The received opinion is that Islam and immigration are Éric Zemmour’s prime targets as his putative presidential campaign gathers pace. But he has a third mortal enemy, and that’s the Anglophone world. Éric doesn’t much like us. But then Éric doesn’t much like anyone who’s not, as his sort are wont to say, Français de souche.
Zemmour’s rabble-rousing is becoming tiresome. He is lashing out in all directions, his latest act of belligerence a swipe at Britain and America during a rally in Rouen on Friday. The English, he thundered, have been France’s ‘greatest enemies for a thousand years’ while D-Day ‘was an enterprise of liberation but also of occupation and colonisation by the Americans’.
In contrast, Zemmour has a soft spot for Russia and believes France should cultivate a far closer relationship with Moscow in order to counter the Anglo-American influence. In this he is not alone; a poll in 2018 reported that 27 per cent of French canvassed expressed a favourable opinion of Vladmir Putin, a figure that rose to 50 per cent among Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party. Zemmour is also sympathetic to China, claiming that America is spoiling for a fight in the Pacific and it is in France’s commercial interests to remain neutral.
Zemmour has always had a rather unique take on historical events. An apologist for Marshal Philippe Pétain, the puppet of the Nazis during the wretched Occupation, Zemmour claims that the head of the Vichy Regime protected French Jews from extermination. Not many historians of the period concur.
Now he declares that the Americans colonised France, and Britain is France’s inveterate enemy. Zemmour should find time on his campaign trail to visit the Somme or Sword Beach and bow his head before the headstones of successive generations of young British men who gave their lives to liberate France.
As for the accusation that America colonised France — if only! Had Uncle Sam taken up residence after 1945 he might have prevented the post-war political chaos of the Fourth Republic as France worked its way through 21 administrations in 12 years. Economically, France was sounder, thanks to the munificence of the American Marshall plan. But for America, France might have succumbed to communism.
For a decade Zemmour has waged war on the prevalence of English as a global language, what he described in 2012 as its ‘insupportable domination’. Since Britain voted to leave the EU he has demanded that French replace English as the Union’s official tongue. English is an abomination, after all, and Zemmour cites Charles de Gaulle as his hero in this regard. ‘The only language that De Gaulle didn’t speak was English,’ he tweeted earlier this year. ‘He said “I will not speak the language of empire”.’
Poor Éric, as embittered and as envious of Britain as Charles de Gaulle, who never recovered from the humiliation of seeking succour from Perfidious Albion in 1940.
Still, at least we Brits now know how a great many French Muslims must feel on hearing Zemmour’s latest political dog-whistling. Last month he proposed that immigrant children born in France should be given French names because he believes this will imbue them with a greater sense of national identity: presumably he thinks that Zinedine Zidane would have achieved more on the football field if he’d been called Antoine Zidane, or that Ahmed Merabet, the policeman who was shot dead as he advanced alone towards the Charlie Hebdo killers would have died more gallantly had his first name been François.
Zemmour’s stated intention is an end to all immigration, whether legal or illegal. This is cheered by some of his more, dare I say it, ‘swivel-eyed’ supporters — probably before they have stopped to ask themselves: who then will empty the bins, drive the buses, clean the streets, stack the supermarket shelves and do all the other jobs that a Français de souche considers beneath them? France is in the grip of a recruitment crisis with 400,000 positions unfilled, a considerable number in the building and hospitality sectors, where long hours and hard toil are unattractive to many young French. Certainly, the builders I meet hard at work in Paris are nearly always of African or Eastern European origin.
As I wrote at the height of the first confinement in France, it was the immigrant population of Paris that continued to work to ensure the city functioned while the well-heeled Parisians decamped to their second homes in Brittany or the Cote d’Azur.
For the moment Zemmour’s right-wing rhetoric is enlivening an otherwise tepid presidential campaign, but Macron will ultimately see off his challenge. Not because he has been an inspiring president, far from it, but because the majority of the French are decent people and they will not vote for a xenophobe with so many indecent ideas.
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