by Peter Watts
Paris is becoming politically plastered. Last-minute election posters are popping up everywhere.
One of them has particularly caught my attention:
“La France Forte Avec Nicolas Sarkozy”
“A strong France with Nicolas Sarkozy”
Sarkozy’s choice of visual metaphor for these closing stages of the campaign has him standing against a backdrop of the ocean; He is the valiant protector, guarding the virtue of the nation. But guarding it against what exactly? With France’s two coastlines being south and west, the threat indicated must lie in one or both of these directions.
The two most likely suspects hinted at must therefore be the economic migrants who cross into France from North Africa, and the “Anglo-Saxon” economic models perceived as crossing from the U.K. and America.
Neither are electorally popular, and to put Sarkozy’s election into context, he faces one election challenger who touts state-sanctioned xenophobia, while the other supports generously old-fashioned state funding for absolutely everything.
These posters suggest Sarkozy is attempting to align himself with both opponents. By representing himself as a stern bastion against the evils from over the waves, he has dived for the basest instincts of the electoral base.
In creating this visual metaphor however, the President’s team have missed it’s most obvious symbolism; King Canute.
Depending on your reading of the legend, King Canute either sought to demonstrate the limits of Kingly power to his awestruck subjects, or truly believed he could command the waves to stop.
In either interpretation, the story didn’t end well.
Does this poster indicate that President Sarkozy is about to get his feet wet?
When choosing visuals, beware the unintended message.