The Hidden Alliance: How Pascal Praud and CNews Amplify Far-Right and Russian Narratives in Europe

Christian Baghai
6 min readMay 29, 2024

Pascal Praud, a well-known French television host on the CNews network, has become a controversial figure due to his apparent alignment with far-right ideologies and, indirectly, with Russian interests. His rhetoric and the platform he provides contribute to a broader, troubling trend in European media and politics, where far-right ideologies gain mainstream traction, often supported by Russian disinformation campaigns.

Pascal Praud’s Media Influence

Pascal Praud’s influence stems largely from his position at CNews, a network often likened to Fox News for its sensationalist and right-leaning content. Since joining CNews, Praud has been a significant figure in French media, using his platform on “L’Heure des Pros” to discuss current events with a clear conservative slant. This show has become one of the highest-rated programs on CNews, significantly boosting the network’s viewership and establishing it as a prominent voice in French right-wing media.

Praud has been criticized for using his platform to amplify far-right talking points, subtly or overtly endorsing nationalist and xenophobic sentiments. His discussions frequently touch on topics that resonate with far-right audiences, such as immigration, national identity, and law and order. He often frames these issues in a way that stokes fear and division among viewers. For instance, he has been known to link immigration with societal decline and law enforcement challenges, and he frequently targets “wokeism” as a significant threat to French culture.

Despite the controversies, Praud’s approach has undeniably struck a chord with a segment of the French public disillusioned with mainstream media narratives. His confrontational style and willingness to challenge political correctness resonate with viewers who feel their concerns are otherwise ignored.

The Far-Right Connection

Far-right movements across Europe have been gaining momentum, and media figures like Pascal Praud play a crucial role in this resurgence. By normalizing far-right discourse, Praud helps shift the Overton window, making extreme views seem more acceptable. This media strategy is not unique to France but part of a broader European trend where far-right parties and movements leverage media to gain legitimacy and influence.

CNews, under the ownership of media mogul Vincent Bolloré, has embraced a programming strategy that often mirrors the approaches of far-right media outlets in other countries. This includes giving significant airtime to controversial figures like Éric Zemmour, who, like Praud, promotes nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. This approach has not only bolstered CNews’ ratings but also contributed to the broader normalization of far-right viewpoints in French public discourse.

Furthermore, the success of “L’Heure des Pros” and its influence on the media landscape illustrate how powerful television can be in shaping political perspectives. By repeatedly highlighting issues such as national security and cultural identity through a far-right lens, Praud and his network play a pivotal role in the ongoing shift towards more extreme political views in France and beyond.

Russian Influence and Far-Right Symbiosis

Russia has long been known to support far-right groups in Europe as a means of destabilizing the European Union and weakening NATO. This support comes in various forms, including financial backing, political endorsement, and the dissemination of disinformation. Russian influence in the far-right landscape is well-documented and involves a network of political figures, oligarchs, and media entities working together to propagate pro-Russian and anti-EU narratives. Key examples include Russia’s involvement with far-right parties across Europe, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France, which has received loans from Russian banks, and the German AfD party, which has been linked to Russian efforts to recruit intelligence officers.

Mechanisms of Influence

1. Disinformation Campaigns: Russia uses disinformation to fuel divisions within European societies. By spreading false or misleading information on social media and through sympathetic media outlets, Russia aims to amplify existing societal tensions. This is part of a broader strategy known as “political warfare,” which aims to weaken Western institutions from within. Disinformation campaigns have been particularly effective during crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where Russian-linked outlets spread false narratives about NATO’s role in the outbreak. Figures like Praud, who often engage in sensationalist and divisive rhetoric, inadvertently amplify these campaigns.

2. Financial and Political Support: Russian oligarchs and state actors provide financial support to far-right parties. This support helps these parties maintain operations, run campaigns, and gain media visibility. For instance, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally has received loans from Russian banks, facilitated by intermediaries with close ties to the Kremlin. Similarly, the Italian far-right has benefited from financial ties to Russia, with leaders such as Matteo Salvini openly expressing pro-Putin sentiments before distancing themselves due to the Ukraine conflict.

3. Cultural and Ideological Alignment: Far-right parties and Russian political strategy often align on cultural and ideological grounds. Both promote conservative, nationalist, and anti-LGBTQ+ agendas, seeing each other as allies against liberal democratic values prevalent in the West. This alignment helps far-right leaders gain credibility at home while boosting their international profile by associating with powerful Russian figures. The Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), for example, has fostered connections with far-right groups across Europe, offering a platform for shared ideologies and strategic cooperation.

Impact on European Politics

The symbiotic relationship between Russian interests and European far-right movements poses significant risks to European stability. Far-right parties gaining power or influence can lead to policies that undermine EU cohesion, weaken collective security arrangements, and foster domestic instability. The media’s role in this process, exemplified by figures like Pascal Praud, is critical as it shapes public opinion and electoral outcomes.

Russian influence on European far-right parties is multifaceted. Moscow supports these parties financially and through disinformation campaigns, aiming to destabilize European democracies and weaken the EU’s unified stance on issues like sanctions against Russia. For instance, far-right parties in countries like France, Germany, and Italy have shown varying degrees of pro-Russian sentiment, influenced by ideological affinities and strategic interests. This alignment often results in policy positions that favor Russian geopolitical goals, such as opposing EU sanctions or promoting narratives that undermine NATO and EU solidarity.

Moreover, the growing influence of far-right parties in European politics has led to increased polarization and fragmentation within the EU. This was evident in the significant presence of far-right parties during the European Parliament elections, where they collectively aimed to exert pressure on centrist parties to adopt more nationalist and anti-EU policies. The increasing popularity of these parties, fueled by economic dissatisfaction, immigration fears, and cultural anxieties, poses a direct challenge to the liberal democratic values that underpin the EU.

Conclusion

Pascal Praud’s media presence and the content he promotes contribute to the normalization of far-right ideologies in France. This trend is part of a larger pattern in Europe, where far-right movements, supported by Russian disinformation and financial aid, challenge the foundations of liberal democracy. Understanding and addressing this dynamic is crucial for maintaining the stability and integrity of European political systems.

To counter these influences, there needs to be a concerted effort to promote media literacy, strengthen democratic institutions, and foster resilience against disinformation. This includes improving the public’s ability to critically assess media sources, enhancing the transparency and accountability of political funding, and reinforcing legal and institutional frameworks to protect democratic processes from foreign interference. Additionally, collaboration among EU member states to share intelligence and best practices in countering disinformation and extremism is essential. Only through such comprehensive strategies can the tide of far-right extremism and foreign interference be effectively turned, ensuring a stable and cohesive Europe.

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