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Michel Onfray: Zemmour is the symptom of a leaking dam!

24 November 2022 Interviews   712  

Accused himself of being a (left-wing?) populist, Michel Onfray – whose magazine Front Populaire organised a huge meeting at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, during which he debated with Éric Zemmour – takes an atypical but lucid look at the author of “Suicide français”…

Interview By Hamid Zanaz

– Social tensions, identity fractures, health crisis, economic uncertainties… Some analysts believe that France is in decline? What does the philosopher Michel Onfray think?

– I have devoted a book of more than five hundred pages, “Décadence” (2017), to this subject. Yes, it is obvious, France is being dragged into this downward movement which concerns the exhausted Judeo-Christian civilisation and which is falling under the spell of an outside world which despises it, the United States, Turkey, China, Africa for the most visible, and under the spell of an internal self-hatred because the most visible and active elites hate France, the Judeo-Christian civilisation, the secular, Cartesian, Rabelaisian French way of life, where marivaudage has been conceived for some time as rape and Hugo’s social thought presented by “wokism” and “cancel culture” as the now obsolete product of an old heterosexual white male…

Has France fallen definitively into multiculturalism?

– In the cities, yes, in the countryside, no. The divide between the capital, flanked by French megacities, and the French provinces has never been so marked. The school formatted children to this ideology from their earliest years. Urban, educated people are the most permeable to the ideology, which they also pass on to their children. Not succumbing to the school, university, advertising, film, media and political hype requires a certain strength of mind that is more common in the countryside, where empirical wisdom is not so easy to come by… But this countryside, linked by the net and social networks to the urban Leviathans, will unfortunately not last much longer.

– Police officers, politicians and columnists openly talk about a probable civil war in France. What do you think?

– I am not one of those who think that this civil war is yet to come because… it is already here! The renunciation of the State to enforce the laws of the Republic in the territories it has lost to avoid confrontation means that this war is being waged by one side if its territories are penetrated, while the other side gives up doing its job. We have no shortage of brave policemen and gendarmes, but the politicians who have been replacing each other in power for half a century are swaggering and, underhand, they give orders to let things go. It is an asymmetrical war waged by a mafia against the rest of the country that is not moving. This civil war is not bloody because we have already lost it by not fighting it. If it were to occur to us to wage it, it would be a carnage… It is therefore being waged quietly, otherwise it would be waged with noise and fury, but the outcome is known: France no longer has the means nor the will to exercise its authority.

– Populism, a word that suffers from chronic terminological imprecision. How do you define it?

– It is the concern of the people in a political world that hates or despises them. It is a word that belongs to the vocabulary of combat led by those I call the populicides, a word created by Gracchus Babeuf, who indoctrinate the people, insult them, bypass them, forget them, despise them. How can we understand that in 2005 the Head of State asked the people to vote in a referendum on the European Treaty, that the people massively rejected it, and that Congress, the National Assembly meeting in the Senate, found nothing better to do than to cancel the result of this popular consultation? It is these populicides who call those who appeal to the people’s concern populists.

– What makes populism possible?

– The disregard for the people. General de Gaulle had created a constitution in which the head of state elected by the people regularly called him to account during the entire seven-year term and took his opinion into account: losing a legislative election meant changing the prime minister and policy or resigning. Mitterrand and Chirac invented cohabitation, which is one of the populist instruments. There were also referendums which de Gaulle took as opportunities to confirm the head of state in his post. When de Gaulle lost the 1969 referendum, he left not only power but also politics. When Chirac lost his in 2005, he stayed and Sarkozy offered him the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, which abolished the result of the referendum. After that, who can respect Mitterrand, Chirac, Sarkozy and those who supported them such as Hollande and Macron, Pécresse or Bertrand? Nobody.

– You justified the creation of the Popular Front by the existence of a “populist front”. Does this mean that you will claim to be a “left-wing populist”? 

– Yes, I’m not afraid of this word, which I even use as a tribute. Philippe Sollers, who was a communist, a Maoist, a Balladurian, like almost everything else in Paris, said of me that I was a “tribune of the plebs”. He thought he was insulting me, he didn’t know that this was a magnificent title of glory for me, especially coming from one of these German-Pratin populicides!

– Populism has long been linked to the extreme right. But today we are witnessing the emergence of left-wing or even ultra-left-wing populism. What are the reasons for this?

– A brilliant young man who is also a friend of the Popular Front, Raphaël Doan, published “Quand Rome inventait le populisme”, to show that populism already existed in Rome! It is therefore far from being an extreme right-wing affair, but it is often qualified as extreme right-wing for polemical and disqualifying purposes. Those who were called populists in Rome, the populares, appealed to the people, they believed in the figure of the strong man, the tribune capable of winning over the crowds with his words. Populism was already the voice of the weak and humble against the tyranny of the strong and powerful. This is still the case. It is understandable that the strong and the powerful want and need to disqualify both the word and the thing!

– Given the rise of populism in several European countries, do you think the emergence of a French or European Trump is possible? 

– Anything is possible in times of decadence when the compass no longer works, and at lightning speed. History is feverish, the providential man is an easy temptation, we believe that he will solve everything in a jiffy. This is an idea that comes from Judeo-Christianity: it replicates the pattern of the coming of the Messiah who will bring about the Parousia! As an atheist, I don’t believe in this kind of solution, even in the social field. It is often blood and tears that come instead of salvation. Of course, there have been exceptions that allow us not to despair totally. I am thinking of General de Gaulle. But the French eventually dismissed him: greatness cannot be the aspiration of small souls.

– How do you analyse the Zemmour phenomenon?

– Zemmour verbalizes the return of the repressed of our history for half a century. Everything that has been forbidden, taboo, prohibited since after May 68 has come back in force on the principle of a leaping dam! Because enough is enough and the French are at their wits’ end. They have lost confidence in the political staff, they know that propaganda is the law, that the criminalisation of any free thought leads to social death for any free thinker. They have had enough of Maastricht politics, which pretends once to be left-wing and once to be right-wing, whereas it is liberal and right-wing, and its staff has been replacing itself in power since 1983.

Éric Zemmour sees reality and says so, he denounces excesses, silliness, foolishness, errors, he argues, thinks, reflects, analyses, he places his remarks in a civilisational logic, he thinks in terms of the long term. He is therefore the return of the repressed who embodies another way of doing politics, outside the habits of political politics, including Le Pen. The fact remains that another part of him, unknown and unrecognised at this time, that of the candidate’s proposals, will decide his future: support or rejection cannot be obtained on the basis of the facts but on the basis of solutions.

– How do you see the role of the philosopher today?

– What it has always been, and let me quote Nietzsche: “Harming stupidity”.

– Afghanistan, the tomb of the right to interfere, you said. Don’t you think that non-interference is sometimes non-assistance to a people in danger?

– Why is it that, in the dozens of countries that might deserve such interference, no one moves? Why not intervene in China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Cuba? Why are BHL and his ilk not going to war when it comes to these countries or to North Korea?

Moreover, in view of what is happening in France in the suburbs and in Marseilles, where deaths are pouring in, what would you think of Turkey, Algeria or Morocco invoking the right of interference to send their soldiers to the Parisian suburbs or to the city of Marseilles in order to restore calm and settle the problems associated with this civil war?

The right to interfere is a cover for neo-colonialism and the new imperialism. Let everyone stay at home and conduct their own policies, that is my sovereigntist credo.

– Is democracy universalizable, in your opinion?

– No. Universalism is inevitably imperialism. When France went to colonise Algeria, it was in the name of “1789”, of human rights, of the alleged duty to “civilize”. I remind you that Jules Ferry, who was the man of this civilisation, was a left-wing Republican…

– Why do we find it difficult to perceive the true nature of Islamic terrorism in France?

– Because we no longer make history but ideology, because the school has produced a lot of morons and the media with them. Anyone can have an opinion on Islam, even and especially if they have never read the Koran, don’t know what the Hadiths are, don’t know the biography of the prophet, and are unable to distinguish between Sunnis and Shiites! I even think that we would be surprised if we asked such and such a person in which century Mohammed lived! This does not prevent most people from having a clear-cut opinion on the question: for some, on the left, Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and love, an opportunity for France, for others, on the right, it is misogynistic, anti-Semitic, phallocratic, homophobic, and warlike.

This ignorance of Islam is added to an ignorance of global geopolitics. The wars waged by the West against Muslim countries, American imperialism, and France’s following of these operations explain a certain number of internal problems in France in terms of coexistence between the religious communities that now constitute the country.

How then can we understand what is happening with Islamist terrorism, which is a bloody political response to the wars of civilisations – just listen to what Abdeslam said at his trial… Why are there no terrorist acts committed on Icelandic or Swiss soil?

– Is religious extremism a theological populism? 

– Yes, in a way. It is, to paraphrase and divert Marx: “the opium of the people, the sigh of the oppressed creature”…

– Is French jihadism a new nihilism as Olivier Roy claims?

– Yes, it is indeed the product of contemporary nihilism: the values that were those of Judeo-Christianity are no longer valid. The Muslim religion, which still believes in and teaches the old-fashioned paradise with the promise of an eternal hedonistic life paid for at the price of an earthly life of renunciation, asceticism and privation, attracts a good number of people. When one also believes that killing an infidel, as the Koran invites one to do in five or six verses out of more than six thousand, opens the door to paradise, one solves the problem of contemporary nihilism for oneself: life, suddenly, has a meaning. To kill the infidel is to live eternally happy in paradise; it is difficult to fight against this unreasonable belief…

– Are identities always and necessarily deadly?

– No, of course not, this is the dominant discourse of those who aspire to the digitised planet controlled by the planetary government, whose expansion will be unimpeded by the voluntary servitude of subjects who say everything about themselves, their lives, their likes and dislikes, their sexuality, their practices, their purchases, their dreams, their holidays, their thoughts, their beliefs, their religions, their manias, their habits, their desires, their wishes, their aspirations, their lovers, their leisure time on their mobiles… What current opponent of health passes is not one of them?

Identity is what makes it possible to resist the tidal wave that will sweep everything away.

– Is representative democracy dead?

– Was it ever alive? Let us say that it has sometimes been less dead in some periods than in others. For a democracy without enlightened citizens is not a democracy. This is the lesson of Condorcet.

But what is an enlightened citizen today in a world ignored by schools and saturated by television, screens, the Internet and social networks? A world where what is true, just and good has disappeared under the blows of the false, the unjust and the evil. The citizen has been replaced by a farmed pig that lives in a battery and grunts from time to time to give itself the illusion that it is still a wild boar…

– “Auto-da-fé – The art of destroying books”. What made you write this book today?

– I have seen too much, in the light of the media reception of my most active books against the dominant stupidity, how censorship works not by not talking about them, which is a common way of doing it, but by talking about them badly, in other words by saying that they say what they do not say in order to better sully them. When you say a book is anti-Semitic, fascist, Petainist, Vichy, Islamophobic, misogynistic, phallocratic, homophobic, when it is not at all, who is going to buy it and read it to check that it is not what it says? Most people will therefore have a negative opinion of a book that they have not read on the pretext that it defends theses that are not there.

I wanted to give examples with Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago”, “Chairman Mao’s New Clothes” by Simon Leys, “The Black Book of Psychoanalysis”, a collective work, “Aristotle at Mont Saint-Michel” by Sylvain Guggenheim, “The Clash of Civilizations” by Samuel Huntington, “Voyage au centre du malaise français” by Paul Yonnet, which, In their time, they were vilified by politically correct journalists because they told the truth about Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, psychoanalysis, the fiction of a West that owes everything to Islam, the advent of conflicts between civilisations built on religions, the construction of a new racism from a certain anti-racism. These journalists are working to darken the world while saying they are working in the spirit of the Enlightenment – this is one of the signs of contemporary nihilism…


  • A world-renowned philosopher, Michel Onfray is the author of over 120 books, translated into 28 languages.
  • Through this prodigious work, he sets out to deconstruct numerous religious, philosophical, social and political mythologies that generate illusions.
  • In 2002, he created the Popular University of Caen. In 2020, he launched his political review “Front Populaire” which was a great success.
  • Last book published: “Les raisons de l’art: une initiation à l’art, de Lascaux à Koons” (Albin Michel Editions, October 2021).