Macron vs Free Speech

President Macron

France and European intellectuals have finally shown their deep hypocrisy.

On the one hand Macron is declaring that the right to free speech to be absolute. Yet in the next breath he imposes a draconian attack on Islamism with significant focus on social media. Opinions and expressions on social media are used as evidence of dangerous tendencies. Some words are dangerous but others are immune?

There is a traditional  argument that free speech has to be protected  and the expression of abhorrent ideas need to be protected. If abhorrent speech is not protected then there is no point to freedom of speech. Chris Phillips on RT went so far off the chart as to say that if Moslems don’t like anything about France they should leave. Interesting. So  if you are a French Christian citizen  and you disagree with some contemporary  value you can argue about it … and the French love to argue! But if you are a French Moslem you must accept everything and not disagree with anything. And they call this freedom of speech!

Now it is well known that for no country is free speech absolute. Shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded environment is not the exercise of freedom of speech.  Hate speech is generally accepted as outside the boundaries of ‘free speech’ on the grounds that it constitutes an incitement to negative often criminal activity. Showing cartoons that are likely to incite negative behaviour or incite criminal behaviour  is dubious exercise of free speech. In fact the cartoons could be considered an exercise in ‘hate speech’ and itself an incitement to hatred and negative behaviour.  Would the popular sentiment in favour of Charlie Hebdo be there if the cartoons were deeply anti-semitic?

It was always possible for the French State to declare the cartoons ‘hate speech’ and so eliminate the issue of ‘freedom of speech’. Instead  they are considering support for policies that consider abhorrent views if expressed by Moslem to be worthy of incarceration but pro-nazi sentiments expressed by French Christians are to be protected by freedom of speech. Are pro-Nazi views fundamental to French identity? Why should they be more protected than Islamic extremism?

What sticks in my throat is the supine  cowardice of the French intellectuals not to either defend the freedom of speech of BOTH the cartoons and the Islamist extremists  or condemn BOTH. French intellectuals and Western academia are smart enough to understand these issues. Their silence shows that actually the application of ‘Western values’ depends on who you are. There is a deep malaise in Western intellectual life and Western academia.