Just before the elections this Sunday, the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, whose anti-Sarkozy leanings make the Tower of Pisa look ramrod straight, ran this cover:
The point was, come out and vote for the left in the legislative elections so that you can stop Sarkozy from becoming a tyrant. It was more or less typical of how the anti-Sarkozy MSM (the significant majority of that MSM) in France has tried to oppose him. And yet, it utterly failed. Sarkozy’s party won a crushing victory in the first round.
The media is now trying to rally voters to come out and vote for the left in the next round. Wrote Le Monde in a front page article of news (not analysis, not opinion):
It would be enough for the abstentions to be fewer, that the mobilization of the opposition parties be more effeient, to correct the almost caricatural effect of the victory or the right, which is so spectacular.
But what the French elections indicate picks up the tale from where the “No” to the EU constitution of May 30, 2005 had begun. The MSM had massively supported the Yes, to the point where an impartial watchdog group noticed that they gave twice as much time to “Yes” arguments as to “No.” And yet, within the final month of the vote, a huge 10% switch in voter opinion occurred and the Constitution went down to a 55-45% vote. As I suggested back then, it represented a key disconnect between the voting public and the media and political elites.
What we are witnessing today is the dangers of abusing “soft power” — which is they key to media influence. In the 11th century the power of interdict and excommunication — individual or region deprived of the sacraments — grew steadily with the enthusiasm for the reforming papacy, so that when, in 1076, the Pope excommunicated Emperor Henry IV of Germany, it brought the proud man to his knees, barefoot in the snow outside the Pope’s residence at Canossa in the Alps. It was a spectacular victory of soft over hard power, of the public opinion and delegitimization of an authority. Modern historians have a tendency to describe it as the first great victory of the pen over the sword in European history.
But as spectacular as that first papal use of excommunication was, it depended on the belief and good will of an aroused public. Subsequent efforts to wield that pen as a sword ended up draining it of its power, and devaluing what had, initially, been so spectacular a weapon.
So it is with the media. They have enormous soft power, which they have used repeatedly to inspire the public to strong emotions, whether against racial discrimination or war or apartheid regimes. Now, having exercised their power with at times overwheening arrogance, they find themselves losing their grip on a public which had to trust them in order for their soft power to work. And once lost, it will take a great deal of probity to gain that trust back.
The way the media has treated Israel represents, to my mind at least, one of the more scandalous and disastrous of the media’s overreaching itself. Even the paper that hosts Robert Fisk has called for an end to the demonizing: “It’s time to end the villification of Israel.”
Not that this massive movement will turn on a dime. The UN is still blaming the problem on… wait for it… US support of Israel.
The next couple of years should be very interesting.