Posts Tagged ‘François Hollande’

Crossing the Line

January 23, 2015

DeWayne Wickham believes that the French magazine Charlie Hebdo has gone too far. They have crossed the line between free speech and toxic talk and thus is responsible for much of the violence committed by Muslims in France and around the world. He writes in USA Today;

Charlie Hebdo has gone too far.

In its first publication following the Jan. 7 attack on its Paris office, in which two Muslim gunmen massacred 12 people, the once little-known French satirical news weekly crossed the line that separates free speech from toxic talk.

Charlie Hebdo‘s latest depiction of the prophet Mohammed — a repeat of the very action that is thought to have sparked the murderous attack on its office — predictably has given rise to widespread violence in nations with large Muslim populations. Its irreverence of Mohammed once moved the French tabloid to portray him naked in a pornographic pose. In another caricature, it showed Mohammed being beheaded by a member of the Islamic State.

While free speech is one of democracy’s most important pillars, it has its limits. H.L. Mencken, the fabled columnist who described himself as “an extreme libertarian,” said that he believed in free speech“up to the last limits of the endurable.”

French President Francois Hollande, apparently, disagrees. He defendsCharlie Hebdo‘s latest depiction of Mohammed by saying that protesters in other countries don’t understand France’s embrace of free speech.

But even as Hollande defends Charlie Hebdo‘s right to publish images of Mohammed that many Muslims consider sacrilegious and hateful, his government has imprisoned dozens of people who have condemned the magazine with talk the French won’t tolerate. Those arrested are accused of speaking in support of the attack on the magazine, and a separate assault on a kosher store in Paris by a lone Muslim gunman with links to the men who attacked Charlie Hebdo.

While the Obama administration condemned these deadly attacks, it probably wasn’t surprised. Two years ago, then-press secretary Jay Carney questioned the judgment ofCharlie Hebdo‘s editors when they published an offensive depiction of Mohammed. That came a year after the newspaper’s office was firebombed when it tauntingly named Mohammed its guest editor. That portrayal came with a caption that read: “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.”

 

In 1919, the Supreme Court ruled speech that presents a “clear and present danger” is not protected by the First Amendment. Crying “fire” in a quiet, uninhabited place is one thing, the court said. But “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

Twenty-two years later, the Supreme Court ruled that forms of expression that “inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace” are fighting words that are not protected by the First Amendment.

If Charlie Hebdo‘s irreverent portrayal of Mohammed before the Jan. 7 attack wasn’t thought to constitute fighting words, or a clear and present danger, there should be no doubt now that the newspaper’s continued mocking of the Islamic prophet incites violence. And it pushes Charlie Hebdo‘s free speech claim beyond the limits of the endurable.

The principle that Mr. Wickham seems to be enunciating seems to be that freedom of speech is all very well unless someone is upset by what is being spoken or written, in which case, that speech should be suppressed. I wonder if he has really thought through the implications of this principle. If the idea that only speech that offends no one should be permitted is applied even-handedly, than only the blandest sort of platitudes can be allowed, given that there are so many people offended by seemingly innocent expressions. Of course, this principle of forbidding “toxic talk” cannot be even-handedly applied even with the best efforts. In practice, it will be those quick to use force, either violent or otherwise whose feelings will be spared. A pornographic portrayal of Jesus or Buddha is permitted. Christians and Buddhists do not usually respond to insults with bombs or guns. A pornographic portrayal of Mohammed is forbidden. Muslims often respond to insults with murderous rage.

Mr. Wickham justifies this sort of distinction by invoking the example of a man crying fire in a crowded theater. The editors of Charlie Hebdo knew that their cartoons would provoke violence that would create a clear and present danger to the peace. Therefore, their fighting words should be prohibited. He further accuses the French authorities of hypocrisy in defended Charlie Hebdo’s free speech rights while denying the rights of those who have called for violence against the magazine. I do not think that DeWayne Wickham really understands the meaning of the phrase inciting to violence nor does he appear to make a distinction between speech that someone may find offensive and speech that calls for violence against a person perceived to be causing offense. The former must be permitted or there is no freedom of speech. The latter must be forbidden or the violent will deny freedom of speech.

I will try to explain what I mean. If I am addressing a rally of the Ku Klux Klan and I state that everyone in the audience should go out and kill an African-American ( I know what word they would really use, but nevermind.) that would clearly be an incitement to violence. If someone actually did kill someone afterwards, I might be considered legally responsible. I would certainly be morally responsible. Clearly, such speech ought not to be allowed. If, on the other hand, I made the statement that African-Americans were all stupid, that would not be an incitement to violence, even if such a statement would certainly be offensive to an African-American reporter covering the rally. If that reporter jumped up onto the podium and punched me in the face, he would be arrested and charged with assault. The fact that he found my speech offensive would not be considered justification for his action, although a jury might not convict him. The Black reporter would be responsible for his action, not me. The statement that African-Americans are all stupid is protected speech, even if the statement is offensive and even hateful.

In like fashion, Charlie Hebdo is not responsible for the actions of Muslims who find its cartoons offensive. They do not have to read the magazine. They can publish their own magazine mocking the sort of people the cartoonists and editors are likely to be. To blame Charlie Hebdo for their actions is really rather insulting since it implies that those people are savages who cannot really be responsible for their actions. To argue that this magazine should be in any way suppressed because of the threat of violence is giving the violent a veto over our speech and thus ending the concept of free speech. One might think that the dean of a school of journalism would understand that.

 

Charlie Hebdo Attacked Again

January 7, 2015

On November 2,2011 the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had its offices fire-bombed. Today gunmen attacked the offices of Charle Hebdo killing 12 people. The motivation for these attacks remains unclear.

One might suspect these attacks might have something to do with the magazine’s history of making fun of Islam, but Islam is the Religion of Peace and surely no Muslim were resort to violence to avenge an insult to his faith.

All kidding aside, here is the story from Sky News.

Three masked gunmen stormed the offices of the controversial publication, which has previously been attacked for its portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed.

They were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade during the attack on Wednesday morning.

French President Francois Hollande has declared a national day of mourning tomorrow.

The attackers are said to have called out their victims by name before shooting them. In one video clip, one of them is heard to shout: “We have avenged the prophet.”

They were let into the building by a female employee who was threatened along with her daughter and forced to punch a security code into a keypad to allow them inside.

The editor and a cartoonist for the newspaper, who went by the pen names Charb and Cabu, were among those killed.

Radio France chief executive Mathieu Gilet announced on Twitter that a contributor, Bernard Maris, was another of the victims.

Two police officers were also among the dead, including one assigned as Charb’s bodyguard after death threats were made against him.

Another 11 people have also been injured, at least four seriously.

After the attack, the gunmen returned to their black Citroen getaway car and shouted: “We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed, we have killed Charlie Hebdo.”

The vehicle was later abandoned and is being examined by forensics teams.

The response by world leaders seems to be encouraging.

 

President Hollande condemned the attack as “an act of barbarism”.

In a televised address, he said: “We have to respond according to the crime, first of all by finding the authors of this infamy and we have to ensure that they are arrested, judged and… punished very severely.

“Everything will be done in order to apprehend them.

“We must also protect all public buildings… security forces will be deployed everywhere where there could be a threat.

“Our best weapon is our unity, the unity of all our citizens, nothing can divide us, nothing must separate us. Freedom will always be stronger than barbarism.”

Parisiens turned out at 7pm on the Place de la Republique in a show of support for the victims and of the right of free speech.

US President Barack Obama and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin both condemned the shootings.

David Cameron tweeted: “The murders in Paris are sickening. We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”

Unfortunately, British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Francois Hollande don’t really mean what they are saying. If there is anyone in Europe still clear minded enough and with the intellectual integrity to make logical conclusions based on available evidence, he will have to conclude that Islam, as it is currently practiced, is simply not compatible with democratic values such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. And if such a person is brave enough to state such conclusions publicly, statesmen like Cameron and Hollande will be quick to attack him as a racist, a bigot , and an islamophobe. I expect that there will be statements on how this atrocity is in no way connected to Islam. The criminals involved are extremists and not at all like the majority of peaceful Muslims. This isn’t actually true, but it keeps them from having to face up to the real issues involved.

Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of Drancy mosque in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, said: “These are criminals, barbarians. They have sold their soul to hell. This is not freedom.

“This is not Islam and I hope the French will come out united at the end of this.”

I hate to say it, but Hassen Chalghoumi does not seem to hold views typical of most Muslims who live in France. If his Wikipedia article is

accurate, he is more tolerant and westernized than most French Muslims and has become rather controversial for his friendship with Jews and his opposition to Islamism. I am also afraid that he is not being completely honest about the traditions and doctrines of his faith regarding the life and deeds of Mohammed. Mr. Chalghoumi is likely sincere in his desire to reform Islam in a more peaceful direction but the controversy  he is facing illustrate the difficulty of any reform is Islam.

The simple truth is that the gunmen were following Mohammed’s example. Mohammed did, in fact, sanction the murder of poets who ridiculed or opposed him.  Stories about Muhammad’s life and sayings are an important source of Islamic law and doctrine, and many of these stories affirm his violent deeds. Since Mohammad is considered a perfect man whose example every Muslim should follow, this presents a problem. Mohammad cannot be simply dismissed as a man who lived in a violent time and place. His example and the Koran applies universally. In order for Islam to become a true religion of peace, Muslims are going to have to reject what seems to be an essential part of Muhammad’s and ignore those verses of the Koran which seem to promote violence against the unbelievers. I am not sure it is reasonable to expect that of them.

In the meantime, we must not let fear, whether of terrorist attack or of being considered politically incorrect, deter of criticizing or ridiculing Islam when criticism or ridicule is warranted. If we allow the terrorists and the bullies to l us what is acceptable to say or laugh at, we will be giving away the freedoms we have worked so long and hard for. Nobody likes having their faith laughed at. Most of us in the West have learned to respect the right of people to say things we don’t want to hear.  If the Muslim population in the various European countries and here in America cannot learn to respect the freedoms of others,  they are welcome to move back to their home countries where freedom is a distant dream.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day - Mohammed by Hlkolaya

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day – Mohammed by Hlkolaya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

100% Tax Rate

March 29, 2012

I’ve been paying attention to American politics but they are having an election over in France too. French President Nicholas Sarkozy is facing a tough fight for reelection against Socialist Francois Hollande. Rising in the polls in the more radical leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has some interesting ideas.I should let The Guardian explain.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the hard left, anti-capitalist firebrand who is rising in the presidential election polls, is all over the French papers – billed as the great surprise, main event and key revelation of the campaign.

With crowds spilling into the street at his packed rally in Lille this week, and tens of thousands recently flocking to the Bastille to hear him call for a “civic insurrection”, Mélenchon has been credited with 14% in the polls by BVA.

His numbers have catapulted him into the realms of becoming a possible “third man” in the first round vote on 22 April.

His ideas include capping maximum fat cat salaries at €360,000 (£300,000), after which income tax would be set at 100%.

I almost wish he would win. It would be very interesting to see what happens to the French economy if he did manage to set the highest income tax rate at 100% and I think it would be a lesson for anyone else who thinks high taxes are a good idea. I don’t imagine even the French are foolish enough to support that.

 


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