“Déclin” and Rise of Zemmour
A Right-Wing Pundit Re-Opens the Dreyfus Affair
In recent weeks, there’s been a spate of articles in English-language newspapers about the political debut of right-wing pundit, Éric Zemmour, a man being called the “French Trump.” Although he has not officially declared his candidacy in next year’s presidential election, Zemmour is currently polling on average at around 16% of the vote, just about equaling the first-round vote share of perennial far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. (In some polls, Zemmour is ahead of Le Pen—Incumbent president Emmanuel Macron has presently looks to have about 24% of the vote, but would most likely win a run off against either Le Pen or Zemmour.)
Zemmour, the son of Algerian Jews who came to France during the Algerian war, started his career as a reporter and became a columnist for Le Figaro, France’s biggest center-right daily. He also appeared regularly on television and radio. “Though clearly on the right, he seemed like a fresh, affable voice, an epatéur of the Voltairean sort in a new, McLuhan-cool style,” writes Mark Lilla in his 2016 The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction. “By 2014, that Zemmour was no more. He had become an omnipresent Jeremiah who telegraphed the same message: France awake! You have been betrayed and your country has been stolen from you.” 2014 saw the publication of Zemmour’s massively successful book Le Suicide français. A transformation of tone and intensity may well have taken place, but it’s worth nothing that Zemmour’s ongoing polemic against feminism, immigration, and anti-racism long pre-dates the release of his book.