France Celebrates Its New Reverence For Free Speech By Arresting Comedian For His Speech

by Mike Masnick
Jan. 14, 2015

Over the weekend in Paris there was a so-called "Unity March" in response to last week's Charlie Hebdo attack. The photographs from the march were striking -- even if the famed photo of many world leaders holding hands and marching together turned out to a photo op on a closed street, rather than with the rest of the marchers. And, of course, this was all a facade. Many of the leaders who were there oversee governments that don't believe in free speech or a free press at all. Here, for example, is Jillian York trying to figure out if any of the leaders truly support freedom of expression.

And, to just put a big underline on the whole thing, just days later, France has arrested a famous and controverisal French comedian, Dieudonné, who has quite a reputation for his outspoken anti-semitism. The arrest was over a Facebook post that Dieudonné put up that basically mocked the "Je Suis Charlie" campaign that had become the rallying cry following the Charlie Hebdo attack, and instead indicated that he identified more with Amédy Coulibaly, a gunman who killed four people at a Jewish supermarket on Friday.

Dieudonné's views may be offensive, ridiculous or despicable, but it's much more offensive, ridiculous and despicable to have him arrested for a comment on Facebook. And, it's even more ridiculous to do it when his comment concerns the way people were expressing support for freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

To then immediately arrest someone for using that freedom to give a counter-view, just seems ridiculous.

And while it's the most high profile, Dieudonné is hardly the only target, apparently. According to the BBC, France has really ramped up attacks on free speech in response to all this damn support of free speech:

The justice ministry said earlier that 54 cases had been opened since the murders of 17 people in Paris last week. Of those, 37 cases involved condoning terrorism and 12 were for threatening to carry out terrorist acts.

Some fast-track custodial sentences have already been handed down under anti-terror legislation passed last November

  • A man of 22 was jailed on Tuesday for a year for posting a video mocking one of the three murdered policemen
  • A drunk driver was given four years in prison after making threats against the police who arrested him
  • Three men in their twenties were jailed in Toulouse for condoning terrorism
  • A man of 20 was jailed in Orleans for shouting "long live the Kalash[(nikov]" at police in a shopping center
Hey, France, I don't quite think you're getting the message. "I support free speech... so long as it is free speech that I sort of agree with" kind of misses the point. The views of some of these people expressing support for killers or terrorists or hatred towards certain types of people is speech that I find, personally, to be despicable. But those expressing it should be allowed to express it -- broadcasting their own confusion and ignorance to the world, and allowing others to counter that speech. Arresting people based on their speech only reinforces the ridiculous idea that they've come upon some truth or that they're speaking "truth to power." They're not. They're speaking nonsense, but in a free society we allow nonsense to be spoken.

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