Sunday, January 11, 2015

More about free speech in France

I've been reading up about the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'Bala at the New York Times, the New Republic and Wikipedia.

While convicted many times for anti-Semitism, and facing currently legally questionable bans on performing his shows, he apparently remains popular with the young, male Muslim population, as well as the National Front.   He ridicules the Holocaust, encourages disbelief that it happened, and is a 9/11 "truther". 

At a time when Jews have good reason to feel an increasing threat to their safety in that country, the example of this comedian perfectly illustrates the double edged sword of free speech, the subject of yesterday's post.  From a free speech purist's point of view, I suppose it may be argued that the laws that have been used against him have not succeeded in silencing him, and in fact may well have made him a martyr in the eyes of his fans, so why keep such laws anyway?  On the other hand, who can say what size following may he have developed if there had never been any attempts at legal hinderance to his views being expressed?

In any case, we can say as follows:  both the anti-Semitic comedian and the religion (including Islam) ridiculing magazine have been the subject of legal actions under French laws that do affect free speech.  Neither of them were actually silenced by the legal actions.  (The action against Charlie Hebdo was not successful.)   We can therefore say that the country has had both of their contributions to the "marketplace of ideas".

The problem is that in this marketplace, the ideas and facts we want all Muslims in France to believe are not spreading to enough of them fast enough.    

Update:   And here, from an Atlantic article by David Frum, is a list of the poisonous ideas far too many French Muslims have (including the anti-Semiticism promoted by Dieudonne):
A pair of Pew surveys in the mid-2000s, for example, found that substantial minorities of Muslims in every European country surveyed did not rule out violence against civilian targets perceived as anti-Islamic. Two-thirds of French Muslims said the use of violence in such a case was never justified, which is reassuring, but one-third felt that it was sometimes or rarely justified. Significant numbers—including an outright majority in Britain—refused to acknowledge that Arabs had carried out the 9/11 terror attacks. A plurality of French Muslims (46 percent) and a crushing majority of British Muslims (81 percent) considered themselves Muslims first, identifying with their respective European nations only to a secondary extent....

A survey of French Muslims in 2014 found a community seething with anti-Semitism. Sixty-seven percent said “yes” when asked whether Jews had too much power over France’s economy. Sixty-one percent believed Jews had too much power in France’s media. Forty-four percent endorsed the idea of a global Zionist conspiracy of the kind described by the Holocaust-denying French Muslim comedian Dieudonne. Thirteen percent agreed that Jews were responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.

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