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Friday, November 12, 2021

Introducing Zemmour, Fascist Jew, as symbol of hate, bigotry, racism and French Populism

Bernard-Henri Levy, the French intellectual, speaking on Fareed Zarakia’s GPS on CNN last Sunday, dubbed the far-right television talk show host, Eric Zemmour, who is now running ahead of Marie Le Pen in public opinion polls ahead of the French presidential election, both a Jew and a Fascist. When I heard these two words in the same sentence describing a single person, I was shocked, incredulous and angry. Have we actually come to this, that a single person of Jewish heritage could even consider attitudes, beliefs and actions that would warrant the appellation, Fascist? Twisting oneself into such a political, ideological and even theological pretzel, it would seem, should be, if not must be, impossible. And yet here we are!

Writing in tabletmag.com, Levy uses these words:

I see him (Zemmour) trampling on everything in the French Jewish legacy that pertains to responsibility for others, or the noble effort to embrace strangers, love thy neighbour, and offer hospitality toward immigrants. In this transgression there is something that chills the blood….and

People should also reflect on the dark ideas this pugilistic candidate is hatching, the poisons he is serving up, and the shrunken, pitiful version of France he is promoting when he declares that we have ‘no business’ getting involved in the fate of Afghan women, or that we ‘will never know’ the truth about the Dreyfus affair* or that we should disapprove of the innocent souls murdered by Mohammed Merah in 2012, whose parents ‘buried their bones’ in Jerusalem. (tabletmag.com)

Robert Zaretsky, writing in haaretz.com, October 25, 2021, under the headline, “Eric Zemmour Isn’t Donald Trump. He’s Far Worse”, pens these words:

A far right pundit, vile misogynist, racial conspiratist and potential contender for the presidency, Zemmour is the Jewish heir to a particularly vicious French brand of antisemitic nationalism-repurposed to target other minorities…..During his long career as a  prophet of France’s decline, Zemmour keeps returning to the same words. Take, for example, his “grand replacement.” Coined by the extreme thinker Renaud Camus, the term distills the conspiracy theory that, with the connivance of a cosmopolitan and urban elite, the nation’s original population is being replaced with non-white peoples. Obsessed by this notion, Zemmour points to the case of Seine-Saint-Denis. T
His Parisian borough, “long the historical heart of France, where the tombs of our kings are located,” is becoming a “Muslim enclave subject to the rule of Allah.”: Seine-Saint-Denis, he predicts, will become the French Kosovo, a battleground between opposing religious communities.” This “Demographic inversion” is a fact, Zemmour affirms, not a myth. How could it be otherwise? After all, the “only young men authorized by French feminists to maintain this once traditional, now scorned, code of virility are young blacks and Arabs.” France is thus doomed since these same women refuse to accept that their duty is to “give themselves without shame” to their (authentically French) men who “need to sexually dominate them.”

How myopic, even perhaps neurotic, and dangerous!

It reminds me of a conversation at a dinner table with a teacher-colleague, back in the early eighties, when the question of the “preservation of the English language” was the topic of much debate in Northern Ontario. A group calling itself APEC, (The Alliance for the Preservation of English), had gained a meagre foothold in the town of some 50,000 concurrent with the growing acceptance of many of bilingual education in the public schools. “You are going to lose your job as an English teacher, by sending your daughters to “French Immersion”! was the cry of a guest at our table. My response, then, and would still be today, “Well, on this we will have to agree to disagree.” The topic was then dropped from the conversation, although, months later, my then spouse revisited it in these words, “You embarrass me because you do not and will not engage in small talk, in reference to our dispute over that dinner. As a footnote to the story, all three of our daughters graduated from that French Immersion program, two later graduated with French degrees from university and the third teaches French in the French Immersion program in her former high school.

The rise in popularity of right-wing populists like Zemmour, (Orban, trump, Bolsonaro) is a dangerous fire in the political landscape and rhetoric. It is not only dangerous for its own sake in the respective countries; it also emboldens attitudes and behaviours that lead to and foreshadow future ‘insurrections’ like the one on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol.

Fear, as a device to be manipulated by charismatic, if vacuous, political aspirants, acts like a toxic injection into the waters of public debate: spreading through those waters contaminating them as it spreads. It then ensnares people who refuse to wear masks, who refuse to become vaccinated against the COVID-19 Delta variant, who believe that government is going to take over personal decisions, who use Critical Race Theory as a radioactive “lure” to entice voters who fear public discussion of the depth to which racism has become embedded in public institutions, presumably because such discussion will lead to black dominance….or at the spectre of such a threat.

Many people who live in North America will likely consider any discussion of the rise of Zemmour to be outside the reasonable concerns of people living on this side of the Atlantic. After all, only Tucker Carlson dedicated his show on FOX TV to Orban’s right-wing propaganda, and that for wholly heinous and self-serving ends.

There is also some conventional “attitude” and “perception” that with all of the many threats to human civilization, the pandemic, endemic racism, global warming and climate change, the widening gap in income and wealth, the supply-shortages, rising inflation, a new language of symbols* that none of us have fully grasped, (and some of us even wonder about its legitimacy)








*Just this week a grade twelve co-ed in Hamilton, on a co-op placement, for which her instructor commemorated and celebrated with an Instagram photo of the group of students, raised her thumb-index finger in a celebratory explanation mark, only to be dismissed from the co-op program for inciting racism and hatred. She was totally unaware (as am I and millions of others) that such a symbol carried that message. Called the “OK hand gesture, the Anti-Defamation League has not listed it as a symbol of hate. The npr.org website reports: Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Centre on Extremism. Told NPR that for years on fringe online message boards such as 4chan and 8chan, the “OK” sign has been deployed in memes and other images promoting hate. Given the number of white supremacists who have adopted it, he said it can now carry a nefarious message…

Clearly this co-ed was unaware of the ‘new’ interpretation of the OK gesture. And also, clearly, it is time we refrained from being seduced into adopting the posture, position and purpose of white supremacists. Indeed, the decision to remove this innocent, aspiring co-ed from her chosen co-op program for such an ‘indiscretion’ is not only abominable, it is inexcusable. Context clearly has been sanitized from the situation, from the photo, and from the mind of those making the decision, on the strength of a single phone call of complaint. Racial perfection, language perfection, and absolutisms are not the way to “teach” or even to “transform” a culture that is becoming a wet-noodle to the forces of hate….humans everywhere are reeling under the weight of the “what’s next” to hit us, or even to destroy us.

Bernard Henri Levy predicts that Zemmour will evaporate like a bubble, given that he has no intellectual or ethical foundation. However, various forms and faces of fascism, white supremacy, racism, and deep-seated hatred verging toward violence is a growing phenomenon in many venues. None of us can say we are fully free from its potential.

This week it might be Zemmour’s name, or Orbans’, or Bosonaro’s (permitting the rape and ravage of the Amazon Rainforest, refusing to mandate vaccinations, leaving his people in deep jeopardy)….but similar forces are operating in the open in Florida, for example. Just this week, a new Surgeon General (Dr. Joseph Ladapo) was appointed after only two days of vetting, (normally it take up to 6 months) a part of the American Frontier Doctors, who have been prescribing ivermectin as a remedy for COVID, while creaming a ”take” from the prescriptions (according to the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC). School board trustees in Brevard County, Florida, who have stood strong for masks for their children, are experiencing death threats, as are trump opponents in the Republican party, specifically Adam Kinzinger.

Those Republican congressmen and women (thirteen in all) who voted for the Biden infrastructure bill, have received threats to remove them from their committee assignments, in an effort to keep alive and thriving the beat of the trump drum of the big lie, the threat of retaliation, the even greater threat of his candidacy in 2024, and his continuing efforts to implant stooges in positions of power in as many states as possible.

The spread of populist hate, most of it anchored in white supremacy, threatens, either directly or indirectly, the equal voting rights legislation lying dormant in the U.S. Senate. It also threatens to kill the John Lewis voting rights bill; bills in over thirty states are on track to restrict voting among blacks and minority voters, as the spread of white “hate” and “fear” similar to, if not precisely identical to the hate of Muslims being spread by Zemmour in France.

Just when the world’s population needs common, collaborative and decisive and urgent action to combat global warming and climate change, to stem the tide of rising billionaires who don’t (or refuse) to pay taxes, to assist developing countries facing the ravages of global warming already, to stem the tide of pollution among coal and fossil fuel production facilities, we are watching the cracks in the institutional “foundations” and walls and offices, and board rooms veering toward actual fissions, analogous to the sheering blocks of tons of ice from the walls of the largest icebergs.

Little ordinary people, it seems, have no voice, in the cacophony of despair, hate, narcissism, irrational populism and ideological purity and independence in quarters like Bejing and Moscow and Delhi.

And yet the size of the chorus of ordinary people is growing, so one can only hope that those voices will eventually claim at least partial success, so that our survival is no longer in doubt. 

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