Having failed to see a problem themselves, the left now seeks to discredit those that can. Picture by Antoine Bayet.
This time three days ago, the entire world suspected that the person responsible for the terror attacks in France was a far-right extremist. Or at least that's the impression you'd get if your source of information was Europe's national papers. The left-wing l'Humanite, which doesn't do beating around the bush at the best of times, screamed 'racist killer.' Le Figaro pondered ironically whether Islamophobia was to blame. La Depeche du Midi took a similar tack, noting that 'racism' was a possible motive.
Well out in front, though, was Britain's ever-humble Guardian, publishing a full piece on its online edition by one of its longest-serving columnists, Fiachra Gibbons, brazenly entitled 'race, religion, and murder.' He blamed outright the questioning stance of French politicians towards mass-immigration and Islamism, and opined that the killer was similar to Anders Brievik (a cultural nationalist ultraconservative) and neo-Nazis, inspired by the rhetoric of the presidential campaign trail. He, like most left-wing comment pieces on the subject, made reference to the Front National, the French party blithely mislabelled far-right (more like backbench Tories, who happened to mention Islam on TV) famous for their integrationist, anti-Islamist stance, and their dynastic le Pen leadership.
It's since turned out, of course, that the killer was not the 'far-right' at all, nor was he a white racist, but in fact an Islamic fundamentalist who claimed links to al-Qaeda. You'd think that Marine le Pen would stand vindicated, and, to her mind, she does. But, rather than operating under a code of humility and retracting their mistakes - or at least adjusting their rhetoric to suit the truth - the same newspapers that initially blamed her and Sarkozy for the attacks now accuse her of playing the crisis for political gain.
Having changed her moniker from the incorrect 'far-right' to the wildly wrong 'extreme-right,' undoubtedly in an attempt to offset any popularity she may have gained, the Guardian accused her of 'playing the politics of fear' in 'the hope of repeating the electoral shock' of 2002, where her father (who was actually far-right) came second to the incumbent. Alexis Corbiere, a spokesman for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon accused her of feeding 'a Crusader spirit inspired by religious war under the theory of a clash of civilisations.'
That's abysmally wide of the mark: it fails at the word 'Crusader.' Le Pen is not talking of embarking on foreign expansionist wars: she is, and has only ever, spoken of increased (perhaps excessive, and some would say oppressive) vigilance against Islamist fundamentalism at home, specifically in the banlieus. Vigilance that would have served well if put in place already. Nor has she stated any support Christianity, or hinted that it is 'superior.' Unlike her father, she's cut a more secular tack through the minefield of religion: in fact 'politico-religious fundamentalists' of all colours or creeds are what she's set herself against in the days since the attacks, deploring the men 'who are killing our Christian children, our young Christian men, our young Muslim men and who killed these Jewish children two days ago' (note: she was shamefully misquoted by Independent columnist Adrian Hamilton, who ommitted her reference to Muslim men and Jewish children on a piece where comments were, unusually, disallowed).
Le Pen has said nothing since the crisis that she didn't say before it. But she has put her presidential rivals - whom she accuses of ignoring the Islamic fundamentalist threat - on the back foot. Now, in the wake of an event which validates, if not vindicates, her claims, her critics are having to resort to mislabelling, misquoting, and outright lies in order to prevent her approval ratings from rising.