The Zürich Interviews - Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry: Unrepentant Baguette Merchant
Boring us with tales of the superiority of the French. Why having a Mommy GF makes Macron powerful. Islamism in France. Jerry Lewis as the funniest man in history.
It is often necessary to get out of our comfort zone in order to challenge ourselves and expand our horizons. There is nothing less comfortable than being in the presence of an insufferable Frenchman, like Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry. Unapologetic, snooty, derisive. These are some of his more tolerable features when compared to the rest. I sat down with Pascal in Montreux, Switzerland (he made me do the three hour drive from Zürich as he refuses on principle to enter any German canton in Switzerland, preferring only to visit French ones) to discuss all things French, and to gain a French perspective from this writer and think tanker. Below you will see what I managed to pull out of him in between his savage belittling of the wait staff in this beautiful city on Lake Geneva. Pascal can be reached on Twitter @pegobry.
French people are assholes. Whether complaining about food when abroad, or looking at you like a filthy peasant when you dare ask them a question in English, the French are the epitome of snobbery. This is your opportunity to apologize to the rest of the World. I strongly suggest that you take it.
No Frenchman worthy of the name has ever apologized for anything, and I'm certainly not going to start. Obviously the English word "snob" is an inaccurate description, since a snob is someone who thinks he's superior, which is different from a Frenchman, who knows he's superior.
Our food is superior, our language is superior, our culture is superior, our women are more beautiful and sophisticated, but we still take your women as well, because we can. Did you know that syphilis is known as "the French disease" in every major European language and Arabic? We're not even sorry for that.
You and I had dinner with two friends in New York City near Central Park back in March of this year. How physically and intellectually intimidated were you by me (6'3", 84 IQ)?
I was mostly intimidated by your overwhelming Balkan sexual charisma, even though it was disappointing that you were not wearing a tracksuit. It was annoying that you did not thank me on account of Napoleon having liberated your little country, whichever one it is, but one expects uncouthness from foreigners. On the whole, I had a fun time. I did appreciate that your shirt had as many buttons open as mine. We Europeans need to show the Americans how it's done.
TFW you will never be Michel Houellebecq
You are a handsome man, in the classic Gallic sense, much like Alain Delon and Gerard Depardieu, but without the refined beauty and sexual appeal of Michel Houellebecq. Do you envy the famed author and Asian Waifu-Getter of Submission?
Like all "journalists", I am a failed writer, so of course I envy him. But at least he continues to demonstrate that the most important writer in the world at any given time is French.
To me Houellebecq is like the Sin-Eaters of old; he has done the world a great service by absorbing all of the ugliness of modernity to spare us from it, while allowing it to disfigure his face. He is our mirror.
The interesting thing about the Houellebecq phenomenon is that when I was a student my lefty friends were pressing his books into my hands and I as a Catholic conservative stoutly proclaimed that I wouldn't read the works of a nihilst pornographer, while now it is conservatives who hail him as a prophet. Houellebecq is unquestionably a genius, in the following manner: being able to sense, and capture, and paint, the zeitgeist of a particular era is something that many try and most fail at. This requires a kind of genius which is very rare. Does that mean that he is a literary genius? That's a different question. I'm incapable of doing what he does, so I am hesitant to criticize his dreary prose style. But of course it is the style that fits the zeitgeist as well. It's a package. He is a kind of Trump of literature; just like Trump's grotesque of politics shows us what our politics really are by defacing them, Houellebecq's grotesque of literature shows us what our world really is by defacing it.
Pascal bores us to tears with talk about France and the French
#MeToo was an interesting phenomenon. The correct view is that it was little more than a power play by certain women in the film industry. It was somewhat successful in the Anglosphere, laughed at publicly in Italy and Russia, and attempted in France, but ended, I think, in failure. Can culture explain these different outcomes? Do the French retain a traditional sense of gender roles?
I initially looked upon #MeToo as a positive, since punishing sexual degenerates is good (if they're not me). But it quickly devolved into pure mob violence and scapegoating. As it went on and the mob came after men who were clearly just awkward fumblers rather than predators, it did powerfully highlight that progressives are utterly incapable of understanding human sexuality at any level. No wonder they're so miserable and angry all the time.
Re: France, that's a good question, and one which I wonder about. Surely a big factor is that we have Strong Libel Laws(tm); the woman who started the French version of the #MeToo hashtag later lost a defamation lawsuit over it. With regard to gender roles, it's strange, and I'm not sure I have a good explanation for it. There's something to the idea that we're feminist in the streets and trads in the sheets. Officially, French people proclaim adherence to a rigid de Beauvoir-style feminism and yet culturally we seem to be, certainly, more Mediterranean. The relationship of French culture to Woman has been unique since the beginning: our fabliaux invented romantic love (CS Lewis' The Allegory of Love is a good English-language read on this), and then of course later we invented courtly love. Women had a more prominent social role in French culture throughout the Medieval and Early Modern era, commented upon by foreigners. Not many people know that the French Revolution was essentially a misogynistic reaction against the perceived feminization of the Royal Court (recall the abuse hurled at Marie-Antoinette), and that Napoleon's Civil Code was a major step backward for women's legal rights. The French Revolution was also an Anglophile and bourgeois (but I repeat myself) movement, which also tried to import the mercantile/Calvinist rigidity of gender relationships.
There's a line in Flaubert's "Three Tales", writing about a peasant girl, which goes something like "She had seen the animals in the fields; she was not innocent in the way of our mademoiselles." That 19th century French bourgeois parents felt the need to imitate Victorian Brits in shielding their daughters from the basic facts of life is alien to French culture, as surely everyone knows. Maybe part of the bitterness and extremism of 20th century French feminism is a reaction to this Anglo-Puritan importation.
#MeToo could or should have been a helpful wake-up call to the fact that liberal sexual norms just create a wider field for exploitation, but clearly that hasn't happened. Our only hope now is for men to stop being losers, quit porn, and lift weights. I firmly believe that the cause of our derangement is that men have become losers.
This cultural divide has also spilled over into politics. The French Government is now in an open verbal war with Anglosphere media, such as the NY Times, over its framing of the recent spate of Islamist attacks in France. What is English-language media getting wrong? I read a recent piece by one of the people from Charlie Hebdo that engages in an accusation directed against American media of abandoning liberal principles in favour of minorities such as Muslims.
What they're getting wrong is that they're projecting. But this isn't new. What's interesting is that the French intelligentsia, usually so eager to parrot the American intelligentsia, isn’t buying it anymore.
You know what they're getting wrong; that not everything is about a victimhood narrative; that people have agency. Which means maybe terrorism isn't the product of alleged discrimination or lack of opportunity….that ideas have consequences and that Islamism is a package of ideas violently hostile to everything the West holds dear.
But the interesting thing, again, is that you have centre-left intellectuals in France calling the New York Times fake news. There are two ways to understand this: one is that Europe is simply always on a time-delay from America and that we will always get their craziness sooner or later. The other is that an increasing segment of the French intelligentsia are waking up, realizing that without patriotism and a strong affirmation of national identity all of the things they like, like topless beaches and books, are forfeit. There is some evidence of the latter. I am currently reading a newly-published book by Pascal Ory (a boomer centre-left historian) essentially attacking a century of historiography for discounting the nation as an important phenomenon in favour of Marxist and liberal-internationalist dreams, and arguing that nations are one of the engines that drive history. This book probably wouldn't have been published ten years ago. It could go either way, but real things are starting to happen. The problem with populism is that if you look historically, and certainly today, popular movements don't succeed and last unless they co-opt part of the existing elite. The only place in the West where I see this sort-of happening is France.
Islamism presents an existential threat to the French Republic. Statements are being made, positions are being taken, and the smell of action is in the air to counter this threat. Will we see a follow through from Macron?
Your guess is as good as mine. Macron is hard to predict. Although there are many reasons to be pessimistic, from French elites' general lack of follow-through to Macron's own (I believe, sincere and deeply-held) commitment to so-called "liberal values", I will note that it hasn't been all talk. BarakaCity (the biggest Muslim NGO in France) whose leaders happen to think ISIS is misunderstood, was shut down by executive decree. CCIF, a prominent "anti-islamophobia" organization, dissolved itself after the government announced its intent to shut it down. So an important Rubicon has been crossed, at least in principle: the French government has rhetorically and legally committed itself to combating not just those who engage in Islamist violence, but those who engage in Islamist advocacy and activism.
Can France's secularism hold on in light of this challenge? Islamism is rather dynamic, and secularism lacks the ingredients for fanaticism that only the irrational are able to muster. In many countries it seems that only the elites are strongly-wedded to secularism.
I'll let you in on a little secret we don't share with foreigners: nobody in France believes in "laïcité", it's all a code to say we don't like Islam. We have a freaking concordat, for crying out loud!
The entire notion that there is this specific French culture of "laïcité" that goes beyond institutional separation of church and state was a retcon invented in the 1980s when the Muslim population became too big to ignore. Nobody--nobody--is fooled that banning the hijab in public schools as well as "large ostentatious crosses" is a neutral secularist measure.
Today some people are claiming that wearing religious garb in the National Assembly is a breach of laïcité, but after the War the Canon Kir sat as a member of Parliament in his cassock for twenty years and nobody had any problem with it. (My favorite Kir story: during a late-night parliamentary session, a Communist deputy asked him "How come you believe in God, even though you've never seen him?" "What about my asshole? You've never seen it, yet you know it exists!")
The fig leaf of laïcité was useful, and perhaps still is, as politically correct cover for defending French identity, but over time it will have to be discarded. There are signs that it's beginning.
The bottom line is that France has always been assimilationist. The idea is that assimilation was invented by the Republic, but it's not true. When Louis XIV invaded a province, he would create schools with scholarships for poor, talented youth from those places to "turn them into Frenchmen." The self-conscious project of the French Kings was to restore the Roman Empire, and this bequeathed to us the Roman concept of citizenship: laws, language, and culture. This is what is behind "laïcité." This assimilationism therefore has deep roots, and it is perfectly legitimate that we demand of immigrants that they assimilate into our culture, which is inescapably Judeo-Christian.
What of Catholicism in France? Soundly defeated by the Third Republic in 1905 with the introduction of Laïcité, are there Catholics (and other Christians) who secretly wish to see secularism get a bloody nose by way of the Islamists?
As I said, "secularism" isn't a real thing. I am an optimist when it comes to French Catholicism. There is a rising generation of young Catholics, and they are excellent, and numerous. More and more people are understanding that the only thing modernity offers is consumer crap from China, divorce, and joyless sex at best. The churches on Sunday are full in the big cities. Houellebecq is right; for us, the future is either the foot of the Cross, or submission to Islam. And I think we're showing we don't want to submit to Islam...
What people don't understand about French Catholicism is that while 1905 was certainly a defeat, French Catholics did not simply disappear. They abandoned politics, but they did continue to have children, to bring them up into Catholic schools, etc. so there has always been an important Catholic subculture, including at the elite levels. I am optimistic about the future of Catholicism in France.
We must now turn to the Le Pen Family.
Many rightists in the West see Marine as a potential modern day Joan of Arc. Yet she has fumbled many opportunities and is burdened by the legacy of her father and his numerous verbal missteps. I am certain that there is a constituency of French people who have now become more receptive to the ideas of the Le Pens and RN, but find her and her family distasteful. Is there any way that this can be overcome? Or is she and RN doomed to repeated close calls in elections?
The RN is doomed to lose. That's what it was built for. The National Front was essentially created by Mitterrand to be a thorn on the right's side, and that it has been. Furthermore, Marine does not want power. It's painfully obvious. She's inherited a nice family small business that pays the rent, and she's happy that way. In a democracy, the people are like a woman: she must feel your desire before she lets you take her, and this cannot be faked.
The only possible solution is a broad united front of the right that takes in both the RN and the remains of the traditional right. But how? And led by whom? This is a big open question. We may have to wait a generation.
The French want their national leader to be somewhat aloof, above the fray. They have shown no respect for those who claim to be 'of the people'. In this way they prefer some elitism. After all, your country has schools that purposely exist to train the future bureaucratic elites. Macron instinctively picked up on this after succeeding the failure Hollande, and declared himself to be "Jupiterian". Is the source of his self-belief the fact that he has a Mommy GF?
One thing's for certain: whether it's his MILF teacher or the Presidency of the Republic, when Macron sees something he likes, he takes it. And it's hard not to respect.
How and why has the French left annihilated itself?
The same reason it's in retreat everywhere else, right? The conscious decision to jettison the working class, and make it up with immigrants, young people, and brainwormed café activists. The math just doesn't work.
There's the added fact that because of the nexus of immigration, Islam, and terrorism, the French have moved way, way, to the right over the past 5 to 10 years.
I like to beat up on the Brits quite a bit but you Frogs have a lot to answer for: The French Revolution, Sartre, Foucault, Derrida, and so on. You have greatly helped make this world a worse place. Why?
We are a great nation, destined by Providence to great adventures, exemplary accomplishments, and catastrophic failures. I'll take it over some of the alternatives.
The British have had a hard time coming to terms with their degraded global status. Yet some are cognizant of this fact. Only two weeks ago former UK PM John Major described his country as a "top rate second power". France seemed to grasp its lowered standing some time ago, no doubt helped by the defeat in 1940 and then the Suez Crisis in 1957. How universal in France is the understanding that the French must use the EU as a vehicle to reassert itself?
My read of the situation is completely different. I see the Brits as having eagerly embraced their decline. Churchill was quite cheerfully resigned to it, from 1942 onwards. Indeed, in Suez, it was the Brits who wanted to bail first, predictably, and the French only left once both superpowers threatened them with nuclear annihilation (which on the scale of surrenders surely ranks as one of the most excusable ones). The Brits are notorious for not having an independent foreign policy, and bragging about it. (I've always had a bit of sympathy for Blair and his dogged defense of the Iraq war; it's not like he had any choice in the matter. There's something admirable about someone who doggedly commits to a suicidal course out of fidelity to his master.)
As for France, using the EU as a vehicle was always the plan. "We will be the rider, and Germany will be the horse." Didn't exactly work out that way, did it? My view of the matter is that French elites have been enacting a self-fulfilling prophecy of our own decline, while simultaneously reassuring themselves with this EU-as-a-vehicle narrative that we weren't declining after all.
Meanwhile, the French people have the need for greatness in our blood, and this trahison des clercs (a leitmotiv of French history) causes us intolerable pain. The thing to understand about France is that, while all other Western nations were first nations which later acquired states, France began as a state, which then built a nation. It is a creation of politics and the sword. This means that its unity is always in some sense artificial and risks falling apart if its attention is not focused on some great enterprise. In other words, as de Gaulle put it, "France is not France without greatness."
The only thing we lack is the will. In the 21st century, as in the time of Athens or Venice, as I keep telling women, size doesn't matter. Obvious French goals vis-à-vis Europe would include an alliance for common European defense, a kind of mini-NATO, from the Atlantic to the Baltic, backed by the French nuclear deterrent, and a renewed Common Market which would balance internal free trade and industrial policy with high external tariffs so as to challenge China industrially and America technologically. French military capacity and expertise in fields like industrial policy, infrastructure technology, etc. would make us natural leaders of such a renewed European compact. Meanwhile, with ECB capital we could create our own "European" (read: French) version of "Belt and Road", building soft power across the world, with a particular focus on developing Africa to reduce migratory pressures. I am neutral on the question of Frexit. From a practical perspective, these goals may well be accomplished within "the EU", although it would obviously have to be significantly reformed from what we have now. Maybe it is possible, maybe it is not. More importantly, it wouldn't be a (doomed-from-the-start) "European" project where France would be grateful to be an adjunct to a Germany, committed to an inhuman totalizing ideology (which somehow is okay because it's woke). It would be a French project, supported by an alliance of European nations on the basis of a great vision and shared interests.
One thing is certain: France subsuming itself in the EU would be a disaster, not just for France, but for Europe. Europe needs leadership, and only France--as France--can provide it.
On America and the West
You have spent quite a bit of time in the USA over the years. What has changed in your opinion this past decade or so in terms of political culture? I recall when you used to defend yourself from spurious charges of bigotry, racism, and all the other bad -isms, but no longer bother. Why?
During the Summer of Floyd, I commented to an American friend that this is the first time in my adult life that I am more optimistic about France than about America. The mass derangement of wokeness has been astonishing to watch. And the response from the right has been pathetic. Now, America has driven itself into ditches before, and found deep reservoirs of self-confidence from which to draw. I would never write off America completely. But the rapidity and fanaticism with which American elites have committed themselves to a course of what can only be called civilizational suicide--a kind of anti-American jihad--has been astonishing. Certainly I hope the Europeans take the right lessons from it and, as I mentioned, it seems that French elites aren't buying it.
One of the left's key weapons is what the philosopher Jean-Marie Benoist called "logomachia", or language warfare. They invent all these words and use it to shape the ideaspace in their favor. It should be obvious to anyone who doesn't have brainworms--at this point it is even obvious to many normies--that in contemporary American discourse a word like "racism" has as much connection to phenomena in the real world as "Trotskyite" had in Russia under Stalin. So if someone says "You're a racist!" and you respond "I'm not a racist because X and Y and Z" you have already lost because you have implicitly conceded that there is this thing out there called "racism" which is really big and bad and scary, and one that your enemies get to define for you. And it doesn't matter that your X or Y or Z may be absolutely correct. You still lose by dignifying the accusation e.g. ("I am not part of the Trotskyite conspiracy!"). The entire thing is transparently preposterous and should be responded to appropriately, with laughter and derision.
And let's face it, we are so eager to say "I'm not a racist!" because we're afraid of what will happen to us if we don't. And people can smell fear, and it's unattractive. Be not afraid!
Is there a "West" to defend? Or do you see the Anglosphere detaching itself from Europe like I do?
No, I still think that the West is a relevant concept. There is a fundamental unity to those civilizations that emerged from the common root of the Western Roman Empire. Certainly if we take a step back from our internal problems to look at the geopolitical map, I see China, and I see the West as a meaningful entity worth defending, from enemies foreign and domestic.
84 IQ Croatian Rock Farmer vs. 91 IQ French Baguette Merchant
You, like all French men and women, see Jerry Lewis as the pinnacle of comedy, and will defend to the death this opinion (which you will claim is empirically proven). Are the French as poor at humour as their Germanic neighbours to the East?
This Jerry Lewis canard has always mystified me.
Dude, French humor kills. Just ask the staff at Charlie Hebdo.
We know that Jacques Chirac bribed the referees at the 1998 World Cup to favour the French National Team against Croatia in the semi final in which you won 2-1. Will you admit to bribing the referees in the 2018 World Cup where the obviously superior Croatian team were cheated out of their rightful win?
I personally bribed them with tracksuits, gold chains, and Georgian champagne.
There is nothing more mysterious than blood. Paracelsus considered it a condensation of light. I believe that the Aryan, Hyperborean blood is that – but not the light of the Golden Sun, not of a galactic sun, but of the light of the Black Sun, of the Green Ray.
The only thing I know is this: sanguis martyrum semen.
What does Mel Gibson mean to you?
A comedic genius (too many people forget this), a cinematic genius (Apocalypto may be the best cinematographic portrayal of the contemporary West), and like many geniuses, a man with real demons. I just want him to make the Maccabee movie.
You need to show more appreciation for Mel Gibson, in my opinion.
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry can be sexually harrassed on Twitter @pegobry.