France's flood of anti-left hoaxes: These stories are gripping the nation, but you won't find them in the papers...

The justice minister whose son is in prison for murder and President Hollande's hidden daughter by the Socialist candidate for mayor of Paris are just two examples of internet rumours that lack the tiniest grain of truth

Paris

None of these stories have the tiniest grain of truth. All are hoaxes, inventions or malicious rumours, often far right or racist in tone or vocabulary.

For several months, such stories have been spreading through France by word of mouth, text, or email. Despite rebuttals, they constantly resurface on the chat lines of populist websites that claim to reveal the truth that the mainstream media hides. Some, such as the allegation that Ms Taubira is a multimillionaire, pop up on more respectable "question and answer" sites online. The rumours surf on the fractious, insurrectionary mood into which France has plunged in recent weeks. They also help to deepen it.

Similar nonsense circulated during Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency. But the intensity, and evident political spin, of the electronic rumour-mongering increased since the left won the presidential and parliamentary elections last year.

"We are faced with a flood of anti-left hoaxes – so many that we don't have time to counter them all," said Guillaume Brossard, who runs Hoaxbuster, a French site which identifies and corrects internet lies. "Such stuff existed under Sarkozy, but nothing like as much."

France, like the US, is vulnerable to rumour-mongering because it has an instinctive distrust of Paris, politicians and the media. The late President François Mitterrand did, after all, hide an illegitimate daughter for most of the 14 years of his presidency. The mainstream media has, until recently, had a poor record of exposing political scandals.

Rumour is especially virulent when France is angry and depressive. A leaked report by regional prefects – national government administrators – last week described the nation's mood as "dangerous", especially in rural areas and among the provincial middle classes.

The economy is struggling. The Hollande administration is stumbling. Taxes are being increased to reduce persistent budget deficits. France, en masse, constantly demands change, but the French individually resent, and resist, all changes.

The lie-mongering which is thriving in this atmosphere – and also darkening it – is not just anti-left or anti-Hollande. It plays to a wider, hard-right agenda.

Pascal Froissart, an academic who has written a book on the role of rumour in French history, said: "The fear encapsulated in these messages is anti-institution and anti-establishment. They imply that the 'elites' are a unified bloc opposed to the 'real' people of France."

Most of the stories are self-evident nonsense, but that does not stop them from spreading. The allegation that Ms Taubira earned €58m last year is attributed to an American magazine called People With Money. The magazine does not exist. Both it – and the Taubira story, complete with faked front page – are figments of the imagination of a would-be satirical spoof website. They have been traded from blog to blog and email to email as if they were real.

The evidence that Ms Taubira's son is in prison for murder is a fake newspaper cutting, which has been circulating online since April. This purports to be a tear-jerking letter to the justice minister from the distraught mother of her son's "victim".

The letter is "signed" by a real person from Besançon in eastern France. She told her local newspaper that she has not lost a son, did not write the letter and has "nothing against" Ms Taubira.

The origin of the tentacular rumours that mayors of provincial towns have been paid to import black people from the Paris suburbs is harder to identify. Geneviève Gaillard, the Socialist mayor of Niort in central France, began a lawsuit for defamation against "persons unknown" last month. The local rumours had expanded to an equally baseless story that Ms Gaillard had secretly married a black man.

Similar stories have spread, partly by word of mouth, partly by email, text and blog, in Poitiers and Limoges. Local officials say that the rumours bear the linguistic imprint of the far-right National Front, which hopes to make record gains in municipal elections in March. It denies all responsibility.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Legal Print Room Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Legal Print Room Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Administration Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company prides itself on its ability to p...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company prides itself on its ability to p...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator / Co-ordinator

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This M&E Contractor is looking ...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'