Baptiste Deodati Marchais, 29, who operates the Youtube channel “Bench & Cigars,” is a far right Identitarian and hardcore Catholic known for holding the French bench pressing record, being a social media influencer, and showing off his hunting and culinary skills in preparing meat products. Despite believing that the “French themselves” and not their political leaders need to struggle to reverse their country’s “moral degeneracy,” Marchais decided instead to pick up and leave France for rural Texas in April 2022. He’s now rebranded as a “typical Southern conservative.”
Prior to becoming a Youtuber in 2020, Marchais worked as a bouncer at a bar near Saint-Michel in Paris. Around the same time, Marchais became immersed in the world of the violent far right. Reporting has shown that he was previously a member of the motorcycle gang “Praetorians” using the pseudonyms “Petit Bat” and “Patapouf.” The Praetorians are led by the former leader, Serge Ayoub, of the white nationalist skinhead group Jeunesses Nationalistes Révolutionnaires (JNR) (Young National Revolutionaries). Around 2015, Marchais began to interact with the members of the neo-fascist group Groupe Union Défense (GUD). Since finding success on Youtube, however, Marchais has seemed to leave these connections behind as he focused more on shifting political culture from modern-day liberalism in France.
On his Youtube channel, “Bench & Cigars,” Marchais has mostly participated in traditionally “masculine” activities and promoting a lifestyle of “virility.” Marchais’ Youtube channel began as a venture into weightlifting culture, hunting, shooting, smoking cigars, and cooking all kinds of meat, but at times would verge towards far-right politics, earning him a spot amongst the internet’s notorious “fachosphère” (fascist-sphere) influencers. This network of far-right influencers online, such as Papacito, Thais d’Escufon, and Julien Rochedy, would make regular appearances on his channel where they would join him at the shooting range, or for a meal consisting only of red meat. Other prominent guests have included the senator of Bouches-du-Rhône Stephane Ravier and Jean Messiha, both longtime Front National members, and now supporters of former French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour, who is best known for his support of the white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which alleges white people are being wiped out in their “home countries” by immigrants and refugees.
Marchais is a devout Catholic and draws many of his political views from the Church. In the past, he has been close to the fundamentalist Catholic movement in France. In late 2021, he attended an SOS Calvaires youth event where he helped carry a large wooden cross to the monastery in Chartreuse de Currière, an effort at “Christianization” he considered a “public work.” He attended the “Hussars” camp for young men in November 2021 hosted by the Mouvement de la jeunesse catholique de France (Catholic Youth Movement of France), which has ties to the Catholic fundamentalist splinter group Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), whose ranks have included Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites. The event featured presentations provided by far right Catholic fundamentalist Victor Aubert of Academia Christiana, known for anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ+ views. He gave an interview on far-right outlet TV Libertés in favor of a “viral Catholicism” instead of a religion “for the weak,” alongside Catholic fundamentalist priest Matthieu Raffray, who also called for a Catholicism of “crusaders, knights of the Middle Ages, and missionaries” and against a “Care Bear Jesus.” In a Livre Noir (Black Book) interview, Marchais claimed that the church needs to be more assertive in presenting the French with traditional Catholic scripture and Catholic historical figures in order to be competitive with a fundamentalist Islam he perceives to be more attractive to young people. Over the years, Marchais has had a number of Christian nationalist tattoos including the cross of Lorraine, and the sacred heart on one side, and the Chrisme on the other. Elsewhere, he has a tattoo of Godefroy de Bouillon, one of the leaders of the first Crusades.
Marchais popularity rose after he was invited twice onto the BFMTV show “Touche pas à ma poste” (Don’t Touch My Television), hosted by Cyril Hanouna, an incredibly popular show that thrives off of provoking scandal and platforming eccentric or fa- right personalities. Both appearances were set up to make Marchais appear as the “reasonable” guest. During the first appearance in May 2021, he was brought on the show to speak about hunting alongside a literally screaming pro-animal activist Solveig Halloin. During the second, in February 2022, Marchais was invited alongside a TikToker who had gone viral for “twerking” inside a Catholic Church, which set up Marchais to be able to call the teenager a “Christianophobe.”
Since then, he has been invited on various French far-right outlets. On TV Libertés, he expressed his thoughts on France’s pandemic health measures: “I think that has also been a sort of laboratory for the state to see to what point he (President Macron) can push the dictatorship, to see what can be imposed on the French before it all blows up, to not see their family, or whether completely random measures can be imposed on them without giving them any scientific proof.”
Marchais has been involved in a number of violent confrontations in the past. In May 2021, he infamously slapped Alice Cordier, the leader of the far-right Identitarian feminist organization Némésis at the Parisian bar where he used to work as a bouncer before he fled the scene of the crime. Being quite strong, the slap that Marchais gave Cordier knocked her to the ground, and led to her filing a complaint with the police. Later, in the summer of 2022, a video of Marchais fighting with another individual in Barcelona went viral after Marchais accused the individual of having profaned a cathedral. It is not clear whether either of these incidents were related to Marchais’ eventual decision to leave France.
In the lead-up to the 2022 elections, Marchais claimed in a live stream that the campaign team for Zemmour had been in contact with him prior to launching his campaign in order to expand outreach to young and online voters. After proposing to appear with Marchais in a shooting range segment called “Café Cartouches” (Coffee Cartridges), the Zemmour campaign quashed the idea. He then claimed that after he had finally met Zemmour at an end-of-the-year party at TV Libertés, he overheard members of the campaign ask photographers to delete the pictures of Zemmour talking with Marchais. Following this sleight, Marchais started to become disenchanted with the candidate and chastised all of the “tiny petit-bourgeois” that attended Zemmour’s large rally at Trocadéro in Paris. Aside from his assault on Cordier, which happened around the same time, it is not clear why, if Marchais’ claims are accurate, the Zemmour team would avoid Marchais like the plague considering that Zemmour has previously voiced support for other far-right Youtubers like Papacito, who is known for inciting violence against left-wing MPs and journalists covering the far-right.
“Bench and Cigars, In Texas”
Sometime in April 2022, Marchais took the final step and permanently moved to the United States, where he purchased a large house in Parker county to the west of Fort Worth, Texas. Since moving, Marchais has traded in his Paris look for a stereotypical Texan outfit: cowboy hats, boots, large 4×4 trucks, flannel shirts, and a pistol tucked underneath his belt. He has rebranded himself as a simple Texan who likes pulled pork, the ranch, and hunting with his many firearms on his property. His TikToks and Instagram live posts are filled with questions from supporters about life in the United States. They ask about the driving etiquette, the right to own firearms, and his Youtube channel has been reoriented towards showing what he describes as a “typical Texan lifestyle.” He also started as the co-host of the Twitch stream “Radio Dixie,” where he pontificates on different topics with his co-host Le Guiz, a right-wing émigré youtuber based out of Canada.
In a recent interview withTV Libertés, host Martial Bild asked Marchais about his decision to leave France for the United States. He said he believes there will be a civil war and that “if France will be reborn, it will be in blood.” When questioned by Bild as to why he moved to Texas when the United States has many of the same alleged problems as France, Marchais said that while there is also a “Mexican migratory invasion,” he simply considers it a personal preference. He then insisted that due to the dual Mexican-American historical occupation of Texas, there is “little racism” against Mexicans there.
Since moving, Marchais has launched head first into American politics as the co-host of “Radio Dixie,” a French-language podcast focusing on French and American politics. There, he has argued that those who criticize the QAnon-beloved film, “Sound of Freedom,” are defending pedophilia. He has pontificated on the recent “Go Woke, Go Broke” backlash and praised the anti-trans boycotts against Bud Light and Target. He has also said that Muslims who vote for Joe Biden and French left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon have “made a deal with the devil” due to these mens’ pro-LGBTQ+ platform. He also considers Donald Trump to be a “political prisoner” of President Joe Biden.
It would seem from Youtube statistics that a significant amount of Marchais’ viewers may not have appreciated the rebranding, and have turned away from watching the channel. According to SocialBlade, which collects viewership and subscription data from Youtube, the Bench & Cigars channel has fallen from a monthly viewership of 2.5 million in Spring 2021 to only several hundred thousand monthly views today. His new channel specifically oriented around his life in Texas has also collapsed; after an initial burst of interest in March 2023 (192 thousand views), viewership has dropped to only around 8,000 viewers. As of August 2023, SocialBlade reports that his subscriptions are currently a net negative.
Data Source: SocialBlade
At this juncture, it is not clear what Marchais will do to continue his lavish lifestyle abroad. He is known for quickly having monetized his 15 minutes of fame by writing a book entitled Instinct primaire (Primary Instinct) in 2022, providing workout programs, advertising the clothing lines of close friends, gathering Patreon donations, and advertising hunting trips to Texas. With his precipitous fall in popularity, it is unclear how long this career path will last given Marchais’ increasingly niche subject matter and waning interest back in France.