May 3, 2017 Last Updated 7:14 am

French candidates lone debate today; Browser plug-in helps track how parties insert political messages into Facebook feeds

Morning Brief: Margaret Sullivan finds Rupert Murdoch’s short memo announcing Bill Shine’s resignation lacking any evidence that Fox News is prepared to change its culture

Tonight is the one, and only, televised debate between the two candidates in Sunday’s presidential election in France. Tonight — that is, 2pm ET, 11am PT here in the States — becomes make or break time for Marine Le Pen, who is trailing in the polls, though some fear she could pull off the upset. It is also make or break for Emmanuel Macron, who has everything to lose should he stumble tonight.

For many Americans, and certainly most of the American media, the craziness of the Trump administration is all consuming. There is simply no room for foreign news, unless it may eventually lead to war. But a Le Pen victory would likely change the dynamics of European politics to such a degree that it would be hard to see how European affairs would not become a major issue, even here in the US.

For the casual US observer, the election between Macron and Le Pen may simply looking like a repeat of the US election, but with the genders switched. Macron is seen as a centrist, one struggling to attract voters from the far-left who don’t see him as much of an improvement over the far-right candidate. Like in the US, pleas have gone out not to let the radical right candidate win or else the consequences could be dire. Like in the US, the far-right candidate looks to pick up votes in rural areas, outside Paris, and is seen as the one, true outside candidate.

But unlike in the US, neither candidate comes from either of the two powers traditionally in power (though Macron was a member of the Socialist Party from 2006 to 2009). Also unlike the US, the polls in France have proved accurate, and right now they are pointing to an overwhelming win for Macron come Sunday.

The Guardian, Kim Willsher:

Majority of Mélenchon supporters will not back Emmanuel Macron, poll finds

About 450,000 of his supporters were asked to say whether they would abstain, spoil their ballots or support Emmanuel Macron in the second round runoff this Sunday. Voting for the other candidate, he Front National’s Marine Le Pen, was not an option.

The results, released on Tuesday afternoon, showed that of more than 243,000 Mélenchon supporters who responded, 87,818 (36.1%) intended to spoil their vote, 84,682 (34.8%) planned to support Macron and 70,628 (29%) would not turn out for the second round. The figures suggest a total of 65% will not vote for Macron.

Mélenchon, who came fourth in the first round vote 10 days ago with the support of 19.5% – about 7 million voters – has been heavily criticised for not advising his supporters how to vote.

Both he and his team have, however, insisted not a single vote should go to Le Pen. Alexis Corbière, Mélenchon’s spokesman, said they were not going to take “moral lessons” on how to combat the far-right Front National, and Mélenchon was not a “guru”.

Libération, Isabelle This Saint-Jean:

Faced with the FN, we must trace the incandescent line of democracy and the Republic

The democratic panic that is shaking our country is growing. Bad passions take hold of some. Anger and cries stifle rational argument. Factual data loses its force of conviction. A thick fog fills the democratic space and demagogy, hidden behind strategies of political communication, succeeds in clearing its way to touch the hearts. The big words seem to be turning into the void of disillusionment and anxiety, like the ghosts of an ancient world. In the distance one hears the sad sound of a narrow pragmatism and technical speeches that have for too long saturated the sound space, accompanied by “simple common sense” and its train of nonsense…

…The political crisis was there, but many somnambulists were playing on the edge of the abyss and seemed to ignore it. The first round of the presidential election and the reactions it has – or have not – aroused will have revealed its depth. No one can ignore it anymore.For the second time in our history since the Second World War, the extreme right is at the gates of the Republic.

I have to say, this sounds like a very worthwhile plug-in to install in one’s Google Chrome browser…

The Guardian, Robert Booth:

Free software to reveal how Facebook election posts are targeted

A tool exposing how voters are targeted with tailored propaganda on Facebook has been launched in response to what is likely to be the most extensive social media campaign in general election history.

Experts in digital campaigning, including an adviser to Labour in 2015, have designed a program to allow voters to shine a light into what they describe as “a dark, unregulated corner of our political campaigns”.

The free software, called Who Targets Me?, can be added to a Google Chrome browser and will allow voters to track how the main parties insert political messages into their Facebook feeds calibrated to appeal on the basis of personal information they have already made public online.

Let’s face it, the NYT really blew it when they let Margaret Sullivan leave the paper. Sullivan was a popular public editor, and her replacement is struggling to gain the same respect from readers that Sullivan enjoyed.

Sullivan’s role at The Washington Post is, of course, different than what it was at the Times. At the NYT she was to look inward, at the paper itself. Now she gets to train her gaze outside, at the rest of the media, and yesterday she said what many have been thinking, that the changes at Fox News are merely cosmetic.

Here she tears apart Rupert Murdoch’s short note announcing the resignation of Bill Shine, and finds it highly revealing, despite its brevity.

The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan:

If you think Fox News is changing, Rupert Murdoch’s internal memo shows it isn’t. At all.

Nowhere in Murdoch’s note is a word about the treatment of women and minorities at Fox. Nothing about cleaning up its tainted culture…

…But it’s in the two last sentences that Murdoch delivers the major point. And here, finally, is something that rings true.

“Fox News continues to break both viewing and revenue records, for which I thank you all. I am sure we can do even better.”

Just ratings and profits, and the insatiable desire for more. All this after doing a great deal to deliver the Oval Office to Donald Trump, and continuing to serve as the presidential Pravda.

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