FEMFACTS
05 Jun 2019

This French weekly thinks violence is okay as long as it’s against feminists

French weekly Valeurs Actuelles denounced "feminist terror" while downplaying the violent eviction of feminist activists from its conference and the harassment that dozens of people have experienced at the hand of influential male journalists.

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Marion Dautry NewsMavens, Europe
This French weekly thinks violence is okay as long as it’s against feminists - NewsMavens
La Barbe April 25, Twitter

For the French conservative weekly newspaper Valeurs Actuelles, one cannot be a real journalist and a feminist at the same time. Whoever makes claims to the contrary is part of the “feminisphere” -- in their view, a network of dangerous activists that has allegedly infiltrated French mainstream media and at the hand of which people (mostly men) are suffering.

The first article of their May 2019 issue on "The New Feminist Terror" is titled “The new (female) inquisition's octopus” and portrays the so-called “media-feminist structures” as a close-knit community that excludes anyone who thinks differently while successfully pushing its own agenda, thanks to the support of the government.

What is the claim?

The article opens with a reminder of the interruption of a debate organized by Valeurs Actuelles in April 2019, by a group of activists from the feminist organization La Barbe (The Beard). The incident is described as

...a brief scene of chaos during which about twenty activists ran onto the stage screaming against male chauvinism.

The authors then praise the “efficient intervention of the security” for taking the activists out.

The article continues with the aim of showing that feminist activists (a term to be understood in a negative sense) have, under the pretense of being journalists, infiltrated much of French mainstream media. According to Valeurs Actuelles, being a feminist and an LGBT rights activist is not compatible with being a journalist:

Where does feminist activism stop? What are its links with the media wedded to its cause?”, they ask and proceed to list known female journalists who are also engaged in feminist and LGBT civil society organizations.

The article denounces the consequences of this “collusion” between feminists and journalists, which they describe as “opaque, hostile even, towards whoever is not a member.” The example it offers is the “Ligue du LOL” (“LOL league”) scandal from February 2019:

A bunch of experienced (ed: male) journalists from leftist media were at that time accused of having 'harassed' other journalists, including women”, the article reads. “The scandal is immediately amplified by the feminisphere which sees it (…) as a mean to seize more power inside newsrooms.

A former member of the LOL League, “now with no chance of finding a job despite the lack of trial” is quoted to support this claim:

They transformed themselves into pseudo-investigators and sought justice themselves, between women, with no regard for the presumption of innocence nor basic rules of deontology”, he says, “sourly.

What are the facts?

The article is written using the investigative reporting vocabulary that any media would utilise to uncover a hidden truth and shed light on shady arrangements between people of power. But this narration is put to use to support anti-feminist rhetoric and justify the use of violence.

The activists of La Barbe who interrupted the debate have been conducting those interventions for several years, with the aim of "contesting male domination" by casting a light on all-male events. They do so non-violently and with a dose of humor. In their reports about the debate (seven speakers, seven men), Valeurs Actuelles and the organizers have shown satisfaction in the handling of the situation and the quick evacuation of the activists. "They failed", commented the journalist Eugénie Bastié who was present that evening. She is also interviewed in this issue of the weekly to criticize "neofeminism" as the "21st-century communism".

Yet, videos that have been posted online later of the incident show it in a different light. The activists were violently thrown to the ground, one ending up with a bloodied nose while part of the audience applauded, screaming "Die, leftists! Out, slobs!", as Telerama reported.

Geoffroy Lejeune, the managing editor of the newspaper, is seen grabbing one of the activists by the leg and helping drag her out of the stage. Later he explained to Les Inrocks: "I saw this girl carried by three or four men, she was struggling hard. I couldn't pass so I pulled her leg".

He has also lodged a complaint with the police against the individuals and media that are saying that he participated in the violent eviction. But the slow-motion video posted by La Barbe shows that he had space to move around and that he actively participated in grabbing the woman to carry her out. She doesn't appear to be struggling hard against the three men of the security already holding her when Geoffroy Lejeune decides to grab her leg. He is seen with a wide smile on his face when he returns to  the stage.

In videos posted on the Twitter account of Valeurs Actuelles, one can see the bloodied nose of the journalist Alice Coffin and a woman being dragged on the floor by security. In a later video filmed in the street where the activists have been evacuated, the man filming for the weekly tells Alice Coffin that "gender equality in practice will come little by little, if you impose it, it will cause problems".

and

The activists have commented that their interventions -- 214 so far -- had never created such a violent reaction so far.

The League of LOL scandal, also mentioned in the article, started after several people mentioned it on Twitter in February 2019, launching investigations in the media. The League of LOL was a Facebook group created at the end of the '00s, gathering mostly young and ambitious men, and a few women. They used different social media portals, particularly Twitter, to target people they didn't like, mostly between 2009 and 2012.

Most of their victims were women -- lots of them feminists -- and minorities. The journalist and translator Nora Bouazzouni was one of them. "They were absolutely vile on Twitter. It was persecution, I was also harassed with insults, photomontages, gifs of porn things and my head on it, anonymous emails of insults... They would, in groups, target one person. And since they had very influential accounts it would immediately assume enormous proportions", she told Liberation. Many other testimonies have been published since and all tell the same kind of stories. One man was targeted after one of the LOL League members saw him with a woman who had rejected him. His head was photoshopped on pornographic images and sent to minors with a link to his Twitter account.

Confronted by the testimonies and the investigations of several media, the most prominent members of the group who were occupying high-ranking posts in French media were fired or suspended pending further review.

Many of their victims have had their careers damaged and suffered mental health issues due to the violence of the harassment and the consequences it had had in real life. Ironically, social media helped spread the testimonies and the articles about the story when it finally broke out in February 2019. But Valeurs Actuelles reads this as "a means to take over more power" for feminists and is siding with the harassers who lost their positions.

Conclusion

We deem the general tone and writing as antifeminist backlash. The downplaying of the injuries sustained by the activists who non-violently protested the debate and of the suffering of dozens from organized harassment by the LOL League members, we rate as biased reporting. We also consider the attempt of Geoffroy Lejeune to downplay his role in the violent evacuation of the activists of La Barbe as an attempt to spin the story in his favour.

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