Renowned French demographer criticizes colleagues’ lies on immigration, says their goal is to refute the Great Replacement

By Olivier Bault
11 Min Read

Michèle Tribalat, a renowned French demographer, has just published a book in which she attacks the lies and ideological biases in the French public debate about immigration.

This is not the first time that Tribalat has opposed the dominant thinking in her discipline, in particular by drawing up ethnic statistics using, for example, studies on the origins and language of the parents of people living in France, which has earned her the most aggressive attacks from her peers. This has also led to her being marginalized at the INED state-owned research institute specializing in demography and population studies, where she works, and to her being hindered in her research and cut off from important projects entrusted to its scientists by INED.

While her opponents are invited on television to present arguments against the right-wing critics of mass immigration, Michèle Tribalat is reduced to having her works printed by a small publishing house, L’Artilleur. However, this does not prevent her from being widely read because of the quality of her work. As a matter of fact, she is probably more widely read than her most vocal opponents, who can be seen on television.

Among Tribalat’s works, there are some very telling titles, such as:

  • One hundred years of immigration, yesterday’s foreigners, today’s French. Demographic contribution, family and economic dynamic of foreign immigration (1991)
  • From immigration to assimilation: a survey of the foreign-origin population in France (1996)
  • The Republic and Islam: between fear and blindness (2002)
  • Eyes Wide Shut: Immigration in France (2010)
  • Assimilation: the end of the French model (2013)
  • Ethnic statistics, a very French quarrel (2016)

Her latest book, published this January, is entitled “Immigration, Ideology and Concern for the Truth.” The center-right daily newspaper Le Figaro has published excerpts from this book on its website, which is one of the most visited news sites in France.

In her latest work, Tribalat decries the lack of pluralism of opinions in the French academic and media world on the subject of immigration and asks, in this day and age when the left talks so much about fake news, which it routinely associates with right-wing populism: “How can ordinary citizens distinguish truth from falsehood if those whose job it is to produce information tamper with the facts they study in order to reform public opinion? ”

For the French demographer, “in the field of demography and migration, to be on the right side, one must avoid being pro-natalist while reassuring the French people about France’s exceptional performance compared to the rest of Europe in terms of fertility.”

Fertility rates must be presented as not owing much to immigration, and immigration as “both an opportunity and something inevitable, which must always be minimized, relativized or made to look natural, and which brings Muslims in large numbers when one seeks to support the idea that it is irreversible, but in smaller numbers when one seeks to relativize jihadism.”

It is indeed mandatory for a French demographer to “speak out, by all means, against the idea of a ‘Great Replacement’,” and “the main purpose of the numerical arguments developed on the theme of immigration – and aimed at minimizing it and relativizing it — is to contradict common perceptions that are supposed to be due to a rather extreme right-wing political propaganda”.

Going against the grain of the vast majority of her demographic colleagues, Michèle Tribalat is not afraid to say that, after a decline in immigration during the last quarter of the 20th century, “at the beginning of the 21st century, the renewed non-European immigration combined with a resurgence, albeit modest, of European immigration. This is why the proportion of [first-generation] immigrants, which had stagnated at around 7.4 percent between 1975 and 1999, began to rise again afterwards. It was 10.2% in 2020. ”

Tribalat explains that to hide the truth of rising immigration, French demographers use the argument of net migration, or migratory balance, “a concept that is not always well understood, but which is very popular because it often reduces immigration to a small stream. On paper, it is the difference between arrivals and departures. But in France, net migration is not measured. We do not have a consistent and exhaustive system to register arrivals on our territory and to register departures, as is the case in northern European countries, which have well-kept population registers.”

And indeed, when they talk about net migration, the supporters of mass immigration in France omit to say that in these departures that reduce net immigration, there are also many native French people who now prefer to leave to find a better (and safer) place, thus accelerating the phenomenon of population replacement.

Another strategy of lying highlighted by Tribalat consists in making the migration phenomenon look natural, by placing foreign immigration on the same level as births and deaths, so as to present immigration as an essential factor for population growth or to prevent population decline. Hence, foreign immigration should be something we accept as a fact of life just as we accept the inevitability of population aging, Tribalat goes on to explain, adding that in terms of population growth, the post-war baby boom, longer life expectancy and immigration are equated as three phenomena against which nothing can be done and which require us to increase our “absorption capacity.”

“These flows are expected to persist, we are told. In addition to legal immigration, resulting from the application of the law, there is illegal immigration, a policy of fait accompli against which the European Union does not seem to be in a position to do much,” emphasizes the demographer.

Tribalat also raises the question of the reasons for such an ideological approach to demography by many of her French colleagues, which she blames in particular on the rise of “activist demographers.”

“This enterprise can only be carried out with the help of the media sphere, not so much to convince the ordinary person of his or her misunderstanding as to affirm one’s moral and intellectual ascendancy in the academic world and get the expected resonance in the intellectual-journalistic sphere,” according to the demographer.

Thus, “the ordinary person complains of too much foreign immigration” and “the activist researcher-demographer will then resort to the notion least able to reflect this flow — net migration — to minimize its magnitude. In doing so, the demographer maintains his or her ascendancy and provides a rationale for those who do not enjoy the same status guaranteeing some degree of competence.”

A natural selection usually seen in totalitarian systems thus operates in the French scientific world, since “a scientist who works in harmony with the spirit of the times can count on an ecosystem composed of colleagues and reading committees who share what is actually his or her own opinions and commitments.”

Pushing her criticism of the French scientific world even further, and drawing on her personal experience, the demographer Michèle Tribalat notes that “it is perhaps on the basis of their opinions that some people have reached the positions they hold. It is not only on its scientific qualities that a work is judged but also, and sometimes exclusively, on its conformity with the ideology that dominates in the professional environment.”

The totalitarian drift is expected to continue in France, as “in the future, if nothing is done to value pluralism, the uniformity of points of view in academic circles should increase, beyond the effect of intimidation, when those who will have fully undergone a form of indoctrination during their school and university training arrive.”

Similarly to what was recently pointed out by students from the prestigious Institutes of Political Studies, which train France’s future elites, Tribalat observes that we cannot “get (back) to an academic world where militancy has been sufficiently weakened for the debate to take place according to scientific criteria, without achieving first a greater plurality of opinions within it,” and “this is particularly true on the subject of immigration,” she says.

Fortunately for France, people like Tribalat and those political studies students are not as marginal as one might think. On Jan 7 and 8 at the Sorbonne, a conference against wokeism and the ideologies crippling French universities brought together, under the theme “Against deconstruction,” many academics with a well-established reputation despite their non-conforming thinking, and it was inaugurated by France’s Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer in person. In February last year, Higher Education Minister Frédérique Vidal had herself asked for an investigation into Islamo-leftism in French universities.

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