Instant Opinion

‘France’s politics are coming full circle and Vincent Bolloré is drawing the circumference’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Harrison Stetler at The New York Times

The man at the centre of the French election isn’t even on the ballot

on powerful media

“Like the rest of Europe, France is gripped by the war in Ukraine,” writes Harrison Stetler at The New York Times. Emmanuel Macron “hopes to prevail” in the first round of the presidential election, after a “muted campaign in which he posed as a steady hand in a time of global instability”. But “a noxious blend of oligarchy, nostalgia and bellicose nationalism is ever more ubiquitous on this side of the new Iron Curtain”, and in France “it is led by a buoyant and confident right”. Beside Marine Le Pen, Valérie Pécresse and  Éric Zemmour is “the media mogul Vincent Bolloré”, who “wields a fearsome agenda-setting power”. His media outlets are “known for adopting the flair, tics and style of Fox News” and they play “an outsize role in directing national debate”. The three right-wing candidates “recycle, in varying shades, messages that run on a loop on his networks”. Bolloré’s name “is a byword for the political power of French oligarchs” and while he “portrays himself as above the partisan fray”, he has “reshaped French political life”. Stetler concludes: “In 2022, France’s political culture is becoming a circle, with Mr. Bolloré drawing the circumference.”

2

Gisli H. Gudjonsson in The Independent

I’m an expert in false confessions who looked at Melissa Lucio’s case. Texas is executing an innocent woman

on a question of injustice

Gisli H. Gudjonsson is a leading expert in false confessions. He says: “Melissa Lucio’s case is one of the most tragic I have come across in my 40-year career as a clinical forensic psychologist. It is an extraordinarily potent example of how a vulnerable person can be psychologically manipulated.” Lucio’s daughter Mariah died from a head trauma in 2007. Forensic evidence now suggests her death was the result of falling down a flight of stairs some days before she died, but “investigators refused to accept that the fall had happened, or that the head trauma was caused by anything other than physical abuse”. So, officers “focused their attention and suspicions on Lucio”. Expert evaluation and analysis found “profound problems” with Lucio’s “so-called confession”, that was made “after hours of relentless interrogation” that began soon after her daughter’s death. Her admissions were “tentative and inadvertent. When implicating herself, she repeated the words and narrative that officers had suggested to her for hours”. Gudjonsson says there was “a very high risk of false confession” and urges “a careful reconsideration of her case to prevent an irreversible miscarriage of justice”.

3

David Frost in The Telegraph

Beware, Remainers are regrouping

on domestic divides

“The Brexit battle seems long over,” says David Frost in The Telegraph. “With a supreme effort, Britain shook itself free of the European Union and became a full democracy once again, an outcome which had seemed impossible almost until the moment it happened.” And yet, says the former chief negotiator for the UK’s exit from the EU, “on the fringes of politics the unreconciled Remainers are regrouping”. See the “#brexitshambles” Twitter hashtag. Keir Starmer knows that cosying up with Remainers “will make him about as welcome in the Red Wall as Vladimir Putin in downtown Kyiv”, but “he can’t ignore his supporters”. Frost says there’s “little chance of a serious ‘rejoin’ campaign developing in the short term”, and “leaders of the pro-EU cause recognise that themselves”. They aim “to keep us aligned with the EU, using the Northern Ireland Protocol as a weapon”. He admits “that leaving the single market and customs union” has had “some effect on trade in the short run”, and so the UK must “get on with our own domestic reforms to improve growth”. If the question of Leave or Remain must be addressed again, “let’s revisit the question in 2067. Meanwhile, let’s get on with the job.”

4

Anila Baig in The Daily Mirror

Ramadan feasts face extinction as people can’t afford to eat if we let Tories win

on being ‘squeezed to death’

In this holy month of Ramadan, we are “free from the restrictions of Covid” and once again “mosques are full of worshippers, and we can visit friends and family”, says Anila Baig in the Daily Mirror. But now there is “another menacing shadow – the cost-of-living crisis”. Ramadan “is not just about fasting but also feasting”. After breaking the fast, Muslims “tuck into lavish, lovingly cooked meals”. But this year “many Muslims are feeling hungry, not because they are fasting, but because they can’t afford to eat”, says Baig. Charity Islamic Relief notes that 50% of Muslim households are living in poverty, something “we’ve always thought of… as being something that happened in far-flung countries, but it is happening right here at unprecedented levels”. Many in the UK “aren’t just ‘feeling the pinch’, we are being squeezed to death”. Baig asks: “have we ever had it so bad?” People “should be taking to the streets but we are too hungry and too ill because Covid hasn’t gone anywhere”. When will the government be held “to account” for its “corrupt decisions”? It may be Ramadan, but this writer says “clearly not ALL the devils have been locked up”.

5

James Marriott in The Times

Modern life is rubbish for creative thinking

on interruptions 

James Marriott does his “best thinking” between 8pm and midnight. “Lamplight, the stillness of evening, the gathering dark outside the window,” he says in The Times – “here is the mood of calm and heightened awareness necessary to lure ideas out of the shadows”. Writing a weekly column, he says, “induces a neurotic vigilance towards ideas. In my previous jobs, thinking was a bonus.” Now, he spends life “twitchily poised to leap at passing thoughts”. And if you spend enough time “hunting” for ideas, “you realise that modern life is organised to prevent you from thinking”. History’s great thinkers demanded three things: “silence, solitude and some form of physical exercise”. Modern offices supply “noise, ceaseless company, and desk-bound inertia”. Marriott says we are “expected to use our minds more creatively than our ancestors” but society is “hostile to thought”. Yet “we continue to love the quantifiable (emails, presentation, data)”. Experts say an “‘oscillating’ work pattern” produces “the best thoughts” – a “good thing” in a post-Covid hybrid working era. “The bad news is that nobody has yet abolished email.”

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