As Remembrance Sunday crowds waited to pay their respects to those who died in conflict – including the millions of British causalities in the war against fascism in Europe – The Andrew Marr Show aired an interview with the leader of France’s far right Front National (FN) party. An irony not lost on the presenter.
Prefacing the interview, Marr told his audience: “Le Pen could, under some circumstances, become the next French president in the spring ... In the end, we are a news programme, and I don’t think the best way to honour the fallen is to fail to report on the next big challenge to western security.”
Tuesday was a gruesome wake-up call for the media who failed to accurately predict Trump’s electoral victory, so there is little wonder that Marr made the editorial decision to face up to the possible third part of the Brexit, Trump trilogy. To quote Ian Fleming: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action”. As with Trump and the Leave campaign, she is running on the same anti-globalisation, anti-immigration, anti-free trade, anti-elite ticket and Marr was simply on the defensive.
Le Pen herself has hailed the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the election of the Republican nominee as a dawn of a new era which she and her party will be reborn into. “Clearly Donald Trump’s victory is an additional stone in the building of a new world which will replace the old one. Obviously we have to compare this victory with the rejection of the European constitution by the French people, of course with the UK Brexit vote but also with the emergence of movements devoted to the nation.”
However, bringing fascism into the light is not the same as challenging it. Marr introduced Le Pen by calling her a “threat to Western security” and bookended the interview with an analysis from Sir Crispin Blunt MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who drew attention to the grave danger she posed to Nato. No wonder people feel invigorated when they hear someone like Le Pen talking directly to their concerns about globalisation, unemployment, depressed wages and immigration when you compare it to this real politik drivel.
The whole thing whiffed of the liberal elite pining over the potential loss of the EU, Nato and free trade and the havoc this would wreak on the status quo – the very status quo a great number of Americans and Brits just voted against.
If you want to really drag Le Pen’s fascism into relief, then take her views to town. Marr began to challenge the far right roots of the FN by making reference to her father and founder Jean Marie Le Pen, who called the Holocaust “a minor detail”.
If he’d done his research he could have confronted the now leader of the party – the one who is actually relevant – by asking her to explain this comment from 2012: “Would you accept 12 illegal immigrants moving into your flat? You would not. On top of that, they start to remove the wallpaper. Some of them would steal your wallet and brutalise your wife.”
He could have challenged her comment, “We are not going to welcome any more people. Stop, we are full up!”, when he asked her if Muslims could be good French citizens. Nope, he questioned her about the EU, Russia and Nato – the things the disenfranchised of Europe really care about.
He failed to delve into her Islamophoblic ideology, or how her anti-migrant policies will actually help the working person in France? In short, he failed to challenge the narrative and merely let her repeat it.
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