Another facet of the Gilets Jaunes protests, not formally linked to economic immiseration, is that of cultural displacement. This was originally a movement of the French périphérique, the French equivalent of flyover country, whose concerns had been widely ignored by a succession of governments that instead devoted considerable resources to trying to “integrate” the immigrant suburbs. The website of Bernard Henri Levy, the influential French neoconservative, depicted the Gilet Jaunes as “white trash,” to use the English phrase. On the other hand, the initial reaction of Marine Le Pen’s party (renamed the Rassemblement National) and many more traditionalist right-wing intellectuals was favorable to the movement, often enthusiastic.
But to the extent that the Gilet Jaunes becomes an adjunct to La France Insoumise, with an added seasoning of banlieu looters and Antifa, the French right will back away. Practically all of Marine Le Pen’s tweets over the past several days have been directed at Macron’s signing of the United Nations’ immigration pact at Marrakech, a document that expresses a wooly aspiration towards a multicultural borderless liberalism. Important as that pact may be, it is not what the French are talking about right now.