Five years ago, I wrote a column criticizing Democratic and Republican members of Congress who joined the media in gushing over an address from French President Emmanuel Macron as he called for European style censorship. Free speech has been in a virtual free fall in France for decades and Macron is a major voice in that movement.
This week, the French added another outrage to Macron’s legacy by promising to prosecute three citizens who protested the President by flipping him off at an event. The use of “Le Doigt” could now land them in “La Prison.”
The three will be prosecuted under France’s abusive criminal code that allows for the arrest of those who engage in speech that “affect the personal dignity or the respect owed to a public official.” It is a breathtaking denial of political speech and invites selective prosecution.
If convicted, they could face a fine of 15,000 euros and potentially up to one year in prison, according to La Chaîne Info.
Macron has hit a record low in polling, but his government will now enforce respect for him through threats of incarceration.
France has been a leader in the rollback on free speech in the West with ever widening laws curtailing free speech. These laws criminalize speech under vague standards referring to “inciting” or “intimidating” others based on race or religion. For example, fashion designer John Galliano has been found guilty in a French court on charges of making anti-Semitic comments against at least three people in a Paris bar. At his sentencing, Judge Anne Marie Sauteraud read out a list of the bad words used by Galliano to Geraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgitti, including using ‘dirty whore” in criticism.
In another case, the father of French conservative presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was fined because he had called people from the Roma minority “smelly.” A French mother was prosecuted because her son went to school with a shirt reading “I am a bomb.”
A French teenager was charged for criticizing Islam as a “religion of hate.”
Yet, our leaders (and many in the media) were ecstatic when Macron came to the Congress and called for a joint war against “fake news,” declaring, “Democracy is about true choices and rational decisions. The corruption of information is an attempt to corrode the very spirit of our democracies.”
Nothing says Democracy like jailing those who do not show you respect.