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PARDON MY FRENCH

BLOGGERS DEBATE FRANCE'S PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

 

By Marion Lagardère

PARIS, 11 APRIL 2007 —"You’ll have my vote Bayrou, my vote Bayrou, my ballot in your urn [...] the UDF is in my veins, a European passion.…" So goes an extract from lyrics written by an anonymous fan of François Bayrou, the centrist candidate: lyrics that are clearly militant to be sung to a R&B song that came out last year, the title of which is "une femme like U". Such odes and verses flourish everyday on the Net in France. Ségolène Royal already had such a song last August, as did Nicolas Sarkozy.

Political videos are much in demand, a phenomenon that is indicative of what is happening on French blogs. The principal outlet for bloggers is Dailymotion.com , a video sharing site where a clip posted by any amateur with his own editing capacity can become inescapable in a few hours. Viewers can see humorous clips, excerpts from TV shows, but also militant videos that emanate principally from the two major political parties: the UMP has NSTV, a channel with the initials of Nicolas Sarkozy, the left has... PSTV, using the intitals of the Socialist party whose candidate is Ségolène Royal.

 These propaganda stations release information about the programs of their candidates, photos of meetings or even videos from the wings of the campaign. It is precisely these that Internet surfers prefer, and with good reason, as some of them show the candidates to be on the edge of ridiculous. For example, SĂ©golène Royal is literally shaken by two militants who try to make her dance an impromptu zouk , the dance music of the French West Indies, popular in Paris night clubs. But we can also see Nicolas Sarkozy wearing his sunglasses and explaining that he’s going to take a few hours off with his family, far from the cameras, and with two palm trees behind him.... all this to appear cool, hip and close to the people.

And because what is the most effective in this presidential campaign are the videos, bloggers use them extensively and end up launching disputes that leave the blogosphere. That in which Ségolène Royal was filmed without knowing where she said that school teachers should also work a full 35-hour week stirred the interest of the media for more than a week. And one of France’s best-known political commentators, Alain Duhamel, explained—without knowing that he was being filmed—that he was going to vote for Bayrou, [which earned him suspension from TV for the duration of the campaign, though the same network was far more complacent when one of their popular hosts disrupted a flight by insulting and then attacking the airline’s personnel]. These are but two of the videos that the press reported after a blogger, Guy Birenbaum, who also runs a publishing house, put them on line. His blog, http://birenbaum.blog.20minutes.fr/, is one of the most read on the French web, with more than a thousand comments posted every day, whatever the subject. Other neutral political bloggers are few and far between.

Neutral bloggers take sides

With the presidential campaign, those who began blogs during the referendum on the European constitution or during the debates over the CPE (contrat première embauche —first employment contract) had already chosen sides and announced for whom they were planning to vote. The best-known, LoĂŻc Le Meur, had said as early as last year that he would vote for Nicolas Sarkozy, an important endorsement for the candidate of the right as Le Meur is also the European general director of Six Appart, a blog server.  Versac, another widely-read blogger, also came out in favor of Sarkozy. But, proof that the blogging world does not like a partisan point of view, those who name their favorite quickly lose their readers, readers who rely primarily on the blogs of reporters and editorialists in order to remain connected to the political debate, and above all to have information from the sidelines of the campaign.

And this does not take into account the fans of politico-interactive gadgets, a genre that has not yet reached its full potential. You can find more and more humorous tests concerning the candidates, quizzes to help undecided web surfers, for example www.quelcandidat.com or www.politest.fr. The sole function of the most recent, www.presidentielles.net/love-test/, is to subject the presidential candidates to derision: you can find out if you would form a good couple with each of the twelve candidates by adding the letters of your given name to those of the candidate of your choice. Caveat emptor ... 

Marion Lagardère is a French journalist based in Paris. She is a contributor at ParisObs, the city supplement of Le Nouvel Observateur and Radio RMC. This is her first report for Culturekiosque.com .

 

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