France: Muzzling Dissent Across the Population

Pam Barker | Director of TLB Europe Reloaded Project

An Update From the Trenches

May 18, 2020

Here’s a review of some of the week’s stories coming out of France.

Censoring, surveilling, preventing public protest, tracking the population, failing the elderly while claiming to help them. These are familiar themes everywhere right now.

Turning Teachers Into Snitches, Having to Defend the Government for … its Mismanagement?

Covid-19 : enseignants et élèves sont-ils tenus de ne pas critiquer le gouvernement en classe?

“COVID-19: Are Teachers and Students Told to Not Criticise the Government in Class?”

Lockdown finished here on May 11, but kids are being phased back slowly into regular school attendance. The French National Education ministry issued on May 4 – an edict that it’s since had to walk back given an understandable backlash – a warning to teachers to listen carefully to what students have to say about the lockdown and the government upon their return to school:

Some children can hold ideas that are clearly unacceptable (ER: unacceptable to whom?). Teachers must mention that the authority of the state is there to protect each citizen, without being contentious. The parents will be notified and seen by the teacher, accompanied by a colleague where appropriate, and the situation will be reported to the school authorities.

«Des enfants peuvent tenir des propos manifestement inacceptables. La référence à l’autorité de l’Etat pour permettre la protection de chaque citoyen doit alors être évoquée, sans entrer en discussion polémique. Les parents seront alertés et reçus par l’enseignant, le cas échéant accompagné d’un collègue, et la situation rapportée aux autorités de l’école.»

Leader of Debout La France party (Stand Up, France – centre right), Nicolas Dupont Aignan (tweet) considers it the beginning of the thought police where kids and parents could be hauled up for having unapproved ideas. Are we in Eastern Germany, Soviet Russia, the world of Orwell he wonders on Twitter. He also reminds us that the government has set up a site where ‘approved’ and ‘unapproved’ news articles are categorized, and that French doctors have been turned into spies, motivated by modest payments, to report their patients with Covid on a dedicated government website, as well as their contacts for tracing. See our report on this: French Doctors Speak Out Against New Contact Tracing As Attack on Right to Medical Privacy. It’s been an increasing tendency of the Macron government, he notes, to turn its employees into snitches of others.

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Gilets Jaunes: What’s so special about the number 10?

Des manifestants se revendiquant des Gilets jaunes dispersés par la police dans plusieurs villes

“Protestors claiming Gilets Jaunes Were Dispersed by Police in Several Town”

With the lockdown having finished, the government has made illegal (is this actually a law or some other form of government ruling?) gatherings of more than 10 people. If ever this was really designed to clamp down on public protest and not simply ‘protect against the virus’, we see it here.

This past Saturday – 6 days after the lockdown finished on May 11, some Yellow Vests were back on the streets in small groups in various French towns and cities, especially Paris. Not all were wearing yellow vests, probably because they were prohibited by the government well before the virus scare started.

Some protestors were getting dispersed by the police for not respecting social distancing rules (you really can’t make this up).

If you check out some Twitter videos of altercations on this RT page, you can see police – lots of them in attendance – being careful not to play the heavy with the protestors. Also, happily for the phenomenon of herd immunity, you can see nobody is practicing social distancing, especially the police, and few are wearing masks!

The economic problems for the Gilets Jaunes have just gotten far worse with the two-month, economy-destroying lockdown, not better. These guys are not going anywhere and have probably had their ranks swelled.

And Their Protests Are Anticipated by the Intelligence Services

Le grand retour des Gilets jaunes et des contestataires selon le renseignement : intox médiatique?

“The Great Return of the Gilets Jaunes and Other Groups According to Official Information: fake news?”

Certain news outlets, RT included, have been issued some sort of alert indicating that the government fears pushback from various dissident groups as a result of the lockdown, especially from the Gilets Jaunes. It is clear that social media is being watched closely by the government for renewed calls to protest. What isn’t clear is if this warning from the government to the media isn’t some sort of media strategy or wind-up to get a line of reporting going.

France’s ‘Direction Centrale du Renseignment Territorial’ (the intelligence arm of the police) issued a 15-page report on May 6, beginning with:

For the protest movements, the health crisis and its management are arguments in favour of questioning the current system. Militants continue to submit to lockdown measures, seizing the opportunity where possible to criticize police violence which, according to them, has increased during this time. Calls to protest from the end of the lockdown continue to circulate on social media.

“Pour les mouvances contestataires, la crise sanitaire et sa gestion sont autant d’arguments en faveur de la remise en cause du “système” actuel. Les militants continuent de se soumettre aux mesures de confinement et saisissent l’opportunité offerte, le cas échéant, par tout fait divers pour dénoncer les “violences policières” qui selon eux “ont augmenté” en période de confinement. Des appels à manifester dès la fin de la période de confinement continuent de circuler sur les réseaux sociaux.”

The RT article then goes on to list certain protests around France from May 10-12 & 14, which taken as a whole, show small groups of diverse people, including the Yellow Vests, protesting the health emergency, recognizing the illegality of the lockdown (a recurrent theme of lockdowns in all our countries), &etc. This includes a group of lawyers calling themselves “Black Robes” protesting the violation of citizens’ rights (see image), and healthcare workers angry against the government (see image).

Whether the publication of this report is a media strategy or not, we can see groups of people beginning to show their discontent in a country where people generally and quickly obey the government in these sorts of situations.

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Why Weren’t The Ambulance Services Taking The Elderly to Hospital During the Lockdown?

“Des personnes âgées auraient probablement pu être sauvées” : le refus d’hospitalisation de résidents d’Ehpad, dernier tabou du Covid

“Some of the elderly probably could have been saved: the refusal to hospitalise nursing home residents, last taboo of the COVID crisis.”

Alas, the elderly, who have turned out by far and away to be the most vulnerable to the virus and lockdown, appear to have have suffered from wilful neglect in their French care homes. When they needed hospitalisation, especially through the month of March when viral infections were at their peak, some of them didn’t get it. The ambulance service simply didn’t respond to calls for emergency hospitalisation in many French regions.

In the English-language media, it’s clear that hospitals were not at all swamped with patients, on the contrary. This report seems to suggest that hospitals were full – which is simply assumed with no evidence. But as these reporters say, couldn’t another hospital department have been willing to take in these people? Or another neighbouring hospital?

It seems that at least certain hospitals have had ‘sorting’ criteria for who they would and wouldn’t accept in situations of emergency. Those over 75 with serious health conditions such as serious respiratory, cardiac and liver problems, etc. would be the least likely to be accepted.

France prides itself on equality of care, so this is likely to be investigated over the longer term.

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