Here’s the backstory to the popular Trending #MacronOrdure (#MacronGarbage)
A 50-year-old French woman’s story has made the rounds in
France and gone viral on Twitter.
A woman from the north of France, who requested to be
identified only by her first name Valerie, was arrested at her home and taken
to a police station.So far, so predictable.
What was the reason for her arrest? She slammed PresidentEmmanuel Macron on social media for forcing the contentious pension reform that
has sparked nationwide protests.
If you thought that was concerning and eroding free speech,
wait until you read this.
According to the regional French newspaper La Voix du Nord,
the woman shared a photo of graffiti with the words “Macron Garbage”
on Facebook. She had simply “been photographed in front of it,
smiling,” she said, of the graffiti outside a waste disposal depot in
In another Facebook post dated March 21, she referred to
Macron as “garbage,” drawing a parallel with the binmen strikes.
“The ordure will speak tomorrow at 13 o’clock; for
those who don’t know, the ordures can be found on television at tjrs
(sic).” – “The rubbish will speak tomorrow at 1 p.m., for people who
are nothing, we always see this rubbish on television,” she wrote,
referring to Macron’s upcoming television address.
Valerie was arrested at her home on Friday, March 24th, by
“I asked if it was a joke because I’d never been
arrested,” she told the newspaper. “I am not the public’s number one
She was then taken into police custody for questioning after
the state’s local administrative office filed a complaint about her Facebook
post, according to Mehdi Benbouzid, the prosecutor in the northern town of
The complaint centred on a Facebook post made on March 21,
the day before Macron’s lunchtime appearance on TF1 television to defend his
Valerie admits to writing the words, but defends herself by
saying she was trying to be humorous by writing “l’or dur”
(“hard gold”). The spelling was apparently changed by the automatic
“I did write this post, but I wanted to make a pun and
write “hard gold,” but the proof-reader changed it, and I didn’t
proofread it before sending it. Besides, I don’t even bring him up.”
According to the prosecutor, she is currently accused of
“insulting the president of the republic” and will stand trial on
June 20 in Saint Omer. If convicted at the trial, she faces a prison sentence
and a €15,000 fine.
“I am a social justice activist,” she told La Voix
du Nord. “They want to use me as a scapegoat.”
Valerie, who is associated with the Yellow Vest movement
that shook Macron during his first term, denies being a troublemaker, saying,
“This is completely unfair.” We are in a period of high intimidation,
and activists are being threatened.”
She acknowledged sharing “a lot of videos of police
violence or political violence,” but never with the intention of breaking
any laws. “I often say what I think, but always in accordance with the
law.” She also stated that her participation in the protests and strikes
will not be affected: “We will continue to demonstrate and publish, but I
will re-read myself more carefully.”
The arrest of the woman sparked widespread outrage on social
media in France, with the hashtag #MacronOrdure (#MacronGarbage) quickly
François Ruffin, a French politician, condemned the trial,
writing, “Soon the return of the crime against the crown?”
EFFECT’ #MacronOrdure is #1 in instant and #1 in trend on Twitter. It’s a textbook
case of the “Streisand effect”: when trying to prevent the disclosure
of information that one would like to hide leads to the opposite result.”
Can we call Macron rubbish if he’s in a bin?
Concerning the legality of what happened to Valerie, French
law punishes those who attack the head of state.
He storically, there was the crime of insulting the head of
state, which was abolished in 2013. This was a specific legal safeguard for the
President, as stated in Article 26 of the law of July 29, 1881. It called for a
€45,000 fine. This law will be repealed in 2023.
However, there are other tools available under French law
that can take over…
For example, even if an insult is delivered electronically,
the head of state can always defend himself in court.
In this case, a Facebook post that can be accessed via an
Internet connection is protected by Article 33 of the Press Freedom Act of July
29, 1881. In this case, the maximum penalty allowed by law is €12,000.
Another piece of French legislation that can be used is: The
offence of contempt is defined in Article 433-5 of the Penal Code. This
includes “words, gestures, or threats, writings or images of any kind that
are not made public, or the sending of any object (…) of a nature that
undermines the dignity or respect due to the office with which the person is
When defamation is directed against a person entrusted with
public service, the initial penalty is a €7,500 fine. If the insult is directed
at a public official, the fine can be up to €15,000 and one year in prison.
This category includes the head of state.
Even if the offending message was a private comment posted
on a Facebook profile, posting on Facebook can amount to public writings and
thus fall under public insult.
Convictions for Facebook insults and contempt are not
uncommon. A criminal court, for example, sentenced a young man to four months
in prison in 2015 for insulting police on Facebook. Similar incidents occur
when insults are directed at specific individuals.
An eye-opening reminder of the importance of privacy
settings and the boundaries of free expression… In Valerie’s case, conviction
is not guaranteed because the court can consider the circumstances surrounding
the message, which was published in the context of a large social movement
opposing a widely opposed reform.
She has certainly gained the support of many on social
media, who are not only defending Valerie, but also getting more creative with
their insults and standing in solidarity when it comes to free speech.