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Poseur, poet, politician: Frances other boy wonder

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PARIS — Theres something Tintin-like about François Ruffin. The comic strip hero invented by Hergé is a reporter-adventurer. Ruffin, 43, describes himself as a “reporter-politician” — a self-appointed righter of wrongs; a boy forever; a journalist who makes the news.

The left-wing newspaper editor, writer and prize-winning filmmaker is also a deliberately unconventional member of the French parliament and — if you believe the hype — a potential contender to replace Emmanuel Macron in 2022.

Ruffins outspoken, anti-establishment and anti-Macron persona has earned him a large and enthusiastic following on social media — his YouTube channel has more than 75,000 subscribers — at a time when the French president has been struggling to put a lid on the Yellow Jacket protest movement.

But the journalists growing popularity and his ubiquitous presence in the media has also sparked the irritation of fellow left-wing politicians, who see him as posing a challenge to the increasingly unpopular far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Whether he sticks to his brief as an MP or gears up for a run for the top job, its become clear to Ruffin supporters and Ruffin-haters alike that hes become impossible to ignore in French politics.

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Ruffin appears to be intent on sticking around — and sticking it to Macron.

Two new projects — an autobiographical book and a documentary on the Yellow Jackets — appear designed to cement his place as the go-to critic of the presidency and a leader of the disenfranchised.

Ce pays que tu ne connais pas (“This country of which you know nothing”), which was published last week, surfs on a curious fact: Ruffin was educated in the early 1990s at the same Catholic high school in Amiens, northern France, as Macron.

The book belongs to a genre all its own, perhaps best described as “attack autobiography.” Ruffin contrasts his own career as a leftist journalist and troublemaker with Macrons establishment-assisted glide to power from the same provincial alma mater.

François Ruffin (left) speaks to Emmanuel Macron (right) | Philippe Wojazer/EPA

Ruffin disputes Macrons claim to be a self-made man who climbed to the pinnacle of power before the age of 40 without party machinery or personal fortune, calling him the “embodiment” of a “rotten system and a decrepit democracy, swallowed by an oligarchy so self-confident that it installed its own banker in the Elysée Palace.”

The true self-made man, Ruffin suggests, is, well, Ruffin. He made his name as a journalist by creating his own newspaper, called Fakir, with no outside help. “I built myself as a journalist, with stubborn independence, with no collusion with any source of power.”

The left-wing politician is three years older than the president of the republic, meaning they were not in the same class. His detestation of the president is, he admits, more recent.

“Its physical,” he writes. “Its visceral … there are millions of us who feel that way … You reek of self-satisfaction. You are convinced of your superiority … Peasants meeting their feudal lord must have felt something similar, a wounded pride that invited them to rebel.”

This self-confessed hatred of Macron distorts and diminishes the book, often making him come across as a propagandist, rearranging facts to support a two-dimensional argument. His analysis of the Yellow Jackets — a grassroots movement Ruffin claims to have “expected for 20 years” — similarly falls short.

In a television interview with broadcaster Arte last year, Ruffin described his role in French life as “spiritual.”

He simplifies and beatifies it, ignores its violent excesses, its conspiracy theories and its far-right influences. He blames the violence thats marked the protests solely on Macron — “Behind your doll-like face … are the bodies mutilated … with your approval, without the least excuse or apology” — and in praising one of the more moderate Yellow Jacket leaders, Ingrid Levavasseur, he fails to mention she has been rejected and viciously insulted by other factions.

These shortcomings are unlikely to matter to Ruffins supporters, who are eager to embrace him and his version of events.

If Ruffins book is often over the top, it is ultimately also a passionate, poetic examination of two versions of France — the smug and successful versus the ignored and suffering — that will ring true to countless people who are similarly “driven by a desire for something else.”

At his best, Ruffin is a poet. He is often funny — a rare talent in politics. And his book contains many moving, first-hand accounts of the struggles of marginalized, sick and unemployed people he met in France périphérique.

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In a television interview with broadcaster Arte last year, Ruffin described his role in French life as “spiritual.”

“That sounds pretentious,” he said. “What I mean is that I dont just want to change things. I want to combat resignation, indifference and discouragement.”

Ruffin — who rarely agrees to be interviewed by the mainstream media — was a household name in French cultural circles before he made his foray into politics.

His first movie Merci Patron! — a funny, ambush-documentary about Frances richest man Bernard Arnault — was an unlikely box-office triumph, earning him a César, or “French Oscar,” and the title of the “French Michael Moore.”

His forthcoming and highly anticipated documentary on the Yellow Jackets — “Jveux du soleil” (“Give me sunshine”) — is set to be released in France next month.

Since 2017, however, hes been better known as a maverick member of the National Assembly, Frances lower house of parliament, for the Somme département. He sits with Jean-Luc Mélenchons far-left party France Unbowed, but describes himself as an électron libre — a “free spirit” or “loose cannon.”

Ruffin sits with France Unbowed, but dRead More – Source

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