Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

No sooner had a French court last week acquitted Marine Le Pen of inciting hatred against Muslims than the leader of the anti-immigration National Front caused another fracas by tweeting photos of three Islamic State executions in all their barbarity.

The woman clearly has a talent, however twisted, for the polemical. Her excuse for sharing these grotesque images with her 850,000 Twitter followers, without regard for the families of the victims or basic decency, was that she could not allow a smear lodged against her party by a popular radio host to stand. The host had compared the National Front to the Islamic State, saying both wanted France to turn further inward. Ms. Le Pen pounced.

"Daesh is THIS," she tweeted, using the Arabic name for the group and attaching photos of one IS prisoner being burned alive, another being run over by a military tank and a final image of the decapitated body of U.S. journalist James Foley. She deleted the latter at the request of Mr. Foley's family, but expressed "no regret" for answering her critic so graphically.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Le Pen again finds herself at risk of incurring a hefty fine or landing in jail should authorities pursue charges against her under French laws that ban the dissemination of violent images. But, as with her likening of Muslims praying outdoors in Lyon to the Nazi occupation of France, the outburst that previously landed her in court, Ms. Le Pen's latest transgression of taste, if not the law, will only cement her Joan of Arc status among her growing flock.

Co-operation between France's establishment parties to deny the National Front power in this month's regional elections elicited relief among Europe's ruling classes. Calls for moderate French voters to unite to block a National Front victory paid off. But this sunny view fails to appreciate how the perceived "collusion" among France's political elites fuels Ms. Le Pen's rise.

The National Front was deprived of a second-round victory in every region after the Socialists withdrew their candidates in two regions, and anti-Le Pen electors voted strategically in 11 others. Still, Ms. Le Pen's party ended up with more councillors than the Socialists and gained 800,000 votes between the first and second rounds, with a record 6.8 million ballots cast in its favour. At 28 per cent of the vote, Ms. Le Pen's claim to lead "France's first party" is increasingly credible.

For her, the final result proved that France's ruling class will do anything to hang on to power, while ignoring the grievances of "patriots" who fear the French way of life is being undermined by relentless globalization, immigration and Islamization. She predicted that her party's second-round shut-out will only feed its momentum on the road to the contests that really count – the 2017 presidential and legislative elections. And she may be right.

"It is [like] the physical phenomenon of a dam," she said. "The water is temporarily held back, but the pressure rises. And when the dike gives way, the wave floods everything."

It would be reckless to dismiss Ms. Le Pen's bluster. A year that bore witness to two of the worst terrorist attacks in French memory and the country's chronic economic stagnation have exacerbated the collective malaise on which the National Front feeds. The governing Socialists and centre-right Republicans are beset by existential crises that seem to portend schisms in both. Ms. Le Pen's promises to stand up for national sovereignty and the protection of the welfare state are dangerously seductive to voters who feel their interests have been sold out by the elites.

Almost every recent opinion poll shows Ms. Le Pen finishing first in the opening round of the 2017 presidential vote, outclassing Socialist President François Hollande and former president Nicolas Sarkozy, now leader of the Republicans. A survey last week found that only Mr. Sarkozy's Republican rival, former prime minister Alain Juppé, could beat Ms. Le Pen in the first round.

Story continues below advertisement

Either way, Ms. Le Pen's name appears destined to be one of two on the final presidential ballot. She does not have to take the election to win the debate. She is already doing that, forcing Mr. Hollande to embrace counterterrorism measures that are anathema to the Socialist base, and forcing Mr. Sarkozy to fend off charges that his party is becoming a sort of National Front-light.

The more she mocks them, the more they cave.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies