Probably the smallest gesture you can make in the attempt to change the world for the better (or stop it getting worse) is to change your profile picture on social media to reflect your concern about an issue. In the last couple of years people have most commonly altered their photos using a twibbon to commemorate or express solidarity with the victims of terrorist attacks such as the ones in Paris and Brussels.
Right now, all of the values that enlightened users of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are under grave threat. This time it’s not a single unpredictable act of political violence which threatens to turn our continent into a more dangerous, repressive and mistrustful place to live, but the victory of a national socialist candidate in the second round of the French elections.
For most of my own life the notion that fascism could make a comeback in Europe was unthinkable. A charismatic leader manipulating the masses into hating their neighbours so that they could gain political power and eradicate democracy? Surely people would recognise the danger and unite to ostracise such a figure. But now Marine Le Pen, the proud daughter of a man who repeatedly insisted that the Nazi Holocaust a ‘mere footnote of history’, stands a very real chance of winning the Presidency. The response of a lot of those who should be in the forefront of the fight against her has been to shrug their shoulders and talk sulkily about abstaining. Some have complained bitterly that there was no point voting against Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 only to see his daughter become even more popular, as though fifteen years of no death camps had not been worth getting out of bed and voting for.
This is not about telling French people how to vote. Or maybe it is. It doesn’t matter. Fascism is too grave a threat to pretend that borders matter. People like Le Pen have an international vision of how they want the world to be. She welcomed Brexit and the election of Trump and openly associates with (and is funded by) Vladimir Putin.
It is not about persuading hardcore FN supporters not to vote for her. Such people are, for the moment, lost to humanity. This is about expressing publicly the very simple and ideally universally-shared belief that fascism is evil and must be opposed by any means necessary, even if that means putting a cross next to the name of a person who would not be your ideal first choice to lead your country. Over the next ten days, whenever French people who are at all inclined to abstain on May 7th go onto social media, they need to see that their foreign friends want them to go and vote against Le Pen.
You would make this simple, tiny gesture for victims of terrorism; do it now to help prevent all of us falling victim to fascism. If you need any more persuading that it is a worthwhile thing to do, google ‘Marine Le Pen twibbon’. There are lots and lots, and they are being used and seen, including in groups that are supposedly left-wing and anti-fascist, where, as I presume elsewhere, her attacks on Macron from the left are going down very well. Unless we help to oppose Le Pen, in whatever ways we can, she will win.