❝Be partial… Hold a prejudice in favour of the wife against the husband; the child against the father; the debtor against the creditor; the worker against the employer; the injured against the offender’s insurance company; the sick against the Social Security; the thief against the police; the plaintiff against the judiciary.❞ Thus the “harangue of Oswald Baudot”, one of the youthful soixante-huitard “red judges” of the Syndicat de la magistrature [Judges’ Union], whose ideology, distributed as common currency during the upheaval of 1968, still drives the alliance between media and judiciary in contemporary France. The case of François Fillon, former prime minister and candidate for Les Républicains at the presidential election of 2017, provides the most egregious recent confirmation of the alliance’s ability to strike decisively. As in chess, there are configurations in which white wins against any defence. Fillon was of course playing black: too conservative, too catholic. Then came the torpedo from Le Canard enchaîné…
The Fillon Affair, or how the judges and the media decided the election
First published 28th March 2018 in Le Figaro as:
L’affaire Fillon, ou quand les juges et les médias font l’élection
Éric Zemmour reviews Le Procès Fillon, by Hervé Lehman, Éditions Cerf
Hervé Lehman returns to the Fillon Affair with a book replete with salutary reflections on the implacable media-judicial mill that operates today.
François Fillon, remember him? No, not the racing driver and lover of made-to-measure suits, but Fillon the presidential candidate and husband of Penelope. He whom the polls designated president-elect between his victory in the primaries of the Right and Centre at the end of 2016, and the appearance of Le Canard enchaîné’s edition of 25th January 2017. The very same day, the Parquet National Financier [PNF] — France’s court for cases of major financial fraud — opened a preliminary enquiry into the alleged fictitious employment of Penelope Fillon.
Such promptness is unique in the annals of the French justice system. Hervé Lehman was unable to ignore it: he was an examining magistrate before becoming a barrister. If our author now returns to the Fillon Affair, it is not to lament the then candidate’s proposed retrenchment of 500,000 public servants or his rapprochement with the anti-gay-marriage “cathos” of the movement Sens commun [Common Sense], but to deconstruct the formidable judicial-media-political machine that swung into action at that time to bring down the candidate of the Right.
Our author loves history and illuminating comparisons. He doesn’t hesitate to open his book with the case of the queen’s necklace, the celebrated affair implicating Queen Marie-Antoinette, in which the king naturally took the part of his wife, and which opened the way to the Revolution of 1789.
The double standards of the Parquet National Financier
For all those — and they are many — who, like your humble servant, were deeply convinced from the very beginning that Fillon was the victim of a media-judicial putsch, this book is precious. Just as little Poucet retraces his steps using small stones, our author shines a harsh light on the facts of a crime disguised as suicide. At times, he is somewhat carried away by legal niceties and leads us through technical considerations that either bore or overwhelm us. But all the essentials are there. The most important is that the Parquet National Financier had no place in this particular kitchen. The law states that the PNF is constituted to deal with cases of the misappropriation of public funds “that are of great complexity, principally because of the large number of perpetrators, accomplices or victims, spread over a wide geographical area”. As our author ironically notes, we were unaware that the Sarthe [Fillon’s home region] was quite so mysterious. On other occasions, the PNF was not at all inclined to act: as in the affair of Macron’s soirée in Las Vegas, or the Ferrand Affair involving the mutual funds in Le Mans, or again over the fictitious employees of MoDem [Mouvement démocrate, political party allied to Macron’s La République en marche!]. Strange, I hear you say? Moreover, as our former judge confirms, the famous “electoral truce”, a solidly established and always respected republican tradition, broke down over the Fillon affair. A judge issues rulings in the name of the French people; he does not take their place.
The Left has no need of a cabinet noir; it already has two weapons of mass destruction — ideology and nominations.
In the case of Fillon, that’s exactly what the judge did, and shamelessly. The motive was simple: Fillon was a political enemy. Too much to the right. The other reason was cruel. Fillon was the ideal adversary, whose clumsiness and false steps bordered on gullibility; who persuaded himself that he would never be placed under investigation; who then baulked at facing the judicial apparatus before denouncing a bizarre “cabinet noir” [dirty tricks department] hidden in the Élysée. But the Left has no need of a cabinet noir; it already has two weapons of mass destruction — ideology and nominations. The ideology was inherited from the Syndicat de la magistrature [Judges’ Union], born in 1968, whose founding document was the famous “harangue of [Oswald] Baudot” distributed to students at the school of magistracy in 1974: ❝Be partial… Hold a prejudice in favour of the wife against the husband; the child against the father; the debtor against the creditor; the worker against the employer; the injured against the offender’s insurance company; the sick against the Social Security; the thief against the police; the plaintiff against the judiciary.❞
Fillon was a political enemy. Too much to the right. The other reason was cruel. Fillon was the ideal adversary, whose clumsiness and false steps bordered on gullibility.
The whole evolution of the judiciary over forty years is summed up in this harangue: indulgence towards young louts, especially if children of immigrants; systematic release from detention of clandestins [illegal immigrants]; endless hardening of the statutes of limitation for sexual and financial offences; media-judicial attacks on business leaders and politicians, those emblems of the execrated “bourgeois order”.
It’s the alliance between the judges and the media that, like the mixing of nitrate and glycerine, turns everything upside down. Judges who inform journalists on procedural detail; and journalists whose enquiries spark judicial action. The media of the Left, as our author has had long to reflect, are in on the act: a Canard enchaîné, pacifist in the inter-war years, anti-Gaullist afterwards, socialist always — like Le Monde and Médiapart. The informer is glorified as whistle-blower, the man-hunt blessed as investigative journalism; the wrecking of private life is tarted up as transparency.
A partial judge
But this ideology would remain abstract if it had no actual embodiment. It was the second jaw of the vice that gripped Fillon before destroying him. With a disconcerting combination of naivety and pusillanimity, he failed to understand what was happening to him. Our author shows very clearly that there was no need for dirty tricks when the whole “chain, legal counsel — director of criminal prosecutions — prosecutor general — national prosecutor for financial fraud — president of the tribunal, all were people selected by François Hollande and Christiane Taubira [former Justice Minister, Parti socialiste], and all neither of the Right nor of the Right”, to parody François Mitterrand’s celebrated formula for the political Centre: “neither of the Left nor of the Left”.
The die was cast. The choice of judge Tournaire was no accident, even if he projected a false impartiality. This was the cherry that drew attention away from the cake. Better than a judge of the Left, a judge professionally trained by the Left after the watershed of 1968: a judge who instructs only against, and is hard on, the powerful. This same Tournaire who now takes on the fraud case against Nicolas Sarkozy, and who has apparently forgotten this story of the fictitious employment of Penelope Fillon, which so endangered the Republic. And on to the next one! ♦