Whatever one says about France it remains a democratic country.
There the individual can express his views in writing without the fear of being ostracised, no matter how outrageous his political leanings might be.
In Britain, it is still a society where we practice a sort of censorship operated by the media, a powerful tool which exercises its influence simply by ignoring the subject matter and stifling it, lest its message finds a popular appeal.
The latest book to cause a sensation in France would, in my view, have never received the kind of publicity in Britain and become a bestseller had it been written by a British author, and spoke of such controversial matters as the book in France.
Eric Zemmour thinks Britain caused the Second World War, that male sexuality is necessarily violent and French Muslims should be forced to give their children Christian names. In many countries he would be hounded from the public stage as a crackpot and a danger to society. In France, he has become one of the most influential intellectuals of his generation and the self-styled mouthpiece of the silent majority.
In his book Le Suicide Français, which has sold more than 500,000 copies, Zemmour blames his nation’s decline on its capitulation to an Anglo-Saxon doctrine that has ruined its social fabric and castrated its once proud males. The work is dominating the political agenda with supporters hailing its author as a visionary figure, while critics denounce him as a racist, a misogynist and an apologist for the discredited Vichy regime that collaborated with Hitler’s Germany.
Zemmour, fifty-six, a journalist seemed cock-a-hoop last week as he scuttled through the corridors of Le Figaro, the influential daily newspaper. Yet his vision was apocalyptic as he forecast the demise of not only the French way of life but the British as well.
The culprit? Immigration. The topic that is being debated in most European countries fearful of what the future may bring. Zemmour says ‘the British model is dead, like ours. Both models are being killed by demography. What we are witnessing quite simply is counter-colonisation’.
The only hope he adds is for a new French revolution to sweep away feminism, gay rights and laissez-faire attitudes that he sees as the legacy of the 1968 student-led social revolt. In its place he would like to see a return to a patriarchal society where men dominate their subservient wives, where the State brings the market place to heel and where traditional Gallic culture is imposed on ethnic minorities.
The list of figures he believes have undermined France include Dustin Hoffman ‘for playing a new man in Kramer V Kramer’, Freddie Mercury ‘for being a gay icon’, J. R. Ewing ‘for encouraging the French to watch American television’ and Margaret Thatcher ‘for promoting capitalism’.
Despite the laughable aspects of such contentions he has nevertheless struck a chord with his gloom-stricken compatriots, many of whom yearn for a return to the 1950s when Alain Delon played tough guy roles, Edith Piaf topped the charts and General de Gaulle assumed the presidency. ‘The French don’t recognise their country any more,’ said Zemmour.
Although he insists that he has no links with the National Front Party the two have similar ideas and his book’s success shows the fertility of the ground tilled by Marine Le Pen, the Front’s leader whose father compares her to Lady Thatcher, and who would like to wind back the clock to an era when France was full of white people driving Citroens, Renaults and Peugeot cars.
Zemmour’s own history explains the zeal with which he defends ‘core Gallic values’. His parents were Jews from Algeria who emigrated in the 1950s and adopted the French way of life. They ate crêpe Suzette, told their children to remove their skull caps outside the synagogue and approved of French legislation that obliged families to choose Catholic first names for their children.
When Zemmour returns now to the working-class district where he grew up, ‘I don’t feel I’m in France,’ he says. ‘There are only Africans there and people live in an African way. You are in Africa.’ France no longer assimilates immigrants as it did in his parents’ day, he complains, because they are too numerous and politicians have accepted a multicultural society that is anathema to the French. This is exemplified in his eyes by the decision in 1993 to allow families a free choice of names for their children, which he would revoke.
His other bugbear is the ‘Anglo-Saxonisation’ of the world or the ‘crushing victory of England’s very in-egalitarian model over its egalitarian French counterpart’. This he believes has had pernicious consequences such as women’s liberation, which he ascribes to capitalism’s need to get housewives earning and spending money and the rise of the ‘homosexual lobby’ that he also blames on consumerism. He says men have had their ‘virile libido’ checked by legislation to outlaw sexual assault and are behaving like mothers, depriving families of their backbone.
He believes that the EU, once a French-led project, has also been perverted and is now ‘an unholy mix of English ideas and German power’. France should leave it altogether. If the French elite have accepted Anglo-Saxon customs, for Zemmour it is partly because of a guilt complex arising from Vichy’s collaboration with the Nazis. This is wholly unjustified, he argues. He claims that Vichy may have sent seventy-five thousand Jews to the death camps but it saved many more, he says, thanks to a deal with Hitler to deport foreign Jews while sparing those with French nationality.
He maintains the Second World War was not a battle between democracy and fascism – a British fiction, he says – but an extension of the First World War and behind all that is the City, he says. ‘The First World War and the Second World War happened because the Germans were in the process of crushing English economic might.’
Could a provocative book of such intensity see the light of day in Britain? The answer is categorically no. The Establishment here is much too powerful to let it happen and in the Anglo-Saxon world the critics have a much greater sway on the populace, unlike France where mob rule is more pronounced and has its own agenda.