No! The French resistance to the American assault has awakened

Such gestures are also fueling the rise of new far-right figures like Eric Zemmour, an abrasive columnist in a newspaper who declared his candidacy for the presidential elections in April last month. Nicknamed the ‘French Donald Trump’, he has declared war on aggressive minority activists and was pictured last month exchanging middle finger gestures with a protester in Marseille. The image, splashed across newspapers around the world, summed up the cranky national mood.

As Rykner points out, there are no “saints” on either side. Yet if there is one person in France whose halo risks being tarnished by this debate, it is President Emmanuel Macron, who swept power in 2017 as the Gallic Tony Blair. Elected from a list to unite left and right, he combines economic liberalism with left-wing social attitudes. But in culture wars, there is no neutral middle ground, and for critics, Macron’s globalist perspective does not make him the most obvious defender of French cultural heritage.

Certainly, following the worldwide protests against the death of George Floyd last year, he struck a firm voice, saying that France “will not forget any of his works. She won’t demystify the statues. At the same time, however, he called the French colonization of Algeria a “crime against humanity” and called for the need to “deconstruct our history to get rid of racism”. For those who see Macron as another paying member of the Davos Club’s elite, this is precisely the kind of double talk that allows the awakened culture to take root in museums and campuses.

Hence the French Academy’s tapestries petition, which followed objections from some of the Academy’s resident artists that they represented an “imperialist” artistic legacy that celebrated colonialism and slavery. This then prompted a critical article in La Tribune de l’Art by Jérôme Delaplanche, the academy’s former head of art history, who views such objections as “puritanism”. Contacted by the Telegraph, the academy referred to comments its current director, Sam Stourdzé, made to Le Figaro last month, in which he said the tapestries should be removed as part of planned restoration work, but that there would be a “discussion” about their future.

Delaplanche, however, fears where this discussion will go. “The renovation of the academy”, he told me, “could be an excuse to justify the total elimination of the tapestries to satisfy this awakened madness”.

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