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Youthful Indiscretions

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Share the post "Youthful Indiscretions" The otherwise dull-as-dishwater campaign for the European elections has produced one amusing passe-d’armes involving two rather surprising combatants: Nathalie Loiseau, the head of LREM’s list, and Edwy Plenel, the editor of Médiapart. Médiapart revealed that when Loiseau was a student at SciencesPo, her name appeared on a list of candidates for the far-right student organization UED (affiliated with the notorious extremist group GUD). This, to say the least, was a surprising place to find a colorless centrist like Loiseau, who at first denied any memory of having figured on the UED list (she claims to have been a Gaullist at the time) but then recovered a rather vivid memory of having agreed to run as a favor to a friend,

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The otherwise dull-as-dishwater campaign for the European elections has produced one amusing passe-d’armes involving two rather surprising combatants: Nathalie Loiseau, the head of LREM’s list, and Edwy Plenel, the editor of Médiapart. Médiapart revealed that when Loiseau was a student at SciencesPo, her name appeared on a list of candidates for the far-right student organization UED (affiliated with the notorious extremist group GUD). This, to say the least, was a surprising place to find a colorless centrist like Loiseau, who at first denied any memory of having figured on the UED list (she claims to have been a Gaullist at the time) but then recovered a rather vivid memory of having agreed to run as a favor to a friend, without campaigning or knowing anyone else on the list. She was young and naive at the time, etc. Youthful errors, who hasn’t been there?–although one wonders just how naive a student at SciencesPo, of all places, could have been about what after all was a matter of … la politique, the very object of her studies. Only to remember the whole incident in exquisite detail just a day later. But let bygones be bygones.

Except that Loiseau wasn’t about to let exposure by a Web site edited by Edwy Plenel be bygone. She fired back that Plenel had a few youthful indiscretions of his own to atone for, not least his defense of the Black September massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972 when he was a “Maoist.” To which Plenel replied that, yes, he had defended the terrorists as “revolutionaries,” as had Jean-Paul Sartre, but, please, remember that he had been a Trotskyist at the time, not a Maoist. Nuance!

This all-in-all minor but historically redolent campaign clash may serve as a reminder of how far France has come in the past four decades, and how much it would stand to lose if it should–as it easily might–return to a state of polarization in which it became normal for young people as talented as Loiseau and Plenel to flee to the extremes of mutual incomprehension.

Art Goldhammer
Writer, translator, scholar, blogger on French Politics, affiliate of Harvard's Center for European Studies, writes for The American Prospect, The Nation, etc.

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