The far right is still howling about the attack on Charlie Hebdo and that “free speech” is at the heart of the matter. They are arguing that the President did not go to Paris for their march because he “hates free speech.” They argue that blasphemous cartoons and art are a form of “free speech.” They also forget about all of their cries for “censorship” against art they deemed to be blasphemous towards Christianity like “Black Jesus” and “Dung Virgin Mary”. But, we shall leave that for another time.
But, is “free speech” especially as defined by the French really at the heart of the matter? France has a problem that they don’t like to talk about. They surrendered to Nazi Germany during WWII. As a result, they were collaborators in the Holocaust. After the war, they had to do something to make sure they were on the right side. As a result, they passed laws that made it illegal to deny the holocaust and/or make anti-Semitic comments.
As we discuss these laws deeper, you have to wonder if we had similar laws concerning “free speech” would people like Rep. Steve King, Sen. Ted Cruz, David Duke, all of the KKK, all of the Aryan Nation, and many others be in jail right now? As you will see, they have all used “hate speech” and/or “incited violence” according to French Law.
These laws have been in existence for years. They limit the “hate” speech that is allowed in French society. Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, they have started enforcing these laws harshly. As a matter of fact, in November they added harsh penalties for anyone invoking or supporting violence. They added prison sentences up to seven years for backing terrorism.
But, what does “backing terrorism” really mean? Well, the French are answering that question. Since the attack, up to 100 people are under investigation for “backing terrorism.” One is a 28-year-old man of French-Tunisian background who was sentenced to six months in prison after he was found guilty of shouting support for the attackers as he passed a police station in Bourgoin-Jalieu on Sunday.
Another, a 34-year-old man who on Saturday hit a car while drunk, injured the other driver and subsequently praised the acts of the gunmen when the police detained him was sentenced Monday to four years in prison. This is after, on Wednesday, the Minister of Justice told Prosecutors to fight and prosecute “words or acts of hatred” with “utmost vigor.”
That utmost vigor has resulted in several people being arrested, charged, tried, and sentenced to prison in as little as three days! The anti-terrorism law that is being used has some very harsh provisions. It targets “hate speech” and is more severe if the words are posted on the internet. If the offense is spoken, the law allows a sentence of five years and a fine of almost $90,000. If it is on the Internet, it allows sentencing up to seven years and a fine of nearly $120,000.
But, what is spoken “hate speech?” Well, it is clear that the accused did not have to threaten actual violence to run afoul of the law. According to the actions of Mr. Cabut, the prosecutor who brought the case of the man who shouted as he passed a police station: “They killed Charlie and I had a good laugh. In the past they killed Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mohammed Merah and many brothers. If I didn’t have a father or mother, I would train in Syria,” that is enough.
But Mr. Cabut also says that there were limits as to how far prosecutors would go. He is sure that no one would be prosecuted for refusing to stand during a moment of silence. Maybe not prosecuted, but maybe suspended or fired. Thursday a parking attendant in Paris was suspended by the police prefecture for refusing to observe a silent tribute to the victims. It must be pointed out here, that to date, no one who has called for violence against Muslims in France has been arrested or prosecuted for their “hate” crime under these laws.
As you can see, “free speech” in France is not the same as “free speech” in America. If it were, thousands of people would be in prison for invoking violence and/or using hate speech. Under these laws, the simple act of speaking at a white supremacist group might have landed Mr. Scalise in prison under these “free speech” laws. Instead he is the number three person in power in the House of Representatives.
I know that conservatives and the Cult don’t care about the obvious double-standards and hypocrisy. Just remember, when they cry about the attack on Charlie Hebdo being an attack on “free speech”, they don’t mean “real free speech.” That is why no conservative in this country is complaining about all of these arrests of people “exercising free speech.” Conservatives, I am sure would love to have similar laws, with a few tweaks of course, in this country.
Other European countries have similar laws. The laws themselves infringe upon what we in America consider “free speech.” Let’s be honest, if you are going to have laws that restrict “hate speech” you cannot allow the type of cartoons that Charlie Hebdo prints. Many people around the world, not just Muslims since they also attack other religions, would consider those cartoons as “hate speech.”
No, the attack on Charlie Hebdo was an act of terrorism. The cartoons may have been used as the excuse, but terrorism knows no religion, race, or ethnicity. It is simply acts of violence against society by evil people who want to control us. That is the point that is lost on conservatives, and why incidents like this will continue. George W. Bush proved that when you don’t recognize the real enemy, you fight the wrong wars. Conservatives still don’t recognize the real enemy!