Written by Lucile de Laforcade
Chère France, salvation is on its way! Against the ‘complete state of deliquescence of the country’, FdeSouche is here to the rescue.
Founded in 2005, the far right blog, or, to be more precise, ‘news agitator,’ as its members like to call it, has gained increased visibility in its “fight for the defence of the nation’s identity, and the safety of the French people”. The fight could not be more obvious. ‘FdeSouche’ stands as the shortened version of the greatly controversial expression ‘Français de souche,’ – literally French by descent – which defines Frenchness in an earthly, territorial, and hereditary dimension. And it is precisely for the recovery and protection of this birth culture that FdeSouche exists.
At first glance, the platform doesn’t impress – a clumsy first page, obstructed with catchy titles and images, which could make a British tabloid blush. This would almost make us forget the red-on-white cockerel, which proudly stands as FdeSouche’s symbol. The latter is not an innocent choice; in French history and iconography, the cockerel has been used to represent combativeness against any ‘other’ threatening the unity of the ‘Gaule’ (France). The coq has also, and most importantly a deep Catholic resonance, bearer of light fighting off demonic darkness. No wonder why Islam makes most of FdeSouche headlines. It is, with immigration and insecurity, the trinity of what users – anonymous – like to discuss on the platform. The mechanism is straightforward; each member can pitch and publish a piece of news they believe has missed mainstream engagement. The exciting part happens at the bottom of the page however, in the comments section, where all comrades can comment and debate each others’ articles. Viewed under closer scrutiny, these threads say a lot on the ideas circulated, and on the identity constructed through FdeSouche. Anonymity indeed brings a certain degree of freedom, which unleashes Identitarians’ deepest fantasies. On the subject of Wikipedia seeking to increase the diversity of its members (understand more Black contributors here) by paying them, ‘Ric Hochet’ said: “Without realising it, we have here one of the fundamental differences between the two races: one is capable of altruism, investment for a common good […] The other wants everything, immediately […]. Result: their civilisations.” On the contentious debate of the veil in the French public space, ‘nenesse nenesse’ claimed: “Their clothing customs do not bother me, I am no stylist […] it is their very presence on this soil which poses a problem […] We should rather ask the following question: “should we ban non-Europeans from the French public space?”
Many, many more of such comments are to be found on the website. However, they all point to the urge to protect an identity that can only belong to the French, and perhaps Europeans. An identity that is, firstly, constructed against the threat that the other represents to a culture that can only be inherited from birth, and exclusively enjoyed by those whose ‘souche’ runs deep enough to be called French. An identity that is also immensely vulnerable, as the smallest change or challenge to this dominant culture puts in peril the edifice of superiority on which this hierarchical structure rests upon. Hence, contra a perceived Francicide, this identity needs constant reinvigoration until complete domination.
As such, notions of violence, power and right are all meshed in the defence of Frenchness, which they also constitute.
An identity that is, secondly, built from the inside through identification to a community which shares similar views. FdeSouche is essentially an ‘identity’ mirror; what one sees only reinforces already held beliefs, making these increasingly more radical as time goes on evolving in the same pervasive environment. A sustained exploration of the platform’s discussions reveals just how central these exchanges are to the construction of a radical identity. Not only do xenophobia, racism, chauvinism, homophobia and machismo star as standard vocabulary, but they are the features of a constant outbidding game, where the most radical member attracts the greatest praise. Becoming a loyal FdeSouche-ist and an adamant right wing supporter goes hand in hand with becoming a ‘proper’ man – a white, christian, Frenchman.
No wonder therefore why FdeSouche seduces a progressively younger and radical audience. In his 2017 study on La France Identitaire [Identitarian France], journalist Eric Dupin devotes a section of his book to the indissociable links between FdeSouche’s supporters and French far right party Rassemblement National (RN), at the time still known as ‘National Front’. According to him, the website’s audience “[…] testifies of the existence of a strong tide of opinion, particularly present among the youth, violently hostile to immigration in all its forms” (2017, 26). Unsurprisingly, FdeSouche, whose daily visits average 100,000, is a great reactionary outlet, and a steady source of support for Le Pen’s (until very recently) party. The famous French far right figure openly supports the platform and its FdeSouche-ists, RN’s “friends,” who constitute a “[…] superb political machine […]” that she often reads (2017, 25).
As I am writing this (11/11/22), the political machine is in ebullition. France has just announced it will indeed welcome the Ocean Viking boat at its military port of Toulon after Meloni’s Italy refusal, and safely lodge the boats’s 234 migrants. Far right polemicist and presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was quick to claim that: “All European people are threatened by this migratory wave, this Grand Replacement. We must be solidary, make a common front, and refuse any single more migrant.” In a perfect echo, FdeSouche member ‘Annamir63’ declared: “The [French] people are suffering silently. […] After all, there is some warrior blood in our ancestors, and even though we have done everything to blow that flame out, be careful of the sleeping fire!” The fight is, therefore, yet to come. A fight for the safeguard of the French identity and its nation, whose righteousness and success is the only way to recover ‘true’ Frenchness. Exacerbated nationalism meets endangered identity in both rhetorics, which converge and become one at the higher spheres of the political. FdeSouche is therefore much more than a press review platform, and here lies its very danger. Behind an incredibly simplistic webpage, it embraces the very complexities of France’s identity crisis. By catalysing anxieties, it gives them the space and attention to grow in power; by projecting these onto an openly receptive political sphere, it enables them to thrive in legitimacy.
And while the website’s comments are automatically erased after 24 hours, the truth of this identity intensifies, day after day, while the reality of multiculturalism and universalism slowly fades away. Perhaps the Great Remplacement is not where we think it is, after all.
Featured Imagery: Calais-Manifestation contre les clandestins, ‘immigration-invasion et l’islamisation de l’Europe, 8 Novembre 2015. Wikimedia Commons.
Bibliography: Dupin, Eric. La France Identitaire: La Réaction Qui Vient. [Identitarian France: The Coming Reaction]. Paris: La Découverte, 2017.