Yellow Vest Update: Is It Growing or Running Out of Gas?

And why do we not hear more from our media?

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When the Yellow Vests disruption began in France late last fall I was surprised at how little the media here were covering it. It was a friend who brought it to my attention. I soon began following on Twitter using the hashtag #YellowJackets. The problem with this particular moniker is that a number of U.S. schools also used the same hashtag because Yellow Jackets is their mascot. For better results I switched to #YellowVests.

There was so much spin on social media that I found it difficult to obtain a clear understanding of what was really going on. Furthermore, the U.S. media seemed indifferent.

To get a handle on what had been happening I contacted Dr. Pedro Albuquerque who lives in Marseilles and teaches economics at the university there. He gave this report at the time. In light of the ongoing violence and weekend disruptions I reached out for an update.

Is the Yellow Vest movement growing or running out of gas?

Pedro Albuquerque: It appears to be the case. The official count of participants in their first Saturday of protests was 288,000, against their lowest participation ever last Saturday (April 27) of only 23,600. A significant proportion of the protesters still active tend to have anarchist or mobbing tendencies, one example is the conspicuous participation lately of “black blocks” (mobs of violent protesters dressing black masks).

Do the Yellow Vests have an agenda? Or is it essentially a manifestation of nationwide discontent?

PA: It is clearly an amalgam of discontents of all kinds, powered by social media. They have been until now unable to coalesce around any clear political agenda. You will find among its participants people from all political tendencies, with the only common feature that they tend to have extremist views.

I’ve read that the Yellow Vests don’t trust the Media. Would you concur or is that just a journalist making hay?

PA: Opinion polls clearly show that they trust the media significantly less than the average French citizen, and that they get most of their information through social media networks only. Some researchers also found that they tend to believe in conspiracy theories much more intensely than citizens with moderate political views. They tend to have similar worldviews of those in the U.S. who use the term “globalists” as a slur, but with some added local colors, for example, according to a poll, about half of self-identified Yellow Vests believe that a Zionist conspiracy controls the world.

There is very little coverage in the U.S. of what is happening in France. Why do you think this is?

PA: I think that this is due to the many other issues that can be considered equally or probably more important by those in charge of European news coverage. Brexit has been occupying press space for a few years now, and quite justifiably. I would say that close to Brexit the Yellow Vest movement is much less relevant. President Macron has also been quite skillful at occupying press space with other pressing matters, as exemplified by his call for Notre Dame Cathedral reconstruction donations, and by the “Great National Debate,” the many rounds of nationwide town hall meetings which took place as an answer to the Yellow Vest movement.

What will it take to bring these protests to a suitable conclusion? I can’t help but see a deepening bitterness emerging from the violence.

My impression is that this movement will probably stabilize as it is right now, and will continue to exist for as long as their three main social media networks of reference, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, will remain functioning as they function today. I think the more interesting question is: what will governments do about those social media corporations, which are now recognized around the world as extremely significant disturbance factors in local politics. On this subject, see for example the excellent TED talk of Carole Cadwalladr available at:
https://www.ted.com/talks/carole_cadwalladr_facebook_s_role_in_brexit_and_the_threat_to_democracy

Thank you for your time, insights and perspective.
Photos were grabbed from videos on Twitter.

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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