Paris Olympics poster: Why are French conservatives using the 'Wokism' card?

Paris Olympics poster: Why are French conservatives using the 'Wokism' card?
Paris Olympics poster: Why are French conservatives using the 'Wokism' card? Copyright Paris2024 - AP
By David Mouriquand
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French conservatives have attacked the official Paris Olympics poster for removing a cross from the site of Napoleon’s tomb. Have they got nothing better to do?

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French conservatives and far-right figures have taken against the official poster for this summer's Paris Olympics.

Failing to see the joyful vibrancy of Ugo Gattoni‘s design, several political voices have fussed over the fact that a Christian cross and the French flag were missing on the images.

Those responsible for the image were "ready to deny France, going so far as to distort reality to cancel its history", Francois-Xavier Bellamy of the Republicans party wrote on X.

Top of the list of complaints about the poster, which depicts a stylised panorama of Paris, is the absence of the cross that sits atop the Dome des Invalides, where Napoleon is buried.

"What is the point of holding the Olympic Games in France if we then hide who we are?" Marion Marechal of the far-right Reconquete (Reconquest) party posted on X.

Meanwhile, National Rally (RN) lawmaker Nicolas Meizonnet wrote that the omissions must be the result of "wokism".

This again...

For those of you hearing that reappropriated term bandied about all the time as the root cause of everything wrong with the modern world we live in, know that it didn’t use to be a bad thing. It still isn’t.

The term is derived from African-American Vernacular English, used in racial justice movements in the early to mid-1900s. To be "woke" politically in the Black community means that someone is informed, educated and conscious of social injustice and racial inequality, as Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines.

Essentially, a progressive outlook on a host of issues, specifically on race.

The term began to gain more popularity at the start of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014, and was used to wake people up to the social injustices of police brutality against the Black community following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown.

So, hardly a bad thing.

The snag is that the word has since been co-opted by conversatives and right-leaners as a pejorative term to signify... well, anything they don’t like the sound of.

The word “woke” is now a catch-all term used to refer to either insincere or performative activism, or in phrases like "woke ideology” or “the woke agenda” - a dog whistle that allows those who use it to air their grievances about progressive values without deploying more extreme (usually racist) language.

It’s frequently trotted out when talking about identity-based social justice issues; the questioning or denunciation of systemic injustices in society; racial education in schools; LGBTQ+ rights... Everything umbrellaed in so-called culture wars.

And now, poster designs.

Gattoni's poster design features a cartoonish Paris cityscape with major landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and a wealth of tiny details, including all 54 Olympic and Paralympic sports.

In reaction to being pulled into France's culture wars, Gattoni said he had rendered buildings "in the way they come to my mind, without any ulterior motive".

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It was never meant to be accurate – rather an Art Deco fantasy utopia of Paris. 

The Paris 2024 committee concurred, stating that the posters were a "light-hearted interpretation of a reinvented stadium-city".

All this mini-scandal reveals is that once again, the bastardisation of a valuable term, now used as an insult, just makes outraged right-wingers look desperate. The French conservatives fighting an imaginary culture war against a vibrant, Where’s Wally-esque image designed to celebrate games that bring nations together is nothing but a ploy to get more votes and sow divisions. 

What a bunch of Wallies.

The Paris Olympics are set to take place from 26 July – 11 August, followed by the Paralympics from 28 August – 8 September.

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Additional sources • AFP

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