Political Animal


May 06, 2012 11:32 AM France’s Islamophobia-Friendly Politics

By Jesse Singal

They’re voting in France’s presidential runoff, and Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande is likely to prevail over incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. The Guardian has a good rundown.

As for further background for those, like me, who don’t know a lot about the French election or French politics in general, I’d recommend David A. Bell’s article in TNR and Yascha Mounk’s in Slate.

The real story here is the reconfiguration of the French right. Mounk writes:

In this election, France’s establishment has embraced Islamophobic ideas to an unprecedented degree. Right-wing populism, once a fringe phenomenon, has been conquering the bastions of Europe’s political mainstream with frightening speed; even so, most observers failed to predict the extent to which anti-immigrant themes would shape this campaign. It’s difficult to know whether Europe’s populists are approaching the zenith of their power or will continue their steady rise. But one thing is certain: At no point in Europe’s postwar history has the far right’s influence been as pervasive as it is now.

Demoralizing to see how powerful a trope this is.

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.


  • c u n d gulag on May 06, 2012 11:47 AM:

    I know it's a small comfort, if it's any comfort at all, but it's at least nice to see that America doesn't have the monopoly on right-wing. racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and homophobic, loons.

    Maybe it's something in the water.

    Maybe, instead of just hardening our teeth, the flouride in the water hardened everyone's heads and hearts, too.

  • golack on May 06, 2012 11:56 AM:

    You always need someone else to blame--so pick on minorities.

  • CharlieM on May 06, 2012 12:25 PM:

    No surprise.

    Tough economic times seems to always be fertile ground for the bigots and xenophobes. Blame the "other".

  • Simon on May 06, 2012 12:44 PM:

    I wouldn't be so quick to call the anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe bigotry. See David Goodhart's article in the Guardian and related responses.

  • POed Lib on May 06, 2012 1:19 PM:

    Anti-immigrant sentiment is not bigotry. It is simple economics. Who is owed a job in a country? Should jobs go to low-skilled, cheap immigrant labor, who come in and are willing to work for nothing? Bad bad idea. In this country, we have EXACTLY the same problem. We have hundreds of thousands or even millions of low-skilled Indians here on H-1Bs who undercut the labor market, and who have destroyed the IT market place. More importantly they get tax advantages. Why does the government give tax advantages to low-skilled immigrants? People who come here and steal summer jobs from Americans on the J-1 visa program do not have to pay several taxes. That means that employers can SAVE MONEY by hiring some teen from Albania instead of your son or daughter.

    Should jobs in the US in US industries go to OUR CHILDREN or some foreign worker? I say HIRE OUR OWN. I WANT MY KIDS TO GET JOBS. INDIAN KIDS CAN WORK IN INDIA.

  • Rabbler on May 06, 2012 1:41 PM:

    Thanks Simon and Poed. Many tend to forget or reject that a significant part of Lincoln's greatness lay in his ultimate devotion to the union. If in an effort to pursue lofty ideals one is willing to destroy the powerful social unit most practically placed in the midterm to approach those ideals, to the extent that it is possible, what is gained and for whom? The multinationals and the 1% are only too happy to see representative government subverted or destroyed.

  • Joe Friday on May 06, 2012 2:13 PM:

    Sac Le Bleu !


  • Simon on May 06, 2012 2:15 PM:

    @POed Lib. I have to say that after studying the H-1B and J1 programs I'm not sure your arguments hold so much water. Usually there are genuine labor shortages that companies like Microsoft who use them need to fill. Better they keep large parts of their company here and hand out some visas than relocate to another location. The bold font doesn't help support your contention that anti-immigrant sentiment isn't bigotry either.

    @ Rabbler. Indeed.

  • Simon on May 06, 2012 2:19 PM:

    I think the issue is complicated. There are a large amount of older voters and disconnected young adult males who feel very uncomfortable around strangers and are preoccupied with questions of "race suicide" that should have died out in 1930. On the other hand, there is some evidence that even without such neurotic obsessions too much diversity can damage social trust (Putnam) but this is contentious as well. In any case, America obviously handles its immigrants much better.

  • Simon on May 06, 2012 2:36 PM:

    I'm encouraged by the thought of Maurice Glasmann, a student of the excellent philosopher Karl Polyanyi.

  • exlibra on May 06, 2012 3:41 PM:

    Anti-immigrant sentiments, as such, may not always be propelled by bigotry but Le Pen's National Front *is*. That's why Marine Le Pen refused to endorse Sarkozy, even after her party lost in the first round of elections. And that's why, woo them ever so much, Sarkozy got only a lukewarm response from the rank and file. He's a Jew. Being Islamophobic is more acceptable in today's France than being antisemitic, but the National Front is both. Le Pen may not be saying it out loud, but her followers do. They *are* bigots/racists pure and simple.

  • Christiaan on May 06, 2012 5:16 PM:

    Let me add a positive note from the Netherlands. I get the impression that the anti-immigration is on its return. Wilder's anti-immigrant party PVV is actually talking less about it, lately he has almost exclusively talked about Europe (anti), and social issues like social security and health care. And the governing parties, after being freed from Wilders since the fall of the government, are very quickly dropping all anti-immigrant policies Wilders had demanded in return for his support, while the opposition parties are certainly not anti-immigration. Moreover, many of the voters for Wilders were also more interested in his anti-business-as-usual and his social policies rather than his anti-immigration stance (e.g. his base is the south-west, which has very few immigrants). Moreover, Wilder's newest anti-Islam book was released not in the Netherlands, but in the US (you may have seen him on Fox recently, though I don't blame you if you didn't.)

  • AndThenThere'sThat on May 06, 2012 5:54 PM:

    I read an AP article this morning about Greek's elections and came across the same phenomenon of wingers in Greece veering hard right. It would seem Greece's wingers are using the same play book as ours to use the general economic distress and anti-bailout discontentment (both created/orchestrated by the conservative business class) to their advantage. The line that stood out for me in the AP article was this.

    Up to an unprecedented 10 parties have been projected to win more than the 3 percent minimum threshold for a parliamentary seat. That includes the extreme right Golden Dawn, which has been riding high on the emotive issue of illegal immigration, promising to clean up crime-ridden, ghetto-like city neighborhoods and mine the country's borders to stop more migrants from getting in.

    Yikes. They got themselves some crazy mofos too.

  • POed Lib on May 06, 2012 6:45 PM:

    The J-1 is a pernicious piece of crap. Every year, we hear about youth being unemployed, and also about thousands, even more than that coming from other countries. We need OUR OWN KIDS to have jobs. It is simply insane that the J-1 jobs do not pay taxes. Go to http://www.jobofer.com/taxes to see that over a 17 week summer slave-labor job, the employer save more than $2000 in taxes by not employing US students.

    And the tech "talent shortage"? This is a huge pile of shit, pure shit. The tech shortage is done by manipulation of job requirements. You can easily take a situation in which there is a huge number of IT workers available and make it look like a shortage, by setting up ridiculous requirements. There is no shortage of IT, STEM, or other high tech workers. Many surveys (Urban Institute) have found that there are 3-4 STEM grads for every job.

    So why the "shortage shouting"? SUPPLY AND DEMAND. Get enough cheap scabs and foreign students here, and you can drive down the salary requirements. MS used US labor for years, until it found that it could get cheap-ass crappy foreign workers for 1/3 the cost, and the salaries in IT have been driven into the floor.

    Look for comments by Norm Matloff and others. We do not need the H-1B or any job visa program. We need to end these programs and hire our own children.

    And about Greece .... you have thousands and thousands who have no work. Why is it wrong to end immigration?

  • smartalek on May 07, 2012 1:07 AM:

    Yes, what POed said, and then some.
    This issue -- hi rates of immigration, both "documented" and un- -- is a huge one that both major parties have been screwing up on, from both policy and political perspectives... but "our" party so much more so.
    First, as POed accurately put it, there is no "labor shortage" -- that's a ludicrous, insulting, and obviously wrong assertion in our current economic circumstances.
    When we're at nominal 8% (and really closer to 15%) unemployment nationally, there is no goram "shortage." Anyone who'd try to assert that is as out-of-touch and "elitist"-sounding as any of the financial Masters-of-the-Universe in the posts above, or as candidate McCain sounded in '08, when he infamously claimed that "no Americans would do" the field work normally done by undocumented Latinos, even at $50/hr.
    There's no shortage of Americans both qualified and eager to work, if employers are willing to pay compensation appropriate to legal workers, as opposed to what they can get away with by exploiting the undocumented and the "guest-workers," with pay rates higher than they can earn in their home countries, but far below what market-rates would give US workers if their were no foreign workers to enslave.
    (And, as a side note, isn't it funny how, once again, all the interests that caterwaul against "socialism," and for "free-markets," turn out to really be the greatest socialists of all, and who depend on our bought-and-paid-for government to collude w/ them in ensuring the very antithesis of the "free"-markets they lie about to their Fox-watching suckers -- I mean voters.)
    The irony, of course, is that the Dem's are losing doubly on this issue. Not only are their stances allowing the TeaBeggar-type Publicans to paint them as traitors to American workers (without even having to lie as much as they usually do). They're also helping contribute to the very wage-stagnation that we all decry as part of the spreading income and wealth disparities, and which in turn is letting the Publicans drive their voters crazy.
    It's all so unnecessary.

  • POed Lib on May 07, 2012 9:48 AM:

    smartaleck is 100% correct. We have very little need for illegals in any field. I will agree possibly with field work, but that is it. Packing plants? Get rid of illegals, and locals are happy for the work. Construction? THere is NO NEED for illegals. This used to be an honorable occupation. We fixed our house for sale, used local American workers WHO HATED THE ILLEGALS, and had no problem finding locals, and we did not pay union scale. Union scale is for contracts, not side work.


    Having these visas allows for employers to be overly picky, and to not train. If they were not there, employers would train, and there would be more work for Americans.