Sunday, May 26, 2013

Extreme Rightists Occupy PS Headquarters

The big anti-gay marriage demo has provided a screen for various extreme-right groups, one of which has invaded and occupied the PS headquarters on rue Solferino. Now the police will have to get them out. The way in which the Taubira law has energized the Right and provided a theater for some of its more extreme groupuscules to stage their antics is a fascinating phenomenon, and one that I wouldn't have predicted. It's also been fascinating to watch J.-F. Copé attempt to exploit the demonstration, which no doubt attracts his ambitious eye because it has mobilized segments of the Right outside the orbit of the Front National and just possibly susceptible to a cleverly crafted message from the governmental Right. Copé hasn't yet hit on that message, but you can sense his desperate search. The Le Penists have been curiously inaudible on this issue, perhaps because MLP is laid up with a broken back, but perhaps because it doesn't really play into their new economic populist positioning.

Inauthenticity in Politics

Alexandre Jardin reflects on the difference between the public and private personas of many politicians:
Le 11 novembre dernier, Laurent Delahousse m’avait invité sur France 2, avec le ministre apparent d’une Education nationale que chacun sait ingouvernable, Vincent Peillon. Dans la salle de maquillage, juste avant de passer sur le plateau, nous avions eu une conversation d’honnêtes hommes. J’avais quelqu’un en face de moi, le vrai Peillon, assez touchant. Puis il passa avant moi sur le plateau et je vis apparaître sur les écrans de contrôle… sa marionnette officielle. Fausse voix. Discours plaqué, glacé. Inaudible. Une fiche derrière des lunettes. Une colère irraisonnée me gagna. Pourquoi cet homme de qualité ne nous faisait-il pas confiance en se montrant dans sa réalité au lieu de se cacher derrière sa fonction ? En le rejoignant sur le plateau, j’ai alors renoncé à la comédie habituelle qui veut qu’entre invités on taise le off : devant les caméras, j’ai dit que Peillon n’était pas du tout raccord avec son personnage réel que j’avais vu un instant plus tôt en coulisses. En direct, j’ai nommé son masque en rappelant qu’il semblait réel cinq minutes avant, et que j’entendais poursuivre la conversation avec le type authentique, pas avec la cassette. Deux heures plus tard, le rédac-chef de Delahousse me rappela pour m’informer que ce passage serait rediffusé le soir-même au 20 heures Le site de France-Télévision s’était embrasé. Les gens voulaient, massivement, que cesse le jeu habituel des rôles.
Unfortunately, Jardin does not suggest a reason for the inauthenticity he no doubt accurately observed. It is telling that the incident he recounts began in the green room of a TV studio, because TV, I think, has a lot to do with the phenomenon. The cost of a momentary slip has risen dramatically, because TV erodes the distance between political actors and spectators. In fostering a false intimacy, it also promotes an unreasonable confidence in spectators that they can judge at a distance the true character of actors they do not know intimately, whom they know only as performers, actors in the stage sense as well as the political sense. An actor who allows his mask to drop risks creating the illusion that the unmasked personality is more real than the masked one. This is not necessarily the case. The recited lines of the script may be the carefully composed, elaborately reasoned, far-sighted judgment of the role's creator, truer perhaps than the spontaneous sally that is mistakenly judged to be more authentic because less scripted. What Jardin is judging here, really, is not authenticity vs. inauthenticity but rather a standard of performance, in which he finds Peillon wanting. He is a poor actor; he cannot carry conviction though playing his own part.

Earlier in the essay, Jardin praises Charles de Gaulle as a more authentic incarnation of power. But de Gaulle was in fact a consummate performer, who never let his character lapse. It would be a mistake to measure his performance in terms of authenticity. It was a calculated act by an actor more skilled at ruse than Vincent Peillon.