When you describe reality, you're treated as a criminal.
-- Éric Zemmour
"I'm for saying everything, but not nonsense like this."
-- Yazid Sabeg, the government's commissioner for diversity and equal opportunity
He says that his views are those of a silent majority, French people who seek the return of the resplendent France of de Gaulle, a proud, imagined France unencumbered by the guilt of the post-colonial era. Efforts to integrate the country's immigrant populations have plainly failed, he said, and the country ought to revert to the "assimilationist" approach he says it abandoned decades ago.
"We believe that we have the best way of life in the world, the best culture, and that one must thus make an effort to acquire this culture," he said. By contrast, he said, the notion of a country made great by the diversity of its people and values "is an American logic."
Asked why he believes in the superiority of the French model, he said only that "there is a singular art of living" in France.
"For me, France is civilization with a capital 'C,' " he added.
The groups that have taken him to court have been urging an American social vision, he said. Yet, he added, they are not also willing to endorse American standards of free speech, and they oppose the taking of American-style ethnic statistics.
"I'm taking -- because they forced it on me -- the American model, and I'm throwing the American model back in their face," Mr. Zemmour said. "But in the name of French tradition."
From a young age, Mr. Zemmour said, he dreamed of becoming a "journalist-writer-intellectual" in the style of Voltaire, Émile Zola or François Mauriac and other outspoken, sometime-radicals like them. The ambitious son of Jewish Berbers who emigrated from French Algeria in the 1950s, Mr. Zemmour was raised near Paris and attended the elite Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, known as Sciences Po. Later, after being twice denied admission to the even more rarefied precincts of the École Nationale d'Administration, which feeds the highest echelons of French power, he became a journalist, covering politics, and joined the newspaper Le Figaro in 1996.