For those who think Donald Trump’s days on the 2017 campaign trail are over, think again.
Across the Atlantic, Trump emerged this weekend as the driving force behind the campaign to elect Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National party, as president of France.
Long expected to be a strong candidate in France’s upcoming election, it wasn’t until this weekend that Le Pen officially launched her campaign at an FN rally in Lyon.
Naturally, the Donald was not able to physically attend, having said earlier this summer that, “I wouldn’t go to France. France is no longer France.” He did, however, still manage to steal the show from afar.
“We were told Donald Trump would never win in the United States against the media, against the establishment, but he won,” cried top FN official, Jean-Lin Lacapelle, to the crowd of FN supporters. “We were told Marine Le Pen would not win the presidential election, but on May 7 she will win!”
According to recent polls, Le Pen is expected to win the first round in April, but will likely suffer a resounding second-round defeat. That said, polls also indicated that Hillary Clinton was sure to defeat Trump in a landslide, so there’s no reason to think a similar upset victory any less likely for Le Pen. Indeed, it’s quite clear she intends to follow in Trump’s exact footsteps, all the way to her own presidency.
Take her keynote address at this weekend’s rally, for instance. Between promises to protect voters from globalization and “restore the country’s greatness,” Le Pen echoed Trump more obviously than Melania echoed Michelle Obama.
Then, after the rally, Le Pen retweeted FN Senator David Rachline’s tweet claiming that there were, “More than 3,000 people present inside [the rally] for Marine’s speech! 2,000 could not enter. 10,000 total throughout the weekend!”
As was the case two weeks ago when Trump claimed that 1.5 million people came to his inauguration, these FN claims are likely an exaggeration. While precise estimates from ~crowd scientists~ are not available, the latest on-the-ground reports indicate that Le Pen spoke to a much smaller crowd of “several hundred party officials and members.”
It’s impossible not to laugh at this shameless mimicry and transatlantic obsession with crowd size. Unfortunately, Le Pen’s copycatting also extends into the much more sinister Trump realms of online bullying and physical assault.
A closer look at Le Pen’s Twitter and Facebook will reveal that she has more than a million followers on both platforms, giving her a bigger social media network than any other candidate for the French presidency.
According to a POLITICO report published just before the FN rally, “her web machine stands alone notably due to the ruthlessness of its negative campaigns, and the fact that so many ‘global populists’ are willing to amplify them online.”
Chief among these “global populists” is, unsurprisingly, Donald Trump and his ruthless army of online trolls.
A few days ago, BuzzFeed News was given access to The Great Liberation of France, an online network of Trump supporters who intend to manipulate French social media in favor of Le Pen.
“The chatroom’s admins have instructed users to make fake Facebook accounts that are ‘ideally young, cute girl, gay, Jew, basically anyone who isn’t supposed to be pro-[FN],’” reported BuzzFeed. “Users are then instructed to lock down these dummy accounts so no one can tell they’re fake. Once they have their fake Facebook profiles, they’re told to infiltrate the comment sections of large French Facebook pages and post pro-FN memes and jokes about François Fillon, France’s current frontrunner for the presidency.”
Thus far, the strategy seems to be working. After news broke earlier this month of a financial scandal involving Fillon and his British wife, Penelope, Le Pen’s trolls jumped on the opportunity, dubbing the scandal #FillonGate. The FN’s hashtag quickly morphed into #PenelopeGate which, as of Feb. 3, ranked as the no. 2 trending topic on Twitter.
This social media savvy is essential to the unprecedented success of Trump and Le Pen, both of whom have demonstrated a transatlantic commitment to gagging the free press.
Just last week, a political reporter for France’s popular Quotidien TV show, Paul Larrouturou, was attacked after asking Le Pen to comment on allegations that she was paying her security guard as a parliamentary aid. The journalist’s question was met with a violent response from Le Pen’s security guards, who immediately grabbed and forced him out the door.
In a video of the attack captured by Larrouturou’s cameraman, he can be heard asking, “You can’t prevent me from asking a question to Marine Le Pen… Do you know anything about the liberty of the press?”
Evidently not, because once the security guard realized he was being filmed, he hit the camera, exclaiming, “Who do you think you are? I’m going to take your camera, you fool.”
According to French newspaper Le Parisien, it is not uncommon for the FN to “insult and intimidate” members of the press. It’s also “common knowledge that the Front National systematically refuses to accredit journalists from the Quotidien.”
That same week, the Trump administration announced its own freeze-out of popular television network, CNN:
“We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda,” said a White House official, acknowledging that CNN is not such a place… A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings.
This shared tendency to discredit and attack the media was also evident throughout Trump’s 2016 campaign, during which he and his team were repeatedly accused of physically assaulting journalists. One reporter, Michelle Fields, even filed a police report seeking battery charges against Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s then-campaign manager who was captured on video grabbing Fields.
I could keep going, but you get the idea: This small sampling of Trump and Le Pen’s many similarities does not amount to mere political coincidence.
Together, the two embody a calculated transatlantic alliance to establish a far-right Western world order. Under the guise of democracy, Trump and Le Pen are promoting the fortification of borders in preparation for the White West’s War Against The Rest — one in which, “All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” To categorize this modern political phenomenon as anything less is a fatal affront to free peoples and governments, from the U.S. to France, and around the globe.