Comedian Sentenced to Prison for “Public Insult of an Antisemitic Nature”

We previously discussed the prosecution of controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala for antisemitic jokes and comments. The comedian has now been sent to prison for four months for “public insults,” including “public insult of an anti-Semitic nature” and “contestation of a crime against humanity.”  M’Bala’s jokes and comments are deeply offensive to many of us but the prosecution for such comments is a further attack on the core principles of free speech.

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in Europe (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here and here).

The very name of the crime of “public insults” shows how speech controls become insatiable devices for regulating speech. What constitutes a “public insult” is intentionally vague and allows any group to seek to silence those with opposing views.

The most serious charge involves a couple of videos that the comedian insists was a “deepfake” make to look like him. The court rejected the claims and found “The character appearing on the screen, identified by investigators as Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, has the same name, the same appearance, the same voice and the same lexical references as the defendant.”

The point however should not be whether it is the same person but whether people have a right to espouse unpopular and offensive views.

M’Bala was previously sentenced to two years in jail for his speech.  He is now friend to free speech since he was accused of sympathizing with the massacre of journalists at Charlie Hebdo. However, that does not mean that free speech advocates can then dismiss his own free speech rights. (Indeed, I have been critical of the French officials denouncing the massacre after previously threatening the same editors with jail). Previously the  the European court of human rights in Strasbourg ruled against Dieudonné and declared that the freedom of speech did not protect “racist and antisemitic performances.” The Court has become a leading anti-free speech institution, as we have discussed previously.

While I understand the anger, I remain stuck on the denial of free speech and association. Comedy is often a form of political speech and a vehicle of association. M’Bala has a right to speak his mind against different groups and the use of the quenelle is not unlawful and should not be unlawful as a form of speech. For those of us who find his humor offensive, free speech offers an ample vehicle to respond. Instead his critics are using the power of the state to punish him for speaking his mind, even in the form of jokes.

10 thoughts on “Comedian Sentenced to Prison for “Public Insult of an Antisemitic Nature””

  1. The thing about hate speech laws is that the government decides what you’re allowed to say, or not.

    Having the freedom to speak your mind without fear of imprisonment is a basic human right.

    1. I, for one, have never advocated that Big Brother should censor hate speech, whoever defines it, or punish it. I contend that Little Brother, as Turley defines it, should discriminate against it by refusing to amplify it.

      You say, “Having the freedom to speak your mind without fear of imprisonment is a basic human right.” Short of inciting a clear and present danger of violence, I agree wholeheartedly. However, it is also a basic human right to close one’s ears to any speech one dislikes and tell the speaker to take a hike without fear of being accused of cancelling that person.

  2. Anyone who thinks this isn’t coming to America needs to get their head out of the stand. It’s on our doorstep and it will take civil war to stop it.

  3. The Jacobins ride, again! So a jihadi is being sent to the big house by his French allies on the left. I never knew speech-code fatwas superseded Muslim extremism as an article of faith. Somebody better notify Ilhan Omar.

    I was just warning one of our trolls yesterday about what happens to Trotskyists. Normally, the purge comes after the civil war, but I guess our political infants can’t wait. Here are some more warmup acts for the great purge:

    Trolls, someday everybody will kiss the national razor if you get your one-party state. The only thing utopia has ever produced in abundance is scapegoats.

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