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France is cracking down on “hate speech”

France is cracking down on “hate speech”

Hate speech vs. free speech

This seems to be a disturbing development in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings:

France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and those glorifying terrorism…

Authorities said 54 people had been arrested for hate speech and defending terrorism since terror attacks killed 20 people in Paris last week, including three gunmen…

Like many European countries, France has strong laws against hate speech, especially anti-Semitism in the wake of the Holocaust.

The Justice Ministry sent a letter to all French prosecutors and judges urging more aggressive tactics against racist or anti-Semitic speech or acts.

“Speech or acts“—there’s a big, big difference between the two. It is easier to justify criminalizing acts rather than speech—although of course it depends on what the speech is. To be legally actionable, the speech had better be the rough equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded auditorium.

Vandalism and violence are acts, as is joining or assisting a designated terrorist organization, and should be actionable. But none of that is mere speech. Freedom of speech means that we protect even speech we find offensive, and it seems contradictory for the French and other Europeans to champion the right of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists to mock Mohammed but to later arrest this man for his jokes.

Ever since I covered the France 2 defamation trials in Paris many years ago (see this), I’ve noticed that the European attitude towards free speech is less free than ours (or at least, than ours used to be). European hate speech laws are one part of that difference.

Of course, it was Europe that experienced the horror of the Holocaust—and in many instances, including that of France, non-German Europeans significantly collaborated in facilitating those horrors. It’s understandable that most Europeans don’t want a repeat. But they are much closer to a repeat right now than the US is, despite the US’s realtive lack of hate speech laws.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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Hate speech disallowed … unless, of course, it is hate speech about the Jews …

“To be legally actionable, the speech had better be the rough equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded auditorium.”

Neo-neocon, please educate yourself about this quote. A first amendment lawyer can help:

Professor Thane Rosenbaum Deceptively Carries On The Tradition of Censorship-Cheerleading

Three Generations of a Hackneyed Apologia for Censorship Are Enough

It seems rather simple to me that in a region that murdered six million Jews, that hate speech against Jews would be a touchy subject.

The closest American equivalent would be slavery, behold, our touchy subject is race, descendents of slaves in particular.

I imagine it will be a few generations before this kind of thing fades.

Are they trying to get everyone to hate on the Jews or simply don’t know what to do?

I think you are wrong in your interpretation in regard to what is acceptable.

Charlie Hebdo is a magazine. The cartoonists were lampooning everything including President Francoise Hollande, Catholics, Jews, Hindu, Buddhists and Muslims. Nothing was sacred. Sometimes they even lampooned the hypocrisy of the left… especially the hypocrisy of those who praised piss Christ… and so they created piss Mohammed. None of that is hateful.

What the French are honing in on, and rightfully so, are the Islamist preachers who preach hatred towards Jews and the west. They are also honing in on those who damage or bomb synagogues and mosques. It is equal opportunity.

This new push means that they are doing something about the rise of anti-Semitism. It does not stop at anti-Semitism but also those who preach hatred towards others.