D5.1 Country Report | June 2021

Authors: Stephen W. Sawyer and Roman Zinigrad, The American University of Paris, Center for Critical Democracy Studies

This report is a study of the French contemporary media, focusing on the mainstreaming of radicalisation through physical and digital platforms. Using critical discourse analysis, it demonstrates the impact of communication through language, images, and gestures on the cultural entrenchment of antisemitic narratives in the French popular culture and society. The I-GAP framework developed for the D.Rad project sheds light on the links between these narratives and violent radicalisation.

The report examines manifestations of antisemitism in traditional and new media through the work of Dieudonné, a famous French comedian and highly influential disseminator of antisemitic propaganda. Dieudonné’s creative output and online presence reflect the recent structural changes in the French media sphere and upsurge of hate speech on social networks. His popularity in radical circles demonstrates the inherent limitations of hate speech regulation and attempts to entirely remove a radicalisation agent from the public sphere. His comedy attracts a wide range of marginalised groups that have little in common beyond their antisemitic perceptions. And finally, the products of his prolific career are highly diverse in their circulation and nature: they are available physically and online, comprise artistic-humorous and political content, and carry literal and symbolical meanings.

The report examines three emblematic samples of Dieudonné’s antisemitic discourse: The quenelle, a gesture that was invented by Dieudonné, and turned into a cultural phenomenon and a mobilising element of radicalisation; a revisionist infographic on the Vichy regime from one of Dieudonné’s websites demonstrating Dieudonné’s non-humorous, antisemitic political activism; and a YouTube video of an extract from one of Dieudonné’s theatre shows, representative of three predominant elements in Dieudonné’s comedy: derision and revisionism of the Holocaust, antisemitic stereotypes, and pitting Afro-French against Jews. The report also includes an overview of the public attitudes towards Jews, the government’s measures taken to limit antisemitic violence and online hate speech, and the expressions of antisemitism in the mainstream, fringe, and social media.

Dieudonné’s multidimensional world of content, where one seamlessly shifts from the entertaining to the offensive, is a sophisticated hotbed of radicalisation. It strives to maximise outreach to anyone receptive to antisemitic views and create a community whose members are situated between the passionate and the passively accepting on the antisemitic spectrum. The communication and artistic strategies employed to this end are central to the understanding of the media’s role in (de)radicalisation in France.