CNN is reporting that fashion designer John Galliano was found guilty Thursday in a French court on charges of making anti-Semitic comments against at least three people in a Paris café. He has been fined 6,000 euros. It is the latest example of a crackdown on free speech in the West. As obnoxious and reprehensible as these comments were by Galliano, the case would have been dismissed on free speech grounds in the United States.
We have been following the case and the growing trend in the West of the criminalization of speech. It was not clear what came off more pathetic yesterday, the drug-wasted Galliano or the French court.
In her comments in open court, Judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud read out a list of the bad words used by Galliano to Geraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgitti: “He said ‘dirty whore’ at least a thousand times.” Sacrebleu! It appears that saying “dirty whore” will land you in a French court.
For his part, Galliano testified that he had no memory of making the comments. It sounded a bit like a McCarthy hearing with a Felliniesque twist. I was waiting for “Have you ever used ‘filthy whore’ in conversation? Can you deny using such words?”
As previously discussed in a column and a line of blog stories (here and here and here and here), various Western governments have been curtailing free speech by prosecuting blasphemy and speech against various groups. Once again, I find the failure of the French to denounce these prosecutions to be distressing given that country’s long and proud history in recognizing basic civil liberties. This follows the perfectly absurd case against Google. Civil libertarians need to focus on this international trend and educate people as to the threat to free speech in the free world.
Sauteraud awarded a symbolic euro has been awarded to each plaintiff. She found that “He said ‘dirty whore’ at least a thousand times.” Really, how did the court create that unbelievable record? One thousand times in how many conversations?
France, the historic cradle of the rights of man, has abandoned free speech under notions of the collective good. It is a Faustian bargain that I believe the country will come to regret as more offensive language is added to the list of prohibited speech.