Le Monde reports that a handful of far-right personalities are on the way to striking a bargain with moneyed Russian ultranationalists to create a conservative TV channel in France– Fox News à la française, if you can imagine it. I’ve long felt that one of the reasons France feels like a sane country is that they don’t have Murdochified media. Plenty of gutter press outlets of course, but none yet with the ambitions, the money and the ruthlessness of News Corp.
I hope the clowning of Gérard Depardieu, trading his birthright for a mess of tax cuts, warns people off letting this happen.
But this is an example of the pseudo-democratization that goes around: manipulation of mobs around a handful of hot-button issues, buying off of the press and the parliaments, the assertion that “you have a right to your opinion (even if it’s uninformed and self-undermining)”– in short, Tea Party politics; basically, a set of techniques invented for getting around the institutions that the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thought would make rational representative politics possible.
Eventually, this sort of thing makes democracies into “démocratures,” dictatorships with a thin front of democratic process. I owe this word to an editorial in the Nouvel Observateur, but it seems to go back at least as far as a 1992 book by Max Liniger-Gourmaz. The problem with the Nouvel Obs piece, written to warn decision-makers not to take at face value the pretensions of Russia, China, etc., to be democracies, was that it seemed to proceed from the assurance that “we”– members of the European Union or NATO– are self-evidently not part of the democrature zone. But don’t kid yourself, democrature is a constant danger and possibility. After all, in this “great democracy” we weren’t that many votes away from it last November.