Newsletter June 2019

Home     The Voices Newsletter     Newsletter June 2019
Published on 13/09/2019

Who participates in participatory democracy?

Dear Voices,

In this beautiful month of July, we are celebrating the arrival of the June newsletter with a topic that you have all heard about, but to which probably few of you have yet contributed: the XJRGLUJDBL. No, almost. The PNGMDR (Plan national de gestion des matières et déchets radioactifs – National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste).

Why am I talking about this?


Someone who will recognize himself as shhhhhh, in the Ministry * shhhhhh *, nevertheless told me, and I quote from memory: “This is the first time that we have submitted to the public, in its entirety, such a technical and critical issue for the [nuclear] sector. We are…” (I’m keeping the rest secret ?).

Three of us pursued the matter,.. they haven’t wasted their time.

They are the Voices of this month’s Newsletter.

Democracy, supposedly defended, scandalously flouted.

This is the paradox experienced on May 28th in Lille during the public debate for the National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste. Three anti-nuclear organizations obstructed the debate that was supposed to allow those present to exchange, criticize, inform, defend, explain… But there was none of this.

Energy, and its availability on demand, are the cornerstones of today’s society. In 2019, in the lengthening shadow of climate change, France is preparing to publish, through the EPP, its energy strategy, the foundation of its future.

In this context, the 5th edition of the PNGMDR was submitted, for the first time, to a public debate procedure from 17 April to 25 September 2019. In addition to the dedicated online platform public events are organised to allow citizens to get information, ask questions and give their opinions.

But what is the point of all this organization when it is not even possible to discuss the subject? How can we make crucial choices for our future and form a rational opinion on economic, health, environmental or social issues, when the debate is confiscated?

Because the debate of 28 May in Lille was confiscated when the chairwoman of the public debate committee on the PNGMDR, Isabelle Harel-Dutirou, “put an end to the debate” after having noted “the impossibility of pursuing a balanced public debate”. While “regretting[ing] that persons claiming to be members of anti-nuclear associations prevented citizens and participants in the public debate from obtaining information, asking questions, providing answers and expressing their opinions at the meeting”.

Three collectives claiming to defend the environment and democracy (Lilleradiée, ANV-COP21 and Extinction Rebellion) chose to “boycott” the meeting. “Boycotting” meant paralysing all communication by means of screams, songs, banners, whistles, deafening applause, monopolization of speech, and declarations such as “We don’t want this debate!”, “Save our children”, “we’re not here to participate in the debate”, “no climate risk, no nuclear risk” or “let’s cancel the meeting” etc

Of particular note is the statement: “We assume full responsibility for actively boycotting the debate, preventing speech, preventing any democratic discussion…”, at 13:36 on the video. We could almost stop here, having said it all…

When can we claim to defend a democratic ideal by murdering the discussion?

What can we do when the right to information is flouted, freedom of expression obstructed or freedom of assembly denied? Debate is essential to democracy. To deny or prevent debate is to surrender to totalitarianism or intellectual terrorism.

The only effect (or objective?) of these actions is to limit access to knowledge in order to promote a single ideology. Activists strive to achieve this end by making people feel guilty, discrediting the debate and moving it to the field of pure emotion. A fear-inducing vocabulary prevails. Future generations are invoked. Anger displaces argument, in what Anne-Cécile Robert calls “the strategy of emotion”.

This was the antagonism par excellence of the Spirit of Enlightenment, which called for the emancipation of the individual through his autonomy and freedom to think rationally about the world. Here, we are being made victims of a gregarious tribalism by individuals who are withdrawn into themselves.

On the evening of May 28th, no winner, only losers, emerged from the Lille Gymnasium.

When individuals commit acts of violence such as the sabotage of electrical installations to interrupt rail traffic around installations in Orano (Ex-Areva) in early June, their actions contradict their position as self-proclaimed defenders of the public interest. This stance has been betrayed regularly and even recently: arson of the Urêka Museum in 2014, arson of a hotel and restaurant in Bure in 2017, derailment of a train claimed by an anti-nuclear activist in 2013, even a rocket attack against the Creys-Malville power plant in 1982 by an environmental activist…

How responsible are these NGOs that have been hammering out the same slogans and innuendo for nearly 50 years? What ethics lead them to repeat endlessly the same anti-nuclear dogmas that maintain misinformation and an atmosphere of anxiety? How appropriate is the easy echo they encounter?

The media and the political world ought to remove themselves, and us, from ruthless emotionality, and not sink us into it. The media must reassume their role as providers of frameworks of understanding. Political leaders must guide their decisions objectively and cease managing society through emotion. All must be able to rely on what science and the scientific method tell us and not fall into technocratic ideology and blind scientism.

André Bellon wrote that there is no democracy without conflict. This is true, but violence is not the way to express it.

Humanity and each of us now face the historic task of putting rationality back at the centre of decision-making and leaving emotion in its rightful place. We must ensure that facts are brought back as a basis for debates, ahead of opinions and desires.

So, we hope you will get involved in the debate and help make our voices heard. There are still a few weeks left, marked by some public meetings, and the platform will remain open until September.

It is time to reinsert ourselves into the debate and make our arguments heard.

It’s easy. All you have to do is attend the events (no registration required), or, post your comments on the online forum.

We’re counting on you.

Tristan @TristanKamin,
Alexis @AStrochnis