Friday, March 3, 2017

Tiens, v'là une Marine

Not another secret Muslim (in the shahadi the thumb is not supposed to stick out like that). Photo by Reuters via Independent.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street ("Can Populism Take Paris?"), has a crush on the sweetheart of European neo-fascism, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. Maybe you could call her an angular Reese Witherspoon type:

Le Pen’s pessimism about mass migration may be too dark, but it’s a needed corrective to Merkelism, and much more reasonable in the European context than Trump’s overhyped warnings about refugees. Her brief against the follies of the euro is almost inarguably true (for reasons that you can about read about on Vox, not Breitbart). Her party platform overall suggests what Trumpism would look like if it were more coherent — and, for that matter, more responsible, since she’s actively tried to distance her movement from the sort of toxic bigotry that Trump’s campaign saw advantages in winking at.
That last bit is so Ross. He too specializes in non-toxic bigotry. Le Pen was prosecuted in 2015 on not at all toxic charges of
“incitement to discrimination over people's religious beliefs”, for comparing Muslims praying in public to the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War. 
The charges were dropped, but at the moment she's under investigation by French authorities for tweeting pictures of ISIS executions, including that of the journalist James Foley, which violates a French law against the publication of violent images, and that seems more serious (she could get three years and a €75,000 fine). The European Parliament is likely to take away the immunity she enjoys as a member, as they did over the recent case in which she's been charged with defrauding the European Union by paying campaign employees out of EU funds for imaginary jobs, where French police raided the party headquarters last week and the European Parliament has demanded repayment of almost €340,000 (she won't pay, so they're docking her wages).

Then there's the €9 million loan her financially struggling Front National party borrowed from the First Czech-Russian Bank in Moscow in 2014, just at the time EU sanctions over Ukraine were being imposed (the FN holds that the Russian annexation of Crimea is "not illegal", and they have supported France leaving the EU, though they aren't quite doing that this year). She was apparently hitting them up for another €27 million when the bank failed last summer with a €500-million hole in their balance sheet, leaving the Front in very difficult straits, with some Russians (the dead bank's re-insurers) trying to get their money back, while the transaction greatly interested US intelligence (as well as the Dutch, British, and German services, I'm sure, all of which are concerned about the possibility of Russian financing of their own Trumpoid ultrarightists).

Needless to say, none of this affects her popularity with her own base at all, though the Eurocorruption angle sounds a lot worse than the garden-variety nepotism that ordinary conservative François Fillon is accused of, and the tweeting of beheadings is really disgusting. They're just like Trumpies. But it will certainly affect her chances of winning in the second round, which will require voters not from her base. Emmanuel Macron, the "centrist" candidate (which in this context means technocratic and globalized, I think) who seems to be the front-runner at the moment (who agrees, like everybody else, that the Euro appears to have been a mistake, but is probably closer than Le Pen to French public opinion in hoping it can be reformed, as does Krugman, really—Douthat linking that Vox article has no idea what kind of debate he's wandering into.

Macron has taken what seems like a pretty courageous opinion in favor of immigration, but not that courageous in the French context, where dislike of "globalization" in the sense of cultural homogenization traditionally goes along with a very positive attitude towards immigration in general, even in the wake of the 2015 terror attacks, and it may be that the relatively strong anti-immigrant feelings pollsters found last summer have already died down by now, and France may not especially want a "corrective to Merkelism" given that Merkelism is hardly what they have in the first place; especially given French opinion on the immigration-hating Trump, which was around 75% negative to 13% positive in November and not likely to have improved as he makes his international débuts (senior officials reported on his January 28 phone call with President Hollande that Trump seemed "obsessed with money" and that it was "a difficult conversation because he speaks the way he does in public—this is not how heads of state speak to one another; he speaks in slogans, and the conversation is not at all organized").

Also probably needless to say, Ross Douthat seems to be completely unaware of any of this. Presumably all he knows is that the opposition inside the Vatican to Pope Francis, led by the American fascist Cardinal Burke, is promoting Marine Le Pen alongside Stephen Bannon:
This Vatican operation, called Dignitatis Humanae, or the Institute for Human Dignity, whose advisory board includes two of the four cardinals openly challenging Francis on marriage and sexuality, is slavishly promoting Burke’s favorite American white Catholic nationalist, Bannon, with star billing on its home page. The institute’s top office-bearers, Burke and his henchman, the media-savvy Breitbart contributor Benjamin Harnwell, are also encouraging Benito Mussolini fan Matteo Salvini, of Italy’s Northern League, and Muslim-baiting far-right Catholic poster girl Marion Le Pen, the National Front “rising star” niece of party leader Marine Le Pen in France.
Ross is a little shy about pushing Bannon in front of his high-tone friends, for whom fascism is Not Very Classy, but he can play a part indirectly by talking up the gentler, kinder fascism he sees in France.

Which is funny, in that Russia seems to be campaigning for Le Pen (in collusion with WikiLeaks, which has been running "leaks" on how popular Le Pen is together with threats (from Assange, via Izvestia) against Macron, with a three-part strategy as reported in Vice, taking a familiar form:
  • The first part would see bots deployed to post messages across the internet to raise the profile of the far-right candidate and damage her opponents.
  • Russian hackers would compromise the accounts of the candidates and publish any damaging information either on WikiLeaks or by sending it anonymously to media organizations.
  • The third section of the campaign sees the Kremlin-run news agency Sputnik, which launched a French-language version of its website in 2015, running articles flattering Le Pen and criticizing her opponents. The agency denies it is seeking to impact the election outcome, and does on occasion publish balanced stories, but this is simply “an attempt at plausible deniability,” Nimmo told VICE News.
Ross seems to be playing the role of one of those dutiful bots, not of course for President Putin but for Cardinal Burke, but isn't it getting harder and harder to tell the difference?

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