When a mentally ill Algerian woman killed a 12-year-old child in Paris last year, the far-right ideologue Eric Zemmour wasted no time labeling the crime as “francocide.”
Following a recent incident where a Syrian refugee stabbed four children and two adults at a park in the Alps, Zemmour once again used the term, which he himself coined in a speech last September, referring to the “violent colonization” of France by foreigners.
Zemmour, a 64-year-old bestselling author who has played a role in popularizing the “great replacement theory” in France, has introduced a racially charged term into the political discourse.
His use of the term prompted Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN High Commission for Refugees, to condemn it on Wednesday for demonizing migrants or refugees as French-hating murderers. “I have read the word ‘Francocide,’ meaning killers of French. This is hate speech, and I hope nobody will use it,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva.
Ironically, this remark has sparked fresh media attention in France and may have inadvertently helped spread the term further, just as Zemmour had hoped.
An analysis of public Facebook posts shows that references to this neologism have been liked or shared 266,000 times since September. Furthermore, the #francocide hashtag was retweeted 60,000 times on a single day in October following the killing of 12-year-old Lola.
Analysts point out that over the past decades, far-right words and themes that were once on the fringes have gradually entered the mainstream in France, as concerns about migration have pushed politics to the right.
Philippe Corcuff, a left-leaning political scientist at Sciences Po University in Lyon, highlights the example of the “great replacement theory,” which suggests that white Christian French people are intentionally being replaced by mostly Muslim immigrants from Africa and the Middle East.
Although previously a fringe idea in radical far-right circles, Zemmour made it a central theme of his presidential campaign last year, garnering 2.5 million votes or seven percent of the electorate in the first round. This conspiracy theory has even gained support from Eric Ciotti, the current head of the mainstream center-right Republicans party, and has been referenced by the party’s candidate, Valerie Pecresse.
Corcuff explains that the term “francocide” is directly tied to the theory of the “great replacement,” which implies that the French population is being replaced by people of African origin, often Muslim. It deliberately draws parallels with the word “genocide” to evoke fears of the potential disappearance of the French people. Additionally, it mimics terms like “femicide,” referring to the murder of women, or “ecocide,” describing crimes against the environment.
“In the same way that ‘femicide’ has contributed to raising awareness about violence against women, Zemmour aims to politicize everyday crimes involving immigrants,” wrote commentator Pascal Riche in the left-wing L’Obs magazine.
Interestingly, Marine Le Pen, the figurehead of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, and her party colleagues have refrained from using the term.
However, critics have accused President Emmanuel Macron and some of his ministers of borrowing words commonly associated with the anti-immigration far-right. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin spoke in 2020 about France “turning savage” (“ensauvagement” in French), while Macron was accused of using far-right language when he spoke of a “process of de-civilization” occurring in the country during a cabinet meeting in May.
Corcuff argues that these terms carry racial implications and suggest “a sense of barbarism threatening France that comes