Sylvain Cypel

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Georges Gobet/Pool/AFP via Getty Images. A math teacher, Pierre Coste, arguing with French President Emmanuel Macron about the government’s pension reforms, Pau, southwest France, January 14, 2020

A few days into the wave of strikes in December against French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, a rumor went around that he’d recently met the boss of US investment fund giant BlackRock, Larry Fink. It’s true that since becoming president, Macron has met with Fink on several occasions. It’s true also that the firm has taken a clear interest in French government policy on retirement savings. But the rumor was false.

It didn’t matter: France’s social media networks went into overdrive. A YouTube video showing images of an earlier Macron–Fink meeting with the caption “Pension reform is BlackRock reform” went viral.…  Seguir leyendo »

Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) protestors shout slogans as material burns during a protest against rising oil prices and living costs near the Arc of Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on November 24, 2018. Police fired tear gas and water cannon on November 24 in central Paris against "yellow vest" protesters demanding French President Emmanuel Macron roll back tax hikes on motor fuel. (Photo by Mehdi Taamallah / Nurphoto) (Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In Soviet times, Russia’s Jews told a joke about a man named Rabinovitch who was distributing pamphlets in Red Square. In a matter of minutes, the KGB had found him and taken him to headquarters. Only there did the agents realize that the sheets of paper were completely blank. “But there’s nothing written here,” one of them said. Rabinovitch said: “They know quite well what I mean.”

For two months, the French government has been unable to make head or tail of the blank sheets of paper handed out by the gilets jaunes, or Yellow Vests, this decentralized, leaderless movement that has no explicit agenda or demand apart from the abolition of a fuel tax.…  Seguir leyendo »

Charlie Hebdo. The Charlie Hebdo cartoon that pilloried Edwy Plenel, editor of the left-wing online news outlet Mediapart, in the wake of accusations against Tariq Ramadan, November 8, 2017

Her name is Henda Ayari. She is forty years old and a Muslim; she was a Salafist, meaning that she adhered to a pietistic form of Islam. She says she’s still a Muslim, but she has abandoned the headscarf she wore for a long time. In 2016, she became a cause célèbre when she published a memoir, J’ai choisi d’être libre (I Chose to Be Free), in which she described her experience of brutalization at the hands of a violent husband. She also alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a Muslim preacher, whom she called Zoubeyr.

In October 2017, she became a cause célèbre all over again—this time in the wake of the Weinstein Affair, the ever-widening wave of revelations about sexual harassment and sexual assaults carried out by famous and powerful men.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images. French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux, Paris, April 23, 2017

Among the many ideas put forward by Emmanuel Macron, the new French president, was to institute an annual speech to the French parliament, a sort of State of the Union à la française. It seems that he couldn’t wait more than ten days after the legislative elections to give it a try. On Monday, in a major speech in the French Parliament, Macron compared his election to a “new start” for a country that is “regaining optimism and hope”; he also introduced a raft of bold proposals for streamlining government. But even bolder than his proposals was the speech itself, and the American-style executive it seemed to usher in.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why French Workers Are So Mad

Last month, Emmanuel Macron, a onetime investment banker who is now the Socialist government’s young minister of the economy, visited Lunel, a small town in southern France. He was taken to task in the street for the “loi travail,” the labor law — recently pushed through by his government — that he was in Lunel to promote. A trade unionist wearing a T-shirt challenged him: “You, you’ve got lots of cash, you buy yourself nice suits.” Without missing a beat, Mr. Macron responded, “The best way to afford a nice suit is to work.”

A video of the interaction has been practically running on a loop on YouTube ever since.…  Seguir leyendo »

Horrific terrorist attacks, like those of Sept. 11, 2001, have a way of sweeping away careful political reflection in favor of emotion. Hand in hand with a propensity to respond overwhelmingly with armed force comes a temptation for governments to grab more powers and exempt themselves from longstanding rules in ways that undermine the foundations of democracy.

These governments then devise legal and military tools never used before, arguing that their precursors have proved too weak against terrorism. The impulse to stop and think about checks and balances is derided as cowardice, if not treason, by the most obtuse partisans of security measures.…  Seguir leyendo »

We live in strange times. After celebrating the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944, France is about to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris two and a half months later by the combined forces of the French Resistance and Gen. Philippe Leclerc’s Free French Army. Yet these celebrations come just as France’s voters have been handing victories to a party created in 1972 by ideological heirs to the Vichy regime, the French puppet government that collaborated with the Nazis and fought the Resistance from 1940 to 1944.

Strange days indeed. In May, voters awarded the National Front, a far-right, immigrant-fearing, anti-European Union party, first place with a quarter of all votes cast to represent France in the European Parliament.…  Seguir leyendo »