In May 2021, many English-language social media users encountered a quote ostensibly written by Jacques Attali, a French economist who served as a counselor to President François Mitterrand from 1981 to 1991, in which he supported the mass killings of the "old" and "stupid" via a global pandemic:
This quote, which seems to suggest that a human-made pandemic would kill old people while a nefarious vaccination would kill stupid people, was not written by Attali.
This quote (reproduced below) does not appear anywhere in Attali's memoir "Verbatim," which reproduces various conversations between Mitterrand and other world leaders. In fact, we found no mention of a pandemic in this book.
The future will be about finding a way to reduce the population ... of course, we will not be able to execute people or build camps. We get rid of them by making them believe it is for their own good... we will find or cause something, a pandemic targeting certain people, a real economic crisis or not, a virus affecting the old or the elderly, it doesn't matter, the weak and the fearful will succumb to it. The stupid will believe in it and ask to be treated. We will have taken care of having panned the treatment, a treatment that will be the solution. The selection of idiots will therefore be done by itself. They will go to the slaughterhouse alone.
This is not the first time Attali has been accused of supporting euthanasia, and it is not the first time that a false, misleading, or misattributed quote has been offered as evidence for this accusation.
CheckNews, the fact-checking arm of the French newspaper Liberation, wrote about a similar fake quote that was circulated in 2017. That fake quote supposedly came from an interview published by journalist Michel Salomon in his 1981 book "l'Avenir de La Vie" or "The Future of Life."
This call for the reduction of the world population is apocryphal. Only two sentences are authentic and indeed emanate from Jacques Attali: the one on the cost of the sixty-year-olds to the society cited above ["But as soon as we pass 60/65 years, man lives longer than he produces and then costs society more"], and another according to which "it is much better that the human machine stops suddenly rather than deteriorating. gradually". They appear in a 1981 interview book, l'Avenir de la vie (Seghers editions) in which Jacques Attali is interviewed by journalist Michel Salomon.
However, the economist does not plead for generalized euthanasia. Rather, he speaks out against an infinite lengthening of the life, after having exposed some thoughts on the interest of the leaders and the companies in that people live long, according to their state of health.
The AFP also examined this quote in an article published in May 2021. The AFP noted that Attali was asked during his interview with Salomon about whether it would be "possible and desirable to live 120 years." Attali gave a lengthy answer to the question and while he concluded that euthanasia may be a tool of future societies, he does not advocate for the killing of the elderly. In fact, in 1984 Attali won a defamation case against a medical journal that accused him of supporting euthanasia for the elderly.
Attali told the AFP that the viral FB posts are "totally made up" and "nowhere close to the initial text."
In summation: Attali has spoken about the possibility of euthanasia becoming a tool for future societies, but he has not advocated the mass killing of elderly people. Misleading, out-of-context, and fabricated quotes related to this issue have been misattributed to Attali since the 1980s. In 2021, a modern twist was added to these misleading euthanasia quotes as social media users inserted language related to a pandemic.