"Je Suis Charlie," but your free speech is terrorism


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Interesting that France cracked down Israel’s critics, when France is one of the European countries that is most unsafe to be a Jew (50% of all racial/religious attacks in the country are against the French Jews, who make up less than half a percent of the population).


Due to the Charlie Hebdo shootings and several other incidents we had a lot “debate” on what the “limits of humor” should be in Spain. What can be considered “humor”? When a joke is too “offensive” to have surpassed the acceptable limit?

Unsurprisingly, only a few people put the limit of humor in the mind of the listener instead of the mouth or hands of the comediant. That is, that joke may be gross, idiotic, insulting, whatever you want… and you are entitled to feel that way and to expose that point of view and thats it. No, it was necessary to have laws and institutions and I dont know what else to determine when to punish somebody for saying something somebody else took offense with. And the usual suspects, of course, keep coming up. Religion is too important, so dont make jokes about it, because that is a crime, as it offends the believers. And that somehow is worse than offending the basic human dignity by deciding what ideas are above reproach and who should shut up while others proselitize.


Liberté, égalité, fraternité*

* offre non valable pour certaines opinions, religions ou ethnies.


It sounds like in a messed up sort of way they are trying to do something about that.


As much as I agree with the importance of guaranteeing free speech for everyone, including bad jokes, I don’t believe Dieudonné has anything to do with that. If you want to illustrate free speech issues in France, that’s probably the worst example you could find.

Dieudonné has had a long history of issues with justice, long before Charlie Hebdo attacks. He has won some trials (because of free speech laws) and he has lost others (because of laws against expressing racial hatred in public). He has been condemned for some very specific words. But he’s also used free speech more than any other Frenchman. He’s been saying awful things, in my view. He’s not been condemned for them. And that’s good. He just happened to hit the limit once or twice, and this limit has not moved because of the current state of emergency. That’s just the law as it already was before.

As you may know, anti-semitism has risen recently in France. Justice is there to put facts into a context and to, well, judge depending on many factors. Were Jews completely safe in France, Dieudonné might not have been sentenced. Had he said the same against Catholics, he might not have been sentenced. Would someone repeatedly call against Muslims today, he would undoubtedly be found guilty in the same way, given the very delicate context. Equality does not mean you can publicly hate all religions in the same way. It means that whatever your faith is, you must be as safe when you walk in the street.

Seen from inside, the free speech issue in France today is not that a Jew hater can be condemned for hating publicly. It is that you can play jokes that are culturally relevant in France, that are not even being considered offensive (still, would that be an issue?), because they are understood as jokes, and these jokes get later published without any explanation, without any context, in countries where they are of course being considered not as jokes but as insults. Except the jokes were never designed to be published there, and they were not targeting these people. Years later, it backfires and kills hundred of people. That’s the current issue with free speech, seen from here. How can we overcome the cultural gap without censoring ourselves?


If there was any piece of legislation in the world I would say I was the most impressed with, it’s the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

As repugnant as free speech can sometimes get (of the Westborough Baptist variety, for example) it’s still the ultimate guarantee of freedom you could ever hope for. No matter how bad things can get, freedom of speech and thought leads to free peoples. It’s not to say it isn’t a hard fought freedom and there won’t ever be steps backward, but as long as you can’t be silenced, you can make your case, you can change hearts and minds.

Free speech can also be used by those who want to take freedom away, however. But this too does us a service. For since we have to continuously remind ourselves what’s at stake when the seductive arguments to treat those who aren’t as powerful as we are with contempt and further powerlessness, we remain ever vigilant. When you send this speech underground by making it illegal, how much more unprepared are we when it suddenly surfaces again with overwhelming support.


this would be my pick:

Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.


Let’s hope that someday we’ll live in a world where the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights actually has some teeth.


I am not holding my breath (though I would love to be wrong).


50% of reported racial/religious attacks that are taken seriously by authorities are against the French Jews*

*This clarification does not diminish the significance of anti-semitic violence.


Yep. It’s been made very clear since the early aftermath of the Hebdo shootings that “free speech” is for the powerful. I’ve consistently advocated against the current trend to devalue the universality of human and civil rights, because this sort of picking and choosing always ends with the powerful picking and the powerless having no choice.


Yes, actually, it does. Dieudonné undoubtedly hurts feelings. Charlie Hebdo does the same. They are both entitled to their opinion.

To punish and prosecute them for their words — beyond threats of immediate physical danger — is pure thoughtcrime.


It is really hard for me to understand what the heck is going on, when so much of the reporting is abstract.

But the implied erosion of free speech makes my spine go cold. The BBS in the last few weeks has had discussions on the limits of speech, bullying, being an asshat, and so on. And while I agree hateful speech needs a quick slap in the face, controversial speech doesn’t.

But no speech deserves jail time, a firing, administrative leave, a flogging, or anything of the sort. Casual dismissal is way more effective.


That’s not the trend. Unfortunately the trend seems to be the left meeting the right in perfect horseshoe on this. As always, I could care less about the right-wing being a bunch of asshats, but the left’s current move in this direction is far more alarming because I expect more and better. I’ve read a lot of very eloquent and reasoned arguments invoking systems of privilege. Here’s the problem: Power. The powerful start off having it and knowing how to use it. They will use the power you inadvertently give them 100% of the time, and they will be better at using it than you are 100% of the time. Right and wrong really doesn’t enter into it. I’ve gotten into more than a couple of arguments where people think I’m talking about morality or disputing the basis upon which various ideas about limiting speech are based. I’m not, I’m invariably arguing that the systems they’re creating are highly exploitable by people with power, with zero regards to their intentions… It’s about the heuristics. It’s like the time I tried to cross on a crosswalk with the right of way and nearly got creamed by a car turning into the crosswalk. A fellow pedestrian saw what happened and said, “You were right, but he was big enough that it didn’t matter.” Being in the right does not imbue you with magical physics and sociology defying superpowers…


Not really a huge surprise, though. It is really pretty normal for the people stooping to extreme measures to be doing so because they think that they have a problem; or for the people who think that they have a problem that is getting out of control to start doing increasingly dangerous things in the hope of stopping it.


Not to get in the way of the Outrage Mobile but it should be pointed out that “free speech” doesn’t mean the same thing everywhere, especially in Europe.


Legally no, not all of us are lucky enough to have it guaranteed in our constitution.


Almost everybody believes in freedom of my speech.

It’s freedom of your that tends to be controversial.


Unless defined well, that is a very dangerous position, because “dignity” can be defined in such a way that disagreeing with people politically or religiously can be an affront to human dignity, a tactic that anti-blasphemy laws try to take.