With their morning coffee, “Emmanuel Macron and Jean Castex wanted to symbolize a new stage”

Emmanuel Macron and Jean Castex drink a coffee on the terrace, Wednesday May 19, 2021. – GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

  • This Wednesday, shortly before 9 a.m., Emmanuel Macron and Jean Castex shared a coffee on the terrace in front of the cameras of 24-hour news channels and press photographers.
  • The President of the Republic and the Prime Minister thus wanted to embody the new stage of deconfinement, marked by the reopening of bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and museums.
  • “There is an attempt to take credit for this” liberation “,” analyzes Isabelle Veyrat-Masson, research director at the CNRS specializing in political communication.

Deconfinement, day 1. From the start of the day, the tone of this new stage on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus was set on social networks, with the proliferation of photos of ministers having coffee on the terrace. From Bruno Le Maire to
Elisabeth Borne Passing by
Clément Beaune and Jean-Baptiste Djebarri, many politicians publicly celebrated the reopening of bars and restaurants.

At lunchtime, it’s Marlene Schiappa who staged his meal in the company of a Top Chef competitor. For the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, the 24-hour news channels even covered the event live. Analysis of this political communication operation with Isabelle Veyrat-Masson, research director at CNRS.

In the early morning, Emmanuel Macron and Jean Castex had a coffee on the terrace under the watchful eye of the cameras. From a political communication point of view, what is the objective?

In the first place, it is a question of playing on the principle of projection or identification: to look like any citizen while enjoying a coffee on the terrace. With this sequence, they claim that they are French like the others. Then there is an attempt to take credit for this “liberation”. As public opinion has attributed to them, quite unfairly, the inconvenience of confinement, it is hoped that this new-found freedom will be attributed to those who stage themselves in this way.

Finally, there is a desire to symbolize a new stage, with the passage from a rather sad period to the now famous “happy days”. [formule employée par Emmanuel Macron il y a tout juste un an, au moment du premier déconfinement]. And, of course, the underlying idea is that we are going to experience this change of epoch with them. I also note that the President of the Republic chooses to associate the Prime Minister with this victory and this transition. He could have shared a coffee with his wife, the message would have been different and more personal, more intimate.

What do you think of the staging of this morning coffee?

I don’t know under what conditions this sequence was performed, but it seems relatively spontaneous. In any case, it does not seem to have been extremely staged or locked by the Elysee. It does not make “political communication” at all and even brings a certain authenticity. The Head of State has not made his to-do list: he does not have a mask at hand, a detail that could prove to be counterproductive, we are tracking this kind of thing!

A staging opposite to that of Bruno Le Maire. On the photo of the Minister of the Economy, everything seems very organized. The setting is neat. Bruno Le Maire reads the newspaper The team to show that he is interested in the news of the day – the return of Karim Benzema to the French football team. There is hydroalcoholic gel on the table and a QR code on the wall [pour permettre de consulter la carte de l’établissement sans contact]. The only thing missing is coffee! Which makes it a strangely failed operation.

This terrace cafe, several other ministers have staged on social networks. And to these pictures will be added those of lunches, exhibition visits or cinema outings. Is the government not doing too much?

Yes, but it is a reflection of the world in which we live, with a proliferation of images on 24-hour news channels and social networks. We are in a time when the mass media all deal more or less the same subjects, there is inevitably a feeling of overflow. After that, it seems understandable that politicians want, like everyone else, to consume on the terrace or to go to the cinema. On that account, you might as well communicate on it to show that they are like everyone else.

Doesn’t the executive risk exposing itself if the health situation deteriorates?

Yes, but I notice that the communication of the executive is careful. He does not hesitate to announce the good news, since there is little of it and he hopes to be associated with it, nevertheless, I have not seen any triumphalism. Emmanuel Macron also insisted, at the end of the coffee with Jean Castex, on the notion of “living together in the present time”, thus suggesting that the situation could deteriorate. And he called on the French to “remain cautious” to “control the epidemic”.

The presidential election is less than a year away. Do you see in this communication operation an act of campaign?

Not at all. Of course, Emmanuel Macron wants to regain confidence and sympathy, but he needs it as much to govern as to be reelected. He does not take advantage of this deconfinement to attribute anything to himself. In his statements, the presidential election does not seem to be the issue. I believe he says it with sincerity.



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