The French got it right – and wrong – at the same time

Free speech is paramount to the continuation of our society.

Finally, even our elites are beginning to realize this, even if they are not willing to express it openly – yet.

Even a few in the media are begginning to acknowledge this, even though most are still confused about what ‘incitement to riot’ is.


Just for the record, saying   “Your Mama wears army boots!” is an insult, not incitement to riot, violence or murder.  Saying “Kill those who say My Mama wears army boots!” is incitement to murder.

Even if you replace ‘your Mama’ with ‘Your Prophet’ and ‘wears army boots’ with ‘rapes little girls’.

And offering money to anyone who kills ‘Steve X’, because ‘Steve X’ said or wrote or drew or filmed something, is conspiracy to murder…and a criminal act.

I’m only explaining this because so many policymakers in the USA and UK and media members everywhere seem to have trouble understanding this simple distinction.

Back to the French…

Last week, the satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ published some more ‘Mohammed cartoons’.  Good for them.

What is more, they announced ahead of time that they were going to do so.

The response of the French government:  send riot police to guard the magazine from rioters, because, as they quite correctly said, free speech must be protected.  And, they beefed up the security at their Embassies, in case there was a backlash there.

That is what the French got right.

It’s the next bit I have a problem with:  the French banned all protests against the cartoons!

I’m sorry, but that is just as wrong as banning the cartoons themselves!

Peaceful protests are a necessary expression of the freedom of speech and no government may ban them, on any grounds.


Sure, if the protests turn violent, the police are obligated to arrest those who break the law and riot.  That goes without saying.  But banning a protest just because it might – even if it is very likely that it might – turn violent is a violation of the very principles that were upheld by protecting the publication of the cartoons!

You cant’d punish pre-crime and you cannot limit someone’s rights because of what they might do.

Well, obviously, you can – the French just did it.

What I mean is that it is wrong to do so

Freedom of speech is for everyone.

It is especially important that we protect the freedom of speech of those who say things we don’t like.

Sure, the protests were likely to turn violent.  Pretending otherwise would be naive.

But the power of the government does not extend to limiting the freedoms of their citizens to commit crimes – only to arrest them and punish them in accordance with the laws after they break the law!

Yes, there is a problem in many places with protests turning violent:  but that is because in the past, the police have been negligent in apprehending and punishing those who break the laws during protests.  That is a problem which needs to be acknowledged and dealt with.

But past negligence in enforcing the laws sufficiently does not give any goverment the right to abrogate the rights of its citizens – especially a core right, like freedom of speech.

8 Responses to “The French got it right – and wrong – at the same time”

  1. derek Says:

    This liberal attitude of toning down the protests on Islam, is even MORE insulting to Islam than the conservatives who directly say that muslims are savage animals. Thats what a lot of the people who THINK they are being respectful to Islam fail to understand.

    In a society, where protesting on everything else is okay, protesting against Islam is taboo. Giving anyone special protection is insult and condescencion.

    Basically, these progressive liberals, are even worse than conservatives who openly thrash away at muslims.

    Because the liberals are saying:
    “We can’t say anything that will offend the muslims. They are animals who can’t control themselves in response to external stimuli, so we as white people need to be extra-delicate so we don’t set them off”

    What a smugly condescending attitude.

    Xanthippa says:


  2. Sammy Says:

    So liberals choosing to nto be bigoted to Muslims is actually being worse to Muslims than participating in bigoted anti-Muslim protests? Riiiiiiiiight. Did you ever think that maybe liberals don’t participate in anti-Muslim protests not because they are giving special protection to Muslims but because they genuinely don’t want to participate in bigoted anti-Muslim protests? No? That thought never occured to you?

    Right wing extremists are getting more Orwellian all the time. Unless you engage in bigoted acts against Muslims, you are actually an anti-Muslim bigot.

    Xanthippa says:

    Yes, actually.

    Tarek Fatah and Salim Mansour – both Muslims, by the way – despise this and call it ‘the racism of lowered expectations’: the belief of the vast majority of ‘Western Liberals’ that people with brown skin (as they seem to believe Muslims to be) are less responsible for their actions than white people are and must therefore be cajoled and handled in ‘kid gloves’.

    Read their books – both despise this form of bigotry and both see it as the prejudice which defines the ‘default’ position of our ‘left’. You know, non-classical liberals and their commrades.

    • derek Says:

      Of course it’s worse.

      Both liberals and conservatives have an equally detestable superiority complex when it comes to muslims.

      Conservatives are just more direct and honest about it, while liberals try to justify it in their minds as protecting the vulnerable.

    • bernieg1 Says:

      Participating in anti-Muslim demonstrations is no more bigoted than protesting against Nazis. Both have an ideology bent on world conquest and both believe that they are superior to all others. That you do not protest against Muslims shows that you obviously have not read the Quran.

  3. Sammy Says:

    In what way have I argued that brown people are less responsible for their actions? I don’t think that in any way and nothing I have said could possibly indicate that. If a Muslim extremists riots and breaks a law, they shoudl be prosecuted to the full extent of the law regardless of what offended them. That is a given. But that in no way means that we should ignore anti-Muslim bigotry around us, just like we should not ignore racism and anti-Semitism. Tarek Fatah wrote a book called The Jew is not my Enemy criticizing anti-Semitism in Muslim communities….. does that mean to you that he is handling Jews with kid gloves and thinks they are not responsible for their actions? Of course not. But right-wing extremists like you (and like Fatah) employ a double standard for anti-Muslim hatred whereby whenever anyone calls it out, you pretend it means they support Islamic extremists… or something like that (its usually so incoherent and absurd that its hard to follow the argument).

    Fatah, by the way, employs anti-Muslim bigotry all the time. He has made a career out of the being the token “Muslim” that conservatives use to confirm that all Muslims are violent barbarians. I recall once last year, there was an announcement that the new Toronto police chief would be a Muslim. Fatah immediately went into a rage, ranting over twitter about how sharia law was imminent and that it was an outrage that a Muslim would be appointed police chief. And this was before he knew a single thing about the man’s history, experience or views of any kind. He knew only that that man was a Muslim and he immediately stated his view that the man should not be permitted to hold high office.

    But I guess by expressing my disgust with Fatah’s position that Muslims should be prohibited from holding high office, I am somehow saying that Muslims should be hld less responsible for their actions than white people, right? Fucking moron.

    Xanthippa says:

    I apologize to my readers.

    I promise I won’t feed this troll again.

    • Sammy Says:

      Yes, I figured that you would have no problem with people who think Muslims should be excluded from public office based entirely on the fact that they are Muslims without any regard to their actual personal believes, opinions or experiences. Of course, you don’t take that view yourself….. but you are more than happy to promote people who do.

      Xan says:

      Please, don’t feed the trolls…

  4. CodeSlinger Says:


    There is another reason to deplore the suppression of anti-Muslim protests:

    It stinks of fear.

    Whenever anyone tries to intimidate you into holding your tongue, the only respectable response is to become twice as vocal.

    If you do anything else, they have won.

    Xanthippa says:

    Yes, CodeSlinger – completely agreed.

    Just one detail: in this instance, I was criticizing France for suppressing Muslim protests, not anti-Muslim protests. This is really just a detail because the subject of the protest is irrelevant: as long as it is peaceful (i.e. until it becomes violent), a protest must be suppressed, just because something ‘might’ happen!

  5. bernieg1 Says:

    xanthippa, thanks for linking to my article (‘Mohammed cartoons’), it’s appreciated.

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