He is perhaps France's best-known professional provocateur, as much adored by the xenophobes of the far-right as he is reviled by immigrants, women and gays. But Éric Zemmour might also be misunderstood by his allies and enemies alike, a sort of hopeless intellectual whose nuance is lost in the sensationalist jumble of the media world he inhabits.
A slight man with a quick tongue and a fearsome intellect, Mr. Zemmour, 52, has made a career of speaking on the edge in a culture where the ideal of social harmony often takes precedence over freedom of speech. He can be heard daily on French radio, read weekly in the news media and seen all over television; he is routinely accused of racism, sexism, homophobia, fear-mongering and narcissism, or some combination thereof.
"I'm reviving the 'French polemic' in a world that's on the one hand Americanized, and on the other, that people want to see sterilized by antiracism, by political correctness," Mr. Zemmour said over coffee at the back of a dark Paris cafe. "That it is to say, where you're not allowed to say anything bad about minorities."