The politics behind Macron’s mask

Do the face coverings of France’s president conceal clever media manoeuvres?

Is Emmanuel Macron, France’s media-savvy president, using his face mask to tell us something about his country’s Covid-19 recovery?

The French premier’s placement of his face covering appears to be crucial in helping him maintain a positive pandemic image as hospitality starts to reopen on the other side of the Channel.

This was made clear when, in a carefully coordinated video stunt, the president and his prime minister, Jean Castex, endorsed the return of outdoor seating at bars on 19 May.

In a social media video filmed on a Parisian terrasse, Mr Macron rushes to remove his face mask as soon as the presidential espresso appears. 

This is despite the fact that a waiter well within France’s two-metre minimum social distance continues to serve him a glass of water and delivers a morning coffee to Mr Castex.

What’s more, the president of the Fifth Republic briefly touches his mouth with his hand just after removing his mask, despite the ongoing circulation of the virus in France.

Was Mr Macron’s uncovered coffee appearance all part of a clever media plug? 

Whilst France’s two most senior politicians were understandably keen to support long-closed cafés and bars, the president’s subtle-yet-significant mask manoeuvre and mouth itch may well have been carefully planned gestures intended to project calm and confidence to citizens as cases fall in France.

Reassuringly, the occupier of the Elysée is seen donning a face covering as he walks off from the café, emphasising that the president continues to be a keen wearer of face masks.

Mr Macron, a publicity-perspicacious centrist likely to seek a second five-year term in the 2022 presidential election, has been seen with a mask in many situations.

Yet a photo from a separate bar trip may only solidify the argument that the strategic placement of his mask is designed to bring hope to citizens.

Recently, a photo surfaced of the leader gulping down an Aperol spritz in the central-French town of Nevers whilst he conveniently clasped a pristine white mask in his hand, contrasting with his dark suit.

Did the president hope that the juxtaposition of intoxicating alcohol and an earnest face covering would boost the confidence of his citizens?

Some have criticised Mr Macron’s government for being pushed to resort to restrictive lockdowns in the country of liberté, égalité and fraternité.

And with the country’s regional elections in just two weeks’ time, radiating cool-headedness and control is paramount.

But which other political master plans are currently hidden behind the presidential face mask?

Photo Office of U.S. Climate Envoy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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