France’s Free Speech Farce

T. Belman. I thought “Je suis Charlie” meant we were defending free speech. Yet the response in France and elsewhere is to penalize free speech.

By Deborah Weiss, FPM

[After discussing the Hedbo killings, the largest march in France ever and the no show of Obama, the author continues.]

Unity marchBut don’t worry; the US is on top of things: it will be holding its previously cancelled (or “indefinitely postponed”) summit on “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE). The agenda makes no mention of Islamic terrorism or Islamic extremism, even with questionable qualifiers. If the summit’s definition of “extremism” bears any resemblance to the application of the term used by the Homeland Security Advisory Committee, then no doubt the roundtable targets will be the Tea Party, neo-Nazis, and other “right-wing extremists.”

Don’t be surprised if the administration reaches out to CAIR and other Muslim Brotherhood front-groups to stamp out this scourge. After all, as Eric Holder has repeatedly stated…. urrr…stuttered, “[W]e are at war with those who would commit terrorist attacks and who could corrupt the Islamic faith in a way that they do, to try to justify their terrorist actions. So, that is who we are at war with.”

Now, in the wake of the attacks, France has arrested at least 69 people for various types of “offensive speech.” This includes the detention of the controversial comedian Dieudonne, who is known for his anti-Semitic “humor.” He was arrested for a facebook post on which he proclaimed, “[J]e suis Charlie Coulibaly”, merging the names of Charlie Hebdo, the magazine, and Amedy Coulibaly, one of the murderers of the Kosher café incident, which followed the massacre at Hebdo.

Additionally, a sixteen year old boy was arrested for a post he placed on facebook. It was a cartoon of a man holding the Charlie Hebdo magazine with bullets going through it into his chest. The text read, “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.” It was a play on a cartoon published by Hebdo in July, 2013 which mocked an Egyptian holding the Koran with bullets going through it. The statement read, “The Koran is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.”

Reports indicate that the sixteen year-old teenager had no criminal record and lives at home with his parents. According to prosecutor Yvon Ollivier, the teen failed to meet the “profile suggesting an evolution toward jihadism”.

The French media reported the incident, but omitted the cartoon, presumably due to fear of arrest. The flood of arrests occurring after the Hebdo massacre and the “free speech” rally, have been made possible by French laws restricting free expression. Most arrests were targeted toward speech that was anti-Semitic or glorified terrorism, but it was speech none-the-less, not violence.

On January 12, 2015, French Justice Christiane Taubira sent a memo to prosecutors encouraging a crackdown on ostensibly offensive speech. “…words or wrongdoing, hatred or contempt, uttered or committed against someone because of their religion must be fought and pursued with great vigor!”

According to Amnesty International, some of the prosecutions for defending terrorism “cross the high threshold of expression that can be legitimately prosecuted” while “others, however offensive, … do not.”

Though France already had laws prohibiting the incitement or defense of terrorism, last November, France made “defending terrorism” a criminal offense subject to fast-track trials.

However, many are also being prosecuted for “incitement to discrimination, hate or violence”, language which is mirrored in UN Resolution 16/18, pushed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to stifle all criticism of Islam and Muslims. Similar “hate speech” laws or laws prohibiting the “denigration of religions” are commonplace in Europe now, usually applied unevenly against “Islamophobic” speech. Now, in an ironic twist of fate, it seems these laws are backlashing against many of those who supported them.

Thus the question must be asked, what did the Paris rally stand for? It was in “unity” for what underlying principle? Was it merely to mourn those who died or was it intended to show support for freedom of speech? France must reflect inwards and decide what kind of society she will be.

Both Islamists and the French government are stifling free speech: one with bullets and the other with laws. They target different content, of course, depending on what they consider “offensive.” But free speech rights mean nothing without the right to express unpopular, even offensive viewpoints.

Does France long to be the bastion of freedom she claimed during the march? Or, in her failed attempts to fight internal enemies, has she changed her very nature?

In the famous Chinese military treaty, “The Art of War”, General Sun Tzu asserted that to win a war, one must know thy enemy and know thyself. Clearly, France has forgotten both.

January 23, 2015 | Comments »

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