In August, he wasn’t even registering in the polls, now he’s leading the charge against France’s supposed enemies: Islam, Muslims and migrants.
“It’s time to restore French law to its primacy over European law,” bellowed France’s presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour on Twitter last Friday.
When a Polish court challenged the supremacy of European Union law over Polish national laws, Zemmour was only too happy to throw his increasing popularity behind the position.
“In France, we must draw all the consequences of this federalist coup d’état attempted by the Brussels Commission,” added Zemmour in a communique after the EU threatened Poland with punitive measures, should its courts place its national laws over ones created in Brussels.
The meteoric rise of Zemmour, a far-right author and TV pundit, has seen him jump to fourth place in the polls, with 13 percent of the votes in what promised to be a highly contentious presidential race in France in April of next year.
At 63 years old, Zemmour has been compared to former US President Donald Trump for his inflammatory and racist language against immigrants, Islam, Muslims and other minorities.
In 2016 in a radio show, the right-wing Zemmour said, “There is no difference between Islam and Islamism.” In France, the word “Islamism” is controversially and often pejoratively equated with terrorism and extremism, however, Zemmour’s views reflect a growing political consensus in the country that Islam and Muslims are the problem.
“Islam is quite the opposite of France,” said Zemmour earlier this year, going on to add that “Islam is not compatible with France.”
That sentiment has resonated with an increasing number of French voters.
Like Trump, Zemmour’s incendiary rhetoric has captured the nation’s airwaves. Like Republicans in the US, his supporters believe that the right-wing politician is saying things that the country’s politically correct politicians refuse to say.
In September of this year, in a nationally televised debate on French TV, Zemmour declared that “if he becomes president of France, he will prevent the children from being named Mohamed,” alarming many of the country’s Muslims who make up more than five million of the population.
Yet despite his views, the media has been only too eager to give Zemmour the podium he craves to spread his message further.
Behind the somewhat surprising rise, Zemmour has been a French TV channel called CNews and funded by a right-wing billionaire Vincent Bollore who has created, according to observers, the country’s equivalent of Fox News in the US.
In a little over four years, CNews has not only doubled its audience share, but at the heart of that success has been Zemmour, whose debate show Face à L’Info can attract an audience of almost one million.
CNews is in second place amongst the country’s four 24-hour news channels, and through a mix of highly charged current affairs debate shows and well known right-wing commentators discussing some of France’s most emotionally charged topics, including crime, migration, and Islam, has proved to be a winning recipe for the Bollore.
A poll in 2021 found that 27 percent of the channel’s viewers identified with the left and 24 percent with the right, and more than 40 percent didn’t identify with a party, an indication that CNews is likely reaching a relatively diverse audience who feel marginalised or un-catered to by the established media.
CNews might not be as powerful as Fox News, and Zemmour, unlike Trump, still has to contend with other more popular politicians, but increasingly observers see the TV channel setting the tone and pace of discussion in the country.
The reputation of CNews hasn’t been dented by Zemmour’s convictions of racial or religious provocation or that the channel has been fined more than $230,000 for spreading hate speech against child migrants. On the contrary, many of its viewers are turning to the channel to hear views that might be striking.
Zemmour’s population has resulted in a sharp drop in popularity for Marine Le Pen, who until September was neck and neck with the French President Emmanual Macron on around 25 percent.
Le Pen’s have dropped as low as 17 percent, with Zemmour clamouring to carry the torch for the far-right of the country.
Zemmour and CNews, amongst other right-wing news outlets, have already re-made France’s bitter and fractious political landscape. Increasingly, even the French population is willing to countenance extreme positions and views to deal with issues around migration and Islam.
That extreme views are now widely shared and heard in mainstream TV channels shows how far the country has moved to the right. That this anger and emotion now has a political face in Zemmour doesn’t bode well for the country, and is even worse for its minorities.
Source: TRT World