The journalists’ hostility to Macron goes beyond politics or ideology: he’s trying to force them to embrace realityby Lucy Wadham / May 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
One year after his election it’s hard to tell from French coverage of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency that, despite the chaos of demonstrations, train strikes and a string of unpopular reforms, he is more popular at this stage than his three predecessors were. With an approval rating of 44 per cent, Macron has retained the support of nine tenths of those who voted for his En Marche! movement, also winning the approval of half of republican and a third of socialist voters.
Macron has been ushering his country towards a profound social change and in doing so is encountering the usual pushback. Remarkably, he has done this while preserving his popularity—and yet the French media is portraying severe civil unrest and a nation divided. The gap between the media depiction of the Macron presidency and the satisfaction indicated by the polls was laid bare in the television interview held in April to mark Macron’s first year in office.
During an often uncomfortably hostile two-and-a-half hour grilling, Edwy Plenel, an investigative journalist, and Jean-Jacques Bourdin, a political talk-show host, painted Macron’s presidency as divisive and unpopular. “Many French people doubt you and your choices,” Bourdin said. “And they’re losing their patience.” Plenel suggested that Macron should not have called his party En Marche!, meaning “forwards.” “You should have called it, En Force [“by force”]. You’ve divided the country instead of unifying it.”
My family is divided on Macron—my daughter likes him and my son doesn’t—but they both agreed on the mauvaise foi, “intellectual dishonesty,” of Plenel and Bourdin’s line of questioning. “You’d think the country was in flames,” my daughter said.
We wondered if the generation gap may lie behind Plenel and Bourdin’s hostility to the young upstart Macron, whom they pointedly referred to by name rather than the traditional Monsieur le Président. But we agreed that the key to their antagonism lay in Macron’s response to Plenel’s question on gender inequality.