Monday, May 15, 2017

The French Canary

I have my political views. You have your political views.  For a minute, put them aside for the sake of some pure, staggering, strategic analysis.  This could be historic, so buckle in.

Look, I'm a brand strategist, so I'm more concerned with why things happen, on the theory that if you understand why things happen, you're better prepared for when they happen.  If you're really good, you can also get an accurate picture of what's going to happen, which comes in handy, too.  My work tends to stay in the commercial sector, but make no mistake:  Branding is about making decisions, wherever those decisions are made.  So as long as humans are choosing their actions, the forces at work in purchase decisions will remain very much like the ones influencing social and political events.

Which brings us to France.

At the time of this writing, France has just inaugurated its youngest president in history.  That's not important. Two thirds of the French vote carried the center-left Mr. Macron into office, sending the right-leaning Ms. LePen to defeat.  There's no doubt that Ms. LePen had a serious branding problem, but that's not important, either.

Here's what is important:

Starting in June, 2016, the world has witnessed profound growth in anti-globalist sentiment.  It began with BREXIT and -- regardless of social media hash tags to the contrary -- continued with the ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States.  Social media like Facebook and Twitter is rife with malcontents who post memes and videos espousing the dangers of unrestricted immigration.  In the past year, Sweden has become the poster child for increases in crime, while Hungary and Poland are being heralded for their own zero tolerance policies.

Clearly, the battle lines are being drawn all over the world. But it's France that tells the real story.

Two decades ago, LePen's National Front party was barely a blip on the radar. Two weeks ago, it registered roughly 30% of the national French vote -- and that's just the official tally:  That doesn't include those who were sympathetic to LePen, but simply couldn't bring themselves to vote for her.

So now, France -- a country not well-known for its tolerance of non-white, non-Christian cultures -- has a major portion of her population reaching its boiling point.  Once known as the City of Lights, Paris has become a checkerboard of dark, impoverished ghettos where sharia law prevents the enforcement of French civil law.  The French are witnessing first-hand the degradation that social media has been blaring  about for the last few years -- and they don't like it one bit.  That's the significance of LePen's recent advances.

But there's more.

Nothing angers a mob -- especially throngs of Frenchmen -- more than being ignored by elitist rulers. It bothered the people of France enough in 1789 to start chopping off their own rulers' heads.  Now, with their civil remedies, elections and laws proving ineffective, it's not all that unlikely that we'll begin seeing Frenchmen take to the streets, going to those places where no French civil or military authority dare go.

Historically, "having run out of viable options" is what propels civil unrest movements, which often have a knack for turning violent.  So it shouldn't come as a surprise if/when France's white, unemployed working class -- in response to its tone-deaf government -- decides to take matters into its own hands.  Call it the Timothy McVeigh Syndrome, as multi-story residential tenements in Paris's immigrant neighborhoods begin collapsing in heaps of bomb-blasted rubble, each episode empowering the anti-immigrant movement on to its next attack.

The predictable reaction would be Macron sending in the French militia to restore order, which would backfire as social media portrays the action as "the French government favoring immigrants over its own citizens."  In the business, we call that a "PR disaster."  In the real world, we call it a precursor to civil war.

And that's why France is worth watching.  She's the canary in the European coal mine.

Okay, so that's one scenario and I'm just a branding guy. It could happen.  It might not.  But then, calculating the possibilities what I get paid for -- even when those possibilities aren't especially nice.


Blogger Ella S. said...

Very diplomatically phrased - I agree 100%

4:17 PM  
Blogger RichardLe said...

Bravo Rob, well said as usual !

7:13 PM  

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