OPINION: Macron’s vow to ‘piss off’ unvaxxed was deliberate and won’t hurt his election chances

Emmanuel Macron
President Emmanuel Macron in passionate mode. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP
French president Emmanuel Macron has been making headlines around the world with his strong language about those who refuse the Covid vaccine - but will this really damage his chances of being re-elected, asks John Lichfield?

President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that he wanted to emmerder (piss off) the non-vaccinated.

Cue an explosion of fake anger amongst his opponents at his use of such disrespectful and unpresidential language. Has the President  “P**d off” more people than he intended?

I doubt it. Over 92 percent of eligible French are now first vaccinated and 90.5 percent double-jabbed.

The remaining 10 percent are an eclectic bunch of anti-vax obsessives or crazies, stubborn libertarians and a large group of over-80s who rarely leave home and (foolishly) don’t see any point in getting jabbed. Few of them, I suspect, are potential Macron voters.

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Macron’s words were risky all the same. They were clearly not a spur-of-the-moment stumble. His reply to a nurse during a question and answer session with readers of Le Parisien was chatty and vulgar in style but lengthy and considered in content.

The nurse, who works in a clinic for the elderly, said that 85 percent of people occupying the acute care beds in her workplace were non-vaccinated. And yet, she said, urgent operations for vaccinated cancer patients were being postponed for lack of beds.

In reply Macron said the “worst enemies of democracy” were “lies and stupidity”. How could the government reduce the small minority of the non-vaccinated?

“By – and I’m sorry for putting it this way –  by p…ing them off even more,” Macron said. “I’m generally opposed to the French being p…d off. I complain all the time about administrative blockages. But when it comes to the non-vaccinated, I’m very keen to p… them off. So we’re going to do it, the end. That’s our strategy.”

New rules going through parliament – held up twice by opposition deputies, even though many of them support them – will turn the existing “health pass” into a “vaccine pass”. Only the vaccinated, and progressively only the booster-vaccinated, will have access to fun or travel.

READ ALSO What changes if France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass?

From January 15th, Macron told the nurse, the non-vaxxed would “no longer be able to go to restos or have a quick drink or coffee or go to the theatre or cinema…”

I don’t believe that Macron’s use of such direct, vulgar language was a spur-of-the-moment mistake.

It was a deliberate nod to the many millions of vaccinated French people who are already “p…d off” with the lies and obfuscations and of the unvaxxed – and by the violent language and actions of a small minority of this minority.

It was also intended as a trap for opposition politicians and  rival presidential candidates – a trap that many of them enthusiastically charged into. Macron, they protested, was “Trumpising” the language of French politics. He was acting like a “little dictator”.Maybe but above all he was “acting” – doing something.

Macron’s supporters had already accused his opponents of playing politics with a health crisis because they crassly used a parliamentary manoeuvre to cut short all-night debate on the new vaccine pass on Monday evening.

Now the Macronistes accuse the opposition – including the supposedly pro-vaccine pass centre-right candidate Valérie Pécressse – of using fake and sterile indignation  to court the votes of a minority of anti-vaxxers.

Yes, Macron’s language was a little crude, the Macronistes say. But it reflects an anger that many people share. If he speaks formally, he is accused of being out-of-touch. If he speaks colloquially, he is accused of being vulgar. He at least is doing something. The opposition is reduced to playing politics.

Factually, Macron has a point. According to the official figures, non-vaccinated people are 17 times more likely to end up in acute care  than the vaccinated.

In the week from December 13th to 19th, 1.5 per million completely vaccinated people were in acute care with Covid (all of them still Delta cases). The figure for the non-vaxxed was 26 in a million.

Could the government do more to get people vaccinated without coercing or insulting them? For most age groups, no. There is, however, a glaring weakness in Macron’s argument: the relatively poor rate of vaccination of the over 80s in France

Octogenarians and above are the age group most vulnerable to Covid, but in France they are the adult age group which is the least vaccinated. Only just over 90 percent have been double-vaxxed, compared to 98 percent of septuagenarians. They are of course also the age-group least affected by curbs on “fun” and travel. The government should be doing more to reach out to them.

But that is not the political risk that Macron was taking yesterday. The real risk was one that I have complained about before: Macron’s evident determination to campaign for re-election from within the walls of the Elysée Palace.

OPINION Macron won’t admit it, but he’s on the election trail

His language yesterday was not presidential. It was the language of someone who was electioneering rather than governing. He is not the first President to seek advantage by muddling the two roles. He is the first to do so when the country faces such an acute crisis.

Macon said in the Q&A yesterday that he was eager to run again but would wait until the health situation was clearer before he formally declared.

I think that Candidate Macron is already influencing the judgement of President Macron on the government’s largely wait-and-see response to the new Omicron wave of Covid.

He may get away with it. He may even benefit. But he could pay a big electoral price if the acute care and death figures spiral out of control in the next month.


Member comments

  1. Insulting the electorate never ends well as displayed by this weeks protestors retorting ‘we are going to p*** you off’.

    These kinds of childish vindictive and frankly menacing remarks about how ppl who disagree are not citizens any more finish political careers.

  2. As from last Sunday, the Ministry of Health gave written instruction that Covid infected healthcare staff can carry on working in French hospitals. The obsession with vaccines has now resulted in the crazy situation where unvaccinated, uninfected healthcare workers are suspended whilst vaccinated, infected workers can carry on. The rest of the world is aghast at this really odd policy. But not apparently the French.

  3. What is missing from this analysis is a fundamental understanding of the French culture. The French people are passionate about the right to choose for yourself. Many, many of the protestors against mandatory vaccination had been themselves vaccinated and were protesting against the government taking away the right to choose. Macron is going to lose the votes of more than the “eclectic bunch of anti-vax obsessives or crazies, stubborn libertarians and a large group of over-80s who rarely leave home and (foolishly) don’t see any point in getting jabbed” as a result of this. By the way, attacking the straw man is unbecoming in journalism. Lift your game, Mr Lichfield.

  4. The obsession with vaccinations has now resulted in the crazy policy of the Government now allowing vaccinated but infected nurses and doctors to continue working in French hospitals whilst at the same time suspending unvaccinated and uninfected healthcare workers . Mad wouldn’t you say ?

  5. Let me reword. Such reports are seldom seen within the mainstream. They seem to take a backseat. Obviously it’s being reported, as this is how I am aware of what’s happening over there. Like 60 percent of double vaccinated in hospital. My observations are not false. There just not convenient.

    You say : ‘If there are a lot of spreading amongst the vaccinated, that means there is even more amongst the unvaccinated.’ That’s an assumption. I’m not vaccinated. I’ve tried to get it many times, but failed. Many times. While others who are, are passing it around. You can cite variants as building a convenient context, but it doesn’t wash. And it’s not my experience, nor the experience of many in the same situation.

    The Who, Fauci and others have reversed and flipflopped on so much of their so-called advice it’s embarrassing. And when big pharma are funding the research I see big red flags and a huge conflict of interest. Fauci once said that all we need is to reach av50 percent vaccination rate to flatten the curve. Yeah, right!

    It’s clear to me the efficacy of the vaccines is in question. And we don’t deny the severity of Covid. But put things in balance. Around 10,00 people in France die of the flu. Who are these people. Mostly elderly and those with pre-existing condition. So, yes, the flu is also very severe.

    Watch out everyone! Take the flu shot. Keep social distancing. Where masks. The flu is very contagious and DEADLY. Because it is. Funny how that’s politicized. You cherry pick. I look at the big picture. I compare and ask questions. I dig as much as possible. And I don’t like what I see.

    And please don’t assume the reason I’m denying the efficacy is because I’m in some kind of self-denial and behave like everything is normal. That’s not my reason at all. And it’s dishonest to assume such things on people without evidence. That’s just opinion.

    But be aware that it’s dangerous to deny people their basic freedoms. Once you surrender these, you seldom get them back. And the unvaccinated are being vilified. Democracy is under attack. And in a subtle way. Creating fear and blame is classic communist playbook mechanics. 5 million remain unvaccinated in France. Covid is out of control. Sorry, I don’t buy that it’s being circulating more among them. That’s just ridiculous, since most are denied access to those places opened and greatly frequented by the vaccinated.

    Like I said. I’m not vaccinated. Yet my French family were and got Covid. They were a danger to me. Not the other way around! So I’m not the problem. But in the prism of ignorance and media manipulation, I am.

    But at least we do agree on the name calling. And I respect your right to an opinion. Open dialogue is important.

    ok past the

  6. I’m not proud of doing anything. don’t assume. That never ends well.

    I only look at what’s happening around me, follow very closely medical experts, virologists, and epidemiologists who disagree with the main narrative. Who have been involved in this industry for years and have had years of experience and research behind them. Do you want their names?

    And I stay away from quack Facebook groups, so don’t include me with the flat earthers, either.

    And you want me to cite what!? Can you cite how many adverts there were between all episodes of Mr Bean between 1990 and 1995? Yeah, dumb request.

    All I know is what I see on TV and mainstream media. Not a lot. Very little. It’s applying with oranges with apples.

    It’s my experience, and the experience of many other in my social circle – and from both sides of the spectrum. But maybe that doesn’t square with your ‘data’?

    And where do you get your data from. One million deaths? Directly from Covid, or from other causes while infected with Covid.

    A government health spokesperson last year in Adelaide admitted on national TV that Covid death statistics were by default including those who died directly from other causes while also Covid positive.

    And if the slightest doubt existed, they counted it as a Covid death. I have the video saved. Straight from the horses mouth. On national TV in Australia. That’s not accurate data. That a markedly huge difference in reported cases.

    I’ve also spoken with a nurse who works in a hospital overly exaggerating the numbers. I could go on. Her testimony.

    I recently spent 7 hours in A&E in an inner-city hospital and saw no strain on the doctors and nursing staff there. In fact lots of empty beds and quiet as a church. Yet we are led to believe that the hospitals are at breaking point. Now maybe there’s a lot more patient influx as usual. I get that. But it’s the exaggerations and blatant dishonesty that infuriates me.

    Big Pharma are influencing the data. They have a financial interest to do so. The WHO’s second largest financial benefactor is Bill Gates. The same Bill Gates who did a Ted talk on the possibility of a coming virus. The same Bill Gates who bought massive shares in the Pfizer company before the pandemic.

    I always ask questions. Sure I’ve been wrong. We all have. We need to keep an open mind and I don’t dismiss everything as a conspiracy. But I’m neither naïve.

    And yes, Alan, I agree. It’s always dressed up as the greater good.
    Create the fear, manipulated them numbers, exaggerate the problem and create an enemy.

    But I guess my experience and research counts for nothing. Shall I get vaccinated and be a good responsible citizen? Don’t ask questions? Just do as I’m told or be banned from all freedoms?

    Did you know that now children from the age of five are recommended to be vaccinated? Really? *king ridiculous. I can hear the sound of money! No, don’t say that. Children need to be vaccinated. Their naturally high immunity and low risk is of no consequence. It’s for the greater good. Vaccinate. Vaccinate.

    Sorry. I do not comply.

    I can see through the smoke and mirrors.

    Like I said: It’s easier to fool people that convince them to be fooled.

  7. What’s next ? Euthanasia, forced sterilisation, organ harvesting – it has been done before and always dressed up as ‘for the greater good’. The worry is the slippery slope down which continental Europe has slid before.

  8. Do you have statistics of how often these “inconvenient” sources are cited by the mainstream media? One’s “experiences” and perceptions do not necessarily reflect the truth. I suggest you gather concrete data before believing, since you are clearly very proud of doing that right?

    Yes, I agree, we should not cherry pick and look at the big picture. Do you know the three most fatal infectious diseases in the world and the number of deaths they cause annually around the globe?

    1. Tuberculosis 1.5 million
    2. AIDS 700,000
    3. Malaria 450,000

    Do you know how many deaths were caused in 2020 by Covid? 3 million.
    And for reference, the flu is thought to cause around 250,000-500,000 deaths. So no, Covid is not comparable to the flu, and has surpassed Tuberculosis.

    Do you also know that France experienced the highest increase of rate of mortality in 2020 in 70 years? Feel free to verify these numbers and not take my word for it of course! The latter data was taken from INSEE.

    Yes, the government limiting freedom is always tricky, and need to be examined and watched closely. However, let me ask you what democracy means to you? Democracy and the liberty it defends is based on the idea that one’s own liberty ends where the other’s begins. This is why we are not free to murder others. Reciprocal coercion based on the idea of commonwealth is the foundation of democracy. When thought of it that way, one could argue that the fiercely non-vaccinated are the threat to democracy by forcing their own “rights” and “freedom” on the rest of the population, don’t you think? I’m not saying it’s as simple as that, and it’s actually a lot trickier. I’m just making this analogy in reference to how you simplified the issue. I think you and I both can agree that we shouldn’t simplify these complex issues, because it only furthers polarization, right?

  9. You don’t know what I have. I’m just stating a fact and my opinion about a subject that affects everyone in France, including you British.

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