Roy Gilbert

France Is Becoming More Like America. It’s Terrible.

PARIS — It’s become a familiar refrain in French political life. From President Emmanuel Macron and his cabinet to the far-right opposition, from print columnists to talking heads, “Americanization” is increasingly held responsible for a whole set of social ills ailing the nation.

For some of these critics , it’s the reason so many young people — adopting the view of Black Lives Matter activists — believe police violence is a problem. For others , it explains why the quality of academic research is in decline , as fanciful ideas concocted on American college campuses like intersectionality and post-colonialism supposedly flourish. To others still, it’s why people can’t speak their mind anymore, suffocated by the threats of “ cancel culture .”

Perhaps the most common gripe is that ideas and practices imported from the United States are making the French obsessed with ethnic , religious and sexual difference at the expense of their shared identity as citizens of the universal Republic.

They’re not wrong: French politics are, in fact, becoming Americanized. But the problem is not left-wing theories or censorious scolds. It is instead the rise of an insular, nationalistic, right-wing discourse driven by a belligerent style of press coverage. Distinctively French in content, the form this discourse takes — grievance-wallowing hosts conjuring embittered conversations about national decline, immigration and religion — follows America’s lead. As in the United States, the result is a degraded political landscape that empowers the far right, dragging mainstream politicians into its orbit.

Culture wars are America’s true […]