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.
24 thoughts on “Galliano Found Guilty Of Anti-Semitic Comments”
Fox News is having trouble expanding into Canada because the Radio Act requires news to be truthful (what a novel and quaint idea) where in our country lies/misinformation is protected as free speech. -Jay
An excellent comment in its entirety, though I singled out the above. From my perspective, the lies and the misinformation are killing us… I think you’re on to something.
PS. I clearly can’t spell slippery…
Maybe other countries are right in this area. Fox News is having trouble expanding into Canada because the Radio Act requires news to be truthful (what a novel and quaint idea) where in our country lies/misinformation is protected as free speech. I fail to see the preverbial ‘slipper slope’ we keep hearing about in Canada.
Most western European countries also has similar laws to France and again I fail to see the ‘slipperly slope’ we are supposed to fear.
Applying our values/laws to foreign countries seems to be the thing that keeps getting us into trouble around the world. Isn’t that where the ‘ugly american’ phrase came from?
Is it possible that the spread of misinformation, all protected as free speech, is the real slippery slope we have been afraid of? Wouldn’t that be a bit**.
I remember attending a Boy Scout function held in the basement of a church. I was about 18 or 19. My father was on the Troop Committee. After our meal and discussion, a man rose and said, “Since there are no ladies present, I have a little story to share.”
My father said, “But there are gentlemen present.” The man sat down.
Well what would you expect from someone as flaming as he was…
Blouise, ditto to Wootsy’s still a cat. Most people would jist sit there and pretend they did not hear it.
Mahtso “What is the risk that these other nation’s restrictions will be adopted in the US?” .
I would think that this is the reasoning among those Iraqi’s etc who want to impose their laws on the world. i.e. Everyone should follow our laws or we should impose our laws upon everyone else..
Blouise1, September 8, 2011 at 11:22 am ~ Good On You! Blouise! These days thats takes extraordinary cojones…
I’d say sticks and stones except that words do hurt, maybe just not quite so much as losing the right to use them….
I agree with you that B’s comment is not worth commenting on.
Is this Galliano guy related to the Liquor company that makes that orange tasting stuff?
“If Turley find the laws in France so abhorrent maybe he should have boycotted them but not spending so much time/money on vacation there!”
Too silly to warrant further comment.
Nose under the tent syndrome perhaps? We’re looking at this situation from an American perspective and that may be the wrong lens with which to view it.
France (and other European countries) had less restrictions on free speech historically and look where it got some of them in the run-up to WWII. That they’re citizens voted for fascists and welcomed the holocaust (which encompassed more ethnic target groups than only the Jews) was a function of the dual nature of free speech. Speech can cleanse but it can make certain ideas acceptable also by giving them publicity. This is why IMO the fundies don’t want any mention of homosexuality in classrooms, no black history, brown history, women’s studies etc. either. Maybe France and other European countries have decided as a matter of policy that they just aren’t even going to let that ‘stuff’ get started, get even a toe-hold in the public arena again. They know what’s at the bottom of the slippery slope.
I like the idea of being able to lump all religions under the same banner of hoodoo, call Israel out over its treatment of Palestinians, use words like “barbaric” and “savage” regarding the Japanese treatment of whales and dolphins and extend that to our Canadian friends and their commerce in baby seals. I like using words I can’t even in good faith use in this forum (out of respect) for certain politicians and pundits.
But, but I see how coarse the public, or at least a portion of the public, dialog has become regarding the president’s race due to the free (speech) pass every assh**e with a megaphone gets, whether on the stump or the radio or TV. Mike S is right about dog-whistle words and phrases but really, they don’t even bother with those half of the time anymore, and why should they, there is no effective penalty for attacking Obama on racial grounds.
I’m not advocating that we change our American attitude about the First Amendment- that would be a greivous error. Some neo-natzi on a street corner (or on radio calling the President a “halfrican”) should get a good ass-kicking, not legal sanctions. I’m saying that different histories produce different attitudes and we as Americans may not be the most attuned to certain European sensibilities regarding the concept of “hate-speech”.
The laws in the US are NOT the laws in France. I BELIEVE every nation has the right to make their own laws. If Turley find the laws in France so abhorrent maybe he should have boycotted them but not spending so much time/money on vacation there!
“As abhorrent as the lack of free speech is we cannot expect other nations, even [E]uropean, to follow and extend the same rights that we have here.”
What is the risk that these other nation’s restrictions will be adopted in the US? Considering that some Justices accept that the Constitution can be interpreted based on what is happening in other countries and that most people accept the Living Constitution doctrine, I’d say it is only a matter of time.
Since 1972 the Pleven Law
http://www.jstor.org/pss/422386 “provided criminal and civil remedies against…racist speech (I cannot copy from that page.) “…language that was racially defamatory, contemptuous or offensive.”
This “abandonment of free speech is not that recent for France.” As abhorrent as the lack of free speech is we cannot expect other nations, even european, to follow and extend the same rights that we have here.
Civil libertarians need to focus on this international trend and educate people as to the threat to free speech in the free world. -Jonathan Turley
A different twist in the Greenwald piece…
Sunday, Sep 4, 2011
The DOJ’s escalating criminalization of speech
by Glenn Greenwald
“The Jerusalem Post just fired one of its columnists, a Jewish leftist who wrote that Palestinian violence against Israel is “justified” because they have the “right to resist” the occupation; is he guilty of a crime of materially supporting Terrorism? Should Ward Churchill, widely accused of having justified the 9/11 attack (or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who did the same) have been indicted?”
… allow bigots deniability when accused of same. (Mike Spindell)
Only if no one calls them on it. I went to dinner last week with several couples. Well into the main course and slightly tippsy from one too many scotches, one of the men made a joke about the President’s family calling them the “Jeffersons”. Others laughed. I asked him to repeat the phrase as I couldn’t quite believe I had heard it right. He looked somewhat chagrined and mumbled something. It was very quiet around the table. I leaned over, got my purse, slapped a $100 bill on the table, stood up and said, “I don’t dine with bigots” and left. Four other guests joined me on the sidewalk and we went to our cars.
I understand that France is trying to deal with the immigrant problem (… from North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, or Turkey. Most are French citizens, either through naturalization or by virtue of their birth on French soil.) brought about by their colonial days but this is not the way to do it.
Here is a link to an article from 2000 that helps to explain some of the history leading up to the present predicament. Michel Gurfinkiel, the author, was editor in chief of Valeurs Actuelles, France’s leading conservative weekly newsmagazine. Please read the entire article before passing judgement. http://limitstogrowth.org/WEB-text/black-october.html
The French have mishandled this situation from the getgo and are continuing to do so.
I don’t like laws regulating this, since they are too broad. Also I think it is good for people to know their enemies. Here in the US Black people are no longer addressed by using the “N” word, instead code phrases and words like “law and order”, “single parent families,” “welfare queens” and the like allow bigots deniability when accused of same.
Stop it you two – its all just sematics
I’ve about had enough of your anti-Symantecism, Eli.
Galliano’s remarks are justified. When they first merged with Norton they were alright, but now they are involved in too many things.
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