Maria Katsounaki MARIA KATSOUNAKI

‘Le Pen-ism’ and the new normal

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics

“In 1984, Jean-Marie Le Pen said something that heralded what is happening today. He spoke of the ‘Le Pen-ization’ of conscience,” French-Algerian writer Karim Amellal told Skai TV’s “Istories” program on Tuesday while describing precisely how things came to be.

In Sunday’s runoff vote, it is most likely that Marine Le Pen will lose, if the polls can be relied on. But what is this loss when it seems that she will get about 40 percent of the vote?

For a while now we have seen the gradual weakening of rational perceptions of images.

In the cases of Donald Trump and Le Pen, we see that neither buffoonery nor cruelty have any effect on their voters and supporters. Either because this image is blamed on the “systemic” media or because a large part of the population just shrugs it all off.

A look at the internet shows how distorted information is, how people are becoming more and more indifferent, withdrawing from the public sphere. And here populism from the left and right intervenes, bragging that with demagoguery and verbal violence it can put things in place.

In the narrow world of politics and the news media there are “events” that leave millions completely indifferent. Populism’s flexibility, its ability to renew its strategies and rhetoric, with obvious lies, without commitment, does not provoke much reaction.

We used to speak of the silent part of the population that rejects extremes but does not express itself. More and more, this silence is turning into distance, into neutrality, into neither here nor there, neither hot nor cold.

The silent majority receives minimal information, it considers toxic stupidity or ridiculous behavior as reactions to the status quo, it salutes folly, it allows itself to be seduced. This is not a position, it is resignation.

Eyes are focused on nothing, anxiety is fed not from the public sphere but from internal turmoil centered on everyday dead-ends – chiefly, but not only, involving the lack of money.

When the worst seems normal and unavoidable, fake news will triumph, “Le Pen-ism” will seem a smaller threat, democracy becomes more fragile, power will go to the more familiar face, in other words, to the autocrat.

Because, let us not forget, at populism’s core is the rejection of pluralism.

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