Mar 11, 2017

Marine Le Pen feels the media's Trump effect

Steve Helber / AP; Francois Mori / AP

As President Trump knows, saying controversial things during a presidential bid gets you a lot of free press and sucks up airtime from your opponents (poor Jeb!). So it's not surprising that Marine Le Pen's nationalist — and by nearly all typical metrics, politically incorrect — bid for the French presidency is receiving the same sort of sanctimonious yet breathless media coverage around the world.

  • The British press were 4.5 times more likely to mention Le Pen than her chief opponent, centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron, per an analysis of UK headlines by Buzzfeed News. As a comparison, Trump got more than twice the amount of nightly news coverage that Hillary Clinton did.
  • All about the clicks: Buzzfeed found that the top 20 stories about Le Pen had more than 15k engagements on Facebook, while only the top story about Macron broke that number. Again, Trump did the same — getting 3 times as many page views per article than Clinton, according to parse.ly.
  • Sound familiar? There's a strong worry in France that the Kremlin is using bots to amplify positive social media chatter about Le Pen and increase online engagement with content sympathetic to her. There's also significant evidence that Russian state-run media corporations are producing pro-Le Pen content that's designed to be highly shareable.
  • The most viral Le Pen headlines often come from right-wing outlets, painting her on the verge of victory and the European Union on the edge of collapse from mass immigration. Condé Nast International's CDO explained her UK coverage to Buzzfeed, "Euroskeptic newsrooms want to conflate all 'populist' right-wing parties as part of an uprising of anti-immigrant, anti-Brussels sentiment." You can see the same here in the United States — Breitbart has fawning headlines for Le Pen while branding Macron as her "globalist rival."
  • But here's the really big thing: Donald Trump won. That automatically grants Le Pen legitimacy in her media coverage that requires both her and her agenda to be taken seriously — even when she's comparing to Islam to Nazism.
  • One headline that sums it all up from Foreign Policy: "Marine Le Pen Is Donald Trump Without the Crazy"

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Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly apologized Monday for calling Capt. Brett Crozier, the ousted commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt "too naive or too stupid" over his letter pleading for help following a coronavirus outbreak onboard.

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