Emmanuel Macron’s most offensive, self-centred and strangest comments in 2018

Having played 2017 on easy mode, the French president was unprepared for what came next. 

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Emmanuel Macron has had quite the year. Having played 2017 on easy mode (after his surprise presidential win, his first economic and social reforms were met with little opposition owing to his huge parliamentary majority), the French president was widely unprepared for what came next. The little prince fell to earth mere days after his show-off celebrations of France’s World Cup victory: his bodyguard Benella beat up demonstrators at a May Day rally while posing as a police office, causing the first scandal of Macron’s presidency. Then, as his rating were in free-fall, his ministers launched a festival of resignations. And street protests, which had been contained in the spring, suddenly made a comeback in the gilets jaunes movement, which caught fire across France.

As Macron turns 41 today and for the second time running, here are this year’s most frustrating, weird and downright outrageous soundbites that just might have angered the French enough for them to cover the Arc de Triomphe with tags calling for his resignation. Happy birthday, Manu*!

On the French

The French are “Gauls resistant to change”

Macron has developed a habit of insulting his compatriots from abroad. Last year, on a presidential visit to Greece, he called the French “slackers” - in Denmark this year, he compared his decidedly backwards fellow Gauls to the Danes, who are apparently “orderly Lutherians”. What’s next?

France would be better off if the French complained less”

France would also be better off if the president complained less about the French complaining.

Police officers “can’t write”

This one was a “joke” he made to a bodyguard who had lent his briefcase so that the president could sign an autograph on it. He laughed it off, but replied: “Bastard.”

“The Bretons are the French mafia”

Macron said this to the Pope, which must be some kind of record because 1) It makes no sense, 2) Why?? and 3) It managed to hurt both the Bretons and the Italians, for obvious mafia-related reasons.

On young people

* “You call me mister president”

You all know the story: a kid called Macron “Manu”, and Manu lost it. Not a great look, nor a good strategy to avoid being called Manu (ever heard of the Streisand effect?)

“You mother deserves better”

In the French Antilles, Macron lectured a young man who said he had just been released from prison. This statement isn’t very shocking - but it’s noticeable, because Macron loves to make young people, who he addresses with the informal “tu” pronoun, promise to do better. There has however been no sign of policies that address young people’s concerns. Young people deserve better too.

On the gilets jaunes

Macron has been famously silent on the topic, which largely contributed to the gilets jaunes thinking he did not take them seriously and offered too little, too late. He pretended to make concessions (more on this later), but then said that he wouldn’t reintroduce the tax on the very rich:

“Going back [on the tax] would weaken us. I need our big business, our most wealthy citizens, to help the nation to succeed.”

Macron is what happens when sociological concepts - here Bourdieu’s symbolic violence - come to life.

On money

“We put a crazy amount of dough in social care, and people are still poor!”

Yes, French president Emmanuel Macron said this. He even posted the video on his own Twitter account. French president Emmanuel Macron somehow thought this was a good idea. I’m starting to believe that French president Emmanuel Macron is an elaborate meme come to life.

“In France, we always look at the penny we lose, never the one we win!”

Your guess is as good as mine.

“There is no magic money tree”

Channelling Theresa May! Always a great plan.

On migrants

“We must be wary of false showings of good conscience”

Criticised by a Nobel Prize winner for his “lack of humanity” on migrants, Macron replied that, really, it’s intellectuals worrying about said migrants we should be suspicious about.

Awarding French citizenship to Mamoudou Gassama, the Malian migrant who rescued an infant was an “exception”

This guy went viral, so I guess he’s allowed to stay here, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually going to fix any of France’s structural problems regarding our racist immigration policies.

“I want the nation to agree with itself on its identity, that we have a debate on immigration”

This was part of Macron’s TV address to the gilets jaunes, which was otherwise focused on economic measures. It’s been flagged by non-profit SOS Racisme for “scapegoating immigrants”.

On himself

His critics? “They can come and get me”

Incredibly enough, this was Macron’s reply following the Benalla scandal: “If they’re looking for the person at fault, it’s me. They can come and get me.” (They can’t. It’s called “presidential immunity”.)

“I am not ready to apologise for being a young white male. Sixty years ago, a young white male was the master of the world.”

Alright, Macron actually said this in 2010, but the book that revealed this gem was published this year. Please enjoy responsibly.

“Oh, how the bird worried the wolf - how he wanted to catch him! But the bird was cleverer, and the wolf simply couldn't do anything about it.”

This is an extract from Peter and the Wolf, which Macron narrated to an audience during a “Russian soirée” at the Elysée. “Louis XIV, who loved dancing, often acted in ballets hosted at the palace”, Le Monde noted as comparison.

On the press

In February, Macron announced that he is kicking the press out of the presidential palace.

Rude. (And quite dangerous for the freedom of the French press.)

The Benalla scandal? “A storm in a tea cup”

When in doubt, gaslight the media.

“The press doesn’t seek truth anymore”, “the media wants to become a judicial power”, “journalists have erased the presumption of innocence”

Gaslighting didn’t work? Just shout “fake news”!

On democracy

“Democracy is the most bottom-up system in the world”

This already makes little sense in English. He said it in French, but used English for “bottom-up”, which is management nonsense.

“I don’t know how he got in.”

Quizzed by his environment minister on how a hunting lobbyist had managed to invade a meeting on hunting regulations, Macron, who clearly knew how the person got in, pretended he had no idea. Not very bottom-up. (The minister proceeded to resign.)

“The link between church and state is damaged. We must fix it.”

We really, really don’t. It’s called “secularity”, it’s enshrined in the Constitution and the secular laws of 1905, and is considered a fundamental principle of French democracy.

On the job market

“I cross the street and I find you a job!”

Macron thus replied to a young gardener who was describing his struggle to find work in his profession. He also advised him to look for work as a waiter instead.  

On following the rules

“You don't always have to follow the rules. That's bullshit!”

That was the French president’s advice to privileged American students at George Washington University. Don’t try it at home, though - French activists, students, rail workers, gilets jaunes and other protesters will tell you that all you’ll get is teargas and, if you’re unlucky, a life-altering injury.

On the Republic

“The Republic is untouchable”

That was during the Benalla scandal.

On French history

“Those for whom the most important battle is on housing aid worth €50” don't really know France and its history

Years in French history during which revolts were sparked by taxes/economic inequality: 1624, 1630, 1634-37, 1640, 1643, 1645, 1659, 1656-62, 1653-65, 1666, 1674, 1675, 1707, 1749, 1789...

Marshall Pétain [who surrendered France to the Nazis] was “a great soldier” even if he made “macabre choices”

Please, Manu… I beg you… Just...don’t...

BONUS

In this video, Macron can be seen visibly tipsy, in the middle of the Benalla scandal, on the same day he’s dared his critics to “come and get him”. “I’m with the people, we’re happy, everything is alright!” he says, looking very relaxed.

Let’s hope this will come true in 2019.

Pauline Bock is a New Statesman contributing writer based in Brussels. She writes about Brexit, the EU, France and the Macron presidency. 

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