Marion Le-pen: There’s no beauty about fascism
Once again the mainstream liberal press has fallen into the trap of giving a platform to fascists purely on the basis of their appearance. On Sunday the left leaning paper-The Observer- ran a feature article on the French far right, Front National MP, Marion Marechal-Le Pen. The 22 year old was described as “blonde, slim and striking” and at one point the journalist admits that she was almost “hypnotised” by her charm.
The article was duly accompanied by flattering photoshopped images taken by the Observer’s photographer, just to illustrate a point to its readers.
And perversely, in subtly coded terms the opening paragraph seemed to appeal to white female liberals to identify first with Marion Le-Pen for her courageous determination to succeed as a woman politician within a male dominated environment. Elizabeth Day wrote:
One of the first times that Marion Marechal-Le Pen took her seat in the Assemblee Nationale, the lower house of the French parliament, she was stopped by a male politician. “he looked at me and said: ‘And whose secretary are you.” Says Marechal-Le Pen.
This is not the first time, that the Guardian/Observer have showcased women fascists on its pages. As recently as September this year, the newspaper continued to pay tribute to the former Hollywood icon, Brigitte Bardot, although she has been convicted five times for inciting racial hatred and is married to Bernard d’Ormale, who was a former adviser to he Front National.
Indeed it seems that ‘sex appeal’ in its most mind-numbing and conventional forms still dictates who gets coverage in national newspapers - even those leaning towards the left, no matter how abhorrent their political or moral views.
It was in keeping with this tradition that Day presented Marion Marechal-Le Pen as the latest ‘moderate’ face of the French far right. The narrative of the article was largely uncritical and failed to explore in depth the darkest side of the Front National and the dangerous consequences that would accompany its ascendancy to power.
In June this year, Time Magazine ran an article on the 22 year old politician with the headline “Meet French Candidate Marion Marechal-Le Pen: Third Generation Extreme Right Militant”. This would seem a more fitting description of a politician who believes in forced repatriation of second generation immigrants and holds blatantly islamophobic views.
Lest we forget, lets remind ourselves what the Front National actually stands for despite its deceptive attempts to revamp its image. The party was founded in 1972 by Marion’s grandfather, Jean Marie Le Pen and a group of Second World War Nazi collaborators. Jean Marie Le Pen is a convicted holocaust denier and alleged torturer. The party has been at the forefront of the European far right and initiated Euronat, which is an alliance of European fascist parties. In 1995 Le Pen pledged to deport 3 million non European immigrants from France. The party is fiercely nationalist and would withdraw France from the European Union.
Day only wakes up at the end of the interview when she suddenly realises how the far right’s policies would personally affect her. She reveals that her husband’s father came to England from Sudan, which would make him a second generation immigrant. Under a government led by the Front National this would leave him with no automatic rights to French citizenship.
Furthermore when Le Pen implicitly states her disagreement with inter-racial marriage, Day finally notes:
…the tone of her last answer suggests a more disturbing set of beliefs at play beneath the surface: a whiff of something rotten at the core of her politics and a sense that the world is made up of people who can be divided easily into “us” or “them.
And perhaps this is part of the problem. As Bob Marley once sang “he who feels it knows”. One wonders how this article would have been written if the journalist was an ethnic minority or a Muslim woman who chooses to wear the hijab. It would also be interesting to see how Le Pen would respond to a non-white second generation immigrant journalist asking her about her racist views.
The most prominent voices in the article were those of Le Pen and Day. The only other perspectives included were those of two white middle class men, whose quotes seem to have been included just to support the journalists rather superfluous and sometimes apologist commentary.
The only other voice that seemed to challenge Le Pen’s views was that of Alain Jakubowicz of the anti racist organisation, Licra. In contrast to the gushing media descriptions of the young right wing extremist as “angelic” and in possession of “disarming charm”, he described her appearance as “modern” and “normal.” He warns that we should not be mistaken by the party’s attempt to rebrand itself as “it remains the same, with its xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic DNA.”
Indeed one only needs to search Google images to note that in contrast to the portrayal of Le Pen as the “hot blonde bombshell” , contrived by media outlets and and photoshop experts alike, Marion Le Pen is rather plain and ordinary looking. But what she looks like should be neither here or there. Surely it should be what she stands for, what here values are about others.
By continuing to give a fan-fared platform to those with such repugnant views, based purely upon what they look like the Observer and other newspapers are not only at risk of selling fascism through the narrow prism of ‘beauty’ but also selling ‘beauty through the prism of fascism.