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These viral photos do not show the « artillery of far-left militants » at Eric Zemmour’s meeting

A message shared on Twitter by user @__Verlaine__ purports to show the « artillery » deployed by the far-left at Eric Zemmour’s meeting. These are actually photos of the checkroom. 

Verlaine Djeni’s tweet

« Here are pictures of the artillery of far-left militants who came to mess up yesterday at the meeting of @ZemmourEric in #Villepinte », Verlaine Djeni castigates, in a message posted on December 6 on his twitter account. « The democratic opposition is the debate of ideas and not that of weapons », he continued, accompanying the text with four photos sent, according to him, by an elected official of Seine-Saint-Denis. However, the tweet of this regular contributor to the french far-right news site Boulevard Voltaire is nothing more than a fake news.

The day before, the newly declared presidential candidate Eric Zemmour held his first campaign meeting in Villepinte. On the spot, activists of SOS anti-racism were lynched by supporters of the far-right candidate for having proudly worn t-shirts bearing the name of their association. At the same time, journalists are forced to leave the room under the threat of far-right activists, like the crew of the program Quotidien. These dramatic images were then taken up by many media and on the internet, while Eric Zemmour’s team declared to regret the « provocation » of SOS anti-racism.

Umbrellas instead of weapons

When we look at the images published by Verlaine Djeni, we can see umbrellas, bicycle and motorcycle helmets, or water bottles. Nothing to do with the « artillery of the extreme left » or even the « weapons » described by the Internet user with 56,000 followers. This tweet and this reaction arise in a context of the beginning of the presidential campaign. The one who had also distinguished himself by his support to Génération Identitaire certainly sees here an opportunity to discredit the left-wing sympathizers, who would be violent, while strengthening the defense of Eric Zemmour and his teams following the attacks of the meeting of Villepinte. 

Following his meeting in Villepinte, the presidential candidate built his defense around the 9 days of temporary incapacity of work that were prescribed to him after he was grabbed by a young man. Faced with the violence of his own activists, he accuses the militants of SOS Racism. A version refuted by the many film crews on site but revived by many Internet users of the far-right, including Verlaine Djeni. As with the supporters of Donald Trump in the United States in 2020, the war of false information seems to have been declared by the far-right for the presidential election of 2022.

Fake news is as viral in France as it is in the United States. As of December 14, Verlaine Djeni’s message had been retweeted 1245 times and liked 1568 times. Among the 957 replies to the tweet, the algorithm of the Invid verification tool counts 129 people who refute the accusations of Verlaine Djeni, including many journalists and Internet users who were on site the day of the meeting.

The meeting’s checkroom 

Rémy Buisine of Brut and Clément Lannot of CLPRESS share the same version of events: the four photos actually show the checkroom of the event. This version is confirmed to France Info by Albéric Dumont, in charge of the security of Eric Zemmour. According to him, it is in fact « seized objects belonging to the public and put aside ». This practice, if it can surprise, is in fact common to most public events in France. These umbrellas, helmets and bottles were simply confiscated from Eric Zemmour’s supporters by the security teams to ensure the smooth running of the event. Contacted by email for the writing of this article, the team of Eric Zemmour’s Reconquest party did not provide any further response. 

(Brut) Remy Buisine’s response to Verlaine Djeni’s tweet
(CL PRESS) Clément Lanot’s response to Verlaine Djeni’s tweet

However, the composition of the images used by Verlaine Djeni is surprising. The angle of the shot and the alignment of the captured objects looks like real images of weapons and ammunition that can be found on the internet, including through a reverse search based on his tweet. These results seem to demonstrate the photographer’s willingness to produce deceptive images. While it is impossible to verify the identity of the sender, the absence of any previous trace of these images seems to corroborate Verlaine Djeni’s version that they were sent directly to him by a third party. It could even be that the objects of deposit of the meeting of Eric Zemmour were moved to allow the propagation of this false information.

 Chloé Gaillard & Yann Mougeot