The Media and Neo-Populism: A Contemporary Comparative Analysis

By Gianpietro Mazzoleni; Julianne Stewart et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
The Media and Neo-Populism
in France

Guy Birenbaum and Marina Villa


THE HISTORY OF THE FRONT NATIONAL

In France in 1972 a small political group called the Front National (FN) formed, but at the time nobody paid much attention to this event.1 At most it was noted that its president and creator, Jean-Marie Le Pen, had been a Poujadiste2 deputy during the 1950s and was subsequently a regular supporter of the exploits of the French extreme right—particularly in Tixier-Vignancour's presidential campaign in 1965. Between 1965 and 1972 Le Pen had had his first experience "in the political wilderness," a period he spent between the Latin Quarter in Paris and small extremist groups—but always far from the corridors of power. At this time, France was still suffering from the Vichy trauma and had a rightist majority. Radical opposition to elected power, with its presidents Georges Pompidou or Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, was embodied in the still-powerful Communist Party.

In 1981, the election of François Mitterrand as president, followed by a landslide in favor of the Socialists in the National Assembly, began to reverse the thrust of the more radical opposition. A full list of the increasing extreme right vote can be seen in Table 3.1 at the end of this chapter. The rightist press (particularly Le Figaro) began cooking up fantasies about communists in the government and about an outflow of capital (to avoid possible taxes) reported at the frontiers. In this context France, which by now was "pink," paid very little attention to the initial declarations of Le Pen, who had been unable to present himself as a

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