To understand Éric Zemmour, the ultra-right candidate who has garnered so much attention in the French presidential election this spring, it helps to go back all the way to April, 1793. On the thirteenth of that month, France’s ruling National Convention voted the arrest of the deputy and journalist Jean-Paul Marat. The violent rhetoric that he spewed out on a regular basis in his newspaper, L’ami du peuple, had long shocked even radical revolutionaries. On one occasion he demanded that two hundred thousand heads roll, so as “to save a million.” Earlier in April, he had called for a popular insurrection to purge the Convention of supposed counterrevolutionaries. Now his enemies hoped that his downfall had finally arrived. But on April 24the Revolutionary Tribunal acquitted Marat, and his jubilant supporters carried him in triumph on their shoulders through the halls of the Paris Palace of Justice. France’s revolutionary First Republic did not have a presidency, but Marat was now indisputably one of the two or three most influential men in the country. Marat, a figure of the revolutionary ultra-left, might not seem to have much in common with the reactionary Zemmour, a journalist who first gained public notoriety with his ferocious attacks on feminists, immigrants, Islam, and the European Union, and his embrace of the noxious “great replacement” theory. But France is a country in which, as the French saying goes, the extremes meet. Decades before attempting to enact a radical socialist program as President in 1981, François Mitterrand belonged to the far-right Cagoule. The leader of France’s mid-twentieth century fascist party, Jacques Doriot, started his career as a communist. In fact, a high proportion of the older men and women who are voting for Zemmour this spring once voted for the French Communist Party. Zemmour himself voted for Mitterrand

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