Violence is a spectacular weapon deployed by the ruling class to discredit movements from below and justify their repression. It is spectacular in the sense of being a great and powerful political tool for governing the masses, and keeping them in their place. In order to do this, however, the weapon of violence is spectacularin a second sense: it creates a carefully orchestrated mise en scène that seeks to render ruling class violence invisible, while simultaneously transforming acts of resistance into prodigious spectacles of criminal violence.
This is how Act 18 of the Yellow Vests is currently being presented by the mass media: at the precise moment at which the government was concluding its democratic consultation of the people via Emmanuel Macron’s “Grand Débat,” the Yellow Vests have unleashed an inordinate amount of violence that now needs to be repressed in the strongest possible terms. The president of the Champs-Elysées Committee, Jean-Noël Reinhardt, declared in an interview in which he is surrounded by the microphones of many of the major press outlets, that the movement is no longer one of the Yellow Vests, but rather of Black Vests that simply “express hatred and the will to destroy.” Proclaiming that this situation cannot be allowed to continue because of its impact on commercial and tourist activity, as well as its defamation of the global symbol of the Champs-Élysées, his statement bleeds seamlessly into the declaration made by the Prime Minster, Édouard Philippe: new measures will be put in place to prohibit protests in certain locations and allow for even more aggressive police crackdowns.
In this moment of the spectacularization of the damage caused to insured private property of the commercial and luxury industry, which is presented as the quintessence of “violence,” it is notable that the General Secretary of the Unsa police union, Philippe Capon, has publicly explained that the police received the order on Saturday to notintervene, because there was an explicit choice to “let a certain number of things be broken.” The timing could not be better because the government has its hands tied.