Discover more from Rebecca Nathanson
As the sticky days of summer roll by and my pace slows while I focus on a couple of long-term projects, I wanted to share some exciting news: “The Next Generation of the French Far Right,” my VICE feature from October 2020, won an honorable mention in the Annual Writing Awards of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, in the social change category!
The judges wrote, “This piece offers a close-up view of the young people in France who are affiliating with the radical right-wing parties. The direct quotes from, and the vivid descriptions of, the movement’s up-and-coming leaders brought home the reality of the growing problem of political extremism in France.”
This story was three years in the making, from reporting on the 2017 French presidential election to conducting research for my master’s thesis in sociology at the University of Oxford in 2018 to writing the feature itself last summer and fall.
If you follow French politics, the results of last week’s regional elections—in which both Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (formerly National Front) and President Macron’s center-right La République en Marche failed to win a single region—will add a fascinating new dimension to the ideas explored in this story, throwing into question widespread assumptions about the rise of the National Rally in the lead-up to next year’s presidential election.
If you don’t follow French politics, you may still recognize something of your own country’s political landscape in the words of the young National Rally activists in my story.
Below is a short excerpt. If it piques your curiosity, you can read the entire story here.
All of the major political parties in France have youth wings, but the National Rally remains particularly concentrated on attracting young people, training them, promoting them to leadership positions, and encouraging them to run for office. It does this with an eye towards expanding its base and recruiting youth like Ferreira and her ambitious, well-educated peers in and around Paris—a population usually thought more likely to sympathize with the students of 1968 or the people who took to the streets to protest systemic racism this summer than with a party best known for anti-Semitism, nationalism, and xenophobia. But the next generation of the French radical right lives outside of the stereotype of National Rally voters as rural, less educated, older, and male. Instead, many of its dedicated organizers and future leaders reside in universities at the center of a city widely associated with protests, strikes, and revolution, antagonizing that centuries-long history from the inside.
In case you missed my last letter, my most recent story is “The Hard Science of Reincarnation,” also published by VICE. It dives into the world of parapsychology and the scientists researching reincarnation at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine and elsewhere in the world.
As always, you can find the full archive of past newsletters here.