How French Intellectuals Lost Their Faith

In “How French Intellectuals Lost Their Faith”, Ben Sixsmith discusses the decisively rightward move of French intelligentsia in recent years. In a country where Muslims are seven prisoners out of ten, and where Muslim riots have become an almost yearly occurrence, the so-called ‘reactionaries’ are gaining ground:

Now, it is not [Leftist] radicals who speak loudest in French culture. It is reactionaries. Novelists, philosophers and political commentators speak less of liberation than degeneracy, and less of revolution than decline.

Michel Houellebecq rose to fame with obscene, darkly comic novels that satirised sex after the sexual revolution. He was also put on trial in 2002 for calling Islam “the dumbest religion.” By the time he wrote Submission, which imagined the consequences of an Islamic future for France, he had become the nation’s most renowned man of letters. It did not hurt the novel’s chances for popular success that it was published on the day jihadists massacred the staff of Charlie Hebdo.

Houellebecq is not even the darkest of French fiction’s “new reactionaries.” Renaud Camus, an eccentric gay novelist, diarist and commentator, exiled himself from the mainstream literati with his warnings of “le grand replacement” and was fined four thousand euros for incitement to racial hatred. Richard Millet, a respected editor and author, provoked a firestorm of controversy for writing that Anders Breivik was “what Norway deserved.” (Le Pen, at the very least, would not be so indiscreet.)

In non-fiction, too, there has been a rightwards turn. Alain Finkielkraut and Pascal Bruckner, once essayists of the Left, have increasingly rejected multiculturalism. Finkielkraut’s The Unhappy Identity criticised Islamic immigration while Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt attacked ethnic shame.

In popular culture, right wing voices have flourished. Eric Zemmour, an unlikely little television host, is famous for attacking neoliberalism, immigration, and feminism. He regularly makes headlines for his provocative opinions but has continued to attract large audiences.

Further to the right, French nationalist intellectuals like Guillaume Faye, Alain de Benoist, and Dominique Venner (who shot himself in Notre-Dame Cathedral in what he claimed was a protest against the decline of French culture) have spread their influence to the American Alt-Right: Faye addressed a conference of American Renaissance and De Benoist spoke at the National Policy Institute…

French reactionaries are a mixed lot. Finkielkraut and Bruckner are disgruntled liberals. Zemmour is a national conservative. Out on the fringes, Guillaume Faye has formed an ideology called archeofuturism, which, he claims, will unite folk traditions with techno-scientific progress. All of them, however, are radically anti-modern. Benoist and Millet rail against the “Disneyfication” of culture from a profoundly traditionalist position but Finkielkraut, a Jewish ex-Maoist, also attacks relativism, pathological altruism and the degeneration of cultural standards. In the home of the Enlightenment, the new reactionaries have looked back into the shadows.

Even if, as predicted, the National Front are beaten, the next president will find themselves in charge of a miserable, conflicted country. In a recent poll, 61% of French people said Muslim immigration should be stopped, which, especially given that up to 10% of French people are Muslims, is an astonishing statistic. As curators of the national imagination reflect their fears back at them, France is struggling to have more than a beautiful museum.

For the indigenous French people, there is an existential death struggle taking place before our very eyes. It is hampered only by Political Correctness, which dulls the awakening of many white Frenchmen.

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