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 here). The latest such case is a criminal trial of French Senator Stéphane Ravier for stating that “immigration kills the youth of France.” It is another example of why free speech is in a virtual free fall in Europe.
Ravier faces trial tomorrow in the criminal court of Marseilles on charges of incitement to discrimination, hatred, or violence. The case is based on a tweet, on January 11, 2022, in which Ravier reacted to the murder of a teen in Paris by a 62-year-old man from Senegal. He tweeted “Theo, 18 years old, murdered yesterday by a Senegalese [migrant]… Immigration kills the youth of France.”
A complaint was filed by the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (Licra) and the League for Human Rights (LDH) against Ravier over allegations of spreading hatred toward migrants.
Alain Lothe also alleged that by publishing his tweet “the elected official is not content to react to a news event but wants to highlight the nationality of its author and to involve all people from immigrant backgrounds.”
It is another example of criminalizing political speech. Just last year, Ravier was convicted for another comment made against a female socialist senator that was deemed to be sexist and given a fine of 1,500 euros.
France has been a leader in the rollback on free speech in the West with ever widening laws curtailing free speech. These laws criminalize speech under vague standards referring to “inciting” or “intimidating” others based on race or religion. For example, fashion designer John Galliano has been found guilty in a French court on charges of making anti-Semitic comments against at least three people in a Paris bar. At his sentencing, 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,” she explained out loud.
In another case, the father of French conservative presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was fined because he had called people from the Roma minority “smelly.” A French mother was prosecuted because her son went to school with a shirt reading “I am a bomb.”
A French teenager was charged for criticizing Islam as a “religion of hate.”
I wrote earlier about the prosecution of famous actress Brigitte Bardot for saying in 2006 that Muslims were ruining France in a letter to then-Interior Minister (and later President) Nicolas Sarkozy. Bardot, an animal rights activist, has been repeatedly hit with such criminal complaints for criticizing different groups. She was later fined for calling the the inhabitants of La Reunion “savages” for their continued sacrificing of animals in religious rituals.
In this case, a politician is speaking about a matter of national importance. One can certainly object and rebut such views or heated rhetoric. The solution to bad speech is better speech. Free speech is its own disinfectant.
Instead of engaging in such debates, however, various individuals and groups now seek to silence their opponents by criminalizing speech. France has led this anti-speech movement. The sad irony of France leading efforts to curb free speech is powerful. Once the bastion of liberty, France has now become one of the greatest international threats to free speech.