Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Sarkozy and the Media | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Rarely absent from the screen, magazines and newspapers also hardly go a day without featuring a news item about [Nicholas] Sarkozy’s personal life. Where did he spend the evening, what did he do for New Year’s Eve and who will be accompanying him on official visits – such details do not exist on the margins of his political life; in fact, they are effectively the center of the president’s life.

Such is the case with Nicholas Sarkozy who is confident that whatever he does, regardless of how marginal or mundane, will not pass unmentioned or unnoticed by the media. Most of the details of his life since he was elected as the president of France last year have been documented in photographs and videos in a manner that is not customary of former French presidents who were keen to keep their private lives away from the spotlight.

Contrastingly, ever since Sarkozy’s arrival to the Elysee Palace; it appeared that the French were about to witness a model not unlike the late former US President John Kennedy who was one of the first presidents to benefit from the visual image age, and moreover invested in attracting media and journalism to his side.

Sarkozy’s stardom began when his ex-wife Cecilia clearly illustrated her rebellion against presidential protocols from the outset and then declared her separation from Sarkozy.

The next stage began with his story with the famous Italian model, Carla Bruni, who Sarkozy did not hesitate to express his attraction towards in front of the cameras in an intimate manner. Theirs is a relationship that has become a topic of discussion in press conferences; journalists start their questions by asking him about the future of his relationship with the beautiful model before they tackle issues of the Middle East and world affairs.

But what is the truth behind the media’s attraction to Sarkozy and Bruni’s relationship?! And why is the French president’s personal life receiving all this attention and media coverage? Is it true that whenever the French people start to doubt or question their affairs it coincides with a development in Sarkozy’s private life?!

Questions like these are publicly posed nowadays in France and they entail some suspicions that may have their justifications: Can the relationship with Bruni and the media fuss over it be deemed an escape from political failures? Who sets the agenda for the other; the media or Sarkozy?!

Undoubtedly, Bruni’s glamour and fame are excellent elements with which to lure the media and provide it with endless stories and details about the life of the president and the model, in addition to the possibility that she may become the First Lady of the Elysee.

The media’s concern about Sarkozy’s private life indicates a regression in the scope of commentary, opposition and analysis, as opposed to the attraction of the private life and its secrets.

It is no easy feat for the French media to criticize Sarkozy these days.

Aside from the overlapping of Sarkozy’s private life with public life, there is another important factor which is the personal relationship between the French president and a fundamental group comprised of the owners of major media outlets. Some have described the renowned TF1 as “Sarkozy TV”, owing to the solid relationship between the owner of the famous channel and the French president.

The real running competition between the media and politicians is who is the stronger party more capable of setting the agenda for the other?

If a politician wants to win and be in charge of controlling his image then he must lead the media behind him – and is there a better source of attraction than Bruni?!