We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. Often these cases involve vile or obnoxious speech, but such speech is the test of our values. We do not need laws to protect popular speech. One case in point is French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, who likes to target Jews in his popular shows. He has already been hit with fines approaching $100,000 for his jokes and there is no a move to have been prosecuted criminally. For jokes. Bad even sick jokes to be sure. But jokes.
Dieudonne has been particularly called out for his use of a provocative arm gesture called the “quenelle,” described as an upside-down Nazi salute as well as far right references (as shown by a different man in this picture) He has also joked about gas chambers in his recent jab at Jewish radio presenter Patrick Cohen. Dieudonne remarked that “[w]hen I hear Patrick Cohen speak, I tell myself, you know, the gas chambers… A shame.” He has also expressed admiration for Iran’s leader and described Holocaust commemorations as “memorial pornography.” (His admiration for Iran is a bit curious since it is one of the least free nations for comedians and writers).
Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe has called for him to be banned and calls his shows as committing the same crime as someone who “defends crimes against humanity.” He is not the first comedian or entertainer to be prosecuted in the West.
Clothilde Chapuis, of the French-based International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (Licra), called for action against the comedian on the grounds that “[t]here has been a type of impunity” as regards the offensive gesture, “but the impunity is over.” That type of statement obviously sends a chill through civil libertarians. Free speech should always be enjoyed “with impunity” even speech that we find objectionable or disgusting.
Dieudonne has already been hit by fines of 65,000 euros ($88,500) but continues to defy his critics. He is the French-born son of a Cameroonian father and a white mother. he became nationally famous in comedy routines with his childhood friend, Jewish comedian Elie Semoun. However, Semoun later accused him of “living in a world of hatred”.
I find Dieudonne’s jokes deeply disturbing and offensive. However, France appears to be on a slippery slope of censorship as it cracks down on people deemed offensive by the majority. Comedy has long been a critical component of political speech. The way to combat bad speech is with good speech not censorship.
46 thoughts on “French Government Officials Call For A Ban And Prosecution Of Comedian For Hateful Speech”
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He should try some jokes about nappy-headed, feces-skinned bad comics.
Now the highest French Court has reinstated the ban on M’bala M’bala.
A French Court has overturned some of the action against M’bala M’bala.
If you want to fine the man for telling jokes that offend some group then to be fair fine every person that tells any joke that offends any group.
Equally anyone who feels that they are a better person because they find that “offensive” joke offensive should realize that the jokes they do find funny are offensive to some group somewhere.
Nearly all jokes, nearly all comedies of any media will be offensive to some. Jokes poke fun.
Group ‘x’ demands equal treatment and rights. Fair enough. They deserve equal rights. However being equal also means you’re an equal target of jokes.
Let he who has never giggled throw the first tomato.
Not sure why some find this fact hard to grasp. Freedom of speech is ONLY needed for speech that is offensive. Nice polite, flowery, sweet speech doesn’t require legal guarantees. Offensive speech, speech that would be silenced and censored is exactly what laws of Free Speech are meant to protect.
The question about the rapist is a tougher one. I don’t think the victim would be justified in shooting someone who was taunting her though I wouldn’t lose sleep if she did. But harassing someone with nude pictures from the rape would seem to fall under existing laws without falling afoul of what I would think as free speech violations.
If we can manage to get by with people like Westboro Baptist Church, because of a generalized belief in free speech, I think France can manage Dieudonne.
shady The reference to Westboro is hardly pertinent since Westboro did not have state power and kill anybody. Now if they DID have power, AND killed twelve million people, THEN I would say that their freedom of speech should be banned.
Randy, the Holocaust was preceded and anticipated by genocidal eliminationist policies practiced by various European governments in Africa and elsewhere. If those instances weren’t enough to restrict free speech I don’t see why the Holocaust should be.
There is a difference between restricting the rights of a criminal and restricting the rights of entire nations forever more. I don’t see what is gained by the state saying that certain points of view are forever forbidden on pain of fines or prison.
I’m not quite sure about your comparison of British/US policies in North America vs. Spanish/Portuguese policies in South America. Both were horrendous but I’d argue that the policies of the English speaking colonials were worse as they did tend towards physical elimination instead of (just) subjugation.
I don’t think I am a free speech purist though I certainly tend that way. I just don’t think that it’s a good idea, no matter how offensive, for any government to fine or jail someone b/c they have the “wrong” point of view.
If Dieudonne were to go into a synagogue uninvited and spew hatred then obviously that’s different.
shady, The French are not restricting the rights of nations forever more, and in fact it only applies to the actual criminals and sympathizers who committed the Holocaust. I also did NOT say it was forevermore as to how long the laws should remain. In FACT, I proposed a time limit when such laws could safely be a moot point.
As for your contention that the English were worse than the Spanish, you are very much wrong. In fact, the natives of the Caribbean islands were ALL exterminated by the Spanish. They also did the same thing for most of Latin America as well. A few simple facts are that the populations of Natives in Latin America were FAR greater than those of North America. The English came with their families, the Spanish came as a conquering military force. I think that is quite sufficient for most rational people to see a major difference. Then after the Spanish got done with their POLICY of genocide, they ran out of workers to enslave. Then they had to import slaves from Africa. The fact is that of all the slaves taken out of Africa, only FIVE percent came to the US. That means that 95% of slaves went to Spanish and Portugese and some English colonies. Now we know that the folks down there are not as dark as that would indicate especially since the populations were far smaller than that of the US in comparison. So what happened to the other 95%? They were mostly all killed off.
Perhaps the French government should contract with our NSA to have listening devices installed and every residence and business…. Surely, that would be an excellent addition to drive tourism….. right to Spain.
What’s next France…. a law banning comedians from joking about the government, or even criticizing the government? Where will it all end?
AlJazeera just reported of a criminal inquiry into allegations of corruption directed at Dieudonne. He, supposedly, has been funneling money in criminal directions. They are really going hard at him.
If America’s long history of slavery, segregation and extermination of indigenous peoples doesn’t mean that free speech can’t exist in the US then why should (some) French collaboration with Nazis during WW2 justify restrictions on free speech? Do the French atrocities in Vietnam and Algeria and Haiti justify free speech restrictions?
I don’t see the French as being any better or worse than any other European colonial power.
Shady, the reason that our history does not justify such restrictions is that the US government and law enforcement in most of the country did not exterminate large segments of US citizens as policy. The fact is that the US government never had a policy of extermination of Native Americans such as the Spanish and Portugese did in all of Latin America.
The other fact is that there are living survivors of these crimes and the perps and their children are still around and this alone justifies the restrictions. After about another hundred years, I think that such restrictions can be dropped since the survivors and their children will be far removed from those times. This is assuming that no further movements arise of a similar nature in that time. Then another reason is that the regimes in most of Nazi occupied Europe had mass movements of millions of people behind those governments and policies. It is entirely reasonable to restrict the rights of such people after these crimes, just as we restrict the rights of ex-cons after they get out of prison. In fact the US Federal government did exactly that after the US Civil War. The ex-Confederates had their freedom to speak certain things were prohibited. I and most rational people think that was very appropriate and personally I don’t think they went far enough.
To give a more specific scenario, does a rapist who serves his time in prison and is released from all supervision have the right to parade around in front of the home of his victim with photos of her nude as he rapes her? Even if he is on public property in front of her house, I would say that she is justified in taking her gun out and killing him. Less draconian measures such as the cops arresting him would NOT constitute his being denied his free speech rights. This is the similar situation with the mass murderers of the Nazis parading around and having rallies and denying what was done. I doubt that most people would have a problem with such bans in these specific historical and specific circumstances. In short, while I know that such bans offend purists, and it does NOT make for good law, I think that using common sense is the best thing. I understand the concerns of many about such bans since it gives the government a lot of power, and the only thing to assure no abuse is to trust government officials in these matters. Sometimes such as in wartime, we DO have to trust the good sense and democratic intentions of our leaders. I am fully aware of the possible abuses in such things, but there unfortunately are no pat answers to this.
Our so-called rights (I think G. Carlin said it best when he pointed out that they’re all merely privileges) have been disappearing for years now and no one is doing anything about it, so it will continue. I laughed when I read that recently a Congressman questioned the NSA as to their spying on Congress. They’re spying on EVERYONE including the President.
We’ve Known for Some Time that the NSA Is Spying On Congress
Posted on January 8, 2014 by WashingtonsBlog
What It Really Means
The NSA pretty much admitted to spying on Congress this week.
It’s not the first time. David Sirota notes:
When I asked U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) if the NSA was keeping files on his colleagues, he recounted a meeting between NSA officials and lawmakers in the lead-up to a closely contested House vote to better regulate the agency:
“One of my colleagues asked the NSA point blank will you give me a copy of my own record and the NSA said no, we won’t. They didn’t say no we don’t have one. They said no we won’t. So that’s possible.”
Grayson is right: presumably, if the NSA wasn’t tracking lawmakers, it would have flatly denied it. Instead, those officials merely denied lawmakers access to whatever files the agency might have. That suggests one of two realities: 1) the NSA is keeping files on lawmakers 2) the NSA isn’t keeping files on lawmakers, but answered vaguely in order to stoke fear among legislators that it is.
Sirota notes the danger of even the threat of spying on the legislature:
Regardless of which of these realities happens to be the case, the mere existence of legitimate fears of congressional surveillance by an executive-branch agency is a serious legal and separation-of-powers problem. Why? Because whether or not the surveillance is actually happening, the very real possibility that it even could be happening or has happened can unduly intimidate the legislative branch into abrogating its constitutional oversight responsibilities. In this particular case, it can scare congressional lawmakers away from voting to better regulate the NSA.
And the Atlantic points out:
Access to that telephone metadata would be extremely useful for manipulating the legislature.
Maybe. But remember:
◾The NSA has been tracking people’s porn in order to discredit them. The New York Times reports that this type of behavior has been going on for a long time: “J. Edgar Hoover compiled secret dossiers on the sexual peccadillos and private misbehavior of those he labeled as enemies — really dangerous people like … President John F. Kennedy, for example”.
◾A high-level NSA whistleblower says that the NSA is spying on – and blackmailing – top government officials and military officers, including Supreme Court Justices, high-ranked generals, Colin Powell and other State Department personnel, and many other top officials
◾Another very high-level NSA whistleblower – the head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operation – says that the NSA targeted CIA chief Petraeus
◾Blackmail of Congress members may be common
Indeed, because the NSA’s raw information is shared with Israel, it is possible that the Israeli government is blackmailing our congress members. The Guardian reported in September:
The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.
A much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The Israelis were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government“. Such communications included those of “officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court)”.
And it’s not just the NSA.
Last year, Eric Holder refused to say whether the Department of Justice was spying on Congress.
When one branch of government spies on another, “America has no functioning democracy”.
On the current and related topic:
Have Americans Lost ALL of Our Constitutional Rights?
Posted on January 5, 2014 by WashingtonsBlog
How Many Constitutional Freedoms Have We Lost?
This post explains the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution – and provides a scorecard on the extent of the loss of each right. (This is an updated version of an essay we wrote in February. Since then, it has become apparent that the few rights we thought we had left are largely illusory.)
[have a look!]
We have experienced periods of social unrest in this country while we learn and re-learn that the only freedom that ultimately means anything is the freedom to think differently. After each such period we have emerged as a stronger nation more dedicated to diversity and religious pluralism. Europeans are attempting to avoid unrest by imposing silence. That may have short-term appeal but it has long-term risks to freedom of expression.
Calling yourself a comedian so you can rant with no ‘humorous’ point or counterpoint – doesn’t mean you are a comedian. In this country – he would have been hounded off the stage by the paying (hecklers) customers (see Michael Richards) or panned in reviews and that is what needs to be done to this guy. He needs to be punished but not by the state – but by other comedians and the paying public.
I pretty much concur with Randyjet. And, by being tough on the Frogs here is not to say that other Europeans were not culpable with the Krauts in the Holocaust. The last Pope had been in Hitler Youth. He had to be. But getting back to free speech in France, this so called comedy guy is pushing some envelops and the rest of the world, including us in America should remember the true nature of French participation in Vichy France and with the Krauts in the Holocaust. My last admonition here is that the Frogs can not be trusted. They eat snails for chris sake.
I see that you have not been to Louisiana or New Orleans then since they kill and eat anything that moves. At least the French know how to prepare most things and make it taste great. I have never had a bad meal in France or Italy.
Randyjet: I agree with you. Except to say that France got let off the hook for its part in the Holocaust. And I don’t want speech limitations in the U.S. In countries like France that joined in the Holocaust they need laws prohibiting hate speech. We just need to reign in the likes of Dennis Rodman. I just saw his rant on CNN. Never give a wacko earrings, a cigar and a podium.
I do not agree that France got off the hook for its part in the Holocaust. They at least did prosecute and execute the worst of the offenders. The valid problem is that a myth developed that all of France opposed the Nazis and fought against them. Unfortunately the great mass of the French did not take part in Resistance, and far too many collaborated with them.
I recall recently reading a book about a woman who was in the Resistance, was captured by the French police, tortured by them and barely survived the concentration camp after they turned her over to the tender mercies of the Gestapo. She returned to France and saw the cop still on the force who had turned her in and who had tortured her. He could not understand why she would not be civil to him. This is one reason I am against most limitations on gun possession. If she had been armed, she should have shot him on the spot or had a friend kill him off.
The other reason I do not think the French are guilty in the main for contributing to the Holocaust is that it was such a small number who were deported compared to most other countries in Europe. To be sure, they falsely claim that the mass of the French fought against the Nazis, but they did suffer and fight more than most others.
An interesting thing is that the war criminal Col. Pfeiffer of the SS was tried as a war criminal because it was his division which was responsible for the mass murder of US POWs at Malmedy. Thanks to pressure from Sen.McCarthy and the rightwing Nazi sympathizers in the GOP, they got him released from his death sentence and then prison. He moved to retire in France, and some either American ex-GIs or French resistance people broke into his house and executed him in front of his wife. I think that was a great victory for justice. It is too bad McCarthy drank himself to death since he should have died the same way. One of the charges McCarthy used in defense of the war criminal was that the prosecutor was Jewish and thus the Col could not get a fair trial and was tricked in interrogation. So France is NOT alone in bearing responsibility for war crimes and anti-Semitism. If you wish to condemn the French for their activities in WWII, you will have to do the same for the GOP too since they were as bad as the Vichy folks.
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