The attack on a French satirical magazine this week shows the political double standards in place when it comes to freedom of speech.
People worldwide have expressed outrage at terrorists killing the magazine staff for mocking their religion – a religion, that is, which worships a god other than the state. How many of these same people would have any qualms with a state law enforcement officer using violence against a citizen whose speech or publication violated a “hate” law?
We’re supposed to think of Charlie Hebdo now as a symbol of freedom of speech. Yet this same magazine fired one of its writers over a joke criticizing their then-president Sarkozy, who later faced legal prosecution for it.
France also happens to have hate speech laws on the books worthy of the Soviets.
The penal code forbids any private insult toward a person or group for belonging or not belonging, in fact or in fancy, to an ethnicity, a nation, a race, a religion, a sex, or a sexual orientation, or for having a handicap (Article R. 624-4). The penal code forbids any private incitement to discrimination or to hatred or violence against a person or group for belonging or not belonging, in fact or in fancy, to an ethnicity, a nation, a race, a religion, a sex, or a sexual orientation, or for having a handicap (Article R. 625-7)
The French government has forced Twitter to give them the data on anti-Semitic posts and fined people €5,000 for the “offense” of contesting information about the Holocaust.
The French government, like any other government, doesn’t regard violence against people who speak their mind as morally wrong. Only they, however, think they have a legitimate claim to this violence. Had this attack on the magazine come in the form of a police raid for violating some hate speech law, we would not be hearing the same cries of martyrdom on the altar of free speech.
The thing about freedom of speech is you allow all speech, not just speech pre-approved by the state. Laws against certain kinds of speech, i.e. campus speech codes, hate speech laws, rest upon the barrel of a gun, which makes them no different than terrorists killing people for criticizing their beliefs.