«Notre démocratie est gangrenée par l’idéologie progressiste»
“Our democracy is corrupted by the progressivist ideology”
FIGAROVOX/EXTENDED INTERVIEW, 23rd November 2018.
In his latest book, Laurent Fidès tackles all the myths of the dominant progressive ideology. He deconstructs, one by one, the reflexes hidden in its ‘politically correct’ narrative. Laurent Fidès is a graduate of philosophy and former student of the École normale supérieure. He has just published Facing Intimidating Speech. Essay on the strengthening of the mind in the era of globalism (Éd. Toucan, 2018).
FIGAROVOX : Your book deconstructs the driving forces behind the dominant contemporary ideology. What sort of “ideology” is it? And isn’t the term somewhat exaggerated, or too burdened with overtones?
Laurent FIDÈS : The ideology I refer to is multiculturalist, swinger, deconstructivist; it promises us a world without borders, without differences, atomized, populated by negotiable and replaceable entities. There are several indications that we are dealing here with an ideology rather than with a doxa [set of personal presuppositions or beliefs], even if it is not formalized. First, there is the fact that these ideas are presented as truths, even as scientific truths revealed by the “human sciences”, which play a specific role here. Then there is the denial of reality: the ideology is true, it is the real that lies — as when you believe you’re witnessing social change unfolding before your eyes, but are told that what you think you see is imaginary. Again, we see the mobilization of the ideological apparatus of State, from the primary school (which inculcates dogmatic antiracism as a catechism) to the legal system (which criminalizes non-conformist ideas), and including of course the Universities and the media. But above all, this ideology, like any ideology in any era, corresponds to the interests of the dominant class: this superclass of businessmen and financiers, populated by all the winners of globalization, as well as that part of the cultivated urban petty-bourgeoisie that stands to gain from the societal spin-offs of the system.
You speak of an “internal dichotomization” peculiar to this ideology. What do you mean by that?
I describe “internal dichotomization” as a manipulative technique; one used to foster belief in a conflict by setting in opposition to each other two sensibilities within the same broad stream of opinion. In doing so, by warping the laws of symmetry and marginalizing serious-minded opponents, the system can reproduce itself indefinitely without apparent injury to the principle of pluralism.
In fact, the oligarchs and technocrats who hold power without having had to win it —their power being of economic origin — need the structures of democracy in order to anchor their legitimacy. The problem for them is to coax the process of democratic consultation in the direction of their preferred policy goals, at least when the people are indeed consulted, which is not always the case. There are also cases where the result of the consultation is brushed aside because it does not follow expectations, as in the 2005 referendum [rejecting the EU Constitution]. For that, there are different techniques, which I analyze in the book.
“In fact, the oligarchs and technocrats who hold power without having had to win it — their power being of economic origin — need the structures of democracy in order to anchor their legitimacy.”
Internal dichotomization is only one technique amongst many. For example, we arrange to maintain a false division between two so-called ‘government’ parties, one of the Right, the other of the Left, which in reality pursue the same goals and differ only in the means adopted to achieve them. Right-Left alternation in France has long operated according to this model. Dissenting voices are marginalized — as happened in the recent presidential elections — by decreeing that there are big and small candidates, and that the lesser did not warrant as much media exposure as the greater. This demonstrates a very strange conception of democratic competition. The contemporary ‘populist’ movement thwarts this dichotomizing technique by refusing to side with either Left or Right, deemed “parties of government”, in order to set up a different cleavage, no longer horizontal, but vertical, and politically more significant.
Some ideas, on the other hand, are “criminalized”. By whom? How?
Yes, intimidating speech is blame-speech. It demonizes, criminalizes, pronounces anathema on, and smears any non-conforming thought, by designating it as fascist, negationist, monstrous or pathological. The culprit must come to despise himself, to regard himself as infamous, unworthy of belonging to humanity, he must loathe himself, or repent. If you are asking me by whom such non-compliant ideas are criminalized, I would answer: by the guardians of political correctness [pensée unique] — journalists, teachers, academics; in short, by anyone who can be found at any level of the ideological apparatus of the State. See for example how journalists deal with the “Great Substitution” [Le Grand Remplacement; the mass colonization of Europe by African and Asian peoples]: they say routinely, “the delusional theory of the Great Substitution”, while its original proponent, Renaud Camus, insists that it is not a “theory” at all [but a palpable reality].
In a different context, see also the case of Sylvain Gouguenheim. This professor of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, a specialist in medieval history, wanted to show in an academic work that the Greek texts were transmitted, not only or principally through Arab scholars, as is always assumed, but also via a Latin route that historians had tended to neglect. Immediately, a cabal was organized by means of a petition, in order to accuse him of Islamophobia. In fact, many of the signatories had not opened the book; most of them knew nothing of the subject; and some of them were regularly publishing as academics, essays with a pronounced Leftist bias, without showing much concern on their own behalf for the “necessary distinction between scientific research and ideological passions”, [a phrase that] appeared in their petition.
Some voices, however, have made themselves heard, and already for several years! You quote them yourself: Zemmour [author of The French Suicide], Lévy, Finkielkraut, Bruckner …
Indeed, we have been witnessing for some time a growing freedom of expression, including in the mainstream media. I think there are several reasons for that: perhaps first of all, some rules of the CSA [Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel, the French broadcasting watchdog]. No doubt also the race for market share: Zemmour sells! And journalists know that the dominant ideology is shared only by a minority in the country, so they must edge a little in the direction of the majority, otherwise they would lose a large part of their audience. Finally — simple assumption — it is not impossible that some can feel the wind turning, and are preparing for what comes after. Anyway, from their point of view, the situation is still under control. Non-aligned intellectuals don’t get much of a platform. We saw that in the case of Frédéric Taddéi’s* programme, carefully scheduled late in the evening to limit its impact: but the programme has now disappeared without any clear explanation. Although I often watch television, I never see Alain de Benoist, Olivier Rey, Chantal Delsol, Hervé Juvin, or Michèle Tribalat, etc. etc. These commentators can be found on the alternative media, which in the ‘Camp of the Good’ [Camp du Bien] are referred to as the fachosphere [realm of the fascists]. Well, that’s not a bad example of an intimidating neologism, don’t you think?
- Frédéric Taddéi is a French journalist and cultural talk-show host, who has been roundly criticized by other French journalists for his liberal (sic) attitude to freedom of speech, in offering a platform to highly controversial figures.
You also denounce a lack of rationality, which is paradoxical because the greater part of social debate purports to be based on considerations of the most perfect scientific objectivity. You mention, as an example, the discussion of bioethics.
First of all, when we follow media debates, we’re dismayed by so much confusion and bad faith. For example, abortion is presented as a “fundamental right”: a woman’s right to sovereignty over her body. It is true that this is an incontestable and fundamental right — but it has to do mainly with contraception. When the woman becomes pregnant, her relationship to her body is complicated by the relationships to another being: the little being who is in her body but not there as a bodily part, that is, an organ. This is where the experts come in: their role should be to pose the ethical problems correctly and rationally, in order to provide citizens with the necessary clarifications. Instead of which, they align themselves with the dominant ideology. It’s pitiful. We have no need to deal in fiction: the right to abortion has nothing to do with ethics; it is a social choice that corresponds to the contemporary way of life of the educated urban middle class, according to which the woman works, has responsibilities, aspires to a career, etc. It is conceivable that society is not ready to make any other choice; but to go from there to hiding behind a “fundamental right”, is really to practise sophistry. We see here that taboos exist. I think it’s unhealthy. People should be clear-headed about issues that concern them so deeply.
To what extent is language itself also an instrument of this “intimidating speech”?
We are to some extent manipulated by words, but that’s understandable. It is difficult, when we inhabit a framework set by convention, not to believe in the intrinsic validity of this convention. People who wield power know the full significance of semantics. It is disingenuous to say “extreme Right”, and then “the left of the Left” in order to avoid saying “extreme Left”. Nobody wants to be labelled “extremist”, because an extremist is a violent person, with whom it is impossible to discuss anything. We also create words like “Europhobe”, to spread the idea that those who hate Europe’s technocratic structure are also the enemies of every benign conception of Europe, whereas the opposite is true: when one loves Europe, one is moved to detest this sterile organization which weakens it and condemns it to impotence. There are many other booby-trapped words. Even the word “French” has become deceptive, because we speak of “French jihadists”, as though jihadism and Frenchness were not mutually exclusive, and flagrantly so. There is also a way of using words to hide identity. We speak about “young people” [“des jeunes”] living in “sensitive neighbourhoods” [“quartiers sensibles”]. It’s a kind of encrypted, Orwellian language. Were this way of speaking not also a way of thinking, it might be quite agreeably funny. Nowadays, teaching does a lot of damage by fabricating a stereotyped system of thought, a “thinking in slogans”, which is in fact not thought at all, but genuine indoctrination.
“There are many other booby-trapped words. Even the word “French” has become deceptive, because we speak of “French jihadists”, as though jihadism and Frenchness were not mutually exclusive, and flagrantly so.”
Recently, we saw Marc-Olivier Fogiel*, whose partner had children by GPA [Gestation pour autrui – surrogacy] — even though this procedure is banned in France — do the rounds of the media under the benevolent eye of journalists. Mehdi Meklat [one-time anti-French hate-blogger] has now also resurfaced to announce his redemption, and with the indulgence of the public etc. When you’re on the “side of the angels”, is everything permitted? [*Fogiel is a French radio and television presenter, who is in a gay marriage relationship.]
There is no doubt that there are double standards operating. But I am in favour, on principle, of the greatest freedom of expression, and so I agree that Marc-Olivier Fogiel should have been able to give his opinion. What I regret is rather the absence of real debate. There’s a lot of talk about surrogacy, but less about IVF [PMA – Procréation medicalement assistée]. But it seems to me that IVF is at least as open to question. Indeed, in “medically assisted procreation [PMA/IVF]”, there is the word “medical”. Now, as far as I know, the role of medicine is to heal, and homosexuals are not ipso facto ill; otherwise something has escaped me. When I say “heal”, I include the palliation of nature’s anomalies, such as infertility. But in the case of a homosexual couple, I think we have something else in mind, namely the right to a child viewed as a right to family wellbeing. I wonder, then, how one can justify the shift from the “desire to be happy” to the “right to happiness”, a right that society would necessarily have to fulfil. In fact, the institution of “marriage for all” entails the application of the principle of legal equality to situations that are inherently dissimilar; hence the philosophical and ethical problems that this raises. But who is asking these questions in the public debate? In any case, I believe that on such serious subjects, we cannot content ourselves with moving testimonies. We need articulated thought and argument. We need rationality. We suffer a great deal, in a democracy, from the triumph of pathos over methodical, patient, constructed, and cogent thought.
“There is in populism a kind of revenge of the political on the legal, which takes the form of a challenge to the “rule of law”.”
Has this “dominant camp”, and the truths it imposes on the community, definitively eroded our model of civilization?
I would say rather that intimidating speech weakens our immune defence. The more we internalize it, the more vulnerable we become. Many people today admit that we must respect religions, all religions, as if lack of respect in this area were one of the markers of our civilization. A major difficulty, which Eastern European countries are unfamiliar with, is the naive trust we place in our system of citizenship. It is an inclusive system, in the sense of political inclusion, but not at all in the sense of cultural inclusion. But we can well see today that the major problem lies in the cultural dimension. In the same way, we mistake the function of secularism [laïcité]: secularism is not at all culturally interventionist, it is simply a principle of neutrality in the public sphere, which itself lies outside the domain of civil society. On the other hand, this imposed neutrality can sometimes rebound on our cultural traditions, such as crèches in the schools, etc. In fact, nothing that is specific to citizenship directly concerns cultural problems; that is what must be kept in mind. My thesis on this is that we have a legal and formal conception of citizenship that is no longer adapted to the problems we encounter: not only on the level of migratory pressure, but at other levels as well. Against this legal and formal conception, I set in opposition politics in the strong sense of the term: pursuit of effective action, the “decision that gets things moving”, territorial sovereignty, etc. I also think that there is in populism a kind of revenge of the political on the legal, which takes the form of a challenge to the “rule of law”. I do not say that it is necessarily a good thing, but I analyze it as a rather remarkable phenomenon. ⇒ Le Figaro