Paris, Champs Elysees, April 20, 8:50 pm. An Islamic terrorist shoots at a police van. One policeman is killed, another is seriously wounded.
The terrorist tries to escape and shoots again. The policemen kill him. One hour later, the French Ministry of Interior reveals his name and his past. His name is Karim Cheurfi. He is a French Muslim born in an Islamized suburb of France. In 2003, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison for the attempted murder of two policemen. He was released before the end of his sentence. In 2014, he targeted a policeman and was sentenced again. And released again. In March, the police were informed that he was trying to buy military-grade weapons and that he contacted a member of the Islamic State in Syria. An inspector discovered that he had posted messages on jihadist social media networks expressing his willingness to murder policemen. The police searched his home and found several weapons and a GoPro video camera similar to the one terrorists use to film their crimes. The police and members of the French justice system did not think they had sufficient evidence place him under surveillance.
The Champs Elysées attack clearly shows that the French justice system is lax regarding dangerous people and that the French police pay only limited attention to suspects who are communicate with terrorist organizations and who seem to be hatching terrorist projects.
This terrorist attack summarizes everything that is broken in terms of security in France today.
Men with a profile similar to that of Karim Cheurfi have, in recent years, been responsible for most of the terrorist attacks in France and Belgium: Mohamed Merah, who killed three Jewish children and the father of two of them in Toulouse in 2012; Mehdi Nemmouche, who attacked the Brussels Jewish Museum in 2014 ; the Kouachi brothers, who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015; Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered four Jews in the Saint Mandé grocery Kosher store Hypercacher; Samy Amimour and others who maimed and murdered 130 innocent people in the Bataclan theater in November 2015; Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck into the crowd in Nice in July 2016, killed 86 people and wounded many others, and, among others, those who beheaded a priest in Normandy a few weeks after the attack in Nice.
The successive French governments under the presidency of François Hollande showed themselves to be appallingly weak and impotent.
A climate of fear has overtaken the country. Attendance at theaters has declined. The particularly targeted Jewish community -- two-thirds of the attacks in France in the last five years targeted Jews -- feels abandoned. When a Jewish cemetery was vandalized on March 30 in Waldwisse, eastern France, neither the media nor the political leaders reacted. A week later, in Paris, a Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, was tortured and then thrown out of a window by a non-radicalized Muslim, simply because she was Jewish: the French media and political leaders, with the exception of the courageous MP Meyer Habib, also did not react. A silent gathering below the window was organized by some leaders of the Jewish community. Only Jews came; they were greeted by anti-Semitic insults by Arab Muslims in the neighborhood. The implantation of radical Islam in the country is intensifying. The annual meeting of "Muslims of France" (the new name of the French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), took place on April 14-17 in Le Bourget, ten miles north of Paris. Anti-West, anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish diatribes were delivered to enthusiastic crowds of bearded men and veiled women. One hundred and fifty thousand people attended.
Economically, France is in terrible shape. The unemployment rate remains above 10%. Nine million people are living below the poverty line --14% of the population. Economic growth is stagnant. Government spending accounts for 57% of GDP -- 13% more than in Germany, France's main economic competitor in Europe.
Month after month, polls shows that the French population is anxious, angry, immensely disappointed with current French policies. François Hollande ends his term with a popularity rating close to zero. He was so rejected and discredited that he decided not to run again for the presidency.
The first round of the French presidential election took place in this context, and one could expect that the French population would reject everything that looks like François Hollande's policies and choose a new direction for the country.
That is not what happened; quite the opposite.
Benoit Hamon, the Socialist Party's candidate, suffered a disastrous blow and received a mere 6% of the vote. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate who left the Socialist Party a few years ago and who supported Hollande in 2012, received a much higher score: 19% of the vote. He is an admirer of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. Immediately after the anti-Semitic Islamic attack in Saint Mandé, he claimed that "Jewish extremism is more dangerous than Islamic extremism". That statement did not hurt him.
Above all, Emmanuel Macron, a candidate close to Hollande won the race and will be elected President on May 7. He was Hollande's senior economic advisor for more than two years, and the main architect of Hollande's failed economic policies. He then became Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, and held that post until he entered the presidential race.
Emmanuel Macron, then Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs of France, at the Annual Meeting 2016 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2016. (image source: World Economic Forum/Michele Limina)
Most of Macron's speeches are copies of the speeches Hollande made during his 2012 presidential campaign. What is known of Macron's positions on most subjects show that they are the same position Hollande had during the last months of his mandate.
Throughout the campaign, Macron virtually never spoke about the danger of Islamic terror; when he did, he used words even weaker than those used by Hollande. After the Champs Elysees attack on April 20, he said: "imponderable" events had occured, and they "will be part of the daily life of the French in the years to come". The next day, when asked what he would do to prevent other killings, he said that he could not "devise a plan to fight terrorism overnight".
When he speaks about the economy, he sounds like Hollande: he uses vague terms, such as the need for more "social mobility" and "success for all". He insists that he will maintain all the sclerosis dear to so many, such as the compulsory 35-hour workweek or the legal age for retirement: 62. He said that he would leave the almost-bankrupt retirement system the way it is. He promised additional regulations aimed at "saving the planet" and, in a classically socialist way, tens of billions of euros of government "investments" supposed to finance "ecological transition" and "public services".
Sometimes, he makes remarks so dismaying that even Hollande would not have said them. In Algeria, in the presence of the National Liberation Front representatives, an organization that came to power by terrorism and massacring hundreds of thousands of "harkis" (Algerians who had chosen France), he said that the French presence in Algeria was a "crime against humanity", and later promised to facilitate immigration from the Arab world and from Africa to France by preserving an "open and welcoming" France. He promised to facilitate the construction of mosques in France. He declared that "French culture does not exist " and that he has "never seen" French art.
He quite often has shown that he is a political novice and that it is his first election campaign. He stumbled upon the words of his speeches and admitted to those listening to him that he did not understand the meaning of the sentences he had just read, which showed that he had not read what was written for him before reading it to the public.
How to explain his success in these conditions?
The first explanation lies in the moderate right candidate's elimination. François Fillon had a credible and coherent program for the country's recovery, but he could hardly speak about it. His campaign was quickly engulfed in a fake jobs scandal. He presented himself as an impeccable candidate: he appeared not so impeccable. A book recently published revealed that the scandal was meticulously orchestrated from a "shadow Cabinet" in the Elysee Palace. Fillon was never able to recover from it. His excuses were weak and contradictory. He confirmed his weakness by announcing his unconditional support for Macron immediately after the first round results were published. For the first time in more than fifty years, the moderate right will not have a candidate in the second round of a French presidential election. Showing their own weakness, most of the moderate right leaders followed Fillon example and decided to support Macron.
The second explanation for Emmanuel Macron success lies in a very elaborate communication strategy.
Emmanuel Macron continuously benefited from François Hollande support and most of the last five years socialist ministers, but an allegedly neutral and apolitical political structure was created for him. It was called En marche! ("On the Move!"). The socialist ministers who joined him rallied On the Move!, and remained silent. Francois Hollande only announced his full support very late in the race. The communication strategy could work because Emmanuel Macron received the support of left-wing billionaires whom he helped when he was Minister of Economy, and who have close relations with the powers that be: Pierre Bergé, Xavier Niel and Patrick Drahi. These people also own most France's mainstream media and were able to carry out strong media campaigns in support of Macron. No candidate in the French presidential election history has been on the cover of so many magazines and newspapers. Emmanuel Macron also enjoys main French investment banks support: he is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, which trains all senior civil servants and almost all French politicians since it was established in 1945 and, before joining Francois Hollande, he had a career in a financial institution.
The third explanation for Emmanuel Macron's success is that the communication campaign in his favor has been largely devoid of any political content, just like On the Move. He was presented as a young man, embodying the "future", a "renewal", a "hope", a "change". For most of the campaign, Emmanuel Macron had no program. His program was only published on the internet six weeks before the election. The text is often meaningless. Fear is defined as a "daily anguish". It says that France must offer "opportunities" and Europe must be a "chance". Emmanuel Macron told socialists he is a socialist, then said that he is not a socialist at all when he addressed other audiences. Opinion polls have shown that many of those who voted for him in the first round were unaware of his proposals on any topic.
Those who designed Emmanuel Macron's campaign took a lot of inspiration from Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and the result shows that they were right.
The result is also very distressing, because it shows that a massive communication campaign can be effective, even if it is full of empty words and seems to considers voters as idiots. Emmanuel Macron's campaign effectiveness is also due to the fact that in France, virtually no media is likely to contradict what is said in the mainstream media: the French economy is a very state-based economy in which creating and sustaining media independence from the government and from government subsidies is almost impossible.
The second round of the French presidential election will take place on May 7. Emmanuel Macron will face the only remaining candidate, populist Marine Le Pen.
During the entire campaign, she was almost the only one to speak clearly about the Islamic terrorist threat (François Fillon did, too, but more discreetly) and to offer credible solutions to fight it. She was the only one to speak of the rise of radical Islam in France and to denounce the Muslim Brotherhood gathering at Le Bourget. She was the only one to stress the increasing perils resulting from uncontrolled immigration, and the risk of French culture disappearing. She was also the only one to mention the demographic change that occurs in France and in Europe because of the new migrants. She was the only one to denounce the Islamic anti-Semitism that relentlessly kills Jews in France. Unfortunately, she has a nearly Marxist economic program, close to that of Jean Luc Melenchon. She is the leader of the National Front, a party founded by her father, an anti-Semite, Jean-Marie Le Pen; although she has excluded her father and virtually all her father's anti-Semitic friends from the National Front, she is nonetheless the party leader and is regarded as her father's daughter.
Marine Le Pen and the National Front will be used as scarecrows to urge voters to rally massively behind Macron, in the name of a "Republican front" against "fascism." The strategy was developed thirty years ago by the French left, under President Francois Mitterrand. It has always worked, and in a few days, it will work again.
Macron now has the support of the entire Socialist party, and the support of virtually all other politicians. He also has the support of all French Muslim organizations. The rector of the Great Mosque of Paris said that Muslims must "massively vote" for him. The Jewish community leaders also rallied on behalf of Macron. On May 7, he will likely get more than 60% of the vote.
Most will not be based on the support for a project; the risk is high that Macron will disappoint the French even faster than Hollande did. The French may quickly discover that he is just a man chosen by the French left to preserve an unsustainable status quo a little longer, and a member of the self-appointed élites who do not care about ordinary people's problems, who consider that terrorist acts are "imponderable events", and who believe that national identities can melt in a no-border globalized world. When the French discover who Macron is, there will be nothing they can do to change what they voted in.
The risk to France in the next five years will probably be painful for the French. According to the Police, more than 12,000 radicalized Muslims live in the country and most of them are not under surveillance. The Police do not have the means to do more than they currently are doing, and Macron does not seem to care. The justice system is in the hands of judges who appear lenient to terrorists, and Macron seems to accept it. The flow of migrants will not stop, and Macron apparently does not intend to do anything about that. More and more, Muslims segregate themselves from French society in expanding Islamist mini-states.
Nothing Macron proposes can reverse the decline of the French economy and French society. Terror attacks will undoubtedly occur. Jews and others will undoubtedly be killed. Riots and discontent will undoubtedly take place.
On the evening of the first round of the election, there were riots in Paris and Nantes. On the evening of the second round of elections, people will party in the chic neighborhoods of Paris and in ministries. In districts where poor people live, cars will be set on fire. For more than a decade, whenever there is a festive evening in France, cars are set on fire in districts where poor people live. Unassimilated migrants have their own traditions.
In the next election, in 2022, Catholic France may well see a Muslim candidate run -- and win.
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.