Sunday 13 November 2016

Marine Le Pen on Andrew Marr

When it comes to fascists and the far right, giving them air time is a decision that should not be made lightly. If they are to appear, they should be rigorously challenged and forced to defend themselves. Anything less just gives them an opportunity to push their propaganda. When I learned that Andrew Marr was to be interviewing the French National Front leader, Marine Le Pen this Remembrance Sunday, I thought the BBC were having a laugh. It was obvious this encounter was not going to be a grilling. If you want to drag someone over the coals, you send for Jeremy Paxman or Andrew Neil. Marr, never known for his combative interviewing style, treated the French fascist leader as one indulges a pet tamagotchi.

It was a master class in poor interviewing. Not only did her lies go unchallenged, Marr also gave Le Pen free reign to push her views in the gently, gently, tones that have won her party a large following. On multiculturalism, she said that in the English-speaking countries, fundamentalist Islam is advancing. Demonstrably untrue. On the European Union, her Europe of free nations stands opposed to the "totalitarian" EU - more rubbish. Asked about Russia, Le Pen expressed her admiration for Vladimir Putin's model of "reasoned protectionism". You know, the sort of "reason" that allows for the murder of journalists and persecution of LGBT Russians. Not once did Marr step in to challenge these bullshit views as Le Pen looked relaxed and, at times, appeared to be enjoying herself.

Asked about Muslims in France and whether they have anything to fear from a FN presidency, which looks more likely thanks to Trump's victory, she replied "we're not going to welcome any more people. We're full up." A decent journalist might have snapped back that this wasn't the question that was asked. Going on, she said the FN were not bothered about people's religions, as long as they abided by secular French codes and values. This would be the same Le Pen who compared public prayers by Muslims to the Nazi occupation of France, and said that the increasing "Islamisation" of France was putting "civilisation" at risk. Utter drivel.

And then Marr made the misstep of allowing her to emphasise the generational break between her FN, and the more openly authoritarian and classically fascist FN of her father. Along with claiming that her party isn't racist (a claim easy enough to rebut had Marr bothered doing the most cursory homework), she was allowed to burnish her own "anti-fascism" by calling the Holocaust - the historic culmination of Europe's fascist experience - the central feature of the Second World War. Famously, Jean-Marie Le Pen referred to it as a detail.

What then is the point in all this, apart from showing the dismal standard of Marr's journalism? I'm not quite sure the BBC know either, though it does smack of the liberal naivete you can often find in its circles. "That Marine Le Pen is interesting and controversial, let's have her on." The worrying thing, however, is the actual content of the interview. Prattling on to her heart's content, there was very little, if anything, that hasn't already spilled forth from the mouths of UKIP and right wing Tory politicians. Nothing Le Pen said hasn't already found itself expressed - often, more stridently - in editorials and hatchet jobs. Our politics have become so poisoned that her small-minded anti-Islam, anti-foreigner, anti-EU scapegoating idiocies don't seem all that horrifying any more. And thanks to Andrew Marr, he's just helped normalise the reception Le Pen and her hate-fuelled mob can expect in Britain.


BCFG said...

'Reasoned protectionism' and backward laws in relation to gay and lesbians etc are entirely different things. Yet you bizarrely conflate the two.

And it should be noted that the uber aggressive imperialist attitude to Russia has zero to do with it's domestic social policies.

What the left should be saying is that the centrists aggressive imperialism is so bad that the far right seem positively progressive by comparison.

It never fails to stagger and sicken me that the nations (and their apologists) which destroyed an entire region and brought biblical levels of death, destruction and displacement should lecture others on aggression.

And how do the centrists reply to this sickening hypocrisy, they mention LGBT rights in Russia!

There you have the problem with centrism in a nutshell.

Tim Pendry said...

It is because we determinedly and willingly refused to listen to the positions of people like Le Pen that we on the Left developed no strategy for handling them other than our own brand of petty authoritarianism, trying to control things through enforced right behaviour, right speech and implicitly right thought.

That strategy failed because we did not listen, we simply asserted our own absolute political correctness, like seventeenth century Puritans unable to comprehend the possibility that there were other ways of seeing nature than their own.

The result of this posturing? The most powerful military and economic empire the world has ever seen in the hands of a right-wing populist, the transfer of large portions of the working class from the left to the right and the probable implosion of the European Project within the next eighteen months. The first two are facts which ideology cannot wish away.

I suggest you/we get out of our ideological hole, stop digging and develop a more viable critique of globalisation and neo-liberalism because, at the moment, Farage's attack on Blair, Bush, Clinton and Goldman Sachs is hitting the mark far more frequently than ours.

Instead of moaning about Marr who has done only what all good journalism should do - provide us with information - perhaps the Left should start questioning how and why it has screwed up and why it looks like it is going to screw up for a few years yet. Some introspection is in order ... including the question why Leftists have been in bed with people like Goldman sachs in the first place.

Dirtydiscordia said...

Must disagree with you here, I'm afraid. First time caller, long time listener.

The mainstream media, especially in its modern sensationalist guise, should not be the one relied on to refute the arguments of the far right. They will go where the views and the clicks are, and often as not these days the populist right is where that revenue is at.

The response, I feel, is a populist left. The sort of left that is growing under Sanders and Corbyn - it's proved popular among younger demographics and manages to articulate the popular rage more effectively - I honestly think that Sanders vs Trump would have been a better contest, positive versus negative change.

I too think the left needs to detach itself from the petty authoritarianism of the Blairite kind. The left, traditionally, was a mix of unfettered economic *and* personal freedom.

Whichever movement that recaptures this spirit will wipe the floor with the popular right because it'll expose them for what they are - authoritarians disguising their agendas under a paper thin veneer of "freedom" - the sort of freedom where you are free to be exactly who the right want you to be, and nothing else.

Alternatively, as Wilhelm Reich argued, maybe some people really do want fascism, even if it hurts them personally.

TulipCraze said...

Seeking to no-platform people, is a sign that you cannot win an argument.

This tendency of (alas) the left, is anti-democratic to the core.

If people hold awful views, surely we should let their views be known?

If however you dislike their views, but think that if known would find support and therefore they must be muzzled and the people shielded .... then you are a paternalistic anti-democratic censoring elitist. Or as I believe the phrase has it 'Social Justice Warrior'.

Good luck with getting votes telling people they are stupid and bigoted.

It's been tried. It hasn't worked for Brexit or for Trump. Both of which I incidentally think are mistakes. But good luck with getting votes for your shoutdown.

Speedy said...

Increase in Islamic fundamentalism "Demonstrably untrue"?

Really? I'd like to see you demonstrate it, or is it your point that Islam in the UK has become so much more fundamentalist since the arrival of the initial immigrants (ie, among the second and third generations) that it can't get much more, so has reached a sort of plateau?

Yeah, and if the UK had suffered well over 200 dead in a number of attacks in the name of Islam over the past year (80 run down on Brighton sea front? 120 gunned down at the Hacienda or whatever it's called now? Parish priest in Tumbridge Wells beheaded, policeman killed...) then maybe we might think our "civilisation" was under attack?

It is because the Left has signally failed to engage with many of the issues that concern the mass of the people - preferring to write them off as ignorant bigots (or 33 per cent of Americans are racist, as Boffy did the other day) that the right has run with it, but I've been saying that here for years!

Lidl_Janus said...

"at the Hacienda or whatever it's called now"

I've just looked this up; the Hacienda is still called the Hacienda, but the original building has been demolished and replaced by flats branded as such. The next most famous club might well have been Fabric, but this has also closed.

France could deal with Islamist terrorism by voting FN, but clearly the much better route would be emulating the UK and letting loose the wonkiest market forces possible.

Our extremists are probably reduced to attacking the Cereal Killer cafe at this point.