France Arrests Comedian Dieudonné for Condoning Acts of Terrorism on Facebook

54 arrested in crackdown; Interior Minister promises 'total severity' against free speech the government doesn't like

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Should assholery be illegal? |||

Yesterday I wrote about how the controversial and allegedly anti-Semitic French political comedian Dieudonné was being investigated by a Paris prosecutor over a Facebook post in which he wrote "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly"—mashing together the names Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly, the mass murderer in the kosher supermarket. Well, today, Dieudonné has been arrested on suspicion of condoning acts of terrorism, a crime with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a €100,000 fine.

The arrest is part of a nationwide clampdown on free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, reports The Wall Street Journal:

Since last week, French authorities have moved to crack down on those who glorify the attacks amid fears they could encourage would-be terrorists to act.

Several people across France have been arrested since the attacks for condoning terrorism, with some already sentenced in court. Kamal Belaidi was convicted to a four-year jail term on Monday after overtly supporting the killing of the three police officers and shouting "Allahu akbar" to police officers at the scene of a car accident he was involved in, the local deputy prosecutor Christophe Delattre said Tuesday.

"We must act with a total severity on those who express racism, anti-semtism or islamophobia—as Mosques were also targeted," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a radio interview after Dieudonné's detention. The day before, Mr. Cazeneuve had said the comedian showed "irresponsibility, disrespect and a propension to fuel hatred and division simply unbearable."

A shocking 54 people have been arrested for speech offenses in the past week, reports the Associated Press. Jacob Sullum has a column this morning explaining why cracking down on speech is the exact wrong response to anti-speech violence. To which I would add two points:

1) As I argue in my latest editor's note on policing in America, most laws tend to be enforced more stringently on disfavored minorities. Muslims are the least favored minority in France*, which means that any crackdown is likely to come down disproportionately on their heads (despite the Interior Minister's nod toward "Islamophobia"), increasing both the perception and reality of unfairness. And to the extent that alienation and non-assimilation of the Muslim minority contributes to the pool of potential malefactors, that seems strategically unwise.

2) Any speech made criminally taboo will thrive unchallenged in the shadows, rather than be refuted and ridiculed out in the open. If you're alarmed by Dieudonné's infamous quenelle gesture, how popular do you think it will get if he's behind bars?

This is a worldwide teaching moment for free speech. France so far seems to be flunking.

* UPDATE: Zaid Jilani Tweets that "roma are the most disfavored" minority in France, Muslims second, and as I have no quick measurement to support either claim, let's let it rest there.

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55 responses to “France Arrests Comedian Dieudonné for Condoning Acts of Terrorism on Facebook

  1. Methinks the French don’t really get it.

    1. I predict we’ll see hate speech laws in this country within 20 years.

      1. I think we already have them. But yes, there will be more.

        1. What hate speech laws do we have now?

          Hate crime laws are not good either, but they don’t criminalize speech itself. I can’t think of any laws that do.

          I’m optimistic about free speech, at least. Outside of some pretty well defined areas (advertising and electioneering), speech has been pretty consistently well protected by courts.

          1. If speech is a predicate to charge a hate crime, we have de facto hate speech laws.

            1. I wouldn’t say so. “Hate speech” is not itself criminal.
              I certainly don’t defend hate crime laws. But there is a lot of room between that and criminalizing speech itself. And there is loads of precedent saying that hateful and offensive speech is protected.

              1. And why I said de facto. But the fact remains that the enhanced penalties for a hate crime are being applied (in the vast majority of cases) because of speech.

                Hate crime laws are the camel’s nose.

                1. Maybe so. But I don’t need to be gloomy about everything all the time. The fact is that an individual really can say, write or publish anything he wants to short of actual incitement to violence or malicious slander or revealing classified information without fear of punishment. And that is one right that seems to be better protected than it ever has been. It’s probably the only constitutionally guaranteed right that has become stronger over the last 100 years. Yes, there are still loads of first amendment violating laws and rules out there. But in that specific area, at least, things are pretty good.

              2. “Hate speech” is not itself criminal.

                It is if you can be given additional punishment because of the motive of your crime.

          2. Beat someone up. Say nothing. What’s the crime? What’s the sentence?

            Beat someone up yelling, “I hate niggers, hate ’em, they need to DIE!” What’s the crime? What’s the sentence? That’s right, several new crimes because of the speech. Longer sentence because of the enhancement. True, you needed to trigger the laws with the beating, but the laws on hate crimes separate out that particular statement as a separate criminal activity.

            You can find more, this was just one example that I didn’t need to google for.

            1. the laws on hate crimes separate out that particular statement as a separate criminal activity.

              Does it? Can you be convicted of just the hate speech and not the assault?

              I remain optimistic. I think that most Americans still see why offensive and hateful speech must be protected and I think that the courts are generally pretty good on free speech (at least by individuals).

              1. We don’t need hate speech laws, because we have Twitter mobs that hound people out of their jobs if they make a political donation against gay marriage, if they once said the word “nigger” after being mugged 30 years ago, etc. etc.

            2. You do need to violate the NAP first in order for the state to punish you for your words. That’s far from ideal, but it doesn’t appear to threaten the speech rights of the non-violent. Al Sharpton is in no danger of being arrested for a hate crime. Thank God for that.

    1. Je suis Spartacus.

  2. “Allegedly” anti-semitic? Oh, please.

    1. Yeah, he’s anti-Semitic as fuck.

      That just shouldn’t be illegal.

      1. ^this

      2. “Formerly an anti-Semite was someone who hated Jews … nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.” –Hajo Meyer as quoted in Graeme Murray and Chris Watt. “Auschwitz survivor: ‘Israel acts like Nazis.’ ” 24 January 2010. heraldscotland.com

  3. January 11: French March on behalf of free speech, journalistic freedom, and human rights

    January 14: French turn racist comedian into a martyr by arresting him over a Facebook post

    Je Suis un hypocrite!

    1. Looks like hilarity will ensue

    2. We are all Charlie. Just don’t publish or say something we disapprove of, or you will go to jail.

  4. I loathe Dieudonne and I hope that one day a band of enterprising French hunt him down and beat the shit out of him. But by arresting him, France is simply turning him into a martyr and making him a sympathetic figure. Exactly the opposite of what should be done.

    And “allegedly” anti-semitic? Seriously? The man is by any definition a rabid anti-Semite.

    1. Why not “allegedly controversial”? Matt, for your own good, put down the bong!

    2. I loathe Dieudonne and I hope that one day a band of enterprising French hunt him down and beat the shit out of him.

      And if they beat him to death, would he suddenly become a symbol of free speech?

      People seem so twisted over this, when it really is quite simple. Violence is not the appropriate response to words, full stop.

      1. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. I think that’s how the saying goes.

    3. “Formerly an anti-Semite was someone who hated Jews … nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.” –Hajo Meyer as quoted in Graeme Murray and Chris Watt. “Auschwitz survivor: ‘Israel acts like Nazis.’ ” 24 January 2010. heraldscotland.com

  5. shouting “Allahu akbar” to police officers at the scene of a car accident he was involved in

    “On today’s episode of When Keepin It Real Goes Wrong…”

  6. The French seem uncomfortable with the fact that a rabid anti-Semite has such a following – if only they could disappear him.

    1. “Formerly an anti-Semite was someone who hated Jews … nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.” –Hajo Meyer as quoted in Graeme Murray and Chris Watt. “Auschwitz survivor: ‘Israel acts like Nazis.’ ” 24 January 2010. heraldscotland.com

  7. I know that guy’s arrest is wrong but I can’t get myself to care too much… maybe I’m letting emotions cloud my judgment but I don’t think this temporary crackdown on pro-terrorism speech will have any real effect on freedom in France.

    This isn’t by far the worst attack on free speech, unless they really have no evidence and got him for saying he felt like “Charlie Coulibaly” then that would be a pretty fucked up overreaction, even by the very low standards by which I hold these pro-censorship statists.

    The clamp-down on “hate speech” in general is unfortunate but so far no new anti-free speech legislation has been proposed. Or has it?

    1. Moments like this are when we need to be most vigilant about restrictions on speech. You’re not the only one whose emotions are running hot right now, and it is tempting to put boot to a few obnoxious necks. The problem is that new laws restricting speech, or even new norms for how the existing laws are enforced, will continue to shake us long after that righteous glow of anger has faded. And the next neck steeped on may belong to someone you like.

      1. shake = shackle. Stupid autocorrect.

  8. “A shocking 54 people have been arrested for speech offenses in the past week, reports the Associated Press.”

    Fear is the mind-killer.

    1. So your a Mother Superior now?

      1. Reverend Mother Ken Shultz loves to parrot that line.

      2. Reverend Mother, I think you mean.

        1. Mother Superior if I recall correctly, is the supreme head of the Bene Gesserit. Where as we all know that Reverend Mother Ken Shultz would only be fit for duty as a lowly breeding vessel. If not just as an axlotl tank.

    2. Liberte uber alles?

  9. A comedian?

    “Allah has 99 names, but a Jew ain’t one.”

    1. “You don’t have to be crazy to gun people down en masse, but it sure helps!”

      “Thank you, don’t forget to tip your Morals Police. Try the halal chicken.”

  10. Any speech made criminally taboo will thrive unchallenged in the shadows, rather than be refuted and ridiculed out in the open.

    WRONG. That’s not how it works. When you ban something, people stop doing it and things immediately change for the better.

  11. Even though French law guarantees free speech, denying the holocaust and encouraging hatred is a criminal offense.

    Guarantee is apparently French for FYTW.

  12. The French,carrying on the the works of Robespierre

  13. Hahaha, what illiberal idiots. I’m glad we can return to hating France!

    1. Right?!? It felt weird being Pro-France. What is this, 1861 South Carolina?

  14. Just before I saw the paycheck which was of $9215 , I did not believe that my brothers friend was really making money part time from their computer. . there sisters neighbor has done this 4 only about seven months and recently paid for the loans on their home and purchased a great Fiat Panda .
    all visit this page ******** http://www.jobsfish.com

    1. That Jobs Fish is really slippery. It keeps getting past the tightest of anti-spam nets on Reason. Somehow.

  15. my neighbor’s ex-wife makes $77 hourly on the internet . She has been out of a job for nine months but last month her check was $18454 just working on the internet for a few hours. read………….
    ????? http://www.cashbuzz80.com

    1. Out of work for 9 months? Makes large amounts of money on the internet?

      So she got knocked up by one of her Johns and her E-pimp made her take maternity leave?

  16. These artists volunteered to die. The only guarantee for absolute “free-speech” requires concurrently volunteering for execution by the offended where one of the offended people you line up to “kiss your axe” might “kill your axe” instead of kissing it.

    The killings or “CH massacres” were nothing but assisted suicides for artists refusing to act honorability. This suicide was not significantly different to cocking a revolver loaded with one round out of six and placing the barrel in your mouth and pulling the trigger. After hearing a click; These artists kept spinning the cylinder and repeating. Every dishonorable drawing simply added another live round.

    ONE SOLUTION!

    A law against murdering journalists and press operators who profit by printing dishonorable free-speech and perhaps establishment of an insurance fund for artists such that murdering an artist would benefit the artist’s family?

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