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In France: Marine Le Pen, the National Front, and the "Extreme Right"

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If France's journalists are to follow the advice of the National Front and give up the disagreeable habit of describing the party and its leader, Marine Le Pen, as belonging to the "extreme right" (imagine!), it would be helpful if:

• Said leader, when deciding in the midst of a presidential campaign to clear her mind by going to Vienna for a waltz, would not choose a ball given by the most extreme, most radical, and most Hitler-nostalgic of all the "pan-German groups" (Le Point, Feb. 2, 2012).

• When taking advantage of an opportunity to "exchange views" with a national leader, she would not make a beeline for a proud member (Martin Graf) of a neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, negationist Burschenschaft (Rue 89, Jan. 31, 2012).

• Her party, when making new friends and then expressing its affinity with those new friends by forming a joint parliamentary coalition in Brussels, would not choose, as if by chance, the Greater Romania Party, the FPÖ in Austria, Ataka in Bulgaria, the UK Independence Party, the Alternativa Sociale in Italy, and the Vlaams Belang in Belgium -- in short, the most nauseating emanations of the European far right (L'Express, Oct. 7, 2013).

• She would rein in her niece, parliamentary deputy Marion Maréchal-Le Pen -- who, a while back, when the party chief, all smiles, was laying down the new line for the "semantic war" (sic) -- visited Boom, near Antwerp, to speak at a meeting of Vlaams Belang, the militant Flemish separatist party that preaches, among other fine things, hate for France and everything French (Le Monde, Oct. 10, 2013).

• She would think twice before declaring, on the subject of the PVV, the Dutch party that could find no better way to work for social peace in the Netherlands than to ban the Koran, "Perhaps we should campaign together; it's important for voters to see that we are not isolated and that similar patriotic movements are active in all European countries" (Le Monde, Sept. 15, 2013).

• When an Israeli newspaper asks if she is ready to denounce the regime of Marshal Pétain, she could find a more intelligent way to respond than "Absolutely not! I refuse to speak ill of my country" (Haaretz, Jan. 8, 2011), and if she could ensure that within her party there were no more Alexandre Gabriacs, the colorful elected representative from Lyon who was photographed two years ago, around the time he was being lauded as "the youngest member of the central committee" of the National Front, giving a Nazi salute before a flag emblazoned with a swastika (Le Nouvel Observateur, March 29, 2011).

• She would temper her "admiration" for Vladimir Putin as well as her desire to see France "lean toward Russia" rather than "submit to the United States" (Le Point, October 13, 2011) -- the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen obviously doesn't realize it, but this sort of declaration is directly descended from the ideology embraced by French fascism since its origins.

• To the extent possible, she would avoid, when speaking about foreign policy, the sort of locker-room rhetoric that is typical of the extreme right -- France as the "mistress" of the United States, France as the "slut of paunchy sheiks" -- oh, the guilty pleasure of sullying your country, describing it as lower than low, celebrating its supposed abjection (Le Monde, Sept. 15, 2013).

• She would refrain, in times of war, from making comments that undermine France's armed forces and their commander in chief. This, too, is a habit in a political family fond of the "divine surprise" and for which disloyalty is second nature: Witness Mrs. Le Pen's combativeness during the war in Libya, then in Mali, and her gesture -- smack dab in the midst of the Syrian crisis, when her country was, rightly or wrongly, on a war footing -- of "taking her hat off" to Vladimir Putin (Nice-Matin, Sept. 13, 2013), which, in plain language, comes down to backstabbing... But I'd better stop, because the friend of Bashar al-Assad might just be capable of suing me for slander.

• She would take care to avoid, when expressing her "physical" hate for ex-president Sarkozy or musing, as she did recently (Journal du Dimanche, Sept. 12, 2013), about seeing him in handcuffs, the old rhetoric of a far right that conservative voters will eventually realize has always had just one enemy, namely the voters themselves and their representatives on the moderate, free-market, democratic right.

• She would be considerate enough to cite, for the benefit of those observers tempted to take her at her word when she says that she has "chased the devils" from her party, the dates and other details of the occasions on which she has disavowed the anti-Semitic outbursts that litter the career, to the present day, of her father, the party's honorary chairman. (All she has seen fit to say, so far, is that she finds his "style sometimes blunt" "France Info," July 8, 2013).

These are just a few examples.

Dozens more could be cited.

I offer them to those of my readers who, for lack of information, run the risk of falling into the trap set by the crudest political marketing operation France has seen in recent years.

For others, however -- for those who have knowingly closed their ears to De Gaulle's Appeal of June 18, 1940 and chosen to join the party of the terrorists who tried to assassinate the general not so long ago -- for those who believe that they can find salvation in a nationalistic populism that is a living insult to France and her people, no amount of information will do any good.

Translated by Steven B. Kennedy