Is France’s First Lady adding fuel to the fire by suing conspiracy theorists?
French right-wing conspiracy theorists want you to believe that France's First Lady, Brigitte Macron, may not be as ladylike as you think.
The latest zany conspiracy theory to hit the country is that the 68-year-old wife of French President Emmanuel Macron was born a male and was named Jean-Michel Trogneux.
The First Lady's intentions to sue those behind the outlandish theory has fetched the story international headlines.
For several days, the hashtag #JeanMichelTrogneux was among the most discussed subjects on French Twitter.
The conspiracy theory was first published in a far-right journal, Faits et Documents, in September. It claimed it was a result of a three-year investigation supported by pseudo-experts.
The controversial journal regularly features conspiracy theories, with the latest being its most prolific.
More than 66,000 tweets have been posted on the issue, yet this isn't the first time conspiracy theories like this have entered into the French mainstream.
Other conspiracy theories in France
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has proved to be a fertile ground for conspiracy theories in the country. A survey earlier this year found that French people were the most sceptical towards believing in the pandemic and expressing vaccine scepticism.
A recent poll found that French people are some of the most sceptical people in the world when it comes to getting the coronavirus vaccine. Only 40 percent of respondents said that they would get the vaccine when it was made available.
Draconian measures taken by the French government in recent months have made it increasingly difficult for unvaccinated people to go about their daily lives resulting in more than 70 percent of the population getting vaccinated.
It is widely believed that around a minimum of 70 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated for the country to reach herd immunity. Recent Covid-19 mutations could mean a higher level of people needs to be vaccinated.
In 2019, a survey found that only 33 percent of people in France agreed with the idea that immunisation against deadly viruses is safe.
While the French are not alone in holding such views, the dangerously low levels of confidence in doctors and modern medicine makes it an outlier.
In 2018, the country increased the number of mandatory vaccines from three to eleven amidst rising concerns in the medical community that people were increasingly not vaccinating their children against whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, influenza, pneumonia and meningitis C.
Last year Macron made fun of conspiracy theorists protesting against the installation of 5G networks across the country.
Anti-5G protestors in the country, much like their American counterparts, have bought into the idea that the technology carries health hazards.
Macron accused the protestors of wishing to turn back the clock in the country and seeking to emulate an “Amish lifestyle” - in reference to the traditionalist Christian sect in the US which eschews electricity and other forms of modern living.
When a survey on conspiracy theories in France was published, it expressed surprise at "how high the levels of belief in conspiracy theories" are in France.
The report titled "Conspiracy theories in France" found that there was a lack of "shared trust" in the country, adding that "not only are the beliefs relatively widespread; they also span various segments of society" irrespective of education standards.
"Conspiracy theories are, at a deep level, intertwined with a high level of distrust towards others, in particular the political class. When trust in others and institutions is harmed, so is trust in official explanations and narratives," the report concluded.