Screen Shot of #GiletJaune Account on Twitter
If you don’t know what the yellow vests (“gilets jaunes”) are, here is a recap: it is a movement started in France in October on social media to oppose another tax increase on gas at the pump. Since then, demands have multiplied and the movement has not faded, leading to the announcement of new measures on Dec. 10 by President Emmanuel Macron, who so far had remained silent. Now, the ball is back in the yellow vests’ camp.
As I have been observing this movement in my home country, the most basic question struck me: who is the yellow vests representative?
I would like to talk about how the movement took off and became so successful on social media, and how its lack of structure could kill it, perhaps via social media.
- The Rising Tide
In October, a woman named Jacline Mouraud posted a video on her Facebook page to express her frustration about increasing taxes in France, especially on gas at the pump, calling viewers to either join her or do their own video to protest excess taxation.
Video from Jacline Mouraud’s FB Page: Coup de geules de jacline mouraud #macron #cnews #bfmtv #lci #franceinfo
The video went viral and soon a “Mouvement National Contre la Hausse du Carburant” (National Mouvement Against Higher Gasoline Prices) was born. The media called participants the “yellow jackets”.
Protests have been organized via social media, mainly Facebook, with the first one on Nov. 17.
A testament to the success of the movement, opposition parties, students, and even retirees tagged on to it and the rest of Europe did more than taking note, with the unrest spreading to cities such as Sofia (Bulgaria) and Brussels (Belgium).
Pixabay images – EU Flag
- Where is The Pilot?
Such a success led the French government to grant a meeting with some of the movement’s participants.
But this is where the lack of structure and organization of the movement caught up with realities of life: the representatives of the government cannot not meet with a “movement”. They need to meet with designated people representing that movement. Not to mention that demands have exploded from one to more than 40.
Some personalities stood out and eventually met with the government. But there still isn’t any clear voice and face of the movement.
Today, as a reporter, if I wanted to interview a representative of the movement to get a single message, I could not. I would have to speak with several people, with a multitude of interests, leaving anger as the only common place.
- Do yellow vests need an election?
The movement did obtain results nonetheless.
On Dec. 5, Macron cancelled the tax increase on gas prices for 2019. On Monday, the president announced other measures to boost low incomes.
Such concessions from the government could be a measure of success. Yet, protests continue.
But so does chaos in the organization of the movement.
The longer the yellow vests will take to find a common voice expressed through a legitimate representative, the more time detractors – fake news, violent protestors, opposition parties – will have to divide or manipulate both participants in the movement and the population more broadly.
This tells me that movements originating on social media could die by social media if they fail to get structured.
That means the plane needs a pilot ASAP if the movement wants to last in a democracy and maintain its credibility, perhaps through elections.
Do you think there should be an elected representative of the movement in your view?
And if so, is it a good idea to organize elections on Facebook to elect a representative?
Can #GiletsJaunes movement last without changes? Here is what I think: bit.ly/2RV60tL
Have you heard of the GiletsJaunes movement in France? Can it last without structure? Share your side here: bit.ly/2RV60tL