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How French Far-Right Front National Party Is Winning in Social Media
Posted on March 26th 2014
A very scarring political reality is currently happening in France - the Front National Party is slowly starting to gain seats in the political system. What’s even more worrying is that the Front National Party is becoming "accepted" by a growing number of French people. It’s a massive backlash when you consider that Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded Front National used to say that ’gas chambers were a "detail" of history.’
Among various other explanations like the lack of confidence in our two last presidents (François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy) or the recent affairs, it seems like Front National social media strategy is at issue.
France is still "fresh" when it comes to using social media in political communication
According to Isabelle Lacoue-Labarthe, the 2012 Presidential Elections were actually the very first time when social media was massively used for political communication in France. Mostly because of the virtuous cycle (or vicious circle) between Twitter and TV; journalists, politicians, citizens-conversationalists were finally present on the micro-blogging platform, feeding online media and generating new sparks of interests for the political debate.
On this new battlefield, Front National seems to have reacted far better and far stronger than the other parties; an integrated and aligned approach which was not only repeated but also translated within all relevant social channels.
Front National "brand essence": normality, democracy, enemy
The key messages are pretty simple compared to the noise of other political parties. The three main editorial pillars are then translated in a very efficient way online and in other medias.
- "Front National is normal"
- For decades, the party was presented as a true evil by its opponents. It worked when TV and more vertical media were controlled by a certain reasonable elite. But now, Front National has highlighted on its own social channels, aspiring and inspiring French who are part of the organization. It now works because suddenly, the Front National members don't seem to only be filled with weirdo’s, skinheads and Neo-fascists but with the girl-next-door.
- Front National tries to create ties with other legitimate parties. Again this morning, Florian Philippot, vice-President of Front National, claimed at least 10 times on one of the most followed radio channels, how similar Europe Ecologie (green party) and the Front National are. Instead of answering the opposite, Jean-Vincent Placé did not reply.
- It's a trap which helps the rhetoric of Front National. As the extreme-right party officially tries to debate with other parties (in fact, a lot of interviews are cancelled), they don't name other parties as the enemies. Instead, they focus on a vague establishment which vaguely exists but which is appealing enough to seduce some of the French. Remember Mr. Stay Puft in Ghostbusters? Same narrative.
- Instead of focusing on immigrants, religious beliefs, explicit and named enemies, Front National is leading a non-explicit, strong infiltration within comments system of online media and forums. You don't have any political paper where you don't find an ambiguous, redundant argument close to Front National brand essence. After the millionth comment, it's no longer shocking for the readers - it becomes "normal"
The Front National organization in social media: efficiency first
The Front National might look as a "social" organization. In fact, it looks more like a social dictatorship.
- The social youth brigade is built in a 3-step approach: promoting, structuring and spreading. All "official" social channels of the Front National are structured more or less the same way; there's a vertical broadcast, which is then about to be automatically RT or widespread by activists. Twitter is an interesting demonstration of "Front National Jeunesse" - only vertical pushes of information and retweeting leaders, no conversation at all. But then, clusters of activists lead conversations in their own names. It's very smart - if there's no misconduct, the Front National cannot be attacked. It's even more obvious on Facebook - the party gives elements of language to its "fans" (the official Front National Jeuness is 2 times more crowded than its equivalent for the Socialist Party), and the fans then take care of more ambivalent debates within semi-public spheres that are their personal profiles. Again, very smart.
- The Front National act like Russian dolls online - once you open a page, you can then be redirected to a more local, niche group or page. It's a way to stay closer to the target audiences and more interestingly for the local leaders, put a name on potential allies.
The Front National party understand that a community is rising through 3 assets:
- Authority - the party is definitely deeply rooting its ideas in every social channel.
- Reciprocity - clearly Front National understand the power of back-end digital relationships (chatting, calling and emailing) instead of purely "front" expressions to engage its allies.
- Scarcity - yes, there's a social score within the organization, depending on how good you are with the party.
The Front National party is many years advanced, compared to other French parties. They know that the war is cultural and not only political, and that digital spheres are all about spreading rituals and social status.
It's time for new elites to react and not only say when something bad, is bad, but to convince, demonstrate and prove. It reminds us that in our social web, refutation is far stronger than lies.