The gatekeeper selected for France’s nationalist right is certainly utilizing some interesting rhetoric:
We’re now on to the issue that drives Zemmour’s political mission and fuels his incendiary campaign. ‘Immigration is war,’ he says, hitting his rhetorical stride. ‘They want to invade our European countries. That’s all. It’s nothing else. It’s war.’
‘Do you think Macron is deploying migrants as a weapon of war?’ I ask, fishing without a licence for a newsline.
‘I don’t think he has such malicious intent,’ he replies. ‘He’s not Erdogan. No, you mustn’t exaggerate. I just think that he is, how can I put, ideologically in favour of immigration.’
Zemmour has for some years been a leading public intellectual in France, a popular historian as well as a television provocateur and one of the country’s most famous journalists. He litters his speech with great quotes: ‘As Victor Hugo said… As Voltaire said… As Chateaubriand said…’ He speaks in newspaper columns: press his opinion button and he’s off. His eloquence is almost hypnotic.
Macron, he goes on, is gripped by ‘an individualistic ideology. He thinks every individual is basically the same and can live everywhere. Of course, he will enforce rules here and there, but fundamentally…the existence of peoples to him seems outdated.’
Does he blame the economic liberalism of Thatcher and Reagan for the excessive individualism to which Macron subscribes? ‘I wouldn’t say that,’ he replies. ‘It’s more a deviation from Christian humanism. As Chesterton said: “It’s Christian virtues gone mad.”’
Western societies, Zemmour suggests, have ‘simply forgotten that in Christian humanism there is indeed the respect for the individual but that is rooted in a culture, a religion, a people, a land… [today] we have the individual who is sacred, very well, but who is completely isolated from his people, his historical context, his customs. You see it is believed that individuals are interchangeable, that they are only consumers. It’s an economistic view that I don’t share. I think that people are first of all a product of their culture, their people, their customs.’
I rather like Zemmour, but I don’t trust him in the slightest and not merely because he isn’t French. Remember, Macron once talked a semi-reasonable game too. And “Christian humanism” is a half-step toward “our judeochristian values”. But the biggest problem is the way in which a journalist is suddenly being taken seriously as a political candidate. It’s rather as if the Republicans suddenly put forward Ben Shapiro for the 2024 presidential nomination because he was so accomplished at “owning the liberals”.
As the Germans and the Russians learned, nationalist leaders who aren’t actually of the nation don’t tend to work out very well for anyone involved.