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Insult in politics? “It is generally the weapon of the outsiders” – France




The atmosphere in the Assembly has been electric since the opening of the parliamentary session. Is it related to the configuration without absolute majority?

It is a factor. But the violence of the current debates should not be exaggerated. Similar episodes have been experienced throughout parliamentary history, including when the Assembly was in a more traditional configuration. Without going back very far, it is enough for example to remember the debates on Pacs.

Where do insults most often come from in politics?

The insult is generally the weapon of the underdogs. When you can’t pass bills, it’s a way of existing. When you are in established positions, you are more bound by the role. Insult is then quite a dangerous repertoire to use. For a President, using an expression such as “get it, you pauv’con” remains fairly broadly equated with a transgression.

And when Emmanuel Macron says he wants to “fuck the non-vaccinated”?

When an established actor uses such a register, his goal is to demonstrate his outspokenness. Macron is not Trump. But we are in the same logic of individualization of the political field, with the desire to free ourselves from purely institutional constraints. Hence this way of playing on language levels or clothing registers, depending on the context.

Seeing Bruno Le Maire indignant at being called a “coward” on October 11 may have come as a surprise, the word not seeming so offensive. What inspires you?

Under the Third Republic, it was the ultimate insult! Because it calls into question the dignity of political personality. When Jaurès uses it with regard to the Count of Bernie, in 1898, during the Dreyfus affair, it ends in a fight in the enclosure of the Chamber of Deputies. The difference is that today we are in a peaceful setting. It’s more about strategy than real slip-ups. The slack is controlled and the actors know how far they can go. It does not end in physical violence. Most of the time, these small media sequences are very quickly forgotten.

Treated as a “coward” by an RN deputy, on October 11, at the National Assembly, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, demanded an apology in vain. (EPA photo)

Do social networks encourage slip-ups?

In this generally peaceful context, social networks play the role of receptacle for verbal violence. A bit like the pamphlets of the 19th century, with this impression of speech completely freed from all standards of politeness. But this is also part of a mode of showmanship. For MPs, going to the clash and then posting the excerpt is an effective way to get people talking about them.



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