France’s left-leaning media have recently been hit by an embarrassing revelation: Mehdi Meklat, a twenty-four-year-old Muslim blogger turned media star by sympathetic journalists, was exposed on Twitter as a rabid anti-Semite, homophobe, and misogynist. While still in high-school, Meklat started a blog on life’s harshness in French banlieues (suburbs). He caught the attention of journalists and, within a few years, the articulate and soft-spoken wunderkind became the poster child of moderate Islam and of successful integration. Until, in February 2017, old tweets he published under a pseudonym between 2011 and 2015 were dug-out and exposed.
Meklat’s rants are jaw-dropping. Charlie Hebdo’s journalists? “They should die.” Jews? “Bring back Hitler to finish them.” Bin Laden? “I miss him.” Mohamed Merah’s apology of death? “Movingly beautiful.” Whites? “You must die ASAP.” Marine Le Pen? “I’ll slit your throat in accordance with Muslim rites.” French journalists, many of whom turned Meklat into an icon, are divided. Some disowned him; others are circling the wagons.
Pascale Clark, who hosted Meklat for years on her radio show, took his defense and praised his “intelligence and humanity.” Veteran journalist Claude Askolovitch poo-pooed Meklat’s tweets as “a kid’s silly jokes.” Radio anchor Xavier de La Porte blamed himself and his listeners for not getting it: “There must be something in Mehdi Meklat that is too complex for us to understand.” Médiapart (an online opinion journal) and Libération (a daily newspaper) took on Meklat’s critics: for them, the fachosphère (a French idiom for “Fascist blogosphere”) is to be blamed for unearthing Meklat’s old tweets in the first place.
The “Meklat Affair” not only exposed, once again, the moral bankruptcy of the French left. It also confirmed its stubborn refusal to face the fact that there is such a thing as Muslim anti-Semitism. French philosopher Pascal Bruckner has described the Meklat Affair as “the Titanic of the yuppie left.” As Bruckner explains, the French left will not let go of the axioma that former colonized people are always innocent by definition. They cannot possibly be racist, anti-Semitic, or oppressive. Impossible. In addition, Islam has acquired a special status in France: it is the only religion that cannot be scrutinized or criticized, and which enjoys a de facto protection from blasphemy.
If the Meklat Affair is the Titanic of the yuppie left, the upcoming presidential election may turn out to be its Berezina. France’s left-leaning media, as well as key figures in the judicial system, have declared a war of attrition on François Fillon. The once front-runner conservative candidate is now fighting an uphill struggle for political survival. Fillon did nothing illegal by hiring his wife as a parliamentary aid, and the claim that she did not actually work has yet to be proven. But the accusation is sticking, and Fillon’s likely indictment might be fatal. According to most polls, the presidential election’s runoff will likely be between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.
Macron is the darling of France’s media. He gets a free pass over his political Ponzi scheme. An Ivy League graduate and former banker, he claims to be running “against the system.” A former senior cabinet member in François Hollande’s government, he now disowns his former boss’ legacy. Less than two months before election day, Macron still hasn’t published a program and he tells voters to just trust him. There are savory rumors about his private life, but the media are mum about them. France’s left-leaning media, in other words, are promoting a political charlatan because he is not a Thatcherite and a conservative like Fillon, and because he is the most likely to beat Le Pen in a runoff.
This strategy may backfire. In a recent poll published by Le Figaro, Le Pen would get 45% of the vote in a runoff against Fillon, and 42% in a runoff against Macron. Considering that polls predicted the defeat of Brexit and of Trump, a Le Pen victory can no longer be ruled out. If Le Pen wins, she’ll partly owe her victory to the defenestration of Fillon and to the promotion of Macron by the French left. Don’t expect French left-wing journalists to take the blame, however. Instead, a Le Pen victory will give them another reason to excuse Meklat.