Macron and the Yellow Vests are products of the debasement and gradual

Macron and the yellow vests are products of the

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Macron and the Yellow Vests are products of the debasement and gradual disappearance affecting the old social institutions. PHILIPPE RIÈS Co-author, Shift: Inside Nissan’s Historic Revival (with Carlos Ghosn, 2005) A fter years of spreading fake news and rumors, nur- turing conspiracy theories, hurling insults at any contradictor brave enough to oppose them, resorting ultimately to death threats, all that under the cover of ano- nymity, and abusing the badly named “social networks,” it was only a question of time before the populists would shift from words to deeds. And violence. In France, historically a world record-holder for strikes and street demonstrations, it took the disguise of the “Yellow Vests.” France counts more roundabouts than any other coun- try in Europe, estimates ranging from 30,000 to double that number. That makes for a lot of places to demonstrate. And since the seed for the revolt grew from a lowering of the speed limit on secondary roads, fertilized by an eco- tax increase on fuels, there was a certain logic to occupy- ing the nodes of the network.
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WINTER 2019 THE INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY 19 When the target quickly became the country, head of state, and central government, it was only natural to in- vade and vandalize the world’s most famous roundabout, Place de l’Étoile in Paris. The Yellow Vests, true to their reliance on the Us versus Them networks (mainly Facebook), made very clear from the beginning that neutrality was not an op- tion. You would have to be with them, the “people,” or against them, although their numbers went from a high of around 240,000 demonstrators, dwindling Saturday after Saturday, to around 60,000 at the last count. By and large, the people stayed at home, watching the events on news channels. The designated costume of the demonstrators—the yellow vest, a cheap garment made in some Asian sweat- shop—is mandatory in any vehicle in Europe for use in emergency situations. Displaying it on the dashboard of your vehicle became also mandatory in order to cross the numerous and illegal checkpoints set up by the Yellow Vests at roundabouts across France. I was reminded of the ausweis imposed on the French by the Nazi occupiers dur- ing World War II. In May 2017, the totally unexpected presidential victory of Emmanuel Macron, defeating far-right popu- list Marine Le Pen in a run-off, was hailed as a turning point. The tide of populism threatening to submerge the Old Continent had reached a high point and was expected to retreat. But this prediction did not come to pass, as the under- ground forces subverting the old post-war order remain active. Observers have been struck by the level of hatred exhibited by the Yellow Vests against Macron, as if change at the top could by itself solve the problems at the (near bottom) of the social hierarchy.
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