The Second Movement of La Symphonie Zemmour
Anyone who follows French presidential elections knows that there is a regular pattern to insurgent candidacies. The first movement is triumphal and allegro. The crescendos build as the novel candidate is borne aloft on a whirlwind of publicity. Barriers fall as if made of gossamer. But then, just as suddenly as it began, the music slows and turns somber. The establishment regroups. The barriers suddenly reconstitute themselves out of the dust.
The candidacy of Eric Zemmour has now entered this second phase. Instead of pointing automatic weapons at journalists, the still undeclared candidate is now leaving his train 30 kilometers short of his destination for fear of encountering Antifa demonstrators awaiting him in Marseille. Catcalls rather than cheers emanate from the crowds lining the streets. A woman gives “the polemicist,” as Le Monde calls him, the finger, which he returns in kind with the classy rejoinder “en bien profond,” reported not just by the paper of record but also by Le Figaro,, which preserved the event in a photograph for posterity. Zemmour, rarely at a loss for words on a TV platform, is reduced to babbling profanity in an encounter with an ordinary citizen.
Of course, a candidacy like Zemmour’s must polarize the population; his success paradoxically depends on his ability to inspire hatred and vituperation. The press may well be overdrawing the growing hostility to the future candidate, just as it overplayed the enthusiasm accompanying his first forays. Zemmour’s visit to Marseille may have been a “fiasco,” but if he declares his candidacy at the Zenith in Paris in the coming weeks, we may well see a renewal of the breathless reporting of a month ago, even if Philippe de Villiers’s ardor has cooled (as did his ardor for Macron five years ago). If Zemmour’s young campaign manager and alleged mistress is indeed pregnant by him, as the scandal-sheet Closer claims in the teeth of legal threats from Zemmour’s lawyers, this, too, will gin up the publicity mills yet again. But what effect all of this will have on Zemmour’s base remains to be seen, especially now that Marine Le Pen has positioned herself as the feminist reactionary, in contrast to Zemmour’s macho traditionalism.