This week I have opted to feature a guest post. Though it is not on the topic of Brexit, it does look at another recent phenomenon: the Gilets Jaunes.
I am deeply grateful to the renowned Paris based, UK journalist, John Lichfield, (formerly senior journalist with UK Independent) for allowing me to reproduce here the text of the talk he gave at our most recent BEERG Network Meeting in Brussels. It is about the Gilets Jaunes and what this movement means in a wider political context. I think it worthwhile sharing his insights as widely as possible.”
The talk was part of a discussion session entitled: Breaking Bad: Thoughts on Social Media, Gilets Jaunes and Unstructured Protest Movements:
Speaking on Thursday January 31st 2019, John Lichfield said:
I’m here to explain the Gilets Jaunes. It might be easier to explain black holes. I’ll do my best. But there is no simple explanation of the Gilets Jaunes, no monolithic, single-minded movement, no leadership structure, no single, accepted programme of demands. That’s what makes them fascinating. And baffling. And worrying. I will give you a brief narrative of the story so far. Then I will offer some clues on how to understand the movement. And what may happen next.
Are the Gilets Jaunes just another example of the French being French? Is it all Macron’s fault? Or Putin’s fault? Or is it an internet phenomenon – Facebook populism – which could have happened anywhere? What are the similarities with other populist movements in the social media age, Brexit, Maga-Trump, Five Star? Is it a movement remotely piloted by the far right? Or far left? Who is responsible for the violence? What does it all tell us about the fragility of democratic institutions, and all institutions, in an age when the old channels of authority and opinion-forming have broken down? Political parties, trades unions, newspapers, TV and radio news, even the Church.
FIRST, A BRIEF NARRATIVE: Continue reading