On March 19, 2017, a video was shared on the official Facebook page of François Fillon — the right-wing presidential candidate. The video was a teaser announcing the participation of the candidate in the show ‘Présidentielles: Candidats au tableau!’.
The concept of this show is simple. Instead of journalists, a group of children from 8- to -12-years-old ask simple and down-to-earth questions to each of the presidential candidates. Advocates of the show point out that the spontaneity of the children helps capture so-called truthful moments from well-trained politicians.
In front of a traditional blackboard, a little boy asks: ‘Why did everyone abandon you?’. François Fillon — allegedly accused of embezzlement a few weeks before — explains: ‘There are a lot of personal attacks, political life is harsh’. Nothing is said about his possible responsibility in the case. Indeed, in this show, Fillon is no longer the candidate charged with corruption, he is the cool guy who Dab’s in front of a group of laughing children.
A new form of communication.
Welcome to what I call the ‘clownocracy’. Not only do people no longer vote for the proposals and ideas, but rather, choice is based according to the private life of the candidate, his punchlines, or even his sense of humour. Power is given to the clowns. In a nutshell, people vote for a communication strategy, built by professionals whose aim is to create a funny, accessible and charismatic character. Within this playground ambience, we learn that the favourite singer of Marine Le Pen — far-right presidential candidate — is Dalida and that she loves the dog selfie lenses on Snapchat.
This brand-new form of communication enables certain shows to prevail — the ones where politicians talk about anything but politics. In 2017, politics seem so lost and uninspiring that people struggle to understand it or find motive to engage in it, hence the usefulness of mediocre television programs. It is the cult of personality at its lowest stage.
The celebritization of politicians.
In October 2016, a scandal emerged as Karine Le Marchand — French hostess — launched her new show. Indeed, the aim of her show ‘Ambition Intime’ (private ambition) — to learn about the personal lives of politicians — was strongly criticized. Its rule is quite simple: politicians but no politics. The hostess claimed in the national newspaper Le Monde that she absolutely did not care about their policies. She also explained that her goal was to attract people who are not interested in politics. This is quite paradoxical. It is obvious that a person watching a show which only mentions the private lives of well-known politicians, is not going to suddenly develop a huge interest for politics. In these shows, politicians are not considered to be anything else than temporary celebrities.
The saddest thing, is that there is a great probability that all the presidential candidates who played the ‘fun’ card gained a few votes from their foolish performances and the fake secrets they shared on national TV. Charlie Chaplin once said: ‘I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician’. And indeed, the worst thing about politicians is that even when they act as fools, they do not make us laugh.