French Government Officials Call For A Ban And Prosecution Of Comedian For Hateful Speech

220px-DieudoWe 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.

300px-Quenelle_gestureDieudonne 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.

Source: Yahoo

46 thoughts on “French Government Officials Call For A Ban And Prosecution Of Comedian For Hateful Speech”

  1. Laws against denial of the Holocaust in France: [from Google]

    In France, the Gayssot Act, voted for on July 13, 1990, makes it illegal to question the existence of crimes that fall in the category of crimes against humanity as defined in the London Charter of 1945, on the basis of which Nazi leaders were convicted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-46. When the act was challenged by Robert Faurisson, the Human Rights Committee upheld it as a necessary means to counter possible antisemitism.[22]

    LAW No 90-615 to repress acts of racism, anti-semitism and xenophobia (1990)

    MODIFICATIONS OF THE LAW OF JULY 29, 1881 ON THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS Art 8. – Article 24 of the Law on the Freedom of the Press of 29 July 1881 is supplemented by the following provisions: In the event of judgment for one of the facts envisaged by the preceding subparagraph, the court will be able moreover to order: Except when the responsibility for the author of the infringement is retained on the base for article 42 and the first subparagraph for article 43 for this law or the first three subparagraphs for article 93-3 for the law No 82-652 for July 29, 1982 on the audio-visual communication, the deprivation of the rights enumerated to the 2o and 3o of article 42 of the penal code for imprisonment of five years maximum;

    Art 9. – As an amendment to Article 24 of the law of July 29, 1881 on the freedom of the press, article 24 (a) is as follows written: <<Art. 24 (a). – those who have disputed the existence of one or more crimes against humanity such as they are defined by Article 6 of the statute of the international tribunal military annexed in the agreement of London of August 8, 1945 and which were a carried out either by the members of an organization declared criminal pursuant to Article 9 of the aforementioned statute, or by a person found guilty such crimes by a French or international jurisdiction shall be punished by one month to one year's imprisonment or a fine.

    Art 13. – It is inserted, after article 48-1 of the law of July 29, 1881 on the freedom of the press, article 48-2 thus written: <<Art. 48-2. – publication or publicly expressed opinion encouraging those to whom it is addressed to pass a favourable moral judgment on one or more crimes against humanity and tending to justify these crimes (including collaboration) or vindicate their perpetrators shall be punished by one to five years' imprisonment or a fine.[23]

  2. Prior to WWII and Vichy France, Jews were smart enough to avoid France as a place to live. The high populations were in more civil nations such as Germany, Poland, Austria. There are not that many living there openly today. Much more people are of Cameroon or certainly Algerian extraction.

  3. The involvement of Vichy France with Nazi Germany’s efforts to exterminate Europe’s Jews has long been a source of debate and contention. At a time when France is taking more responsibility for its role in the deportation and murder of 75,000 of its Jewish citizens, Richard Weisberg here provides a comprehensive and devastating account of the French legal system’s complicity with Hitler’s genocidal campaign during the dark period known as Vichy.

    As in Germany, the exclusionary laws passed during the Vichy period formalized institutional anti-semitism. In Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France, Weisberg pulls back the curtain on the ways in which the legal community responded to these laws. Private lawyers quickly absorbed the discourse of religious exclusion into the conventional legal framework, expanding the laws beyond their simple intentions, their literal sense, and even their German precedents. Anti-Jewish laws slipped easily and with little resistance into the legal canon and French lawyers often enlisted the laws as a means of career advancement. Examining the work of lawyers and judges, policy makers and administrators, prosecutors and defenders, reporters and academics, Weisberg reveals how legalized persecution actually operated on a practical level.

    Read Weisberg’s book on the Holocaust. Google: France and the Holocaust.

  4. The problem with France is that it demonstrated its Nazi innerbelly, under belly, inner prejudices, outright genhocidal desires and consummated those desires by exterminating Jews from 1940 to 1945. Hitler safely let much of the French state remain Vichy France under Marshal Petain. The French people, government, police, taxi drivers and school moms participated in rounding up Jews and sending them to gas chambers.
    Some places on Earth deserve Free Speech. Others require some muzzles to keep their evil thoughts quiet so that they do not rise up to Holocaust proportions. The black guy is a shill. He is like a guy in the casino who appears to be winning so that others will catch the fever and bet on number 19. He is enjoying his high ride on the backs of Jews.

    France is an evil place. It demonstrated that from 1940 to 1945. It is close to being a Pirate Territory. They think themselves cultured because they eat snails. We call them Frogs for a reason.
    They can not have free speech when it comes to issues of exterminating Jews. They will have Nuremberg rallies and be marching in the streets saying viva la France, suckmatash! Do not fall for the Charles Boyer apCray in the movies. In WWII they were with the Gemans to the end. DeGaule was our shill.
    If you must fly over, please flush.

    1. Barking dog, how much more evil then are Germany, Austria, Poland, Ukraine, and the Netherlands compared to France? They actively murdered 12 million people in death camps. The Netherlands had the largest contingent of its citizens volunteering for the SS of any country in Europe. Then after the war let them all off the hook, and employed these same SS troops in trying to retake Indonesia. They of course, used their WWII atrocities experience to good use. That is why I got such a laugh out of the ICC being in the Hague and the members judging Milosevic who was guilty of nothing worse than what Lincoln did. At least the French actually fought the Nazis in the Resistance and had Free French fighting actively on the UN side in WWII. The only occupied country that had a better and bigger fighting force were Tito’s partisans who damn near defeated the Nazis on their own.

      The main point though Is that given France’s history and Germany’s history, I have no problem with them having these restrictions on speech and press. I do NOT support such a thing in the US since our situation is FAR different and such things are not needed. Though of course, free speech in the US is a relatively recent thing too which I have pointed out in numerous posts.

  5. Good provocative post with some interesting pov on the point. Esp liked the complexities noted by BarkinDog about the history of France.

    My ponder is to wonder that if there were not an audience with a psyche already prepared to receive this sort of information (in the form of humor) wouldn’t this “act”, as well as the underlying message of the ‘speech’ essentially wither of its own accord?

    Another way to say it is to suggest that the “message” that is being expressed is actually a reflection of the people and what they believe and think who are listening to it. It is the fact that people in fact believe at some level the underlying message that gives this mans’ “humor” its vitality.

    This might be illustrated by the audience of the Daily Show and the audience for , say, Limbaugh. There is an underlying resonance in each audience for the voice of whomever they find interesting and also entertaining.

    The underlying problem then is not that something outrageous, even hateful, even destructive has been spoken but that it reveals that in some sector of the population these predicates of hateful, even destructive precursors exist.
    To be less pedantic : the elements and beliefs of racism, hatred of the other, a sort of xenophobia, is being provoked and threatens to grow into something that would be a problem for the existing order.

    The concern then is what to do with a population that is unorganized yet holds ideas that are inimical to the society at large, that actually violates and threatens the current cultural/societal norms, but as yet have not organized into action or a movement.

    When speech is suppressed isnt it an action by those in power in response to this fear or concern?
    On on the other hand, if the ideas being expressed are simply some virus – like hate and racism, and if the community is sufficiently advanced to where most people are not affected by these thoughts …. is it really necessary to suppress it?

    The underlying principle seems to be that if the “authorities” and those in power suppress the one quality of speech as being “obviously in error”, how to avoid suppressing speech that is simply different than the “mainstream” and may indeed be the next big thing. Sometimes flowers look like weeds before they bloom.

    There are so many facets to examine on this question given the elements raised not only by the specific instance of the article, but what it portends.
    A few that come to mind:
    .It raises issues of thought crime.
    .The identity of a society and whether that society is fragile or robust.
    .The underlying principle seems to be relevant to much more than just the superficial question of these types of speech suppression.
    .Just what are we really afraid of that we have to silence the speaker?
    .The eternal tension between security and liberty. Secure what? Liberty to do what?
    .Must the liberal, democratic society embrace the consequences of an intractable inimical mindset and its expression that seeks to destroy it? (ref ‘How Democracies Perish’
    .What is the impact of the NSA activities/ the developing surveillance society vis a vis free speech?
    .What is the relationship of free speech to privacy.
    .What is free speech in the context of society/the context of business and commerce/context of ones beliefs, family, heritage
    .What happens when Worlds collide?

    Ultimately, to extend the point to a next level : the insights/questions that G.Orwell surfaced in the notion of “Newsspeak” seem relevant… at some level we will change a) what is acceptable to say, and then b) eliminate the words that even allow something unacceptable to be thought.

    It is a long list.

    sorry….got carried away…

  6. Bron,

    I abide your ground rules vis a vis interpersonal relationships. Although not hard and fast. People I know well can call me “dago, wop,” etc. However, comedians are, in my opinion, our canaries in the coal mine. They need the same protection we give political speech, which is the most protected.

    You know, I still love Margaret Cho even though she has become a Jeanine Garafolo ideologue. When Cho gets off her soapbox she is very funny. Of late, she has become somewhat obsessed w/ sex. It’s funny, but she goes on a bit of a tangent sometimes. The bit about her mom and dad owning a bookstore and getting gay porn mags is piss your pants funny. “what eez dis ASSMASTER?”

  7. nick:

    I am torn on this one. I think the best way is to let the people vote with their money.

    Some race humor is ok, especially if done by the particular person who is that race. Margaret Cho comes to mind. She makes unmerciful fun of her mother and it is funny but then we can all see our mother in her bits.

  8. While I am almost always in favor of free speech under most circumstances, there are some limited exceptions such as in wartime, or insurrection as our Constitution takes cognizance of those situations. I have to agree with the itchydog about the situation and history in France and also in Germany as being exceptional. I would be against a similar ban in the US, with the exception of the KKK in many circumstances. I disagreed with the Nazi, KKK march in Skokie, IL and did not support the ACLU’s position on that. I think that the state has no obligation to allow a provocation to rioting in any country. If the KKK has such freedom that they can do such a march, it is NOT the responsibility for the police to keep the peace or protect the KKK from the counter protestors. If it is so important to the KKK to march in that specific location, then let them, but keep the police out and let the people there deal with them. I think that will solve the problem since the KKK will find another location to demonstrate.

    In France this is a similar to a situation in the US where a convicted criminal does not have the right to publish and profit from any book, film or speeches arising from their crimes. I don’t think that most legal scholars and civil libertarians think such laws are an infringement of freedom of speech, or other civil liberties. The fact is that in France there are living victims of one of the most horrendous crimes in world history, and since there are many of the perps still around, it makes sense to limit their freedom of speech. After the Civil War in the US martial law was adopted in many areas of the Confederacy to forcibly suppress the rebels which voided their freedoms. I have NO problem with that. Nor do most Americans.

    1. It’s fascinating to me Randy how you manage to contradict yourself in the midst of making your point. You start out with one premise and contradict it before the end of your sentence, or contradict it with the next one.  I rarely can tell which side of an argument you fall on, unless obviously it is about Muslims, in which case there is no doubt.

      1. mom I am sorry that you have such a hard time understanding a relatively simple concept. Free speech is NOT an absolute right under ALL circumstances,times, and places. I simply list the times where it does NOT apply. This is in opposition to those who think it IS an absolute. That position is simply absurd as one Justice pointed out it does NOT entitle a person to falsely yell FIRE in a crowded theater.

  9. Well, the Frogs are gonna have their own version of the Koch Brothers and the anti Jewish Nazi Frogs can use sort of a stand-in here. Let a minority pick on the other minority and then if he goes to far, well, he is really not a Frog. Viva La Vichy France!

  10. France has a particularly difficult burden in regard to anti Semitism and hate speech. In the aftermath of WWII, all was forgotten by a benevolent West which was bent on opposing Communism from the East. But France under the Vichy Government during the Nazi era was quite Nazi itself. Hitler let the Vichy government hold a large area of France under its control. The Vichy government turned Jews over to the Nazi for extermination. So Frei Sprech in France has some admonitions. To outlaw anti Jewish propaganda and hate speech was a legitimate effort to stomp out Nazism. In America I can say that this so called comedian is a no good rotten black astardBay from Cameroon who needs his weenie sliced off. I may get censored on WordPress for using the astardBay word, which is why I went to Pig Latin. My slam against some person of color is similar to his slam of Jews. So, sayeth the Lard on this 7th day of the New Year. And that too is almost blasphemay or however ya spull it.

  11. Prof Turley lays out the problem but not the circumstances. To follow Dieudonne’s career is to see the comedian (and yes he is a very funny, intelligent one), go from someone reacting against the hypocrisies of past and present French society, and especially what he sees to be a double standard in erecting the Jewish experience above everyone else’s, to someone being forceful, if not downright aggressive against those forces he views are responsible for that double standard. He feels that Judaism is afforded a constitutional protection that is not afforded to other groups, such as black and boeurs minorities, and especially Muslims. He bristles to the fact that one cannot, in France, deny the Holocaust unpunished (not that one should want to, but one ought to be able to), nor can one criticize Israel or Zionism without being taking apart by the Jewish elite whose influence permeates the means of communication.
    So it is not just about jokes, it is about his feeling persecuted for what he deems is his right to point out the hypocrisies of his society. Yet his reaction has left most pretty confused, as he has managed, to which Prof hints, to bring together through the core of his dissent, traditionally opposing forces such as the Iranians, the Blacks, the Arabs and the Far right of LePen

  12. The ‘fines’ need to come from his audience,by their not coming to his shows. No audience and he will change (or just disappear). (look at Andrew Dice Clay here. His popularity was over once he was called out for his hatred

  13. Freedom of speech is one of our highest values … as against government censorship. We believe that the way to combat offensive speech is to debate it and suppress it in the open by the speech and opinions of other citizens. Generally that works for us and for US. Those values come from our history. We have not undergone the history of Europe with pogroms, the holocaust, ethnic cleansing off and on since the Middle Ages, the wars of religion from the 1500s through the 1700s. That experience combined with the intimacy of European geography gives Europeans, and particularly the French and the Germans, a different perspective on these values and how to organize their societies and what compromises they must/should/may make. Thet are trying to avoid a repeat of the 1930s and 40s. We are trying to avoid a repeat of the 1770s. Just keep that in mind when we question how they approach these problems.

  14. I hear Bob Dylan’s under indictment…. All they want is an apology to the croations….. The times they are a changing….

  15. I wonder if the fines equal a good advertisment budget, since the government there is publicising his act.

  16. They should tax him to death. Comedy is where speech freedom is critically important.

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