Éric Justin Léon Zemmour (born 31 August 1958) is a French essayist, political journalist and writer. His anti-liberal and anti-immigration positions, as well as the numerous controversies he has been involved in, are notorious in his homeland. With the publication of The French Suicide (French: Le Suicide français) in 2014, a book for which he was awarded the Prix Combourg-Chateaubriand the following year, he gained popularity outside of France. He also received the Prix Richelieu in 2011 for the whole of his career as a journalist.
Born in Montreuil, he studied at Sciences Po. He was hired by Le Quotidien de Paris in 1986, before working as a reporter for Le Figaro from 1996 until 2009 and has since had a column in Le Figaro Magazine. Zemmour has appeared as a television personality on shows such as On n'est pas couché on France 2 (2006–2011), Ça se dispute on I-Télé (2003–2014) and Face à l'Info on CNews (since 2019). He has also appeared on Zemmour et Naulleau since 2011, a weekly evening talk show on Paris Première, together with Éric Naulleau. He worked for RTL from 2010 until 2019, first hosting the radio show Z comme Zemmour and later joining Yves Calvi's morning news show as an analyst.
Life and career
Éric Zemmour was born in Montreuil, then in Seine, nowadays in Seine-Saint-Denis, on 31 August 1958, to an Algerian family that came to metropolitan France during the Algerian War. He identifies as a Jew of Berber origin, and above all as a French Jew. He grew up in Drancy and later in the Paris district of Château Rouge. The son of Roger Zemmour, a paramedic, and his wife Lucette, a housewife, he has said he admires his mother and grandmother: his father was often absent, and he was actually raised by women "who taught [him] to be a man."
Zemmour, who graduated from the Institut d'études politiques de Paris, twice failed to gain admission to the École nationale d'administration. He began his career in 1986 at Le Quotidien de Paris, under the leadership of Philippe Tesson, as a journalist at the politics desk. After the newspaper went out of business in 1994, he became an editorialist at Info-Matin, where he stayed one year. He then joined the editorship of Le Figaro in 1996 as a political journalist. Zemmour was also a freelance journalist for Marianne in 1997 and for Valeurs actuelles in 1999. In 2009, he moved from Le Figaro to Figaro Magazine, where he has since written a weekly column. He is also a political columnist at Le Spectacle du Monde. Despite his failure to gain admission to the École nationale d'administration, his status as a political journalist allowed him to be a member of the admissions committee of the school in 2006.
Zemmour has supported Rattachism.
Writer and essayist
Zemmour has written biographies of Édouard Balladur (Balladur, immobile à grands pas, or "Balladur, Rapidly Motionless") and Jacques Chirac (L'Homme qui ne s'aimait pas, or "The Man Who Did Not Like Himself") along with political essays. Notably, in 2006 he published Le Premier sexe, a book on what he considers to be the feminization of society. He worked on the screenplay for the film Dans la peau de Jacques Chirac by Michel Royer and Karl Zéro, although the latter stated that Zemmour's writing saw limited use. In March 2010, with Mélancolie française (which won the Prix du livre incorrect), he revisits the history of France.
Television and radio personality
Since September 2003, he has participated every week on the show Ça se dispute on the 24-hour news channel i>Télé opposite Nicolas Domenach (Christophe Barbier until 2006). The channel has decided to stop the program in December 2014. He also appeared on Vendredi pétantes on Canal+ until June 2006. Starting September 2006, he rejoined France 2 to participate on the show On n'est pas couché, hosted by Laurent Ruquier, accompanied by Michel Polac and then Éric Naulleau, where they were responsible for presenting honest criticism of films, books, albums, etc. During the show, their exchanges with cultural figures sometimes ended in clashes. On May 27, 2011, Laurent Ruquier announced in Le Parisien that he was replacing Éric Zemmour and Éric Naulleau with new contributors for the next season of On n'est pas couché. Éric Zemmour was also a participant on the show L'Hebdo as an editorialist on Tempo, a channel for the overseas departments and territories; he was accompanied by, among others, Dominique Wolton. Finally, he was on the cable network Histoire on the show Le grand débat, hosted by Michel Field. Since January 4, 2010, he has presented a short piece on RTL entitled Z comme Zemmour every Monday and Friday, during which he analyzes the news. From September 2011, he has hosted Zemmour et Naulleau with Éric Naulleau, a weekly evening talk show on Paris Première.
Conflicts with his opponents
The subjects Zemmour addresses as well as the positions he defends have earned him a number of opponents. According to an article by François Dufay, La fronde des intellos (literal translation: The Revolt of the Intellectuals), in the June 2002 edition of Le Point, Jean-Marie Le Pen reportedly said that "[the] only three journalists who behave properly with respect to [him]" are Élisabeth Lévy, Éric Zemmour and Serge Moati. Zemmour noted during an interview: "I think he meant that with an ironic wink: it refers to his famous declaration fifteen years ago that caused such a scandal when he criticized Elkabbach, Levaï, who were all Jewish, and you'll note that the three who he noted treat him well are also all Jewish... And he knows that quite well, and everyone knows that quite well."
On March 25, 2009, he filed a complaint against the French rapper Youssoupha for "criminal threats and public abuse" after the uploading of the song "Because of saying it" in which Zemmour was attacked ad hominem: "Because of judging our faces, people know, that talking heads often demonize the ghetto-dwellers, each time it blows up they say it's us, I put a price on the head of the one who silences this asshole Éric Zemmour."
The rapper had clarified in a previous interview in the newspaper Le Parisien that he was not advocating silencing Zemmour by force, but rather by argument: "Silencing, it means putting him in his place. [...] The words don't refer to murder, or aggression, or injuries... I did not want to either have him killed or to deprive him of his freedom of expression. Silencing, it means to put him in his place, to expose him to his own contradictions." The album was finally released on October 12, 2009, with an expurgated version of the controversial track in which Zemmour's name is scrambled out.
On October 26, 2011, Zemmour won his suit against the rapper and the Director General of EMI Music France, Valérie Queinnec.
On September 18, Zemmour created a new controversy by insulting the name of the columnist Hapsatou Sy in the program "Les terriens du dimanche". His words "it's your name that is an insult to France" were cut at the editing of the show but rebroadcast by the young woman. She decided to file a complaint against Zemmour.
Overview of political positions
Raphaël Glucksmann described Zemmour as having "a very clear ambition, which is to erase the divide between the Republican right and the far right under the banner of the far right." In a radio show on France Inter in September 2017, Zemmour told Glucksmann, “You have understood me very well.”
As a result of the views that he regularly expresses on television and in his editorials in Le Figaro, Zemmour is widely perceived, according to current mainstream categories, to be situated firmly on the right of the political spectrum, but he also claims not to vote according to right-wing or left-wing politics. He declares himself to be of the Gaullist or Bonapartist tradition while acknowledging the relevance of Marxist analyses, particularly concerning the sources of profit in capitalism, including immigration. According to him, capitalism destroys traditional structures like the family in order to impose the rule of the market, an upheaval that has been particularly notable since the events of May 1968.
He takes a conservative stance on social issues and is also resolutely anti-liberal on economic issues. He thus identifies himself as a reactionary in opposition to a society that deconstructs social order, in particular the family and traditions, in the service of a false goal, liberating the individual who in reality finds himself isolated and reduced to the sole status of a consumer. He presents reaction as subversive in the light of the fact that progressives, today dominant in the fields of culture and media, cannot claim to criticize the established order since they themselves constitute this order and fix its norms.
Economically anti-liberal, his disapproval of free trade drives him to oppose European federalism and the European Union, which he considers to be clearly in favour of the free movement of goods and in deep conflict with the French social model. According to him, because of the European Union, the left, like the right, must apply "the same economic policy, social liberalism or liberal socialism" because, in the words of Philippe Séguin, "right and left are retailers of the same wholesaler, Europe."
Humanitarian intervention and the doctrine of human rights
Éric Zemmour often expresses opinions that he describes as "anti-human-rights-doctrine", thus bringing himself in opposition to some politicians (Bernard Kouchner), writers (Bernard-Henri Lévy), and organizations advocating the right to humanitarian intervention, which he considers to be a form of neocolonialism.
Immigration, the notion of race and anti-racism
Immigration and assimilation
A member of the French assimilationist tradition, Zemmour strongly opposes immigration and the current model of integrating immigrants which he considers to be too lenient in comparison to its predecessors. In November 2008, he gave an interview to the monthly Le Choc du mois where he compared immigration to a "demographic tsunami" He has also come out in favor of the Thierry Mariani amendment, which would require genetic tests in order to qualify for family reunification. On numerous occasions, he has declared that he is for assimilation, even if he himself considers it "neurotic". In particular, he expresses a nostalgia for the era of his youth, the 1960s, when there was a cultural unity.
All his recurring views on the theme of immigration, as well as his virulent attacks against certain organizations (DAL and SOS Racisme in particular) are regularly the subject of controversy.
Comments on race
Éric Zemmour declared on Arte on 13 November 2008, while he was on the show Paris/Berlin: the debate hosted by Isabelle Giordano that blacks and whites belonged to two different races and that this difference was discernible by skin color, without ranking them hierarchically. He asserted that Melanesians and Antilleans belonged to the same race. "If there is no such thing as race, there is no such thing as intermixing." He continued, "The sacralization of race during the Nazi period and earlier has been followed by the negation of race. And to me, they're both equally ridiculous."
The philosopher Vincent Cespedes, who was on the show, exercised his right of reply by writing up a response on the website of Arte and responded to the "Zemmourists" on his blog. Following a number of controversies on the Internet as a result of his comments, Zemmour also published a reply in the weekly Vendredi.
Faced with the general outcry caused by the views expressed by Éric Zemmour during the show, the deputy manager of programs for the Arte channel explained on Télérama: "I did not think he would express himself in such a clumsy way! Our channel, of course, is not associated with Zemmour's views.... we'll think twice before inviting him again!"
Zemmour says he would like to put on trial the anti-racism of the 1980s, which he considers, along with feminism, to be a "bien-pensant cause" derived from the "milieu of French and Western pseudo-elites" that the people will not follow in the least. He says that it was especially after having "read Pierre-André Taguieff" who is known for his positions and work on the Nouvelle droite and anti-racism that he "understood that anti-racist progressivism was the successor of communism, with the same totalitarian methods developed by the Comintern during the 1930s." According to him, anti-racism is a tactic initiated by François Mitterrand to make people forget the Left's turn to economic liberalism in 1983. He claims that anti-racism is an ideology implemented by former leftists who had had to give up their illusions. With immigrants, these people had found a kind of alternative revolutionary people.
Conviction for provocation to racial discrimination
The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) decided to launch legal proceedings against Éric Zemmour for his views after the 6 March 2010 broadcast of Salut les Terriens presented by Thierry Ardisson, where he promoted his book Mélancolie française. He declared during the show that: "French people with an immigrant background were profiled because most traffickers are Blacks and Arabs... it is a fact." The same day, he asserted on France Ô that employers "had the right to refuse Arabs or Blacks". The Club Averroes and the MRAP submitted the case to the conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel after the legal proceedings brought by LICRA. Éric Zemmour was supported by several people, including the founder of Reporters Without Borders and journalist Robert Ménard
On 23 March 2010, he wrote a letter to LICRA explaining his views. In this letter he noted particularly the views of Christian Delorme before a parliamentary commission of the French Senate. He also cited the book L'Islam dans les prisons by Farhad Khosrokhavar, who confirmed the figure of 70 or 80% of "Muslims in prison" estimated in a survey commissioned by the Ministry of Justice. The editors of L'Express noted that Farhad Khosrokhavar estimated the share of Muslim prisoners in certain prisons near so-called sensitive districts as between 50% and 80% and that there were no official national statistics on the subject.
MRAP deplored the fact that ethnic origins (and not social situation) were being compared with the rate of criminality, and that all persons who shared the same ethnic origins were being exposed to suspicions of being potential criminals, and that it was their common origin which was being presented as "criminogenic." MRAP thus decided to take the issue before the courts because according to it "by linking the misdeeds of these persons to their ethnic origins—and not to the process of social marginalization, the concentration of poverty in certain areas, to what some in fact call a 'ghettoization'—the journalist injured a group of persons defined by their ethnic origins.
Benoist Hurel, Assistant General Secretary of the Syndicat de la magistrature, accused the views of Éric Zemmour of being "stigmatizing" and "proto-racist", denouncing the link between skin color and criminality as "not corresponding to reality." On the other hand, the senior judge Philippe Bilger supported the views of the journalist and asserted concerning traffickers that "many of them are blacks and Arabs" (which resulted in the summoning of Philippe Bilger by a prosecutor in Paris, François Falletti).
On 30 March 2010, Éric Zemmour was ordered by SOS Racisme to appear in court on 29 June 2010, where he "will have to answer for the crimes of racial defamation and incitement to racial hatred." Despite his summons before the Seventeenth Criminal Court of the Superior Court on this day, the trial was postponed to the 11th, 13th, and 14 January 2011 due to the proliferation of civil action filings, among which were a number of anti-racist organizations. Moreover, these views and the trial were given international scope by an article devoted to them and to Zemmour in The New York Times in February 2011. During the trial, Zemmour received testimony in his favor from the journalist Robert Ménard, his fellow columnist Éric Naulleau, the writer Denis Tillinac, the politician Claude Goasguen and the essayist Xavier Raufer.
On 18 February 2011, the Seventeenth Criminal Court of Paris sentenced Éric Zemmour to a suspended fine of €2,000 for the views expressed on France Ô, the fine being divided between two judgments equally: the first judgment concerning the proceedings brought by SOS Racisme, LICRA, and the MRAP and a second judgment concerning those brought by UEJF and J'accuse. The court concluded that the polemicist had justified an unlawful discriminatory practice—discrimination in hiring—in presenting it as legitimate. On the other hand, he was released from the proceedings for racial defamation for the views presented on the show Salut les Terriens, which were judged "shocking" but not "defamatory."
Moreover, in addition to the fine, the first judgment sentenced him to pay €1,000 in damages and interest and €2,000 in legal costs to each of the three organizations (totalling €9,000) and the second sentenced him to pay one euro to each of the civil parties and €750 in legal costs (totalling €1,502).
On 2 March 2011, invited by Hervé Novelli and given an ovation by the members of parliament from the UMP at the national convention of The Reformers, Éric Zemmour suggested doing away with the laws on racial discrimination, the memorial laws, prosecutions by anti-racist organizations and subsidies to them in a speech to the UMP members of parliament. On 5 March 2011, some voices were raised against Zemmour and called for Rémy Pflimlin, the CEO of France Télévisions, to suspend Zemmour's collaboration with France 2. The President of SOS Racisme, Dominique Sopo, wrote him a letter and demanded sanctions, after which it was the turn of the General Confederation of Labor to demand a reaction from Pfimlin.
Anti-feminism and "gay ideology"
In Le Premier sexe, he claims the existence of the "devirilization" of society during the 20th century and asserts that women and homosexuals have been used as a reserve army to satisfy modern capitalism's need for consumers. He accuses feminists of being demagogues and verging into political correctness in denying or rejecting the history of French society and psychological work of Freud: "I note only that Freud is vehemently rejected today by all the bien-pensants, feminists, and other activists for same-sex parents, etc." He believes that man is by nature a sexual predator who uses violence. In a parallel to this definition of virility as sexual predation, he believes that certain eras defined the role of women better than others.
He believes the "gay ideology" to be one of the main means used to invite "man to become a woman like the others," to adopt the behavior of women. In his book Petit Frère, a character ponders the place to be given to homosexual individuals: "In every traditional society, founded on shame and secrecy, respect for life, and the fear of death, "gays" would have been stigmatized and isolated, like the lepers of old." The author does not fail, afterwards, to explain that these are the views of characters in a novel.
- 1995: Balladur, immobile à grands pas, Grasset ISBN 978-2-246-48971-9
- 1998: Le Livre noir de la droite, Grasset et Fasquelle ISBN 978-2-246-56251-1
- 1998: Le Coup d'État des juges, Grasset et Fasquelle ISBN 978-2-246-52551-6
- 1998: Une certaine idée de la France, collectif, France-Empire ISBN 978-2-7048-0872-4
- 2000: Les Rats de garde, in collaboration with Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Stock ISBN 978-2-234-05217-8
- 2005: L'Homme qui ne s'aimait pas, Balland ISBN 978-2-7158-1408-0
- 2006: Le Premier Sexe, Denoël, ISBN 978-2-207-25744-9 – republished J'ai lu, 2009
- 2010: Mélancolie française, Fayard /Denoël ISBN 978-2-213-65450-8 – republished Le Livre de poche, 2011.
- 2011: Z comme Zemmour, Le Cherche midi ISBN 978-2-7491-1865-9
- 2012: Le Bûcher des vaniteux, Albin Michel ISBN 9782226240248
- 2013: Le Bûcher des vaniteux 2, Albin Michel ISBN 9782226245410
- 2014: Le Suicide français, Albin Michel ISBN 9782226254757
- 2016: Un quinquennat pour rien, Albin Michel ISBN 9782226320087
- 2018: Destin français, Albin Michel ISBN 9782226320070
- 1999: Le Dandy rouge, Plon ISBN 978-2-259-19058-9
- 2004: L'Autre, Denoël ISBN 978-2-207-25496-7
- 2008: Petit Frère, Denoël ISBN 978-2-207-25668-8 – republished. J'ai lu, 2009
- Prix de la Liberté d'expression 2010 (Enquête & Débat)
- Prix du livre incorrect 2010
- Prix Richelieu 2011 (Association de Défense de la langue française)
In the alternate history novel by Frédéric Deslauriers (2011), Les Deux-Cents jours de Marine Le Pen, in which Marine Le Pen wins the 2012 French presidential election, Éric Zemmour becomes minister of Culture and Communication.
Books on Éric Zemmour
- Chems-Eddine Hafiz, De quoi Zemmour est devenu le nom, Éditions du Moment, Paris, 2010, page 128 ISBN 978-2-35417-107-0
- Mohamed Sifaoui, Éric Zemmour, une supercherie française, Armand Colin, Paris, 2010, pages 251 ISBN 978-2-200-25559-6