Herrera is a Marxist economist, a researcher at the Centre national de la Recherche scientifique (CNRS), who works at the Centre d’Économie de la Sorbonne, Paris. Translated by Workers World staff.
March 11 — At the beginning, in early November 2018, when the first “Yellow Vests” were protesting on social networks against the fuel tax increases ordered by President Emmanuel Macron’s Prime Minister Édouard Philippe’s government, the dominant media — all owned by big money — accused them of being against defending the environment.
Initially, therefore, the Yellow Vests were presented by their critics as archaic rural people — but connected to the internet! — passionately “attached to their cars” and obtusely indifferent to ecology. As if the few euro cents levied by these taxes and earmarked for “ecological transition” would make us forget that France, haloed with the prestige of the international environmental conference COP21 in Paris, still does not have a credible environmental policy.
Then as soon as the Yellow Vests were first mobilized on Nov. 17, the media attacks quickly escalated, accusing them of being extreme right-wing “racists.” Of the hundreds of thousands of Yellow Vests demonstrating all over the country, one or two were filmed or recorded intimidating “foreign-looking” people. The Yellow Vests were also called “misogynists” because another of the same ilk made inappropriate comments about a woman.
Three fools, in short, were given the platform to turn 300,000 demonstrators into macho xenophobes! By doing this, their opponents rendered the Yellow Vests “hateful,” as a way of discrediting the collective action of blocking roads and traffic circles and making demands with ardor and vehemence.
It did not take long for the security experts brought in by the media to conflate Yellow Vests with “rioters.” This was the new leitmotif of the continuous disinformation channels after every Saturday mobilization until Macron finally declared that those who responded to calls to demonstrate with the Yellow Vests were ipso facto “accomplices” to any violence that might occur. That was playing the Yellow Vests as imbeciles.
And this is what the media lackeys of Macronia did — by interviewing Yellow Vests, relishing their verbal errors and their inexperience in public speaking. All that remained was to claim they were all “resistant” to reforms, ungrateful in the face of the state’s generosity and inconsistent in the expression of their demands.
Then came the moment when the main thrust of media attacks against Yellow Vests consisted in insisting on their “divisions.” The most vigorous and unifying French social movement of recent decades, supported by a large majority of their fellow citizens (who, without wearing a yellow vest on their backs, wear it in their hearts), was at the same time presented as becoming heterogeneous, contradictory, quarrelsome and “divided.”
Closing the circle
And finally Yellow Vests were called “anti-Semitic” when one of them — who was a reactionary — launched some swear words against the intellectual Alain Finkielkraut — he is also a reactionary. (Did he not once upon a time declare that the Palestinians in Gaza were “excess humans”?) Both were unacceptable individuals, confronting each other. This closed the circle: “Yellow Vests are the far right!,” so they say.
Roselyne Febvre, the head of political service at the public television channel France 24, summarized bourgeois opinion on Feb. 28: “There is only raw anger … from which [emerged] a taste for violence, anti-Semitism, racism, conspiracy, in short all the worst of humanity. Has it [the mobilization of Yellow Vests] become a kind of stable of jackasses? … When you listen to them today, nothing sounds rational.”
All this is clear: The Yellow Vests embody “the worst of humanity” and the elites are rational. However, the Code of Ethics for Journalists states: “The professional handling of information requires respect for the principles of integrity and impartiality. Communicate the facts honestly, refrain from any lies, approximation, prejudice or manipulation.”
This shows how, continuously and in a thousand ways, the corporate media make war against an entire population by insulting the Yellow Vests. See how they are discredited, slandered and belittled, those Yellow Vests who fought for our dignity by no longer tolerating the unbearable. They are now referred to as “extremely few,” though they number 1 in 10 of the population and have the widespread sympathy and support of many French people.
Will the time for the death blow come soon? What these ladies and gentlemen from the media, the authorities and finance fail to understand, however, is that the anger of the Yellow Vests will not disappear any time soon because the root causes of this anger have not disappeared. The limitations of the movement may be visible. But the Yellow Vest spirit made a people ready for combat.