Sunday, June 05, 2005

Le Monde and the Jews: The Folly of Forgoing Free Speech

This from Paris: "A French appeal court has found the editor-in-chief of Le Monde and the authors of an opinion piece in the paper guilty of "racial defamation" against Israel and the Jewish people."

The offending passages?

"
"It is hard to imagine that a nation of fugitives born of a people who have been subjected to the longest persecution in the history of humanity, who have suffered the worst humiliation and the worst contempt, should be capable, in the space of two generations, of transforming themselves into a people sure of themselves and dominating (of others) and, with the exception of an admirable minority, a scornful people that takes satisfaction in humiliating others."

The second continued: "The Jews of Israel, descendants of an apartheid named the ghetto, ghettoise the Palestinians. The Jews who were humiliated, scorned and persecuted humiliate, scorn and persecute the Palestinians. The Jews who were the victims of a pitiless order impose their pitiless order on the Palestinians. The Jews, scapegoats for every wrong, make scapegoats of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority."

(Source: The Guardian: Le Monde editor 'defamed Jews')

As Tom Gross, a British correspondent who used to be stationed in Jerusalem, pointed out in the Jerusalem Post, this kind of writing, which appeared in an editorial, is not unusual in Europe. It is, unfortunately, an all-too-commonly expressed sentiment.

But it is the response to this ruling by one of the lawyers for the offenders that is most troubling:

"The court made plain that it found the text as a whole constituted a very potent critique, but a perfectly tolerable one given the complexity of the situation," he said. "It was just those two passages that were picked out. All it means is people are going to have to re-read their copy a bit more carefully; be very careful not to talk about 'the Jews', for example, but about 'some Israelis'."

We see here the folly of trying to change speech through legislation, the hate speech legislation that is a part of most European legal systems and a growing number of college campuses. Antisemitic? No problem. We'll put in politically correct language to cover up the problem. An author speaks his mind and says what we know many people in Europe really think.

Jews no good? We'll substitute Israelis. This way, we can claim that our critique could not possibly be antisemitic, because criticism of Israel cannot be antisemitic.

In the US, where we have, thank G-d, a First Amendment, there is no need to do any of this; people who hate Jews are relatively up front about it. That's how free speech works. People are more likely to say what they mean. People are more likely to say what their thoughts are, rather than tailoring their speech to fit what's acceptable. The framers understood the Darwinian quality of unfettered speech, that over time, good speech triumphs over bad in the marketplace of ideas.


2 Comments:

At 12:33 PM, Blogger Woland said...

Just as I said, new cover for the old song. Had similar thought not so long ago.

 
At 11:02 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

But don't you think that the problem is not just what is considered acceptable to say, but that the *mentality* has gotten to be so pervasive?

 

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