We have been following the case of fashion designer John Galliano who went on trial Wednesday for making anti-Semitic comments in Paris. It is part of the growing trend in the West of the criminalization of speech. It is 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.
Obviously, the most offensive terms were anti-Semitic. However, it represents another case of Western governments enforcing speech codes with criminal law. I am not even sure of how “dirty whore” fits into Judge Sauteraud’s analysis, but it appears also to be a basis for judicial review in France.
For his party, Galliano testified that he had no memory of making the comments. It sounded a bit like a McCarthy hearing with a Fellinesque twist. I was waiting for “Have you ever used ‘filthy whore’ in conversation? Can you deny using such words?”
Galliano explained that he has a drug addiction and little memory of most anything.
I find that believable but it should not be relevant because this entire proceeding is an insult to free speech. If Judge Sauteraud wishes to be part of the language police, she should teach in an elementary school.
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 was to the threat to free speech in the free world.