The history of the presidency of Emmanuel Macron could be written through his relations with the media. In little more than two years, he has gone from fascination to distrust and, since yesterday, to a hint of reconciliation, or at least an attempt of seduction by the President of the Republic.
“It seems that you are not a gaullist. How will he manage to be objective? ”He said once, in the hegemony of General De Gaulle, a director of public television to a journalist he was going to hire. The president quoted this anecdote to point out that he is not like that, nor does he want to be.
Macron's words reached the middle of the solemn New Year's speech to the press, a practice that had fallen into disuse and that the president recovered in 2018 to suspend it again in 2019. The one he held yesterday was the speech of a reader of press and of a believer in freedom of expression, that of the politician who trusts in the role of journalists to control power and who asks for vigilance before the whole goes and the confusion of social networks, who defends the “I I'm Charlie ”five years after the attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the one that promises to protect the media from the threats of the large Silicon Valley platforms or from the attacks on their economic independence. After talking more than 40 minutes, he stepped off the platform and spoke on a run on any subject that was raised, with no more limit than to make a hole in the mêlée and get your attention: Middle East, Carlos Ghosn, pension reform, police violence …
His day-to-day performance is a matter of discussion and criticism in France, but on paper many of the ideas he expressed in the Elysee Palace could have been signed by many of the accredited guild members in Paris who listened to him. Another thing is how to put them into practice, but the contrast with the speech to the press two years ago is significant. And it says a lot about the changes the president has experienced in this period. Macron wants to convince France that it has changed and journalists may be a first step.
The campaign that led him to the Elysee Palace, in 2017, and the character that Macron embodied then – the young man who broke with the old political schemes, the banker-philosopher, the Europeanist who defeated the extreme right a few months after the victories of Donald Trump and Brexit — fascinated many observers. Journalists included. Then came the distancing. The French president wanted to rule in the monarchical style – "Jupiterine", he said, by the Roman god Jupiter -, elevated above the common of mortals, impatient with some counterpowers, weighed down by an image of elitism and arrogance that ended up paying face. In the first ceremony with the press in January 2018, when he had been at the Elysee Palace for less than a year, Macron read the booklet to the guests. He scolded them for the bad habit, which he had observed with his predecessor, the socialist François Hollande, of an excessive collusion with power. Too many confidences, too much compadreo … On that occasion, he also announced a law against fake news or fake news that journalists associations viewed with distrust.
It was Act 1, which led to an explosion of latent tensions in France and the revolt of the yellow vests. Macron reminded reporters yesterday of one of the unfortunate moments of that period, when he told an unemployed that he, the president, could cross the street and find him several jobs. That it was a matter of getting rid of laziness and looking for it: that's how it was perceived. "It was an expression sooo Act 1, ”he joked. "It didn't give me luck."
Now Act 2 has just begun, and the problems for Macron are not over. The indefinite strike in transport and demonstrations against pension reform are the proof. But he tries to show himself under other habits. More humble, more listening, a few centimeters, or more, under the pedestal.
"This is not a great debate," he warned, noting that he would not repeat those seven or eight-hour discussions he organized at the beginning of last year to get out of the yellow vests crisis. And in the end, he quoted a text by Albert Camus about the freedom of the press. "Forming these hearts and these spirits," he said, "rather waking them up, is the task at once modest and ambitious that corresponds to the independent journalist." Actually, Camus said "independent man," not "journalist." But it doesn't matter: the classics never fail.