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Cécile Alduy "The candidates of the civil society render the speeches obsolete with slogans"

Cécile Alduy is a semiologist and specialist in political discourse. Professor of French literature at Stanford University and associate researcher at Cevipof (Sciences-Po), she has published What they really say (Seuil, 2017). At three weeks of the European elections, she returns for Release on the words of the candidates to talk about Europe and the presidential press conference last Thursday.

Since the fall, with the yellow vests, we have seen French television speakers springing up on the television sets who have spoken with a language that is often different from that of the politicians …

What is fundamental in the movement that was born on November 17 is an irruption of an eminently political speech that is not the sociolect of politicians. Whether we agree or disagree with the content, we suddenly hear a political word that is expressed in everyday language and that speaks of everyday life. Which is not in the abstraction, the calculations, the technical and economic jargon, the great abstract and agreed principles, the literary oratorical jousting, nor the false "cash talk" of the Wauquiez and others … A popular language in the proper sense, the language of the French people as it is spoken in everyday life, an uncodified language, which has not been filtered by a media plan, elements of language, a desire to "framing". The language of those we do not hear, we do not listen. However, it is fundamental that the public thing is expressed, debated and resolved in the language of all, without learning codes to pass in the media.

This different word is also understood in the context of the European campaign. Many personalities who were previously not prominent or not in the political sphere lead lists …

There is indeed a real renewal of figures but also ways of saying politics and politics, with personalities who come from the "civil society", to use the expression that sanctions the separation of the policies of French society.

Raphael Glucksmann (Public Place-PS), who claims a share of romantic naivety, does not speak like a socialist. Similarly, François-Xavier Bellamy (LR) uses a chastised language that stands out from the statements of Laurent Wauquiez. And Manon Aubry (LFI) does not speak like Jean-Luc Mélenchon …

Their styles to all three are not the same but all bring a certain freshness. Glucksmann, a little dilettante, uncomfortable with self-promotion or rhetorical combat with little sentences, speaks without this strict diction of politics. Bellamy, literate, a bit outdated in his formal style, is extremely polite while claiming a conservative philosophy supported by readings. For her part, Manon Aubry is quite cash, briefed but still rather new in her relationship to the political game, and she assumes a speech from the left. They make abstract discourses obsolete by slogans and language elements of other candidates.

Unlike Jean-Luc Mélenchon or Yannick Jadot (EE-LV) but like Benoît Hamon (Generation · s), Ian Brossat (PCF) and Raphaël Glucksmann, Manon Aubry affirms himself of "left". His speech more moral and less populist than the norm among the executives of the insubordinate France seems effective to you?

The result of the ballot boxes will reveal the effectiveness or not of this change of speech. Be that as it may, it is a significant shift from the strategy of a populist rhetoric left-right split that had assumed Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the elections of 2017. This time, Manon Aubry and France rebellious address a classic electoral target, the left, while Jean-Luc Mélenchon refused the term in 2017 to address the "people" and stigmatize "elites" and "the Europe of Merkel". The head of the list returns, it, on a speech of the values, and not a mythology of the people.

Brossat and Hamon are not from civil society, Yannick Jadot is no longer from civil society. Does this mean?

Hamon and Jadot express themselves like old road political parties. Ian Brossat succeeds in giving a boost to the political discourse but rather in its clarity both of diction (clear and clear) and of words (concrete, argued, explicit). It's crazy but clarity in politics is not common on the left, nor in the center – remember François Hollande who spared the goat and cabbage or the "at the same time" Emmanuel Macron who left puzzled more than one commentator.

For his part, Jordan Bardella (RN), who at the age of 23 is the youngest leader, has the FN as his birth language …

When Jordan Bardella speaks, if we cut the image, we hear Nicolas Bay, David Rachline, all these former young leaders of the National Front who were fed on the counter-speech frontist and take up the same rhetorical structures, the same expressions ("smokestack "," Good thinking "), the same neologisms (" Europeanists "," immigrants "), the same commonplaces (" foreign preference ") and the same" fake news ", on the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle by example.

In the words that everyone chooses to speak about the European Union, did you get wording from the wording?

We hear a lot about "local" and "terroir", even on the left, but also "protection" … The great novelty is not the emergence of a particular candidate for the new word, but the primacy of the environment as a cross-cutting theme, from the extreme right to the far left. This is a historic turning point. A new crucial semantic battle is coming up on this subject, as there has been one around secularism since Marine Le Pen seized it in 2012. The way in which we will collectively define "nature", the "Environment", "ecology" as a new majority value will have crucial consequences on family policies, public health, women's rights, agricultural policy, in areas that go far beyond what the left means the word "environment".

Even the RN is greening its talk today …

Yes, but integrating it into a very precise ideology. The "localism" extolled by the National Front is based on a political philosophy – naturalism – which refers all human laws to a "natural order", biological, timeless, ahistoric, which also grounds the rejection of the cultural and ethnic mixture, the primacy of "roots" and the right of the blood, and assigns women a "natural" place in the home – while not offering much against global warming. Saying "ecologist" may soon be meaningless. Thus, the "environment" at LREM is a word as abstract as "progressivism": a word-value with no specific content, intended to motivate membership rather than guide economic choices. We will have to be very vigilant on the left to reframe what the word "ecology" means, not to be shut up in the myth of nature – a political myth since the Enlightenment, but oh so ambiguous.

Macron gave last Thursday the first press conference of his quinquennium. The President of the Republic has a very particular language mixing Anglicisms and an obsolete vocabulary but some words or formulas you have more marked than others this time?

Emmanuel Macron has tried to erase his stylistic idiosyncrasies that could annoy and lend to the caricature ("Macron the literary", "Macron and the globish of start-uppers and business", "Macron and the small offensive sentences"). His speech was millimetered to respect a scholarly balance between classic official style supported enough in the construction of speech and sentences, and simplicity of tone and vocabulary. There is no out-of-date word, no new Anglicism, no sudden drop of language level to the familiar (we remember the "crazy money"), but a tone full of patience and sincerity, like a teacher or a teacher. parent talking to interlocutors treated not in equals, but with respect and pedagogy. With the hint of condescension that results …

What about the use of the "I"?

The President has not given up on putting himself forward as usual: compared to his predecessor François Hollande who could not assume an "I", Macron over uses the pronoun of the first person and had no He continues to reaffirm everything he has already accomplished – but in his speech, he emphasized his action every time after summarizing the arguments of others. The "I" comes in response, after listening – at least the staging used during these many times when he took a proposal of yellow vests or the big debate (mandatory voting, white vote, RIC) for weigh it and then exclude it "after reflexion". The entire speech is a staged self-like "patient-philosopher-king" who listens at the end, but after miming the collective deliberation of the big debate by showing himself deliberating internally French.

In his exchanges with the journalists, the Head of State promised to be more "human" in his way of reforming, claiming to have been "Touched in his flesh" by the suffering expressed at the beginning of the movement of the yellow vests …

He has indeed overinvested the register of emotions to describe what the French want and create an emotional connection with them. The goal is twofold. On the one hand, to delegitimize the precise demands of the protesters who, in this psychologizing perspective, speak under the influence of anger or social jealousy and are therefore not rational or just. On the other hand, offer the people what is called in negotiation the "emotional pay back", an emotional counterpart: give consideration … rather than the return of the ISF in some way.

Jonathan Bouchet-Petersen

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