vocabulary reflects a world view in which all relationships are based on a single alternative: dominate or be dominated, conquer or be conquered. All this creates a universe of anxiety in which the idea that there is a “civil war” is installed. in France.

It is also about a rhetoric that trivializes racism. As it does?

Basically, it is dedicated to repeating that races exist and imposes a racialized vision of society and individuals. Any person is seen only by their skin color and their origins. For Zemmour, the film “Untouchable” is a reflection of the “great replacement & rdquor; —the conspiracy theory that white French people will be replaced by those of foreign origin. In short, he imposes this racist frame in his description of reality and imposes racial categories instead of individuals.

An ideology completely opposed to the ideals of humanism and republicanism…

Yes, definitely. The great contribution of the Enlightenment and the idea of ​​the Republic was to establish the dignity and freedom of each individual to think for himself instead of locking them in an essentialist determinism. In this sense, Zemmour is an anti-Republican.

One of the most common elements in Zemmour’s rhetoric is the rhetoric of investment. What does it consist of?

This rhetoric of mirrors consists of completely reversing the current order of things and thus re-appropriating the condition of victim. For example, Zemmour opposes any “repentance & rdquor; on colonization, but at the same time ensures that France is being “colonized & rdquor; by the native people of these colonies, who have now become invaders. He also considers men to be dominated by a presumed feminine order. In this way, she disqualifies any progress in terms of equality by women or minorities.

Although it seems that he has very few options to qualify for the second round, the ultra debater could exceed 10% of the votes. How do you explain this considerable electoral support for someone who just created his party at the end of November?

His speech corresponds to a part of public opinion that until now was present in Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), despite its leader’s attempts to normalize its formation. Once Jean-Marie Le Pen delegated his party to his daughter, these more radical voters had been left without a political offer that would channel their vision of the world, the same as the National Front (FN) “of yesteryear & rdquor ; . Zemmour has now provided this political offer that corresponds to a demand that has been present in French society since the 1990s.

In the case of Marine Le Pen, how has her speech evolved between the previous presidential elections and now?

He has continued with his work of normalizing his image. After having destabilized his rivals by adopting a republican and secular discourse, the opposite of his father’s, he has now allowed himself the luxury of appearing more moderate than the conservative François Fillon or the current Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin (a disciple of Nicolas Sarkozy). In fact, she has benefited from the “demonization & rdquor; from the outside that she has offered the fact that all these leaders of the right and the center right adopted, and therefore trivialized, the ideological framework of the RN on Islam and immigration. In addition, she has tried to give herself a more human and close image to people by talking about her feelings when her niece Marion Maréchal announced that she would support Zemmour or by making intimate confessions at her rallies.

Has Le Pen turned mainstream? Do you talk like the rest of the politicians?

Exactly. Its media and political communication strategy has consisted of modeling itself on what mainstream, the politically correct. Uses a uniform vocabulary, without harshness, often boring. In his speech economic arguments are preponderant, even on immigration. She tries to give herself an image of a good head of state.

It has also moderated its program, for example by giving up France’s exit from the euro zone.

Yes, exactly. Since 2017, he has done a great job to get some of the most controversial aspects out of his program, such as France’s exit from the single currency or the ban on binationality. But at the same time he has tried to resolve these issues once he is in power.

But the key to this normalization of Le Pen has been the irruption of Zemmour. Is it so?

Yes, his image above all has been normalized thanks to the appearance of the polemicist. His violence and verbal brutality made Le Pen’s speech seem much more calm, racial and pragmatic. In contrast, Zemmour’s was obsessive, theoretical and did not take into account the daily life of voters.

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Despite this more moderate image, Le Pen maintains the same electoral program of the FN of all life, clearly anchored in ultra-nationalism and xenophobia.

The application of his program would suppose the abolition of the constitutional principles of the Fifth Republic, since it would create second-class categories of people, deprived of numerous rights, such as access to decent housing (registered in the legislation), health or work (registered in the Magna Carta). All this would create a society in which origin defines individuals. A religion (Muslim) would be repressed or controlled, being treated as an ideology instead of a belief. This would install a general climate of stigmatization of foreigners. All these elements have already been applied in France in the past, during the darkest moments of its history.

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