France Follows Freedom of Speech Rally With Crackdown On Free Speech

300px-Eugène_Delacroix_-_La_liberté_guidant_le_peupleThis weekend I wrote a column for the Washington Post on the crackdown of free speech in France. The column suggested that, if the French really wanted to honor the dead at Charlie Hebdo, they would rescind the laws used to hound them and threaten them with criminal prosecution for years. (Indeed, at least one surviving journalist expressed contempt for those who now support free speech but remained silent in the face of past efforts to shut down the magazine). Now, however, news reports indicate that the French government is doubling down on criminalizing speech in the name of free speech after the massacre. France has reportedly made dozens of arrests of people who glorify terrorism and engage in hateful or antiSemitic speech.

Prosecutors have gone out of their way to make it known that they are prosecuting people for speech — a remarkably ironic twist since the victims were prosecuted for the very same thing and died defending free speech against such private or governmental speech codes. Some 54 people have been arrested since the Paris terror attacks. The French justice department has encouraged more arrests for speech violations.

220px-dieudoNotably, one of those detained was mentioned in my column, the comedian Dieudonne, who has been prosecuted for anti-Semitic jokes. For earlier posts and columns on Dieudonne, click here and here and here. 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 and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targets with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).

The crackdown in France shows that this is really not about free speech despite the rally in Paris. The West seems to be falling out of faith with free speech, which is now something to be prosecuted rather than protected. Of course, the prosecutions will do little to change minds and will only make the West appear hypocritical and arbitrary. Notably, the arrests this week include four minors. The government is also ramping greater surveillance and searches. So, to recap, the French government just rallied millions for liberty this weekend and then used the attacks to further deny free speech and privacy rights.

In the case of Dieudonne, he ran afoul of the laws by posing a Facebook statement that he felt like “Charlie Coulibaly” — merging the names of Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who seized a kosher market and killed four hostages. It was later taken down. He later wrote to the Interior Minister that “Whenever I speak, you do not try to understand what I’m trying to say, you do not want to listen to me. You are looking for a pretext to forbid me. You consider me like Amedy Coulibaly when I am not any different from Charlie.”

280 thoughts on “France Follows Freedom of Speech Rally With Crackdown On Free Speech”

  1. To clarify my thought in my first sentence, it’s absurd to keep claiming that the theory of natural law is not based on a belief in a superior being. Of course it is. The mere existence of any organism doesn’t mean it’s endowerd with any natural rights of any sort.

  2. “1. I’ve already answered this, so once again: because you exist, you have all the rights necessary to pursue and secure your continued existence up to the point they infringe on another. They are inalienable because if you gave them up or had them taken away then you would cease to exist as a free human being. These are different from man-made laws because no law can LEGITIMATELY be enacted that infringes (alienates) a natural right.”


    WHO says? Seriously, the attempt wriggle away from the idea that these elusive natural rights are just poof! there because you exist is absurd. Tell that to those born into slavery. They weren’t endowed with those rights until good men posited that they should be and made a law against slavery. It’s human decency that makes good law, not some pie in the sky idea that because we want to have rights, We magically do. Again, rights in theory aren’t worth a damn thing. It’s law that makes it concrete.

  3. 1. I’ve already answered this, so once again: because you exist, you have all the rights necessary to pursue and secure your continued existence up to the point they infringe on another. They are inalienable because if you gave them up or had them taken away then you would cease to exist as a free human being. These are different from man-made laws because no law can LEGITIMATELY be enacted that infringes (alienates) a natural right.

    Everyone is created with the same inalienable rights. However, history has proven these natural rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness are never completely secure from man’s human nature. Identifying inalienable rights does not make them free from alienation. Man has devised any number of means to take the life, liberty and property of others; under the color of law and outside the law. Slavery is an obvious example of the infringement of natural rights sanctioned by law.

    2. I actually cannot believe in 2015 anyone would ask this question. There has never been a government, in the history of the world, which did not abuse the power it had or was given. America’s great experiment of self-government remains a study of human nature. The Articles of Confederation experiment failed because the people feared giving too much power to government. 18th century Americans understood why you cannot trust government but they still needed to find out the right structure. Our constitution is designed with 3 equal branches and other features intended to provide the people sufficient means to check any abuse of power. The Bill of Rights was added precisely because there was not enough trust in the new form of government to get it ratified. The entire Federalist Papers were written because the people knew government could not be trusted.

    3. Having inalienable rights does not mean they cannot be alienated; it only means they cannot be LEGITIMATELY alienated. The American colonists had their natural rights slowly alienated. The DoI’s purpose was to describe what a just government is, what the rights of the people are towards government and then enumerate the “long train of abuses” in the 27 grievances documented by Jefferson.

    4. Human nature. I believe it was Jefferson who wrote that the problem with democracy is that eventually the people will vote themselves out of it. Ultimately, the great experiment rests with the ability of the electorate to fulfill their civic duty and force government to honor their oaths of office. There is way too much evidence to prove why faith in the judgment of my fellow American should not be given but earned.

    I know how to determine “good and sufficient” and it doesn’t exist in a law library. Everything we need as citizens is available to us without attending college, passing the bar or having access to a law library. The fact you believe it is is certainly not surprising.

    1. My hunch is that you are armed with semi-automatic weapons and plenty of ammo for the day you and your ilk need to clean house. I don’t bear arms. That pretty much sums it up….

  4. 1. If not a Creator, who endowed humans with these “inalienable rights?” How come black people did not have similar rights to white people? Explain that discrepancy VERY carefully.
    2. Why is government not to be trusted? Why do you suppose god-fearing bureaucrats cannot be trusted? If they all think like you, will you relax?
    3. I’m just saying that I can speak absent an “inalienable right” to do so. And no “inalienable right” will stop the government from preventing me to speak if an impartial jury of my peers rules against my “inalienable right.”
    4. Why so little faith in the judgment of good ole’ American people to do the right thing? How often are your precious “inalienable rights” abridged? As far as your question about how do we know when “good and sufficient” is good and sufficient, go to law school to learn how to research the answer to such questions- it is found in a law library- that is why we have a law library!!!

  5. “In the final analysis, I put my faith in man’s ability to reason; you put your faith in a god.”
    “I trust men not to interfere with our natural abilities unless there is good and sufficient reason.”
    “I no more need an inalienable right to freely speak as does a tiger need an inalienable right to hunt prey.”
    “I rely upon over 200 years of common law precedence to limit the government’s ability to stop me from talking.”

    1. Your argument fails by trying to link natural rights to the existence of God. As I’ve already argued, one can reason the existence of natural rights absent any “mystical” higher power.
    2. You completely ignore human nature and how it manifests itself in governance and society. There is no historical evidence that proves government can EVER be trusted to leave the people free to use their “natural abilities”, nor has a culture EVER been a reliable overseer of its own government.
    3. Your inalienable right to speak freely is not about your ability to speak; it is about your right to do it free of interference by government.
    4. 200 years? What is the limiting feature of common law? How do we know when “good and sufficient reason” is good and sufficient? If our culture accepts Sharia Law as good and sufficient then are we to be subject to that law?

    It is a common misconception that natural law and inalienable rights are subject to cultural morality. Once again I’ll refer to the one man, alone in the state of nature; that man has certain natural rights necessary for him to pursue and secure his survival. It is only those rights that man brings with him into civil society that are inalienable and therefore not subject to the will of society or government. It is only after man enters into the social contract that morality is factored into what society accepts under positive law. And positive law is not justified if it infringes natural rights.

  6. There is no natural law library.

    Sure there is, listed under “moral philosophy”.

    For those who reject the very idea of “natural law”, this question: Have you ever considered a law to be unjust or invalid? If so, on what basis? That seems to be a key feature of natural law.

    If your basis is the US constitution, then I’d ask whether you think that document–and the Declaration of Independence–has its basis in natural law theory.

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