I’m feeling quite devoid of inspiration lately and can’t bring myself to write a full indictment of everything I have read, so I’ll keep this one brief. By the way, before I get going, if anyone has any interesting topics they think I should be writing about, or (Lord help us) want to hear my opinion of please do feel free to comment below with suggestions, everything is rather boring me at the moment and I can’t motivate myself to write anything extensive.
Having said that, one thing that annoyed me recently (calm literature recommendations didn’t last long…) is a certain amount of hypocrisy when it comes to views on free speech. The disgusting and horrific attacks on Charlie Hebdo rightly received global condemnation, and I have written about that previously. However, two things I have seen in the press recently, one directly linked to the attack, seem to contradict the outpouring of grief at the attack on freedom of speech. Ironically they both have to do with France.
The first is perhaps the simpler, so I will deal with that first. Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultra-right wing Front National in France (who I personally believe holds despicable views), has recently been invited to give a speech at the world famous Oxford Union.
There have been several campaigns to take this platform away from her and effectively silence her. Now, this seems counter-intuitive. If we really mean freedom of speech for all, surely we must allow these speeches to happen, and if you don’t like it, don’t turn up. Ms Le Pen is the leader of one of the most popular parties in France, what right do we have to say she is not allowed to stand and give her personal point of view in front of an audience? I understand the point, but there appears to be a certain amount of hypocrisy involved.
The second is more problematic, because there is more emotion involved. It involves the case of French comedian Diudonné, who has courted controversy in the past for his perceived anti-Semitic views. I haven’t seen enough of his comedy to know whether this is the case or not, but I do know he was recently arrested and put on trial for saying he felt like Charlie Coulibaly (making reference to the supermarket shooter the day after the Charlie Hebdo attacks).
Poorly timed, yes. Insensitive, yes. Incendiary, of course. But if you are going to defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to satirise at all costs, then you have to defend Dieudonné’s right to say what he likes as well.
I say this not knowing precisely where I stand on the matter myself, though I do believe if you claim to stand by freedom of speech, then you have to stand by it at all times, and with all its proponents, not only the ones that suit your cause at the time. You don’t have to defend free speech at all costs, but if you do, you must be prepared to stick by it when the going gets tough, as it has done recently.