Who said: “Me, I am against this demonstration, because I think there is a misunderstanding between the French people and the government”? No, no, it’s not Emmanuel Macron, nor his Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne. He’s not a member of Renaissance either, but Michel Sardou – yes, the singer of Connemara Lakes – questioned Wednesday evening on BFMTV.
We grant you, the question was difficult as the sentence resembles the speeches made by the government and the majority to explain the unpopularity of the pension reform. According to them, people “didn’t understand” what this reform “really” contained, hence the need for “reform education”. The formula is not new in the French political debate but is making a strong comeback at this socially hot start to the year. It is even a key point in the government’s communication strategy.
“Disempowerment of the public”
Through this formula, the macronists convey two messages, believes Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet, of MCBG Conseil and professor of communication at Science Po: “It is first of all a disempowerment of the public, you are children, we are adults ( …) then they make the assumption that we agree with the reform – this is exactly what Macron says – but that we do not understand it”. Clearly, it is better to speak of incomprehension than of opposition, “it makes it possible to avoid talking about consent”, adds the communicator.
“It’s an absolute linguistic perversity”, abounds the political scientist Virginie Martin, also co-responsible for the scientific council of the Political and parliamentary review. “Politicians give the impression of taking the blame on themselves while we are totally in infantilization and a dominant-dominated relationship. The word pedagogy also means “to lead, to lead, to accompany, to bring up the child”. “A reform suits me or not, we can argue. The government could say ”our arguments have not been heard”, there I am an adult, ”explains Virginie Martin.
If the political scientist thinks that this tactic can increase opposition to the reform, Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet believes, on the contrary, that “it is effective because we move the debate, we depoliticize it. It neutralizes certain oppositions, we end up talking about something else”. The two experts nevertheless agree on the deleterious consequences of the “contempt” implied by this formula. “Instead of having a substantive debate, we go into force and we create a more radical, stronger, more irrational opposition, assures the communicator. If you treat people like children, they react like one. »
A mark of the Fifth Republic
Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet sees in this way of making a mark of the “Macron method”: announce first, then convince. “There is no room for negotiation, if you are against it, you are stupid,” he blurts out. The communication specialist notes, however, that the technique is far from new. From the beginning of the Fifth Republic, politicians used this communication tactic. “They are all doing this because these are difficult and unpopular reforms and politicians want to limit the risks to their image,” continues the communicator. And never mind the number of people in the street or the increasingly high scores of the non-institutional parties.
The communication battle is based on many other aspects. By qualifying its reform at length in interviews as “fair, progressive and balanced”, the government wants to attenuate the bitterness of its project. “He has already lost the semantic battle because he is contradictory, abounds Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet. He says that this reform is right and that you have not understood it and at the same time that it is difficult and that you have to accept it. It can’t be all of these at once. But is it so important? Because what the government seeks above all by repeating these words is to make this formula performative: that people end up convincing themselves that they have not actually understood the reform.