France on the Verge of Civil War: The rise of Éric Zemmour

France on the Verge of Civil War: The rise of Éric Zemmour. By Christopher Caldwell.

At home in Paris one evening during the COVID spring of 2020, the conservative columnist and television pundit Éric Zemmour got a cell phone call from the president of France. Emmanuel Macron, frequent butt of Zemmour’s on-air contempt, was calling to commiserate. Zemmour had been accosted by a thug that afternoon while walking home from a fruit stand on the rue des Martyrs. The whole of political Paris was talking about it.

For decades Zemmour, 63, has warned the public that France is being submerged by Muslim immigration and smothered by political correctness. In so doing, he has been acclaimed as a historian and author, and revered as a truth-teller. He has also been reviled in the press and hauled into court for inciting racial and religious hatred. Now he was being harassed in the street. That alarmed even Macron.

According to Zemmour, Macron used the phone call to defend his own vision of multi-ethnic France. … He acknowledged that France, rocked by terrorist attacks over the past half-decade, had problems with the Islamic radicals known as Salafists. Then the two began to debate. “I told him the Salafists were just the tip of the iceberg,” Zemmour wrote recently, “that the key question was the number of Muslims, that we had to stop immigration.”

In the course of 45 minutes of passionate back-and-forth, Macron told Zemmour that a president who spoke like that would drag the country into civil war. Zemmour cut him off. “I told him that if we continue to follow his policies we are headed for civil war in any case.”

And of course they were both right. It doesn’t matter if France follows the current polices, or not — either way, a major clash is coming. France is the western country with the largest percentage of Muslims — about 10% (attempting to deny reality, they do not keep official figures). In 2019, 21.5% of French newborns had Islamic first names.

Barely a year later, Zemmour is hinting that he himself will run to replace Macron in next April’s presidential elections.

From one perspective, Zemmour’s political ambition is crazy. He lacks experience, organization, and an obvious source of funding. Most of the country’s mainstream journalists despise him. …

This past October, Zemmour passed Le Pen in the polls, drawing from her voters and adding a few disaffected Républicains. …

Zemmour was born in Montreuil, on the eastern edge of Paris, and grew up in nearby Drancy. He is the son of a Jewish ambulance driver who migrated from Algeria a decade before that country broke from France in a bloody war of independence. In little more than a generation, immigration has transformed the once-archetypal working-class French neighborhoods Zemmour grew up in, from baguettes and berets to beards and burkas. It torments him.

His family was devout. His grandfather spoke better Arabic than French, using a “folkloric” spelling that was a source of mirth to the kids. Zemmour rejects the idea that there is anything hypocritical about his anti-immigration views. Because Algeria was part of France until 1962, he says, the Zemmours were not immigrants. France had absorbed them as citizens through conquest—in the same way it had absorbed, say, Corsicans and Alsatians. The Zemmours strove, reasonably or unreasonably, to adapt to French ways. No one wore a yarmulke outside the house. They studied hard. …

No freedom of speech in France. Quite the opposite in fact, on some topics:

Over the past half-century, France has made a number of opinions illegal to hold, and it can be hard to know for sure when you’re expressing one. The 1972 Pleven Law narrowed freedom of opinion and authorized certain non-governmental lobbies to haul citizens before the court for racism. A 1990 law bans Holocaust denial. …

In 2018, France’s legislature passed a law against “fake news.” In 2020, it passed the notorious Avia law against “hate.” France’s constitutional council later declared unconstitutional some of the law’s wilder provisions, such as that any website accused by anti-racist activists of sowing “hate” (without any mediation by a neutral judge) would have to remove hateful content within an hour or face fines that could run over a million dollars. But some of its provisions remain law.

Zemmour has been convicted under such laws three times. Twice in 2011 he defended racial profiling, in hiring and then in policing. “The majority of drug traffickers are blacks and Arabs,” he said. “That’s the way it is. It’s just a fact.” Then in 2016, he described Muslim immigration as an “invasion” and a “jihad,” and said that Muslims would have to make “a choice between Islam and France.”

As in the United States, the direct power of such laws pales next to their indirect power. They work not just by punishing the alleged malefactor but also by threatening his associates with legal harassment, social ostracism, boycotts, and steep financial costs. Employers, colleagues, licensing boards, and local governments are conscripted as agents of enforcement, disguising as “evolving norms” what are actually measures of government censorship.

Demography and destiny:

“Demographic laws are iron laws,” Zemmour told an interviewer last summer. … Because French people did not have a lot of babies, France could not afford to welcome immigrants as open-heartedly as its more sentimental citizens might wish.

That was the background to Charles de Gaulle’s reluctant decision to abandon France’s Algerian possession to independence. “The Arabs are Arabs, the French French,” he explained to an aide in March 1959. “Do you think the French body politic can absorb 10 million Muslims, who tomorrow will be 20 million and the day after 40 million?” De Gaulle joked that the likely outcome of maintaining the link to Algeria was that his village, Colombey-of-the-Two-Churches, would be renamed Colombey-of-the-Two-Mosques. …

France is more and more Muslim, especially in its cities. In the past ten years, according to sociologist Pierre Vermeren, the giving of Muslim names to newborns has tripled. Up to a fifth of the soldiers in the French armed forces are Muslim. …

Growing discontent and polarization:

As France’s urban economy shifted from manufacturing and farming to services and finance,… workers were priced out of private housing by yuppies and bullied out of public housing by immigrants, who have turned many housing projects into Islamic strongholds. That process pushed the working class into France’s exurbs and rural areas. There, making ends meet (or not) can come down to the price of gasoline. In 2018 and 2019, the so-called “yellow vests” (gilets jaunes) protests, focused on high gas prices and metropolitan contempt, briefly threatened to chase Macron from office. …

There is a feeling of dispossession in peripheral France. Discontent is boiling over on any number of issues.  ….

On one side are the “winners” of globalization — the super-rich and protected minorities. On the other are globalization’s losers — the newly precarious middle and working classes.

That is partly the way Zemmour understands it: “We are living through a moment of the sort that we have lived through often in our history,” he writes in his newest book, “where the people no longer recognize themselves in the elites, the political parties, or…‘the system.’” …

Only 26% of French people trust the media. Only 16% trust political parties. …

Suddenly, 79% of French people want a “real leader to reestablish order,” while 86% say “authority” is a concept unjustly maligned, and half want to re-institute capital punishment. …

Islam’s wombs:

The problem with Islam is not that it dominates the country’s official institutions but that the population of its adherents is growing by leaps and bounds.

Last summer, Causeur magazine released a set of maps that the government consulting group France Stratégie had been using. They showed a growth of immigrant populations in all French cities that was almost incredible. In vast stretches of Seine-St-Denis, burial place of France’s kings and queens, 70-80% of the children under 18 are born of immigrants from outside of Europe. (“There are 135 different nationalities in Seine-St-Denis,” the Socialist interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement once remarked with black humor, “but one of them has pretty much died out.”) …

The maps sent shock waves through France when they were published, but what is most striking is that the outrage took the government consultants by surprise. They had been using the maps for two years to develop plans to fight residential segregation. It had apparently not occurred to them that, in the public’s view, the main problem was not the distribution of the immigrant population but the sheer size of it. …

Zemmour stands for ordinary French people who want a say in the way their country is run:

If Zemmour stands for anything, it is reconnecting the French public to big decisions over the future of France, particularly when it comes to immigration.

“Our people…must be able to make decisions on who is part of it and what its future will be,” he wrote recently. “It must be able to decide whether to end family reunification for immigrants and birthright citizenry, and whether to limit the right to political asylum — without an oligarchy of French and European judges standing in its way.”

That is the sound of a second shoe dropping. The question of “who belongs” is an indication that when Zemmour talks about civil war, he means something more than the Trump-era clash between insiders and outsiders. He is questioning, among other things, whether Islam and Christian-derived secularism can co-exist on the same soil.

At the end of the summer the magazine Marianne described a private meeting in which Zemmour reassured a group of businessmen that, if elected, he would not rock the economic boat. He would not try to take France out of the European Union, or out of its common currency, the Euro, ill-advised though he might consider both these things. He has other priorities. “If I get into power, it will be to deal with one thing,” Zemmour reportedly told his listeners. “The clash of civilizations.” …

Looks like 1940, with Muslims replacing the Germans:

Zemmour is a historian, a gifted one. …

“Before World War I,” he says, “there were two Frances, secular France and Catholic France, and those two Frances were a hair’s breadth away from a military confrontation. What saved France from civil war? The Great War. Horrible to say, but that’s how it is. People found themselves in the same trenches, fighting the Germans.”

After World War II, Zemmour believes, Charles de Gaulle settled many of the “cold” civil wars that had coursed through France in the 1930s, when the country wound up too polarized between Left and Right to unite against the looming German threat. Post-war France was built on a modus vivendi between two seemingly incompatible groups of resistance fighters — the Gaullists (who represented France’s age-old Christian culture) and the Communists. …

Today, by contrast, the political culture has something in common with that of France’s “strange defeat” in 1940. It is too polarized to take account of threats to the country’s survival.

Nor is France alone in this. Zemmour, an avid reader of Samuel Huntington, says, “The United States, too, is at risk of civil war.” …

Bringing down the house, and the bureaucracy’s wrath:

Zemmour is deeply insightful and deeply offensive. …

In the autumn of 2019 he spoke to a “Convention of the Right” sponsored by Marion Maréchal in Paris. He gave a brilliant and embittered speech in which he warned: “The question before us is the following: ‘Will young French people accept to live as a minority in the land of their ancestors?’ If so, they deserve to be colonized. If not, they will need to fight for their liberation.”

That line brought the house down. It also brought legal charges against Zemmour for “incitement to hatred.” He was assessed a fine of €10,000. Zemmour appealed on free-speech grounds and in September had it overturned. Prosecutors are seeking to have it reinstated.

Islam, basically untarnished from 7th century Arabia, is not compatible with western civilization. Wake up, woke people.

hat-tip Joe P.