Tweeted earlier this week by user Nina Byzantina with the caption “free and balanced media covering French elections”, the photo of a French newsstand shows Macron’s face plastered on nearly every single news weekly.
Across the covers of Libération, Le Point, L’Express, L’Obs, Jeune Afrique, Challenge and Valeurs Actuelles, the headlines gush: “All his life in 68 pages”, “Facing history alone”, “The Macron enigma”, “The Macron revolutions”, “Five more years”.
Free and balanced media covering French elections. pic.twitter.com/ABX0dKfTI5
— Nina?Byzantina (@NinaByzantina) May 2, 2017
“Establishment propaganda machine in full swing imprinting an image on minds!” replied Twitter user Adrian Archer. “The Obama treatment,” tweeted Matthias Dahlstrom. “Young, handsome and an ‘outsider’ (the Guardian) according to Borg media.”
On a Reddit forum dedicated to the French nationalist, user FluffySoljer wrote: “I bet this has the opposite effect. I voted for Obama in 2012 before I realised how bad his policies were working. When I saw how the media was colluding and all the globalists were panicking it totally made me do a 180.
“I started listening to President Trump’s speeches and I’m so happy I voted for him. I feel better voting for President Trump than I ever did with President Obama.”
The first round of France’s presidential elections last month saw Macron, who served as economy minister under the deeply unpopular socialist president Francois Hollande, win 24 per cent of the vote to Le Pen’s 21.3 per cent.
Opinion polling, which accurately predicted the results of the first round of voting, shows Macron comfortably leading Le Pen 60 per cent to 40 per cent.
A fiery two-and-a-half hour TV debate on Wednesday night saw the pair exchange deeply personal barbs, with Macron describing his rival as a “parasite” and Le Pen accusing Macron of attempting to “play student and teacher with me” — a jab at Macron’s relationship with his 40-year-old teacher, who would later become his wife.
“France will be led by a woman, either me or Mrs Merkel,” Le Pen said at one point, attempting to paint Macron as beholden to the German chancellor and the European Union.
She also accused Macron of being soft on Islamist terror — a sore point in a country which has seen more than 230 people killed in terror attacks since 2015.
Following the debate, Macron used a 10,000-strong rally in Paris to brand Le Pen’s eight million voters “hateful cowards” and “our true enemies”, in what right-wing news site Breitbart dubbed his “deplorables” moment.
The near-universal media support for Macron, who is invariably referred to as a “centrist” who can “stop” the “far right” Le Pen, has led many to draw comparisons with the media’s boosting of Hillary Clinton in the run-up to last year’s US election.
Le Pen herself accused the media of “campaigning hysterically” in favour of Macron. “The media have chosen their candidate,” she told a rally in February. “They are campaigning hysterically for their darling.
“They take the moral high ground, pretend to only analyse the facts and then shout about the freedom of the press as soon as you criticise them. You see America with Trump. In this new world that is emerging, I am the best placed to speak in the name of France.”
Jason Stevenson, a financial analyst with Markets & Money, has tipped a Le Pen victory despite the odds being stacked against her. “Macron has been endorsed by the political elite,” he wrote earlier this week.
“And, despite popular opinion, I’d say that’s a negative. The majority has been let down by their faceless leaders for far too long. If they vote for Macron, they are bound to know what they will get — more of the same.
“Macron is a pro-European politician who doesn’t want change. Aside from being a former investment banker (an elitist), he was previously the economic minister under Francois Hollande — the most disliked French President in recent history.”
It comes as former US President Barack Obama publicly backed Macron, saying he made the unusual move because of the critical nature of the election “to the entire world”.
“I’m not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don’t have to run to office again,” he said. “But the French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about. Because the success of France matters to the entire world.”
Last April, Obama travelled to the UK to campaign against Brexit, warning Britons that they would go to the “back of the queue” for trade talks if they voted to leave the European Union, a move seen as highly controversial at the time.
On Thursday, French prosecutors opened an investigation into online rumours, spread through anonymous image boards and on social media, which suggested Macron had evaded taxes through offshore companies.
The PDF files, uploaded to the 4chan message board hours before Wednesday’s debate, purported to show corporate records of a company called La Providence LLC, created by Macron in Nevis, a noted offshore tax haven in the Caribbean.
“Here’s where his money is stored,” wrote the anonymous poster. “See what you can do with this, anon. Let’s get grinding. If we can get #MacronCacheCash trending in France for the debates tonight, it might discourage French voters from voting Macron.”
The Financial Services Regulatory Commission of Nevis told The Wall Street Journal it had no record of such a company ever being registered. Macron vigorously denied the allegations, filing a complaint with the Paris prosecutor’s office.
“We must never let untruths, attacks and destabilisation go unchallenged, above all at the end of the campaign,” he said on French television, after Le Pen suggested during the debate that he may have an offshore bank account, apparently in reference to the online rumours.
On Twitter, the owner of Mixtape.moe, an obscure file-hosting website where the PDF files were first uploaded, posted a screenshot of an email purporting to be from French police requesting data logs for the files.
“Oh here we f***ing go,” he wrote, adding a screenshot of his reply to police: “Sorry fam, but it’s sups diffs to swoop in for the kill here as we don’t snap or save any logs about anon uploads. Good luck on finding dem cyber villains doe.”