Love him or loathe him, Eric Zemmour is a breath of fresh air in French politics. Before he appeared as a contender it was the usual worn-out figures lining up for next year’s presidential election: Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Xavier Bertrand, Valérie Pécresse and Arnaud Montebourg. None of them have anything new to say and, even if they did, the electorate have stopped listening. Same old same old.
Zemmour, on the other hand, despite the fact he has yet to declare his candidacy, makes for compelling TV. He was at it again on Wednesday evening, this time calling gender conversion therapy ‘criminal’ and comparing its medical facilitators in the USA to the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. The presenter nearly fell off her chair.
The fact that a poll on the same day had Zemmour reaching the second round of next year’s elections indicates that his rhetoric is going down well with the people. The same goes for his pronouncements on immigration, insecurity and Islam. One might even go so far as to say that Zemmour is the voice of the silent majority.
That’s presumably why the political and media elite hate him. When the likes of Martine Aubry, the socialist mayor of Lille, and Olivier Véran, the Health Minister, tear into him they are really venting their disgust at the millions of their compatriots who reject their progressive world view. We got a glimpse of that disdain in 2017 when Benjamin Griveaux, a spokesman for Macron’s ruling LREM party, inadvertently acted as the recruitment officer for the yellow vest movement by proclaiming that ‘people who smoke and drive diesel cars’ are ‘not the France of the 21st century.’
Griveaux lost his job as a result of his faux pas, which was a little unfair given that – à la Zemmour – he was merely expressing a widely held opinion among the political class.