Well that didn’t take long. Just three days after the French government hosted dozens of foreign leaders in a “unity rally” to defend free speech in the wake of last week’s shooting at the Charlie Hebdo magazine, France has begun arresting its citizens for actually exercising free speech.
According to news reports, more than 50 French citizens were arrested today and charged with offensive speech — the same kind of speech that was the trademark of of the Charlie Hebdo publication.
None of those arrested were charged with links to terrorism or any real crime. Instead, they are facing up to seven years in prison for making statements the French authorities claim are supportive of the shootings or are anti-Semitic.
New directives from the French Justice Ministry provided the legal basis for arresting those deemed “supportive” of the attacks or who express anti-Semitic or racist sentiment. Anti-Muslim sentiment was not included in the government’s new arrest orders, despite a dramatic spike in actual attacks on French Muslims since the shootings. The justice ministry claimed the new anti-speech measures were necessary to protect freedom of expression.
Among those arrested is controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, charged with being “an apologist for terrorism” and facing jail time over a Facebook post making fun of Sunday’s “unity rally.” Exercising free speech by making fun of the French government as it celebrates free speech is apparently a crime.
The French government has long banned Dieudonné’s comedy performances over his controversial jokes, even as French authorities celebrate Charlie Hebdo’s controversial jokes.
Those arrested for exercising free speech in France will be charged under “special measures” put into place after the shooting, which provide for immediate sentencing of the accused. Some 130,000 military and security forces have been deployed on the streets of France and ordered to keep a particular eye on incidents that could bring violence against the police.
Unreported in the US, Charlie Hebdo has long ties with the French Communist Party and after the shooting has moved its headquarters to the offices of Libération, a French newspaper with roots in the Communist Party-inspired unrest of May, 1968. One of most famous Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, Stéphane Charbonnier (“Charb”), was a long-time member of the French Communist Party. Currently the newspaper is considered “left wing” and is controlled by Edouard de Rothschild of the international banking family, which should provide some additional fodder for the conspiracy-minded.
France and Europe chokes under the noxious cloud of hypocrisy.