This was only a matter of time. The three main candidates for Mr Macron are marinated in a common culture of grievance and paranoia. The most moderate of the three, Ms Pécresse, has spoken of the need to “eradicate zones of non-France” as part of an effort to imitate the language of the far right, as in a February 13 speech in which she also complained about the ‘great replacement’. This is the basis for an eventual marriage between supporters of the national populism of the Le Pen family and the more polite conservatism of the Republicans.
Bolloré portrays himself as above the partisan struggle, but by building an integrated media apparatus for a hysterical, inflamed conservatism, he has reshaped French political life. France, according to CNews, is on the brink of a breakdown in order and civility, one spark away from civil war. American-inspired “wokistes” and “Islamo leftists” — terms willfully used as synonyms for progressive activists, intellectuals and politicians — concoct a plot to disprove France and its Republican traditions. Immigrants are the mass carriers of collapse.
It’s tempting, of course, to see Mr. Bolloré as a Gallic Rupert Murdoch, an unhinged oligarch who is dragging the entire country to the abyss because of ingrained ideological beliefs. This has become the mainstream story in the multibillionaire’s incessant press coverage.
The reality, however, is more complicated — and perhaps even more worrisome. By ratings estimates, the viewership and viewership of CNews for Europe 1 radio is relatively low: Mr Bolloré’s influence in the media lies not just in numbers, but in how keenly his press interests articulate far-right talking points that make the rest of the media and the political class are only too happy to pass on.
And Mr Bolloré himself is more opportunistic than reactionary. Throughout his career, he was known for cultivating ties across the French ideological spectrum – a necessity for one who invested in the high-stakes game of international development and trade. Before CNews, Mr. Bolloré’s media assets were appendages to his harder investments, not pawns in a coherent ideological project. His role as a sponsor of the New Right is fairly recent.
In 2017, Macron’s victory was declared the end of the left-right divide in France. And in a speech to supporters outside Paris over the weekend, he vowed again to resist “those who seek to sow the poison of division, to fragment, to break men.”
But his government’s opportunistic loan from the far right says otherwise. In January, to cite just one recent example, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer delivered the introductory speech at a two-day colloquium at the Sorbonne on the dangers of ‘wokism’ and progressive identity politics. Mr Blanquer, a representative of a government claiming to be a bulwark against reactionary nationalism, was followed by Mathieu Bock-Côté, a polemicist who is currently filling Mr Zemmour’s primetime slot on CNews.