“Don’t touch my post”: media circus, democratic nightmare

Since Cyril Hanouna insulted the young deputy Louis Boyard on the set of Do not touch My TV last week, the show is at the center of a lively controversy. But how did she manage to achieve such great popularity, despite all the criticism she faces? Our journalist’s analysis Ariane Nicholaswho knows well TPMP for watching it for so long.

Eight months ago, for the 1er april, magazine philosophy published a parody article assuring that the host Cyril Hanouna was a secret reader of Hegel. This joke, which was ironic about the lack of seriousness of his show Do not touch My TV (“TPMP”), had been relayed by the interested party himself on the set of C8, revealing a certain sense of self-mockery or even, who knows, self-criticism.

Today, the time is no longer for fun. Thursday, November 10, the star presenter of the C8 channel – property of the billionaire Vincent Bollore – insulted Louis Boyard, deputy and former columnist, during a televised altercation with unprecedented violence. Monday, Cyril Hanouna said ” to regret “ these insults, without apologizing. Sign, it seems, that the facilitator feels untouchable.

But how this talk show, where chroniclers talk about everything without sometimes knowing anything about the subjects, could he impose himself with such force in the public debate? It is perhaps that he was able to fill a media vacuum by giving voice to categories of the population that are not very audible in the media: individuals from two “peripheral France”, one of the Yellow Vests and the another from the suburbs, which we don’t hear on the news channels, nor in decryption programs, nor in those intended for young people. Here is how this dominant position has been consolidated over the years.

Rants and low blows

Was a time where Do not touch My TV was not yet the sensationalist rat race that many commentators accuse him of currently being (on The world, Telerama Where Marianne, as a sample). Launched on the France 4 channel in 2010, transferred two years later to C8 [devenue D8 en 2016], TPMP is originally a media decryption program, made by professionals in the sector: journalists, producers and presenters from different backgrounds. At the time, the atmosphere was restless but good-natured, the speakers broached themes that they mastered, since they talked about their profession. Cyril Hanouna, who does not insult anyone, passes the dishes with the humor that tennis fans tasted at home before the live broadcasts from Roland-Garros, on the public service, at the turn of 2010. Until 2013, the year in which he received for the first time an elected representative of the Republic – Jean-Luc Melenchon – “Baba” is a friendly clown who is not interested in politics.

Gradually, the show is more generalist and virulent, somewhat losing sight of the analyzes and scoops for the benefit of scalded commentary on the news. Social networks are largely responsible for this editorial shift. As for the other media, but in a systematic way, TPMP sees its line inflected by the controversies born on Twitter or Facebook: sensitive news items, divisive social debates, psychodramas between influencers. The audience follows, Hanouna’s popularity grows, despite the diversions to which he indulges. Some columnists leave the ship, others come on board. The pros of the PAF turn into pros of indignation – with Gilles Verdezformerly of Parisian and of The Teamin an exasperated locomotive vituperating on everything and everyone at the slightest opportunity.

This is the format that wants this: Cyril Hanouna regularly asks an open question on a hot topic and the columnists, cardboard in hand, answer “yes” or “no”. External speakers, drowned in the hubbub, are invited to provide as informed a view as possible on the subject in question. But the expertise of these guests is put at the service of a moralization of the debate, rather than the search for the truth or the right idea, so that the spectator can determine with whom he is most in phase. Whether we’re talking about Covid, the war in Ukraine, liposuction or child murder, the conclusion is always the same: everyone is right to think what they think, and it’s even better if they think it very loudly and very vigorously. The important thing is that the diversity of opinions, however questionable, are represented.

The ambition of a “small hemicycle”

There lies another major turning point in the history of TPMPtowards the end of 2018. Solicited by Yellow Vests as voters would do by their deputy, leaving the studio of C8, Cyril Hanouna decides to give them a massive voice. We can be grateful to the host for having given pride of place to these individuals without judging or stigmatizing them – something that many media have indeed struggled to do. We can also reproach him for not having known, or wanted, to draw a red line against the most insidious speeches popularized in the wake of the Yellow Vests, to the point that the host still offered a platform to Didier Raoult early 2022 and that Delphine Wespisercolumnist antivax follower of alternative medicine and flirting with conspiracystill has his napkin ring on the set.

The great strength of TPMP is to have imprinted in the minds of its followers that the program was the only one to represent them, that it was the only media place where “all the French” had a voice in the matter. “If you find another program where there are Arabs, Whites, Blacks, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals…”welcomed Matthew Delormeau, Monday evening. An argument echoed by the politicians themselves: Do not touch My TVit’s like a small public meeting that you know when you are mayor “, “Looks like a small hemicycle”flattered two of the four deputies who came to bounce on the Louis Boyard controversy, the same day. “Except that every night, there are 2 million people in front of their TV…”mischievously corrected the comedian in distress Jean Marie Bigardnewly recruited.

Freedom, audience, identity

Nevertheless, this staging of the show as a political arena adequately representative of the French is short-sighted. Firstly, because the profile of columnists is quite homogeneous, when we look closely: CSP+ are over-represented, with a predominance of liberal professions and private sector employees, including less well-off employees (Raymond Aabou for example, is a delivery driver). Civil servants are rare there, as are the professions of knowledge and education: to carry the voice of this fringe of society which votes rather on the left, Cyril Hanouna prefers the tribunes of rebellious France such as Raquel Garrido. Not sure that everyone is there in the moderate electorate! As for the ecologists, they are, so to speak, ghostly and often taken to task for their “demagoguery” and their “disconnection from reality”. Anne Hidalgo is obviously hated by almost everyone.

Otherwise, this claim to embody the conflicts running through French society hides the fact that a central element is consensus: identity. Not on what is or should be identity in its contents. For this, there is the journalist of the far-right magazine The Wrong Juliet Briens or the journalist and Afro-feminist activist Rokhaya Diallo. Nope, TPMP defend the identity as value : a form of life from which all discussion should start. As at McDo or in a reality TV show, everyone comes “as they are”. Cyril Hanouna will be the suburbanite who started from scratch, attached to clan rhetoric (the “little guy from the Lilacs” while his father is a doctor, ensuring that TPMP is ” a big family “ and that interlocutors are his “darlings”); Matthieu Delormeau will be the gay on the right; Delphine Wespiser the beautiful pissed off; Isabelle Morini Bosc the dean returned from everything, etc.

Cyril Hanouna thus operates a remarkable split, and probably never seen on TV, between the France of the downgraded provinces and the France of the hyperconnected suburbs – its two main sources of audience, according to an Ifop poll. These two Frances clash at the polls and never rub shoulders in real life, but for once they find themselves embodied on screen, defended and even brought together on a set. Their way of speaking, of dressing, of thinking, their tastes and their way of life are considered with the same regard as the manners of the powerful. Did you say populism? The clique will answer you with one man: respect. A value dear to the working classes, wherever they come from, in the face of the “elites” accused of living above ground and believing themselves to be more intelligent than everyone else, whether you live in Bobigny (93) or Bourg- le-Count (71).

A political trap

With TPMP and its many variations – Balance your post, Facing Baba, The Great Rassrah, TPMP : the before… – we therefore find ourselves in the presence of a rather elusive television UFO, where the boss of the National Rally Jordan Bardella feels at home with presenter who openly took sides against teenage Mila queer victim of death threats for having defied Allah, and find nothing to complain about about 5-year-old girls forced to wear the Islamic veil. At the house of TPMP, populism and communitarianism advance unmasked, sure of their rights. Objects of criticism too, since all the chroniclers do not share these ideas, far from it; but put on the same plane as the rest. This is perhaps the real ideological drift of this program.

media circus where the culture of clash and buzz is queen, TPMP is thus becoming a democratic nightmare. Since Cyril Hanouna decided to play a pivotal role in the public debate, and elected officials rush onto his set to try to reach an electorate that they are struggling to reach otherwise, they have been trapped. Go ? It is to degrade the political function and henceforth, condone the unacceptable. Criticize while going there? It’s taking the risk of being lynched online. Boycott the show? Accusations of contempt would arise. Advocate for a ban? Sheer suicide. Because after all, isn’t democracy about accepting to make the voice of the people heard (demos), even if what he has to say displeases us?

Plato, who had a horror of democracy and public opinion, would surely have said worse than hanging from TPMP. Alas, Monday evening, for his special program on his confrontation with Louis Boyard, Cyril Hanouna made its second largest audience of all time, with 2 million spectators. “Let it be said, my darlings”, as long as the audiences are there, the circus will continue. And the nightmare with.

“Don’t touch my post”: media circus, democratic nightmare