One word seems to be regularly appearing in far-right discourse: “Francocide.” It was widely used last October, when the horrifically mutilated body of Lola, a 12-year-old girl, was found in a trunk in the courtyard of her apartment building in Paris. For the second anniversary of the death of Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher murdered on October 16, 2020, in the Val d’Oise département, the same word proliferated in the fachosphère (a neologism describing the far-right online community).
In both cases, “pure” French people were killed by Muslim immigrants. Flouting all common decency, as they are wont to do, the far right seized upon the events to brandish the specter of a foreign menace. Eric Zemmour, a candidate in the May 2022 presidential election and one of the self-appointed champions of this school of thought, said: “The beating, the rape, the murder, the stabbing of a French man or a French woman by an immigrant is not an anecdotal news item […]. It is a political fact that I will now call ‘Francocide.’”
The linguistic ploy is as clever as it is pernicious, consisting in drawing parallels with other words composed of the suffix “-cide,” from the Latin caedere, “strike” or “kill.” Francocide is similar to “parricide,” “femicide,” “infanticide” and, even more so, “genocide,” the methodical elimination of an ethnic group, such as the Jews during World War II, the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916, the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, and the Cambodians by the Khmers Rouges between 1975 and 1979.
Francocide is also akin to “ethnocide,” defined as the destruction of an ethnic group’s civilization by another group. As though an isolated act, committed by someone who was psychologically unstable (and therefore potentially not responsible in the eyes of the law), could be assimilated with the planned massacre of hundreds of thousands of people, or the annihilation of entire cultures, such as following the arrival of Europeans to the Americas.
Through his outrageous declarations, Zemmour has positioned himself as the true heir to Jean-Marie Le Pen, who also enjoyed employing these sorts of ambiguous-sounding words. Everyone in France remembers the term sidaïque (someone with AIDS, le sida), whose construction was based on judaïque (Jewish), which made it shocking despite the word not being reprehensible per se. As an expert in dubious wordplay, the former leader of the Front National party (renamed Le Rassemblement National in 2018) also caused a stir with inventions such as ripoublique (a play on république, and ripou, “crooked”) and Monsieur Durafour Crématoire (Michel Durafour was a Jewish politician, and four crématoire means “cremation oven”).
It must be said that Zemmour does not create these sorts of neologisms. In fact, the word Francocide is not new; it has been used in Canada for decades to condemn attacks on the French language. The former presidential hopeful prefers gleefully drawing on the vocabulary of far-right theorists, such as the “great replacement,” an idea popularized by writer Renaud Camus but originally developed by neo-Nazis in the 1950s. According to this incendiary crowd, the indigenous French population is in danger of being overwhelmed by foreign Muslims. This prophecy is based on demographic forecasts that have been debunked by all credible experts. However, this matters little. Stirring up fear and flattering the base instincts of the French have been key cogs in the far-right propaganda machine for decades.
As for these so-called Francocides, Zemmour wants to use two or three horrible news items to convince the public that people living illegally in France are all fearsome criminals, and that Lola and Samuel Paty were killed because they were French. Based on the facts, this is ludicrous. But after the legitimate shock of these atrocious events has subsided, what will be the impact of nauseating speeches by Zemmour and others? As the Latin proverb goes, Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret: “Slander boldly; something always sticks.” It seems that this racist poison still has the potential to infect people’s minds.