Eric Zemmour has just posted a result sure to disappoint in his bid for the French presidency, even though there had been much hope that he would generate a Trump-style populist movement in France. Zemmour’s mistake was the same as that made by Oswald Mosley with his British Union of Fascists; obviously, these movements are not subjectively comparable—Zemmour is Jewish, the BUF was anti-semitic—and yet as political formations, as populist rightist formations specifically, there is an organisational parallel that can be drawn.
The mistake is a common one made by men. You see another man enjoy success at some enterprise, you watch for a while until you figure out how he did it and then you rub your hands together, draw the breath between your teeth shhhhh, and say: “I think I’ll have a bit of that, thank you very much.” You then go out and emulate the other man’s method, fully intent on enjoying similar success—sometimes this works, often not; and in the case of Zemmour and Mosley we see the latter case in full force, a self-alienation of sorts.
Mosley copied Hitler—right down to the arm-waving and uniform—because he was an ambitious man and he saw what worked in Italy and Germany and decided to “have a bit of that.” Zemmour did the same with the Trump movement in America, he saw Trump’s success as an outsider populist candidate and thought he could easily emulate it. The first mistake is that neither man resembled the men they tried to emulate: Mosley was from an ancient aristocratic family—Mussolini and Hitler were respectively a small-time intellectual and an artist. Their relation to the masses was entirely different from an aristocrat’s outlook; for sure, they wanted a new aristocracy—a technological society with an aristocratic sensibility—but they related to the masses in an entirely different way from an old-style aristocrat.
Zemmour’s problem is that he is nothing like Trump: Zemmour is a journalist, tawlker, and small-time intellectual—Trump is someone who acts and builds actual things, towers and golf resorts; he just happens to have a big media sideline as “the boss”. Trump personifies America as a business enterprise, a Coke-slurping burger-munching big boi—a business titan and media star. No journalist can match this real success—all journalists are suspect, and that includes Zemmour.
In practical terms, Trump had a long-standing ambition to be president—just as Hitler had an early intimation that he would lead Germany. You cannot generate long-term ambition or the sensation that you have a destiny from scratch—yet this is what Mosley and Zemmour did, Mosley cast about through various parties for “a role” and Zemmour saw a good wheeze in Trump. Yet it is harder than it looks—Trump’s appeal, as an American archetype, ran much deeper than mere bold and controversial statements about immigration.
Men like Trump, Hitler, and TE Lawrence have a spiritual-poetic relationship with a nation whereby the nation speaks and acts through them; and to achieve this state, even if it is a crude poetry like Trump’s tweets, needs an uncommon discipline—it cannot be easily copied. For Zemmour, the temptation to copy was strong; he is from a memetic race, the Jews, and also plies a memetic trade, journalism—both made him vulnerable to the idea he could copy “the latest thing” and ride a wave to success, upset the status quo where year after year the Le Pens ride up to the line only to be deluged at the finish.
Yet to become an archetype for a nation cannot be done if you merely emulate other men. The ability to canalise the nation has to come from within, it has to come from a condition whereby—to use a much abused and misunderstood phrase—you are “just being yourself”. You cannot fake it. People responded positively to Trump—even non-Americans—because he is not fake, he is a very real man; and yet in his self-conscious Trumpian emulation Zemmour was unreal.
This is why the Le Pens remain more Trump-like than Zemmour; they remain archetypally French, they even resemble Trump with their golden hair—quasi-Aryan, really. The Le Pens are France the family firm, the boucherie or peasant plot (even if such plots no longer exist they exist in French hearts); except their family business is a populist political party. This is why they remain a primal force in French politics, they are in touch with la France profonde—Zemmour, at the end of the day, remains a foreign cosmopolitan journalist and intellectual, even if he is sincere in his hostility to Islam and his love for French culture.
Could Zemmour lead France in such a primal way as an outsider? Yes it is possible, Lawrence was neither an Arab nor a Muslim—yet Lawrence was raised by his mother to be a missionary and conceived the idea that he would “liberate a nation” as a high-school student (specifically, he had already chosen the Arabs). Zemmour lacks that commitment level, I think that for him this is all an intellectual exercise—perhaps as a Jew he understands the Muslim threat primally, intellectually he probably understands the African IQ issue; and yet this is not a spiritual crusade, although he evokes the idea with his Reconquête party. Similarly, Mosley copied Hitler’s uniforms and rhetorical style—and yet the English are not like that; perhaps the Germans and Italians like uniforms and passionate speeches but it is not the English way, the English are more diffident—ironically, Mosley appealed very strongly to Irishmen instead.
Really, neither the Le Pens nor Zemmour can save France—not least because the Le Pens are girls. France’s problem is the Republic; and one way or another Zemmour and the Le Pens pitch themselves as defenders of the Republic—participate in its system and so legitimise it. They are never going to yank down the tricolour into the gutter—nor do away with the Republican idea wholesale. Yet, really, this is why France has bled to death for over two hundred years—she was the first total Enlightenment project; and this is why today she is a bellwether for Europe, for in demographic terms she is in a very parlous state as regards her French population.
The French are natural philosophers and very logical; hence their rightist politics often becomes radical because it traces the intellectual possibilities within this stance to their logical conclusions. The counterpart to this is that the French live in a continual experiment with Enlightenment ideas applied with the same logical rigour, so that what happens to them will happen to us—since it is they who apply the Enlightenment in the most logical and rigorous way.
The Republic will kill France, kill the French, if it is not removed. The state’s areligious stance—laïcité—amounts to an anti-religious stance; it is a relatively new position, it originates in the 1900s, and yet it is ultimately tied up to the Republic; and insofar as France lives with a constant low-level Muslim insurgency the laïcité issue has been front and centre—the demand is that the Muslims “become French” and accept laïcité.
The problem is not so much that France needs a monarchy or a Church again—it is more that it needs to end the Republic, end laïcité. Whether or not there is a metaphysical God is neither here nor there, the problem is that Republican values worship man—his human rights—and man is Satanic, he is the great liar.
If you build your society and politics around the premise that man is central then you have set your sights on the lowest existence, to survive and eat and reproduce—on short-termism where the limit is your own life. Ultimately, you will be replaced—in France’s case by the Muslims—because other groups, such as the young Muslim man who killed the teacher Samuel Paty, will be prepared to make sacrifices for their group’s well-being that your group will not; they will make existential sacrifices that transcend what man will risk from reason alone. If you only worship man and have no transcendent aspect to your life you will shrug and say, “Yes, perhaps it will go Muslim, but I’ll be dead by then so I’ll just keep my head down and live a comfortable life now. Tant pis.”
The problem with that view is that everything that is beautiful in life depends on a transcendent outlook that seeks to overcome man, so that the minimal position will not only see you materially destroyed by invaders but will impoverish your own existence. When we wish to go beyond ourselves we use consciousness—our imagination—to picture what is more than we are now; and it is this process that takes us to a new level; yet this is not rational, hence it must be excluded from humanist ideas. Further, an aspect to transcendence is to know that you are a branch in a very long root and that the root’s continuation in the long term, local vicissitude notwithstanding, gives rise to material luxuries in the first place.
I remember when I was ten I learned about insulae, the apartment blocks that existed in ancient Rome. My immediate reaction was to wonder how advanced we would be now if Rome had not collapsed, since they already had tower blocks and “skyscrapers”—the basic intuition is not so foolish, if Rome’s biological capital had not gone bust then we would have more advanced material innovations today; probably not in a linear sense that we would have had a skyscraper like the Empire State Building in 400 AD—but in a certain respect, yes. It depends how you count, but there have been between 8-12 civilisations in the whole of man’s recorded history—not so many, and every time a civilisation goes bust a great deal has to be reconstructed from scratch; and it is not certain that we can do this indefinitely.
For France to live she must, must abandon her commitment to worship man—to worship man is to worship the short term, not to worship the tree of life. At the moment the only people in France who do so are the Muslims, whereas the state protects people like the abominable Charlie Hebdo who seek to chop down every tree with puerile jokes that most people grow out of by fifteen—at the moment the Muslims deserve France.
Zemmour’s instinct to name his party Reconquête was a sound one, but perhaps he underestimates the depth that such a project requires: the actual Reconquista took about 781 years; and it required an attitude, often an elite attitude held by very few, similar to those men who carried out 9/11—what transcends man is inhuman.