Posted on January 9, 2015

What French Free Speech?

Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, January 9, 2015

After the murder of journalists and police by Islamic terrorists, the Socialist President of the French Republic stood before the Tricolor and solemnly intoned that his country stood committed to free speech.

“An act of exceptional barbarism has been committed in Paris against a newspaper. A paper, in other words, an organ of free speech. An act against journalists who had always wanted to show that in France it was possible to defend one’s ideas, and exercise their rights that are guaranteed and protected by the Republic,” said François Hollande.

Tens of thousands of French citizens rallied throughout the country. People around the world claimed #JeSuisCharlie (“I am Charlie”) in solidarity with the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. And President Obama expressed his condolences to the French people and his support of the “universal belief in the freedom of expression.”

All of this is nonsense.

France has long restricted freedom of speech on important issues of immigration, history, and culture. These demonstrations are especially laughable because Charlie Hebdo was warned by the French state that it was in danger of breaking hate-speech laws.

Speech in France is regulated by Section 24 of the Press Law of 1881. According to The Legal Project, Section 24 “criminalizes incitement to racial discrimination, hatred, or violence on the basis of one’s origin or membership (or non-membership) in an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group. A criminal code provision likewise makes it an offense to engage in similar conduct via private communication.”

There is also the Gayssot Law of 1990. Named after the Communist Party deputy that proposed it, the law makes Holocaust denial a criminal offense punishable by a year in prison and a fine of €45,000. A similar law was proposed for the Armenian genocide but was overturned by France’s Constitutional Council.


This is what they should be saying.

There are three ways these laws can be used, in what I would argue are increasing levels of seriousness–to punish isolated comments that people find offensive, to prevent satire or deliberate provocation, and to shut down political opposition. The Republic has used restrictions on free speech to do all three, and some of the very people who were involved in these cases are now rallying behind the banner of “free speech.”

Let’s start with forthrightly offensive statements. In 2012, the French terms “Good Jew” and “Dead Jew” were trending on Twitter, leading to various people making offensive statements or mean-spirited jokes.

This was in bad taste, but it was nothing unusual for Twitter–search for “the only good white is a dead white” and you’ll get plenty of results, and the murder of New York City police officers led to outright celebration for a large part of “Black Twitter.” And however one defines “offensive,” it’s hard to determine the difference between a call to violence and a joke in a tweet. Even in verbal communication, the subtleties of language and context have led the United States Supreme Court to rule against “prior restraint,” or the prohibition of speech before it takes place.

Nonetheless, the “French Union of Jewish Students” decided it could determine hateful intent and decreed that these tweets had to be stopped. It sued Twitter in 2013 to force it to hand over the personal details of users who had posted what it called anti-Semitic tweets so they could then be prosecuted for hate speech. Twitter complied with the French courts.

Yet the president of the French Union of Jewish Students, Sasha Reingewirtz, actually showed up at the free speech protests following the Charlie Hebdo shooting and proclaimed, “[Charlie Hebdo] is the embodiment of French journalism, of French freedom of expression and of French values . . . They want to scare French citizens and prohibit any criticism of religion, so here we are to remind them that religion can be freely criticized.”

Let’s consider satire. Just yesterday, a French court upheld a ban on comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a half Cameroonian comedian who has been accused of anti-Semitism. The comedian also owes a great deal of money to the government in fines for making “anti-Semitic comments.” The UK Telegraph reports,

Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who has led the campaign to ban the comedian’s performances, said: ‘We cannot tolerate hatred of others, racism, anti-Semitism or holocaust denial. That is not France. This is a victory for the Republic.’

The decision marks a landmark break with legal precedent in France, where previous attempts to ban Dieudonné from performing foundered against constitutional provisions on free speech.

Victories for the Republic aren’t quite at the level of Austerlitz these days.

Dieudonné has ties to Jean-Marie Le Pen, but he can hardly be called conservative or pro-White, since he gleefully accuses America of the two greatest genocides in history, that of the Indians and the black slaves. Most recently, he generated headlines for belittling the execution of James Foley and complaining that the deaths of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi didn’t rouse the same kind of anger.

Dieudonné is, in short, a provocateur who opportunistically veers “left” and “right” to make his points. He is not a politician, but a controversial satirist. In this way, he resembles nothing so much as Charlie Hebdo. And for all intents and purposes, he was banned in France the day after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

What about political opposition? The National Front is certainly no stranger to persecution. Jean-Marie Le Pen has been repeatedly dragged into court and convicted for “inciting racial hatred.” To take just one example, he was fined the equivalent of over $12,000 in 2004 for inciting hatred against Muslims. What did he say? He told Le Monde,

The day that we have in France not just 5 million but 25 million Muslims, it will be them in charge. . . . The French will hug their walls [in fear], step down from the sidewalks [to the street], and lower their eyes. If they don’t, they’ll be told, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, buddy, you searching for a fight?’

This statement is hardly offensive. It is vastly tamer than any random issue of Charlie Hebdo.

Member of the European Parliament Bruno Gollnisch was fined a sizable €55,000 euros just days after he formed a parliamentary bloc in 2007. His crime was that he “disputed a crime against humanity,” in this case the Holocaust. What did he say?

Historians have the right to discuss the number of deaths and the way that they died. Fifty years after the facts we can discuss the real number of deaths.

The “existence of the gas chambers is for historians to discuss,” he was also quoted as saying at the time.

Politically unwise to speak on the topic? Probably. Worthy of being outlawed? Of course not. Even if one were to concede that Holocaust denial should be illegal, saying that historians should discuss it is hardly the same thing as saying it didn’t happen.

Legendary French actress Bridgett Bardot has repeatedly fallen afoul of these silly laws in her campaigns for animal rights. A parasitic group called the “Movement Against Racism, Antisemitism, and for Peace,” which reportedly receives government funding, filed a lawsuit against her and managed to win damages. What did she say? In a letter to then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, she wrote,

[France is] ‘tired of being led by the nose by this population [Muslims] that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts.’

In this case, she was referring to the slaughter of sheep during the Muslim festival of Eid el-Kebir. She has also been convicted for making other similarly mild remarks.

Besides the obvious restrictions on freedom of speech, hate speech laws are so vague that there is no consistent standard. Mr. Le Pen’s comment above or anything written by Miss Bardot is far less offensive than Interior Minister Sarkozy calling mostly Muslim rioters a word that either translates as “contemptible rabble” or “scum.” But Sarkozy was not punished. Indeed, he rode his newly found “tough” reputation to the Elysee Palace.

What about Charlie Hebdo itself? Jonathon Turley, in a powerful piece titled, “The biggest threat to French free speech isn’t terrorism. It’s the government,” observes,

In 2012, amid international protests over an anti-Islamic film, Charlie Hebdo again published cartoons of Muhammad. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned that freedom of speech ‘is expressed within the confines of the law and under the control of the courts.’

It’s disingenuous for the French government to proclaim that the magazine is some kind of avatar of French values.

Did Charlie Hebdo itself even believe in free speech? According to France 24, in 1995, it ran an article denouncing the National Front, “whose aim,” it was “is to make the Republic disappear.” The cover was a cartoon of Jean-Marie Le Pen–Marine Le Pen’s father and the party’s founder–along with the headlines: “What to do about the Front National? Ban it.”


The consensus on free speech is already breaking down. The ruling Socialist Party is making sure to exclude the National Front from a rally this Sunday to which every other party is invited and that is supposed to celebrate–of all things–“national unity.” Why? Admitting the party that won the last European elections would supposedly “divide the country.”

Free speech is important for its own sake. As the atheist progressive Christopher Hitchens observed about even those who present the most subversive or offensive opinions, “That person doesn’t just have a right to speak, that person’s right to speak must be given extra protection.”

But race realists need to go beyond that. The reality is that Charlie Hebdo didn’t actually have much to say in terms of reasonable argument or serious discussion. And that is why it is so easy to stand up for it in retrospect. Offensiveness for the sake of offensiveness is safer than defending serious arguments that might more deeply offend certain people. It’s easy to defend pure vulgarity.

Publishing a cartoon of  the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost buggering each other or of the Pope as a homosexual is much safer than writing a doctoral dissertation at Harvard University that examines the economic impact of low-IQ immigrants. The staff of Charlie Hebdo died only because their satire extended to Muslims, a population empowered by multicultural double standards and let into Europe by a ruling elite that has no regard for the interests of indigenous Europeans.


Therefore, race realists and white advocates do not stand with Charlie Hebdo. We are presenting a serious intellectual case on the most important issue of our time. And the events of this week show that there is a price for the cowardice and stupidity of those who call themselves political leaders and intellectuals in the West. We are not trying to be provocative. We are calmly presenting the facts and evidence about the reality of race.

If France truly embraces free speech, it’s time to have a real debate about race, immigration, and identity. It’s time for the French people to be allowed to discuss whether they will be allowed to remain French. As Marine Le Pen said, the “time is up for denial and hypocrisy.”