Why did Coralie Dubost’s “wonderful expense reports” set social networks on fire

Pinned for her “mirrobolant expense reports”, the LREM deputy from Hérault has become the target of Internet users who are unleashed on social networks. And despite his withdrawal from political life, the “Dubostgate” continues to fuel comments on the web.

Faced with the wave of criticism and personal attacks, she ended up closing her Twitter account on Tuesday, May 3. But Coralie Dubost is still at the heart of the controversy, like a prisoner of the web. On social networks, there are still hundreds to express themselves on the affair of the “miraculous expense reports”, revealed by Médiapart on April 29, 2022. The keywords #CoralieDubost, #Dubostgate or #Dubostdemission very quickly became viral. Everywhere on the Internet, the chosen one is heckled, taunted, accused. Sometimes humorously, often violently.

The member for the 3rd constituency of Hérault was literally overwhelmed by this wave of indignation and “bashing” to the point of renouncing on her own to stand in the legislative elections next June. Her last tweet, the one in which she announced her retirement from political life on Sunday May 1, caused more than 8200 comments! A press release – published precisely on Twitter – in which the parliamentarian evokes a digital lynching. “I refuse to be the instrument of an anti-parliamentary cabal, in the same way that I refuse to lend myself to a ping-pong of justifications which border on a spooky lynching on social media.”

On the side of Médiapart, we say we are surprised by the magnitude of the price by the Dubost affair on the Internet. “It was unexpected, admits Antton Rouget, co-author of the survey. We obviously judge the scandalous affair but there was not the same reaction for equally shocking facts, as for Thierry Solère for example, who is still suspected of having embezzled 167,000 euros! This is undoubtedly linked to the political context and the strength of the symbol. It’s of the same order as François de Rugy and the lobster, or Jean-Michel Blanquer in Ibiza.”

This is undoubtedly linked to the political context and the strength of the symbol. It’s the same as François de Rugy and the lobster, or Jean-Michel Blanquer in Ibiza.

Antton Rouget, journalist at Médiapart

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, the main social networks have taken up the case with unprecedented speed for the journalist, giving him a considerable echo. “And it even went beyond the social media bubble, adds the journalist. It is perceived today as one of the big cases revealed by Médiapart during the quinquennium!

According to a report from a human resources firm sent in the spring of 2021 to the ethics officer of the National Assembly, ex-collaborators of Coralie Dubost accuse her of having imposed on them “relevant tasks in the personal sphere”, proposals and behaviors “demeaning” but also a “conflict of values” or “ethics” in particular on the use of its advances of mandate expenses.

These include “monthly clothing expenses within a range of 1,500 to 2,000 euros” or “very high restaurant costs”. But Internet users have especially noted the purchases of lingerie with its parliamentary envelope.

“She herself was very present on social networks and news channels, she had become a leading public figure but there is obviously sexism in this file, recognizes Antton Rouget. It is also the former company of Olivier Véran, the Minister of Health.

These social networks, Pauline Escande-Gauquié knows them well. Sepiologist, lecturer at Paris-Sorbonne-CELSA, eShe denounced their abuses in her book “Monstres 2.0: the other face of social networks”, co-written with Bertrand Naivin and published in 2018 by Les Pérégrines editions. And for her, it’s obvious. “Because there is sex and politics, so it takes on a monstrous scale. It’s a new Benjamin Griveaux!”

Because there is sex and politics, so it takes on a monstrous scale. It’s a new Benjamin Griveaux!

Pauline Escande-Gauquié, semiologist, social media specialist

For Pauline Escande-Gauquié, sexism is an important element but not the only one: “She crystallizes above all anxieties and frustrations. Her behavior is intolerable for people who have to make efforts every day, who see their purchasing power reduced and who have the impression that their election has been stolen from them.”

And beware, on the eve of the legislative elections, the political context also plays a big role, according to the semiologist. “The fachosphere, like the supporters of Mélenchon, have every interest in getting into the game to discredit the candidates of La République en Marche. Because alone, Coralie Dubost embodies for them all the excesses of macronism.”

The aggressiveness and violence of certain online comments therefore come as no surprise to the academic who has been observing this “wildness of the web” for several years. “It is the digital guillotine, to resume Pauline Escande-Gauquie. It’s about symbolically killing a person.” And the mechanics are very simple. “The fact that she herself is very visible on social networks, she is already spotted. And on her own Twitter or Instagram accounts, there is already everything available to take over, hijack and use it against her, to create “memes”. Social networks are a double-edged sword: they can give rise to a person in terms of notoriety as they can condemn them just as quicklyis lying.”

Director of research at the CNRS and at the EHESS, the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, David Chavalarias also takes a very critical look at social networks. He has just signed an essay entitled “Toxic Data: how social networks manipulate our opinions”, released last March by Flammarion. This mathematics graduate, specialist in complex systems, created in 2016 a Politoscope which makes it possible to map the online political debate, to identify the militant communities acting on social networks and to analyze their reactions on a daily basis.

“The political landscape on the networks has been distorted in recent yearsexplains the researcher. The most active communities online today in France are those gravitating on the far left around the Insoumis and on the far right around Florian Philippot and Eric Zemmour.

Seen from the Politoscope, the controversy remains on a relatively small scale: 8,000 tweets per day at most against, for example, 173,000 when Emmanuel Macron announced that he wanted to “fuck the unvaccinated” or 169,000 during the McKinsey affair.

“It’s far from being a tidal wavetempers David Chavalerias. The communities that reacted the strongest to the Dubost affair are the most extreme communities: the activists of La France Insoumise on one side and the far-right activists around Florian Philippot on the other.

The communities that reacted the strongest to the Dubost affair are the most extreme communities: the activists of La France Insoumise on one side and the far-right activists around Florian Philippot on the other.

David Chavalarias, research director at the CNRS and creator of the Politoscope

For the mathematician, it is not only the use of public money for personal ends that shocked and provoked this mobilization on the networks. He also speaks of a form of revenge. Coralie Dubost had at the time lectured on BFMTV on the payment of fines which had targeted certain elected LFI. On the side of Florian Philippot or Jean-François Asselineau, it is the former company of Olivier Véran which is directly targeted. “It’s an anti-system, anti-vax, anti-Macron community that formed during the pandemic, explains the researcher. And we make him pay close to the Minister of Health whom they hate above all.”

It remains to be seen now how long the elected representative from Hérault remains in the eye of the storm.

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