Zemmour at Trocadéro
I've posted less in recent months as I wrote my book on the relationship between the French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour and Charles de Gaulle, the founder of France's Vth Republic.
That book, titled Zemmour & Gaullism, is out today, from Ebb Books:
I'm in France now on a freelance reporting trip ahead of the first round of the election on April 10th. You can chip in to support that reporting here:
Below, you'll find an excerpt from Zemmour’s March 27th rally at the Place de Trocadéro in Paris, right by the Eiffel Tower.
Read the full account by subscribing - 20% off today - or buy the book here.
Zemmour at Trocadéro
“We don’t feel safe,” Dominick told me. She had come from Cote d’Azur – a 12 hour bus ride to Paris’ Place du Trocadéro – to see Éric Zemmour speak.
Jean, a retired teacher from Cote d’Azur, tried to put it in terms an American like myself could understand. He compared Zemmour to Donald Trump. “We’re trying to escape la Gauche wokisme,” he said.
If you believe Zemmour’s campaign, he was one of around 100,000 people who came to the Trocadéro in the West of Paris on March 27th, 2022. Some media outlets estimated around 15,000. Before the day, Zemmour’s campaign predicted around 55,000 attendees. Jean proudly showed me his ticket which said he was the 52,298th person who’d registered for the event.
It was a boiling, near cloudless day – hotter than most people expected. By the end of the day just around 5:00 PM the crowd was filled with burnt faces.
“We didn’t expect this much sunlight,” Benjamin Couchy told the crowd. “But the sunlight at Trocadéro is you.” An ubiquitous media presence early in the Gilets Jaunes movement from Toulouse, Couchy is now a spokesman for Zemmour’s campaign.
I also talked with Antoine de Loissy, from Dijon, who ran a business involved in mustard production. He was very active politically and involved in the Parti Conservateur, a reactionary party within a party in the mainstream right wing party Les Républicains (LR). De Loissy had voted for Éric Ciotti in the primary campaign for Les Républicains. Ciotti promised a hard line against immigration and ran sharply to the right. He made a stir in one of the primary debates when he called for a French Guantanomo Bay to be built to aid the fight against radical Islam. All of the Ciotti people, Antoine assured me, were for Zemmour. Ciotti himself, while supporting Valérie Pécresse now, promised publicly to vote for Zemmour in the second round if she was knocked out.
The right had split in 2017, Antoine explained to me, between the Fillon current of LR and the Alain Juppé current. Juppé, once Jacques Chirac’s Prime Minister and until recently the longtime mayor of Bordeaux, was the more centrist man. He had chosen to support Macron, Antoine told me, while Fillon had mostly retired from political life.
“The Fillon current is carried more by Zemmour,” Antoine said. Despite this, he knew for a fact, he said, that Fillon doesn’t want to support Zemmour.
Laure had come from Dijon too.
“He’s really the only one who can protect our values,” she said. She had voted for a Le Pen for 18 years – first Jean-Marie Le Pen, then Marine.
“Marine,” she said.
She also complained about the rising cost of living. Though she had recently gotten a 500 euro a month raise, she said she was living half as good as she had been before.
Arlette, from Cote d’Azur, tried to get me into touch with her son Vincent, a police officer in Toulon. She wanted him to show me just how bad things were. She texted him, and he replied with information about how I could contact the precinct’s comms department.
“There’s a hierarchy,” Arlette explained.
I talked with Christian, from Dijon. He said people who came to France needed to assimilate. “It’s not a question of racism, it’s a question of culture … when in Rome do as the Romans do.”
He also complained about the state of television. He said he hadn’t watched it in the past two years.
“I can’t support … reality TV… Masterchef etc. It’s too politically correct.”
The good chefs should go forward, he explained, not those that are more “telegenic.”
The last time, he pointed out, a couscous dish had won. He had no problem with couscous, he said – he liked couscous – but he believed the dish had just been passed through because of political correctness.
Christian had voted for Marine Le Pen in 2017, but “she’s finished – she had her chance.” The problem with her, Christian said, was that she was born into politics. Zemmour, as so many people told me proudly, wasn’t a politician.
“Marine Le Pen,” Christian finished pithily, “was more in opposition than in proposition.”
His wife Laurence agreed. In 2017 she voted for Fillon in the first round, then Le Pen in the second. She taught physics in a middle school and said that education had been degraded. She said that every year students were passed to the next grade without having learned what they needed.
Echoing a line of Zemmour’s, she claimed there were students in 6eme (11-12 year olds) who didn’t even know how to read. I asked her if she’d seen students who didn’t know how to read herself.
She also rejected parity, where equal numbers of men and women are required in official positions. By extension, she rejected feminism, which she said was synonymous with parity. “When they say Zemmour is sexist, misogynist, it’s not true.”
Witolel, from Toulon, owns a business fabricating sails for boats. “In France we’re taxed and taxed and taxed,” he complained. He was supporting Zemmour, he said, to “bring back the value of work.” He said he couldn’t afford to hire new employees because of the taxes he had to pay as a business owner. “We pay the salary of a person twice,” he said, referring to taxes he had to pay for the employee and as the business owner. Not being able to hire more employees because of this, he said, meant he had to turn down work. “Stop taxing us!”
He’d come overnight on a bus with his son Eloe, 20, who studies landscape design. Eloe was voting for Zemmour because of “insecurity,” he said, a word which refers to the perception of an out of control France where crime is rising and ordinary people are under attack by criminals and antisocial elements.
Whereas Eloe’s first introduction to Zemmour was during the campaign, Witolel had followed him on television for the past 10 years. He admitted, like a guilty secret, that he had an older son, 24, who was on the left.
Macron? Antoine asked sympathetically.
“Worse than that. Mélenchon.”
Witolel’s first name was Lithuanian. After I’d talked with him I heard him chatting with a couple from Dijon about how his family was from Poland. Somebody asked him if he spoke Polish. No, he said, getting passionate. “When you live in a country, you should speak its language.” His grandmother had thought the same – she refused to teach his children Polish.
“You must not be part of Poland,” said Witolel, “you must be part of France.”
The stage framed the Eiffel Tower between the two wings of the Palais de Chaillot.
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