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The Zemmour Phenomenon
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Éric Zemmour. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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France is abuzz with the news that Éric Zemmour – a right-wing pundit – may in run the country’s presidential elections set for April 2022. Polls already have Zemmour enjoying double-digit support and potentially even beating Marine Le Pen and the mainstream conservative candidates, thus making him run off against sitting President Emmanuel Macron in the second round.

Zemmour would, according to these same polls, win around 45% of the vote in this scenario. That’s short of a victory but, this early in the game, it’s exactly the kind of level of support Brexit and Donald Trump received before their triumphs in 2016.

But who is Éric Zemmour? The pundit has been virtually a household name in France for many years. He is akin to Tucker Carlson in America: just about the only voice in the TV news media who effectively, though usually not explicitly, defends the interests of the nation’s core ethnic demographic.

I have previously written on Zemmour’s career in the media. Suffice to say that he has been able to carve out a lucrative niche for himself as the highest-profile nationalist/conservative voice in the French media landscape. This makes him a polarizing but popular figure as there is great untapped demand among audiences for patriotic rhetoric. This demand is largely ignored by journalists who are, like in the rest of the West, structurally biased in favor of left-liberal causes.

Occasionally, mainstream journalists forget to keep their biases subtle and covert. One journalist at the France Info public TV station said Zemmour “is not allowed to come here.” The channel then publicly contradicted the journalist and clarified that Zemmour would be invited only when he had officially become a candidate.

Zemmour’s career: right-wing media gadfly

Zemmour has successfully built up his profile on the right-wing edge of the media system. He long worked for the conservative newspaper Le Figaro and broke through on TV talk shows in which he was noted for his criticism of feminism and professional “anti-racist” activism. He has been periodically fired by certain media for going ‘too far.’ He has also often been dragged into court by said “anti-racist” lobby groups – while he has generally been vindicated, he twice was found guilty of “inciting racial hatred.” In the end, Zemmour has been able to flourish despite these setbacks, keeping gainful employment in a critical section of the French media and continuing to reach his audience.

Zemmour is technically still not a candidate for the election. However, things came to a head earlier this year as he set up a political party, recruited staff, and raised funds. Last month, France’s TV regulator, the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA), required that Zemmour’s TV appearances be limited to what is proportionately allowed for presidential candidates. This was a big deal as Zemmour had previously been allowed to dominate a popular talk show on maverick TV station CNews, which had enjoyed as many as 800,000 viewers at a time.

Zemmour’s ideas: The defense of French interests, including the native French

Regarding Zemmour’s political ideas, the best place to start for English-speakers is probably the recent interview he gave to a Hungarian think-tank, on the occasion of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fourth Demographic Summit. (This event, focused on opposing immigration and supporting European families and fertility, was itself very noteworthy and included the participation of the prime ministers of Czechia, Serbia, and Slovenia.)

In the interview, Zemmour explicitly mentions France’s white identity with a suitable quote from General Charles de Gaulle, who said that the French were “a European people of white race, Greek and Latin culture, and Christian religion.” Both add that while some non-Whites and Muslims may become French citizens, the nation would lose her identity if these groups ceased to be “a small minority.” In the French media, few have been as explicit as Zemmour in denouncing the ills of Afro-Islamic immigration and the results in terms of criminality, welfare abuse, and day-to-day Islamization.

(Those who want a more detailed exposé of Zemmour’s views read my review of his longest work: Le Suicide français, a meticulous examination of the steady decay of the French nation over the past fifty years. The book sold an estimated 300,000 copies.)

In Zemmour’s politics, France is the be-all-end-all. He is enamored with the nation who gave citizenship to the Jews during the French Revolution, enabling his own people to flourish, and with the glory that France was able to achieve under great leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles de Gaulle.

Zemmour’s dissident critics: A tool of the globalist oligarchy?

Zemmour has plenty of critics, including among patriotic dissidents. One such critic is the anti-Zionist civic nationalist Alain Soral, who asks: Why is Zemmour “allowed” to speak in the media in the way he does? Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has long made similar comments, enjoyed no such privilege but was viciously demonized. Is Zemmour not allowed to rise because, wittingly or not, he serves the interests of the global oligarchy which wishes to see France weakened, paralyzed, and bled by fatal internal conflict, namely the ethno-religious civil war which Zemmour is effectively promoting?

I personally do not find the Soralian critique convincing. He fails to recognize the fact that there are differing factions within the French and global oligarchies. Indeed, Donald Trump was able to win the U.S. presidency precisely by exploiting these divisions. He governed with the support of ultra-Zionists who won a great deal for Israel. America won a bit too, though admittedly much less, with drastic reductions in border crossings and refugee settlements.

In France, Zemmour has been able to survive thanks to the support of the Dassault family, an originally Jewish family (I don’t know how much they have intermarried with gentiles) who own the Figaro newspaper and a segment of the French arms industry, and Vincent Bolloré, a gentile billionaire industrialist who owns CNews. I cannot say if these men have supported Zemmour out of right-wing convictions or for subscriptions/ratings.

It is true that Zemmour’s rhetoric is ambiguous. At times, he speaks of “assimilating” foreigners into France, such as by a recent proposal to require newborns to be given traditional French names. At others, he speaks of France’s white identity and of potential civil war between the natives and the Muslims.

Assimilation is a non-starter in a country where around one fifth of newborns are Muslim and one third are non-European. I do not however think “racial civil war” will be occurring in France at least within the next 10-15 years. And even if it did, the fact is that at this stage the Europeans would easily win.

Zemmour’s Jewish identity: rationally pro-French?

There is no downplaying Zemmour’s Jewish identity, right down to his Gargamelian phenotype. Indeed he regularly goes to a conservative synagogue – which probably gives him some subcultural and social autonomy to take taboo permissions within the Parisian politico-media set. He is not among the neoconservatives who have pushed for France to undertake endless wars against the Islamic world on behalf of Israel. Indeed, Zemmour rarely mentions Israel and, in writing though not to my knowledge on television, he has criticized France’s Jewish lobbying organization, the CRIF for being “a State within the State.”

Zemmour arguably has good reason to be a pro-French Jew. His ancestors were Sephardic Jews in Algeria who had been blessed with French citizenship with the Crémieux Decree of 1870 (itself passed by a French Jew during the chaos of the Franco-Prussian War). This unlocked great opportunities for Algerian Jewry, who had previously been subalterns to the local Muslims.

Zemmour’s parents left Algeria for France during the Arabs’ war for independence in the 1950s, no doubt sensing that their time was up. In 1962, Algeria’s 1 million European settlers and most Jews fled the country, knowing that the Arabs would prepare a grisly fate for them if they did not (“the suitcase or the coffin” was the slogan of the day).

Zemmour was born and raised in Seine-Saint-Denis in suburban Paris, the resting place of French kings and now France’s most Afro-Islamic département (county). The French and Jewish residents have had to face the rising tide of Afro-Islamic ways of life and violent criminality. The bullying of Jewish children by Blacks and Muslims is said to be habitual.

Thus, Zemmour’s French nationalism would be motivated by a rational ethnic calculation: contra the anti-French propaganda of Bernard-Henri Lévy and company, modern France has objectively treated its Jews well on the whole. “As happy as God in France” is a traditional Jewish saying. The French are obviously more tolerant of the Jews than are Blacks and especially Muslims. What will happen to the Jews once France has an Afro-Islamic majority? Over the past decade, terrorist attacks by Muslims have become a banal occurrence in France, killing hundreds upon hundreds with knives, bombs, and charging vehicles.

Zemmour Can Win

I cannot say if Zemmour’s campaign is serious or merely an umpteenth conservative/populist grift operation. Indeed, Zemmour has timed his crypto-campaign with the release of his latest book, La France n’a pas dit son dernier mot (France Has Not Spoken Her Last), a diary of his conversations with French media and political figures since 2006.

What I can say is that a Zemmour victory is by no means impossible. Plenty of celebrity outsiders have been able to convert their media clout into political power: I think of Beppe Grillo in Italy, Donald Trump in America, or Vladimir Zelensky in Ukraine.

In a feeble op-ed, the establishment Le Monde newspaper has argued Zemmour cannot reproduce Trump’s success, on the grounds that he cannot take over the conservative party (Les Républicains) with its nationwide political presence. This strikes me as unconvincing cope when we know that President Emmanuel Macron himself won without the support of any established political party. Instead he founded his own party and pilfered politicians from the center-right, center, and center-left. Zemmour could do just the same with politicians of the conservative or nationalist right.

Admittedly, there is a chance that so many right-wing candidates (Zemmour, Marine Le Pen, and a conservative) are fielded that none of them breaks through to the second round. So far, polls show a right-candidate breaking through. This would become a very serious risk if the far-left, Socialists, and Greens agree to a common candidate – but this seems quite unlikely given the monumental egos involved.

Politico Europe, with more realism than Le Monde, writes by contrast that Zemmour “is winning the match against his rivals and against the media.” The paper notes that he is “getting far more prime-time TV slots and front-page stories than many of his rivals.” A Socialist political analyst told Politico: “He checkmated the media. Just like Trump. Zemmour is very well-known in a splintered media landscape and is ahead of the pack because those who make the most outrageous statements have the advantage today.”

Can Zemmour Govern?

I am more skeptical about Zemmour’s ability to govern. After all, being an effective “media-troll” does not require the same skill set as does governing a country, as Trump learned to his chagrin. Still, there are reasons to be more optimistic. Political and media power is far more concentrated in European countries than they are in the United States.

Viktor Orbán in Hungary has been able to push a patriotic agenda in Hungary with little effective pushback. In Italy, Matteo Salvini was able to rise to astonishing levels of popularity when he, as Interior Minister, blocked the arrivals of illegal immigrants in the south of the country. Salvini’s successes were only scuppered by the “populist” Five-Star Movement’s collusion with the Italian Establishment. (While the complexities of Italian politics are far beyond the scope of this article, I would say: keep an eye on Italy, the country is perfectly likely to flip sooner or later, with the next elections planned for 2023.)

At this stage, Zemmour’s crypto-campaign has served to have taboo patriotic and pro-French messages penetrate the country’s political discourse in a way unprecedented since the days of Jean-Marie Le Pen. The dynamics of Zemmour’s career and campaign are distinctly Trumpian. Marine Le Pen has solidified her position in the French political landscape by carefully reeling in “excesses” and effectively being house-trained by the legacy media. Zemmour by contrast has developed his position and prospered by always pushing the envelope in a way which the rest of the media could not deal with – except by giving him more prominence by denouncing him and trying to shut him down.

 
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