Zemmour’s Final Word

This year, May 5th marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Napoleon, France’s most famous historical figure and the greatest military leader of the 19th century. The response to the event was as sad as it was predictable. Bonaparte, much of the country’s Left cried, was a white supremacist who re-established slavery—a line which President Emmanuel Macron repeated in his speech to mark the occasion. What should have been a moment of pride and national unity instead provided a reminder of the fault lines in French and Western culture more broadly.

A few hours after Macron’s remarks, a conservative political commentator named Éric Zemmour appeared on what was, until recently, his nightly post on Face à l’Info, the most popular political talk show in the crowded French primetime market. Zemmour’s time as the show’s star had been turbulent. In two short years he increased the ratings to up to a million viewers per night, received a conviction for hate speech and had it overturned, and was finally banned from further appearances based on his presumed—but as yet unconfirmed—political aspirations (the airtime permitted for political candidates is strictly regulated in France).

Since his ouster from CNews, Zemmour has not fallen silent. He recently published a book entitled La France N’a Pas Dit Son Dernier Mot (“France Has Not Said Its Last Word”), appeared on stages all over the country, and given too many television, radio, and podcast interviews to count. This has all been done on the pretext of promoting his book. But few—including the French telecommunications authority who took him off the air—doubt that Zemmour has his eyes on the presidential election in six months’ time.

Recent polls have tipped Zemmour to beat Marine Le Pen in the race for the Elysée. Somehow he has become a political sensation without even formally declaring himself a candidate. Above all, Zemmour is a lightning rod because he skilfully and unapologetically attacks everything the cosmopolitan class stand for—internationalism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and a thinly veiled contempt for their nation’s history. In response to Macron’s weasel words about Napoleon, Zemmour described Bonaparte’s conquests as the “apotheosis” of a thousand years of French history.

Born in the working class suburb of Montreuil, now part of the notorious Saint-Denis department on the northern outskirts of Paris (where police found and killed the lead attacker of the November 2015 attacks), Zemmour’s parents were Berber Jews who fled Africa during the Algerian war. His formative years were spent in the Château Rouge section of Paris’s 18th arrondissement, an auspicious and seemingly symbolic location for his upbringing. At the time a poor but cohesive Jewish neighbourhood, today Château Rouge is the focal point of a crack epidemic, and is one of the most crime-ridden and—to Zemmour’s generation—unrecognisable parts of the capital.

An ambitious and by many accounts awkward young man, Zemmour studied at the prestigious Institut d’Études Politiques (“Sciences Po”) in Paris, but twice failed to gain admission to the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA) where Jacques Chirac, François Hollande, and Emmanuel Macron got their start in the political milieu. Devastated by his first big failure, Zemmour briefly worked in advertising before joining Le Quotidien de Paris as a political journalist, eventually being hired by Le Figaro, France's conservative paper of record.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, in addition to his journalistic duties, Zemmour wrote a series of undistinguished biographies and novels, finally coming to public attention in 2006 with the release of a book entitled Le Premier Sexe, in which he criticised the feminisation of society. While this polemic scored him television and radio interviews, its success was dwarfed by that of his 2014 work Le Suicide Français, which sold 500,000 copies in France and made Zemmour a name internationally. Perhaps due to his success, Zemmour has spent much of his time over the last few years living under permanent police protection. Earlier this year, he was filmed by an assailant who threatened him as he walked down the street with shopping bags.

Tout mon soutien à Éric #Zemmour agressé en pleine rue par une racaille qui l’a insulté et lui a craché dessus alors qu’il faisait ses courses. Il n’y aura naturellement pas de suite. Imaginons la situation inverse.... pic.twitter.com/y5mNZk6InX— Eric Ciotti (@ECiotti) May 1, 2020

In Le Suicide, two strands of Zemmour’s thought were elucidated. The first is déclinisme, the idea that France is in a state of inexorable decline. The second is the grand remplacement theory, which holds that black Africans and Arab Muslims are systematically invading and colonising France. Hitherto regarded as “extreme,” recent studies suggest that a solid majority of the French population accepts both theories. Seventy-eight percent of respondents to a 2020 IPSOS poll said they believed France to be in a state of decline. Last month, 67 percent of respondents to a Harris Interactive poll were worried that the indigenous French population was “threatened with extinction” by black African and Maghrebian migrants.

Perhaps such statistics—which Zemmour frequently cites in speeches and media appearances—along with the success of his 2014 book, spurred him to enter politics. There is also the fact that, with her party rebrand and softening stance on various issues, Marine Le Pen has come to more closely resemble Emmanuel Macron who, with his discourse about the Islamisation of French society, has come to more closely resemble Marine Le Pen. There is also the sense that Le Pen, as the successor to a political dynasty, has dominated the populist wing of conservative politics for too long, and that it might be time for some new blood.

But the most potent factor of all is Zemmour’s own belief that the great figures of French history have all been men of letters like himself. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a hack writer who finally made a name for himself as the revolutionary mob’s philosopher-in-chief. Rousseau greatly influenced Napoleon, an obsessive reader, who in turn was Charles de Gaulle’s hero. In Le Suicide Français, Zemmour writes: “In all Alexander’s victories there is Aristotle, according to de Gaulle. In all of Premier Consul Bonaparte’s decisions we find the echo of his youthful readings of Voltaire and Rousseau.” Zemmour, in contrast to Marine Le Pen with her narrowly political talking points, views himself as the next in a long line of literary men destined to lead France out of the doldrums towards the glories of the past.

What, then, would a Zemmour presidency look like? At home, Zemmour has said he would ban giving children non-French first names, deport illegal immigrants, stop most of the country’s legal immigration, and close approximately 540 mosques operated by Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood members. Economically, he has spoken in favour of lowering taxes to make France more competitive but has said little else, sticking to the more headline-grabbing issues of immigration and law-and-order.

His foreign policy is more concerning. Zemmour viewed the recent affaire Australiennne concerning the ruptured submarine-building contracts as the latest example of centuries-old Anglo-Saxon perfidy and aggression towards the French. Zemmour refers to the English as France’s “enemy of a thousand years” and America as “the most dangerous country in the world.” Perhaps Zemmour proves Voltaire’s point that to be a good patriot means hating the rest of the world.

On this and other issues, Zemmour has much in common with left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was also born in North Africa to a family of modest means and moved to France in his early childhood. Mélenchon and Zemmour have both denied the Vichy regime’s responsibility for the death of 75,000 Jews sent to Nazi camps during this period. In a recent televised debate between the two, both agreed that NATO is an obsolete instrument of American imperialism. Zemmour added that he favours renouncing France’s alliances with the US, UK, and Germany and “joining hands with Russia.” It was the Russians, says Zemmour, not the British nor the Americans, who saved France during the Second World War, after which the Americans covertly colonised Europe through the common market framework which Germany now dominates.

Curiously, however, and contrary to his previously stated position, Zemmour does not favour France following Britain out of the EU. “I don’t want to divide the electorate on the European question,” he said in a recent debate against philosopher Michel Onfray, perhaps with an eye on Le Pen’s pro-Frexit stance during her abortive 2017 presidential bid. This marks the first time that Zemmour has transparently opted for politics over principle, a decision which may prove costly, given frankness has been the key ingredient in his success.

In any case, it is unclear if Frexit is as unpopular as Zemmour thinks. In 2005, when a referendum asked the French to decide whether they would ratify a “European constitution,” 55 percent voted no, a result duly ignored by French lawmakers, who ratified the Lisbon Treaty three years later regardless. This 55 percent—made up of blue collar and affluent conservatives—is surely Zemmour’s target audience if he is to have electoral success. Indeed, his appeal to bourgeois and often Eurosceptic Les Républicains voters is his main advantage over Marine Le Pen, whose base is more narrowly working-class nationalists.

Les Républicains could themselves re-emerge as serious contenders in 2022, so long as they can avoid the scandals that dogged their candidate François Fillon in 2017. Fillon nevertheless placed third in the first round with 20 percent of the vote. Xavier Bertrand, a minister under Jacques Chirac, Valérie Pécresse, an ENA graduate and current President of Île de France, France’s most populous region, and Michel Barnier are all potential LR candidates.

Barnier is particularly intriguing. Better known in the UK than in France as the intransigent technocrat who led the Brexit negotiations for the EU, Barnier has turned into something of a nativist himself. He has proposed a total moratorium on immigration, and a corresponding referendum to amend the French constitution to avoid Brussels’s condemnation for doing so. Tall and urbane, with solid experience in international affairs, Barnier might have been the man to lead France in more sober times. But today there is a sense that France is on her knees, and that only radical action can get her back on her feet.

Even if Zemmour manages to vanquish his rivals on the Right, he would still have to beat the incumbent. Historically, this has not proved difficult, and Macron’s tenure has been rocked by crippling transport and student strikes, gilets jaunes unrest, and a clumsy response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, it would take a significant change in circumstances for Zemmour to defeat Macron in the second round, given the vitriol he inspires in much of the French population.

The danger—or opportunity, depending on your view—is that two radical candidates like Mélenchon and Zemmour win the first round. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron won 24 percent of the first round vote, Le Pen 21.3, and Mélenchon 19.6. Given everything that has happened since, it is entirely possible that two extreme candidates, each with a small but devoted following, advance to the second round. It is difficult to overstate the political explosion this would cause.

Zemmour has tapped legitimate grievances among the French public. However, his depth of learning and rhetorical skills notwithstanding, I am doubtful that he is the man to improve things. France needs to change. But it does not need an unscrupulous zealot like Éric Zemmour, given to stoking resentment and manipulating history. He is an often insightful political commentator, and adroit at identifying problems, but he is ill-equipped to solve them, and might make things a good deal worse.

Zemmour calls to mind two very different English political figures. The first is Benjamin Disraeli, the Jewish boy whose inferiority complex and rhetorical genius propelled him to greatness. The second is Enoch Powell, whose speeches on immigration struck fear, contempt, and righteous indignation into the hearts of many of his countrymen. Powell became just a minor footnote in 20th century history, and I suspect that Zemmour will share his fate. But the last year-and-a-half has taught us that things can change fast. And if they change fast enough, Zemmour might, for better or worse—like his hero Napoleon—alter the course of French and European history.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://quillette.com/2021/11/25/zemmours-final-word/
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An interesting article, and one which bears much thinking about. One of the problems with the more modern and aggressive view of multiculturalism which denigrates Western culture, is that it inadvertently undermines the cultural values that bind us all together. It goes behind the simple patriotism, the flag, a common language and shared cultural mores- tolerance, inclusion, value pluralism, the mechanism of guilt and forgiveness (instead of the more toxic honour and shame), innocent until proven guilty, the prioritisation of social contract over the accident of birth to assess human value and affinity on the basis of shared culture, rather than shared ethnicity, are all uniquely Western cultural innovations.

Some countries, such as Singapore, have done a pretty decent job of copying the West. But the mistake the Leftists make is in imagining that many of things we take for granted are culturally universal, rather than waters which are unique to Western climes. What they fail to realise is that the overwhelming majority of people were perfectly happy with multi-ethic societies when they believed that regardless of race, future generations would place the same paramount emphasis on human dignity and thriving which the West had over centuries been evolving towards. But by attempting to dismantle history, culture, the Arts and Literature the Left has been vandalising the very framework which holds us all together.

They simply don’t realise that they are the ones manufacturing the far right. When one removes shared culture, and the larger circle of inclusion, affinity and compassion which it encompasses, only the valueless division of ethnicity remains. The more aggressive and corrosive form of multiculturalism causes racism, it doesn’t end it. Besides which, none of the cultures the Left purports to champion would be happy with a society which puts their culture on display like a theme park attraction for cosmopolitan Leftists.

Even when one removes socio-economic selection, almost all cultures globally prefer the comfort of their own- they don’t like Western Leftists living in their communities, even if they are quite happy to take their money when they patronise their shops. It’s one of the reasons why ethnic divisions invariably become worse in Socialist or Communist societies- in most areas the proletariat are an irrelevancy whose concerns are soon to be discarded, post- Bloody Revolution, but this is one area where the apparatchik are forced to concede to the mob, so powerful are the resentments which bubble up to the surface when most of the benign framework of accumulated wisdom is dissolved.

As usual, my essays are to be found on my Substack, which is free to view and comment:

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I’d put it more strongly. One vandalizes something because it is considered valuable, thus the impulse to damage something of value to someone else is satisfied. Would it be nearly as much fun vandalizing a statue of Robert E. Lee if nobody considered it important to them? But the woke go further, methodically and openly working to destroy what they say is not only worthless, but actively evil. Thus one does not ‘vandalize’, say, segregation, one proudly works to destroy it. In the same way whiteness must be destroyed, and whiteness is western civilization.

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Zemmour has announced he will be a candidate for the office of President of the Republic of France.

Here’s a transcription of his announcement speech:

My dear Countrymen— For years, the same feeling has swept you along, oppressed you, shamed you: a strange and penetrating feeling of dispossession. You walk down the streets in your towns, and you don’t recognize them.

You look at your screens and they speak to you in a language that is strange, and in the end foreign. You turn your eyes and ears to advertisements, TV series, football matches, films, live performances, songs, and the schoolbooks of your children.

You take the subways and trains. You go to train stations and airports. You wait for your sons and your daughters outside their school. You take your mother to the emergency room. You stand in line at the post office or the employment agency. You wait at a police station or a courthouse. And you have the impression that you are no longer in a country that you know.

You remember the country of your childhood. You remember the country that your parents told you about. You remember the country found in films and books. The country of Joan of Arc and Louis XIV. The country of Bonaparte and General de Gaulle.

The country of knights and ladies. The country of Victor Hugo and Chateaubriand. The country of Pascal and Descartes. The country of the fables of La Fontaine, the characters of Molière, and the verses of Racine.

The country of Notre Dame de Paris and of village church towers. The country of Gavroche and Cosette. The country of barricades and Versailles. The country of Pasteur and Lavoisier.

The country of Voltaire and Rousseau,of Clemenceau and the soldiers of ’14, of de Gaulle and Jean Moulin. The country of Gabin and Delon; of Brigitte Bardot and Belmondo and Johnny and d’Aznavour and Brassens and Barbara; the films of Sautet and Verneuil.

This country— at the same time light-hearted and illustrious. This country— at the same time literary and scientific. This country— truly intelligent and one-of-a-kind. The country of the Concorde and nuclear power. The country that invented cinema and the automobile.This country— that you search for everywhere with dismay. No, your children are homesick, without even having known this country that you cherish. And it is disappearing.

You haven’t left, and yet you have the feeling of no longer being at home. You have not left your country. Your country left you.

You feel like foreigners in your own country. You are internal exiles. For a long time, you believed you were the only one to see, to hear, to think, to doubt. You were afraid to say it. You were ashamed of your feelings. For a long time, you dared not say what you are seeing, and above all you dared not see what you were seeing.

And then you said it to your wife. To your husband. To your children. To your father. To your mother. To your friends. To your coworkers. To your neighbors. And then to strangers. And you understood that your feeling of dispossession was shared by everyone.

France is no longer France, and everyone sees it.

Of course, they despised you: the powerful, the élites, the conformists, the journalists, the politicians, the professors, the sociologists, the union bosses, the religious authorities.They told you it’s all a ploy, it’s all fake, it’s all wrong. But you understood in time that it was them who were a ploy, them who had it all wrong, them who did you wrong.

The disappearance of our civilization is not the only question that harasses us, although it towers over everything. Immigration is not the cause of all our problems, although it aggravates everything. The third-worlding of our country and our people impoverishes as much as it disintegrates, ruins as much as it torments.

It’s why you often have a hard time making ends meet. It’s why we must re-industrialize France. It’s why we must equalize the balance of trade. It’s why we must reduce our growing debt, bring back to France our companies that left, give jobs to our unemployed.

It’s why we must protect our technological marvels and stop selling them to foreigners. It’s why we must allow our small businesses to live, and to grow, and to pass from generation to generation.It’s why we must preserve our architectural, cultural, and natural heritage. It’s why we must restore our republican education, its excellence and its belief in merit, and stop surrendering our children to the experiments of egalitarians and pedagogists and the Doctor Strangeloves of gender theory and Islamo-leftism.

It’s why we must take back our sovereignty, abandoned to European technocrats and judges, who rob the French people of the ability to control their destiny in the name of a fantasy – a Europe that will never be a nation. Yes, we must give power to the people, take it back from the minority that unceasingly tyrannizes the majority and from judges who substitute their judicial rulings for government of the people, for the people, by the people.

For decades, our elected officials of the right and the left have led us down this dire path of decline and decadence. Right and left have lied and concealed the gravity of our diminishment. They have hidden from you the reality of our replacement.

You have known me for many years. You know what I say, what I diagnose, what I proclaim. I have long been content with the role of journalist, writer, Cassandra, whistleblower. Back then, I believed that a politician would take up the flame that I had lit. I said to myself, to each his own job, to each his own role, to each his own fight.

I have lost this illusion. Like you, I have lost confidence. Like you, I have decided to take our destiny in hand.

I saw that no politician had the courage to save our country from the tragic fate that awaits it. I saw that all these supposed professionals were, above all, impotent.That President Macron, who had presented himself as an outsider, was in fact the synthesis of his two predecessors, or worse. That all the parties were contenting themselves with reforms, while time passes them by.

There is no more time to reform France – but there is time to save her. That is why I have decided to run for President.

I have decided to ask your votes to become your President of the Republic, so that our children and grandchildren do not know barbarism. So that our daughters are not veiled and our sons are not forced to submit. So that we can bequeath to them the France we have known and that we received from our ancestors. So that we can still preserve our way of life, our traditions, our language, our conversations, our debates about history and fashion, our taste for literature and food.

So that the French remain French, proud of their past and confident in their future. So that the French once again feel at home. So that the newest arrivals assimilate their culture, adapt their history, and are remade as French in France – not foreigners in an unknown land.

We, the French, are a great nation. A great people. Our glorious past pleads for our future. Our soldiers have conquered Europe and the world. Our writers and artists have aroused universal admiration. Our scientific discoveries and industrial production have stamped their epochs. The charm of our art de vivre excites longing and joy in all who taste it.

We have known great victories, and we have overcome cruel defeats. For a thousand years, we have been one of the powers who have written the history of the world. We are worthy of our ancestors. We will not allow ourselves to be mastered, vassalized, conquered, colonized. We will not allow ourselves to be replaced.

In front of us, a cold and determined monster rises up, who seeks to dishonor us. They will say that you are racist. They will say that you are motivated by contemptible passions, when in fact it is the most lovely passion that animates you – passion for France.

They will say the worst about me. But I will keep going amidst the jeers, and I don’t care if they spit on me. I will never bend the head. For we have a mission to accomplish.

The French people have been intimidated, crippled, indoctrinated, blamed— but they lift up their heads, they drop the masks, they clear the air of lies, they hunt down these evil perjuries.

We are going to carry France on. We are going to pursue the beautiful and noble French adventure. We are going to pass the flame to the coming generations. Join with me. Rise up. We, the French, have always triumphed over all.

Long live the Republic, and above all, long live France!

My source says “Play the Marseilles,” he’s De Gaulle not Disraeli or Powell:

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We may have someone here in the US very similar to Zemmour, Tucker Carlson. Here’s a review of Carlson’s new book by Wilfred McClay. McClay is the widely respected author of a very readable center right history of the US aimed at the secondary school level, “The Land of Hope.”

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While we’re floating journalistic conservative presidential candidates, h’bout a real conservative?

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Damn you @Ella-B are you also swallowing the red pill. Wait, I’ll get back to you next door…

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Well, @Ella-B , I know he’s been called a conservative, and he might usta have been one. (‘usta’ is a quasi-modal verb derived from “used to”, and meaning something like ‘habitually in former times.’ It would be within his own native Alabama dialect.) But it’s in the past tense. Your wikipedia citation is out-dated. Especially on the theological front, he has recently been scruffling with Sohrab Ahmari, Adrian Vermeule, and other Integralists (Catholics who advocate for the primacy of the church over the state at least in some contexts.) I am by no means an integralist, and not a Catholic, but the idea that the Integralists advocate includes, at its core, that ‘moral values’ cannot be determined by majoritarian vote. Rather, the moral values should be set by the Bishops and others in the hierarchy.

Of course that leads us back to the question of why we should trust the authority of the bishops, who got it thru an ancient hierarchy, which might or might not have been ordained by God at the beginning. Make of it as you will.

But my point here is that, in this current time and context, the description of David French as a “theologically conservative traditional Christian” leaves many Rolling on the Floor Laughing (ROFL).
Essentially, whatever his ‘theology’ may be, if he thinks that morality should defer to majority, then he ain’t no conservative.

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Are you high dude? Good conversation.

The thing is with some ‘conservatives’ is their dogged attachment to unrealistic outcomes gets in the way of what wins they could have that ends up playing into the hands of their opposition ultimately only serving to weaken conservatism. They can’t accept that times have moved on to a point that are inextricably beyond their grasp to alter & are that far gone settle for no conservatism rather than some.

French is a traditional conservative alright it’s just theory & reality can’t always look the same. He’s a pragmatist that’s all which is the best hope conservatism has. An example is his stance on abortion which is the only practical way to actually save ‘lives’ that both left & right can all live with.

As for Ahmari & Christianity?
:rofl:

What would Jesus do?

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Ain’t 4 nothin that I’s got a PhD in linguistics. It’s a license to use words, and to kill them when right. Trouble with Ella she be mincin’ her words, makin’ 'em mean 'dis or 'dat or halfway ‘tween. Shouldn’t oughta do too much of that. [shouldn’t oughta we the linguistics would call a ‘double modal.’ For David French in Alabama, he would know that. And if he was of the the Black persuasion, fluent in the African American Vernacular (AAV) we might say he would be knowin’ that ].

But to @Ella-B , yeah, I saw that with Ahmari, and it is over the edge. Like I said, I am not a Catholic much less an integralist, But there is a point within it, about recognizing ‘decadence.’ His signall of an alert to an external danger is still valid, even if I wouldn’t respond in the samed way he does.

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Agreed. It’s valid signal alright that’s not just exclusive to conservatives but it’s his prescriptions that are the problem. He deleted that quote but his speeches are riddled with state controlled solutions that are hauntingly familiar to it…

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Here’s Ahmari’s full statement in “Against David French-ism” published at First Things.

Actually, there is little difference between Catholic integralism and the Reformed idea of a commonwealth except that the Catholic expression is more top down sort of thing guided by the bishops and ultimately the Vatican while the Reformed expressions is supposed to be bottom up and guided by the congregation.

All that aside, French now seems most comfortable with the bitter-end neo-cons like Bill Kristol, Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg. French was always rather more a neo-con and libertarian than anything else. But times are changing and French’s brand of conservatism had brought only disaster for the last generation.

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There’s a lot of misrepresentations of French in that piece.

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I suspect that few of those laughing are familiar with French’s work. I am – I listen to two of his podcasts, read his newsletter, and greatly admire his most recent book. He’s very much a conservative and is, by all appearances, an orthodox Christian. If you think he’s not, I would challenge you to find examples that demonstrate his apostasy.

Evidence?

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He’s your guy not mine you show me is not just another creepy neo-con.

That he is a virtue signaling, self righteous twerp is evident from his latest effort supporting critical race theory and reparations. He actively supported the Iraq War and he valiantly served as a National Guard JAG officer to pick up a cheep Bronze Star and silly campaign medals. He’s still raving in latest book about ISIS. He is firmly in league with all the cranks even the National Review had to let go and is now an editor at the Dispatch.

Politico summed him up in 2016 and he has only gotten worse since then.

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I think you are confusing opposition to censorship with support of CRT.

Evidence “they had to let go”?

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And here is a critique, in the Spectator, of French as ‘principled’.

In the end it’s not clear what his ‘principles’ really are, except that the only thing he won’t tolerate is intolerance. The author makes some good points with Biblical examples suggesting how God uses some pretty strange people for different purposes, and that even some of the good people who God uses have their nasty sides. If we take that into consideration, then outright rejection Trump as an apparent over-tiding first principle is not really ‘principled,’ nor is it ‘conservative’ if we can’t say what we are trying to conserve, nor is he a ‘conservative Christian’ if again we can’t see hiw theological tenets.

He doesn’t support either. You’ve provided a lot of ad hominem attacks but no actual evidence.

The Politico article is not nearly as critical of French as you suggest.

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