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The Mystery of the Russia-gate Puppies

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 4, 2017

What is perhaps most unprofessional, unethical and even immoral about the U.S. mainstream media’s coverage of Russia-gate is how all the stories start with the conclusion – “Russia bad” – and then make whatever shards of information exist fit the preordained narrative.

For instance, we’re told that Facebook executives, who were sent back three times by Democratic lawmakers to find something to pin on Russia, finally detected $100,000 worth of ads spread out over three years from accounts “suspected of links to Russia” or similar hazy wording.

These Facebook ads and 201 related Twitter accounts, we’re told, represent the long-missing proof about Russian “meddling” in the U.S. presidential election after earlier claims faltered or fell apart under even minimal scrutiny.

In the old days, journalists might have expressed some concern that Facebook “found” the ads only under extraordinary pressure from powerful politicians, such as Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a leading legislator on the tech industry. But today’s mainstream reporters took Warner’s side and made it look like Facebook had been dragging its heels and that there must be much more out there.

However, it doesn’t really seem to matter how little evidence there is. Anything will do.

Even the paltry $100,000 is not put in any perspective (Facebook has annual revenue of $27 billion), nor the 201 Twitter accounts (compared to Twitter’s 328 million monthly users). Nor are the hazy allegations of “suspected … links to Russia” subjected to serious inspection. Although Russia is a nation of 144 million people and many divergent interests, it’s assumed that everything must be personally ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, if you look at some of the details about these $100,000 in ads, you learn the case is even flimsier than you might have thought. The sum was spread out over 2015, 2016 and 2017 – and thus represented a very tiny pebble in a very large lake of Facebook activity.

But more recently we learned that only 44 percent of the ads appeared before Americans went to the polls last November, according to Facebook; that would mean that 56 percent appeared afterwards.

Facebook added that “roughly 25% of the ads were never shown to anyone. … For 50% of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent.”

So, as miniscule as the $100,000 in ad buys over three years may have seemed, the tiny pebble turns out really to be only a fraction of a tiny pebble if the Russians indeed did toss it into the 2016 campaign.

What About the Puppies?

We further have learned that most ads weren’t for or against a specific candidate, but rather addressed supposedly controversial issues that the mainstream media insists were meant to divide the United States and thus somehow undermine American democracy.

Except, it turns out that one of the issues was puppies.

As Mike Isaac and Scott Shane of The New York Times reported in Tuesday’s editions, “The Russians who posed as Americans on Facebook last year tried on quite an array of disguises. … There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.”

Now, there are a lot of controversial issues in America, but I don’t think any of us would put puppies near the top of the list. Isaac and Shane reported that there were also supposedly Russia-linked groups advocating gay rights, gun rights and black civil rights, although precisely how these divergent groups were “linked” to Russia or the Kremlin was never fully explained. (Facebook declined to offer details.)

At this point, a professional journalist might begin to pose some very hard questions to the sources, who presumably include many partisan Democrats and their political allies hyping the evil-Russia narrative. It would be time for some lectures to the sources about the consequences for taking reporters on a wild ride in conspiracy land.

Yet, instead of starting to question the overall premise of this “scandal,” journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, etc. keep making excuses for the nuttiness. The explanation for the puppy ads was that the nefarious Russians might be probing to discover Americans who might later be susceptible to propaganda.

“The goal of the dog lovers’ page was more obscure,” Isaac and Shane acknowledged. “But some analysts suggested a possible motive: to build a large following before gradually introducing political content. Without viewing the entire feed from the page, now closed by Facebook, it is impossible to say whether the Russian operators tried such tactics.”

The Joe McCarthy of Russia-gate

The Times then turned to Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent and a top promoter of the New McCarthyism that has swept Official Washington. Watts has testified before Congress that almost anything that appears on social media these days criticizing a politician may well be traceable to the Russians.

For instance, last March, Watts testified in conspiratorial terms before the Senate Intelligence Committee about “social media accounts discrediting U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.” At the time, Ryan was under criticism for his ham-handed handling of a plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but Watts saw possible Russian fingerprints.

Watts also claimed that Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid “anecdotally suffered” from an online Russian campaign against him, though many of you may have thought Rubio flamed out because he was a wet-behind-the-ears candidate who performed robotically in the debates and received the devastating nickname “Little Marco” from Donald Trump.

Watts explained that these nefarious Russian schemes left no discernible earmarks or detectable predictability. Russians attack “people on both sides of the aisle … solely based on what they [the Russians] want to achieve in their own landscape, whatever the Russian foreign policy objectives are,” Watts complained.

Watts’s vague allegations appear to have been the impetus behind Sen. Warner’s repeated demands that Facebook find some evidence to support the suspicions. After Facebook came up empty twice, Warner flew to Silicon Valley to personally confront Facebook executives who then found what Warner wanted them to find, the $100,000 in suspected Russia-linked ad buys.

So, it perhaps made sense that the Times would turn to Watts to explain the rather inexplicable Russian exploitation of puppies. According to Isaac and Shane, Watts “said Russia had been entrepreneurial in trying to develop diverse channels of influence. Some, like the dogs page, may have been created without a specific goal and held in reserve for future use. ‘They were creating many audiences on social media to try to influence around,’ said Mr. Watts, who has traced suspected Russian accounts since 2015.”

In other words, if you start with the need to prove Russian guilt, there are no alternative explanations besides Russian guilt. If some fact, like the puppies page, doesn’t seem to fit the sinister conspiracy theory, you simply pound it into place until it does.

Yes, of course, Russian intelligence operatives must be so sneaky that they are spending money (but not much) on Facebook puppy ads so they might sometime in the future slip in a few other ideological messages. It can’t be that perhaps the ads were not part of some Russian government intelligence operation.

The Russ-kie Plot

But even if we want to believe that these ads are a Russ-kie plot and were somehow intended to sow dissension in the U.S., the totals are insignificant, a subset of a subset of a subset of $100,000 in ad buys over three years that, as far as anyone can tell, had no real impact on the 2016 election – and surely much, much, much less than the political influence from, say, Israel.

If we apply Facebook’s 44 percent figure, that would suggest the total spending in the two years before the election was around $44,000 and much of that focused on a diverse set of issues, not specific candidates. So, if some Russians did spend money to promote gay rights and to push  gun rights, any negligible impact on the 2016 election would more or less have been canceled out between Clinton and Trump.

Yet, over these still unproven and speculative allegations of Russian “links” to these Facebook ads, the national Democrats and their mainstream media allies are stoking a dangerous and expensive New Cold War with nuclear-armed Russia.

I realize that lots of Democrats were upset about Hillary Clinton’s humiliating defeat and don’t want to believe that she could have lost fairly to a buffoon like Donald Trump. So, they are looking for any excuses rather than looking in the mirror.

The major U.S. news outlets also have joined the anti-Trump Resistance, rather than upholding the journalistic principles of objectivity and fairness. The Post even came up with a new melodramatic slogan for the moment: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

But yellow journalism is not the way to shed light into darkness; it only blinds Democrats from seeing the real reasons behind Trump’s appeal to many working-class whites who feel disaffected from a Democratic Party that seems disinterested in their suffering.

Yes, I know that some Democrats are still hoping against hope that they can ride Russia-gate all the way to Trump’s impeachment and get him ridden out of Washington D.C. on a rail, but the political risk to Democrats is that they will harden the animosity that many in the white working class already feel toward the party.

That could do more to strengthen Trump’s appeal to these voters than to weaken him, while hollowing out Democratic support among millions of peace voters who may simply declare a plague on both parties.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , | 1 Comment

Billionaire Seth Klarman, donor to Israel causes, is one of the largest holders of Puerto Rican debt

If Americans Knew | October 4, 2017

David Dayen reports in the The Intercept that Boston hedge fund billionaire Seth Klarman is the owner of one of the largest holdings of Puerto Rican debts (read full article below). This has been kept secret until now.

Dayen explains that Puerto Rico “has been mired in a borrowing crisis for years… Many [creditors] scooped up bonds on the cheap, seeking an astronomical payout by forcing the island to pay them back at par (or 100 cents on the dollar). This has led to widespread suffering.”

Klarman is widely known to use his wealth to support Israel causes.

He’s on on the board of advisors and a major donor to the Israel Project, which says it is “dedicated to changing people’s minds about Israel through cutting-edge strategic communications. We don’t attack the media, we become a trusted partner and resource – bringing integrity and facts to the coverage using proven strategies like building relationships, testing messages and giving journalists everything they need to get the story right.” (Donating to this is tax deductible in the U.S., though it’s hard to understand how it benefits the vast majority of American citizens.)

Numerous other Israel lobby organizations also get Klarman’s money;  Rightweb reports that he donates to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a spinoff of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Middle East Media Research InstituteDaniel Pipes’  Middle East Forum, and the David Project, which has opposed the construction of mosques in Boston.

RightWeb notes that Klarman’s family foundation “has also supported a number of controversial Islamic groups, including the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, founded by Zuhdi Jasser, a controversial promoter of surveillance of Muslim communities. Klarman is also a prominent funder of the American Islamic Congress, an organization that the George W. Bush administration helped start.”

According to Right Web, “Some observers have argued that Klarman’s funding reflects a ‘wedging’ strategy, with Klarman calculation being to support ‘Muslim and Arab-oriented front groups that advance pro-Israel interests while undermining the objectives of mainstream Muslim and Arab-American organizations.’”

Klarman cofounded Israel’s newspaper The Times of Israel and donates to the pro-Israel media pressure group CAMERA. He is also chairman of Facing History and Ourselves, which develops classroom programs “to combat anti-Semitism,” which often focuses on Israel. Klarman also helps fund the American Jewish Committee, whose slogan is “Advocating for Israel and the Jewish people.”

Rightweb reports that Klarman’s political giving also supports Israel:

Klarman was mentioned in an April 2015 New York Times piece that examined why Republicans are “more fervently pro-Israel than ever.” The article linked such sentiment to being “partly a result of ideology, but also a product of a surge in donations and campaign spending on their behalf by a small group of wealthy donors.” The piece revealed how Klarman contributed $100,000 to the 2014 Senate campaign of Tom Cotton (R-AR), a stringent hawk who has received strong support from numerous other major “pro-Israel” figures like Paul Singer and Bill Kristol.

Klarman also sometimes donates to Democrats; he backed Hillary Clinton for President. … Full article

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

ISIS attacked Syrian positions from US-controlled area, used sophisticated data – Moscow

RT | October 4, 2017

A series of recent Islamic State attacks against Syrian forces used sophisticated intelligence and originated from a US-controlled area near al-Tanf on the Syria-Jordan border, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

“We have repeatedly pointed out that the major obstacle to the complete elimination of IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria lies not in the fighting capability of the terrorists but [in the fact] that American colleagues are supporting them and are ‘flirting’ with them,” the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement.

He went on to say that the successful advances of the Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force, as well as the “rapid liberation” of the Euphrates Valley from Islamic State are “apparently at odds with the plans of US colleagues.”

The ministry’s spokesman then said that the recent well-coordinated actions of the terrorists indicate that they possess intelligence data that can only be obtained as a result of air reconnaissance. He noted that all the terrorist attacks originated from the same US-controlled area.

The extremists attempted to carry out an attack against the Syrian governmental forces, which was “coordinated in time and place,” in the Syrian Homs province on September 28, Konashenkov said.

He drew attention to the fact that a large terrorist unit “successfully bypassed” all the Syrian Army’s hidden outposts in the area. That, the official noted, could have been done only if the extremists had precise coordinates of each governmental forces’ position obtained through air reconnaissance data, which were analyzed by some specialists in advance.

The major-general said that, on the same day, the jihadists also attacked the Syrian Army positions along the highway linking the Syrian cities of Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor, which plays a crucial role in supplying the governmental forces in the Euphrates Valley.

The Syrian Army had to “make significant efforts” to repel these attacks, but the terrorists were eventually driven back.

All those attacks “have only one thing in common: all of them originated from a 50-kilometer zone surrounding the city of al-Tanf on the Syria-Jordan border,” Konashenkov said, adding that it is precisely the same area, where the US military mission’s base is located.

In his statement, Konashenkov doubted that all those incidents could be described as just “mere coincidences” by saying that, “if the US side considers such operations as “’unforeseen’ contingencies, the Russian Air Forces in Syria are ready to eliminate” them in an area they control.

It is not the first time, when the Russian officials suspected the US-led coalition of having links to some radical groups in Syria and the Al Nusra Front, a local Al Qaeda branch, in particular.

In early September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the situation around Al Nusra in Syria remains “highly ambiguous” as it was repeatedly spared in the operations conducted by the US-led coalition and its allies.

On September 20, the Russian Defense Ministry said it obtained data indicating that an offensive launched by Al Nusra terrorists and their allies seeking particularly to capture a unit of the Russian military police was orchestrated by the US security services.

Just four days later, the ministry released aerial images, which they said showed US Army Special Forces equipment in an ISIS-held area to the north of the city of Deir ez-Zor. The US, however, denied having any links to the jihadists.

On October 3, Lavrov once again raised the issue of the US-led coalition’s alleged links to the extremist groups as he criticized the US for playing dangerous games by inspiring “terrorists to attack strategic locations” held by the Syrian governmental forces or staging “fatal provocations against our [Russian] military personnel.”

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Report: Israel conceals from detainees social media posts that led to their arrests

Ma’an – October 4, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Israeli authorities are not revealing to detainees which of their social media posts led to their arrest, in an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression online that has largely targeted Palestinians, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, said in a report on its website Wednesday.

The NGO said the practice of concealing such evidence “is being employed disproportionately against Palestinian citizens of Israel and seriously impairs their ability to defend themselves.”

Adalah said it sent a letter on Sept. 11 to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan, calling on them to order Israeli police to disclose to suspects and their lawyers during pre-trial detention hearings the content of the social media posts that allegedly constitute a criminal offense, such as “incitement,” and other crimes of expression.

“This problematic practice essentially turns an initial arrest into a full-fledged administrative detention,” Adalah attorney Fady Khoury wrote in the letter, referring to Israel’s widely-condemned practice of internment without trial or charge based on undisclosed evidence that is almost exclusively used against Palestinians.

“Just as it would be unthinkable to arrest someone suspected of theft without informing them or their lawyer… what they are believed to have stolen … and just as one cannot be arrested on suspicion of murder while the identity of the victim is left undisclosed until after an indictment is filed, so it is also in the case of an individual arrested on suspicion of committing a crime of expression involving a publication: there is a duty to inform suspects and their lawyers of the content of the expression… on which the arrest warrant is based,” he insisted.

Adalah’s letter included numerous examples of arrests of Palestinian citizens of Israel carried out for alleged crimes of expression that remained classified.

“For example, Razi Nabulsi, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, was arrested on suspicion of ‘publishing a statement in support of a terrorist organization,’ but Israeli police maintained a ban on release of Nabulsi’s statement that formed the basis for his arrest for the entire duration of his seven-day detention,” the report said.

“The arrest of individuals suspected of incitement, for example — without revealing the statements that form the basis for the arrest –constitutes a serious infringement of suspects’ rights to due process, undermines the purpose of the criminal process, and severely limits detainees’ rights to plead their case and defend themselves, ” Khoury continued in the letter.

According to Adalah, the vast majority of arrests made in Israel in 2015 and the first half of 2016 for charges related to alleged incitement on social media outlets were of Palestinian citizens.

The NGO cited Israeli police statistics that said 82 percent of individuals arrested for incitement-related offenses in 2016 were Palestinian citizens, whereas only 18 percent were Jewish Israeli citizens.

In 2015, 81 percent of those arrested for incitement-related violations were Palestinian citizens and 19 percent were Jewish Israeli. The same year, 43 people were charged with incitement-related offenses –only three were Jewish citizens while the other 40 were Palestinian.

A report released by the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement 7amleh has further documented that slanderous, provocative, and threatening posts made by Israelis against Arabs and Palestinians more than doubled in 2016, reaching 675,000 posts made by 60,000 Hebrew-speaking Facebook users — with only very few cases being opened against Israelis.

Last month, Adalah also called on Israel to shut down its so-called Cyber Unit, which collaborates with social media platforms to censor content, saying the unit has “no legal authority.”

The Israeli government launched the unit in the second half of 2015, when Israeli authorities alleged that a wave of unrest that erupted that fall was encouraged largely by online “incitement.” The crackdown has seen hundreds of Palestinians detained, while social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have complied with hundreds of requests by the Israeli state to censor content.

Khoury had written in a letter to the Israeli attorney general that the Cyber Unit operations are a clear violation of free speech, explaining that the Israeli state attorney’s practice of criminalizing certain expression on social media is tantamount to “an unproven suspicion.”

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel Bans Children from Playing in Al-Aqsa Mosque Courtyard

IMEMC News & Agencies – October 4, 2017

Israeli occupation authorities have prohibited Muslim children from playing in the courtyards surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque.

A report by the Israeli TV Channel 7 said that orders were issued to police units at Al-Aqsa in occupied Jerusalem not to allow children to play with balls in the courtyards.

It also reported, according to Days of Palestine, that the Israeli Supreme Court issued an order banning Jerusalemite children from playing in Al-Aqsa courtyards.

The order was issued after complaints filed, about a month ago, by settlers who stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque and claimed to have seen children playing football around the schools.

According to the Supreme Court ruling, “ball games on Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa Mosque] are prohibited as it violates its sanctity.”

According to the Israeli police, the order is aimed primarily at the areas adjacent to the Islamic schools located in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jewish organisations have demanded that such practices be banned and that those found doing so be prosecuted or at least have their balls confiscated.

They claim that playing football “is a violation of the law regarding holy areas. The maximum punishment for this is seven years of imprisonment.”

They also claimed that such practices are considered “a desecration of a holy site and cause emotional distress” to the Jews storming the mosque.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘British police must arrest Ehud Barak’

MEMO | October 4, 2017

The London based Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) in the UK has stated that London has become a safe haven for war criminals visiting the city.

According to the AOHR these individuals come to the city because law enforcement has failed to take any measures to arrest them.

The organisation added that Britain is one of the countries that adopts clear laws regarding global jurisdiction that allow the police to arrest the perpetrators of certain crimes, if they are on British soil, regardless of the suspect’s nationality and where the crime was committed.

The AOHR stated that these laws are not enforced when it comes to Israelis who have committed war crimes documented on a global level. These suspects are regularly given special diplomatic immunity on the grounds that they’re on an official visit.

The organisation noted that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was seen walking around London last night with his wife, despite the fact police have files and documentation proving he has committed war crimes against Palestinians.

Barak was Israel’s Minister of Defence during the attack on the Mavi Marmara convoy.

NGOs have previously tried to have an arrest warrant issued for Barak for his role in the 2008 Gaza War but have had requests rejected in court.

The AOHR urged the war crimes team of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) to do its duty, arrest Barak, and prohibit him from leaving the country.

The main reason international jurisdiction exists is to eliminate the phenomenon of impunity granted to criminals who have committed such dangerous crimes.

[Photo credit – Ynhockey/Wikipedia]

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Under the French Hate Speech Laws

By Lawrence G. Proulx • Unz Review • October 4, 2017

The term “hate speech” is employed more and more these days, and Internet companies and government agencies are being urged to suppress it. So it might be worthwhile to consider how countries without a First Amendment treat the types of speech that are likely to fall within the ever-expanding definition of the term.

I can report on one such country, France, which may be representative of European countries generally. I worked there as an (English-language) newspaper copyeditor from 1999 to 2016. While I am not competent to describe precisely how its complex legal system works, I believe I can offer an informative overview. To do this well, many thousands of words are necessary, but I have divided them into sections and invite you to jump ahead to the next whenever you might feel bogged down.

The United States is often described as a litigious society, even as the litigious society. This view has been shared by the French at least since the publication of “Democracy in America,” in 1835, in which Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.”

Today, however, an American observing French public life is likely to be surprised by the frequency with which the courts are asked to punish people for things written or said. A legal tradition different from our own, to which have been added a number of specific criminal laws, has produced a regulatory system in which fines, damage payments and prison sentences (almost always suspended) are imposed for violations.

In the United States, punishment for saying or writing things that others find objectionable is sometimes imposed by private entities, such as employers, and in the past few decades many businesses, institutions and organizations have established restrictions on expression. But the means of engaging the judiciary in this enterprise are severely limited. In this the United States differs not only from France but also from many other European countries as well as the developing legal structure of the European Union.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution and confirmed explicitly in 1958 in the preamble to the constitution of the Fifth Republic, states: “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.”

It would be simplistic to say that the difference between the two systems lies primarily in the “but” clause of the latter. But even if the American amendment has inevitably been moderated by court decisions through the years, it does make every abridgment fight for its life, as it were, whereas the French formulation takes the inevitability of exceptions as a matter of course.

What infractions must a speaker or writer or editor or publisher avoid in order to stay within the law in France? Here are the basics, as discussed in the manual “Droits des journalistes et liberté d’expression” by Bernard Dapogny and Marion Dapogny:

  • False news, “made in bad faith, that disturbs the public order or is capable of disturbing it.”
  • Use of a false document in reporting.
  • Attempt to harm the discipline or morale of the armed forces or to hinder a war effort.
  • Defamation.
  • Insult. [The distinction between this and the preceding is that defamation must assert something specific, whereas insult can be merely an offensive word.]
  • Attempt to harm a person’s honor or reputation.
  • Defamation of or insult to the judiciary, the military services, various other public bodies including “junior high schools, high schools, universities, the Legion of Honor” as well as “local administrations, the police, hospitals, penitentiaries.”
  • Defamation of or insult to persons acting in a position of public authority, including “representatives and senators, ministers and Secretaries of State” as well as “police personnel, magistrates, teachers.”
  • Defamation or insult based on race, religion or belonging to an ethnic group or a nation.
  • Defamation or insult based on sex, sexual orientation or handicap.
  • Defamation of or insult to deceased persons, where the offense touches on the honor of the heirs or close survivors.
  • Provocation to the commission of a crime which leads to the crime.
  • Provocation to the commission of a crime which doesn’t lead to the crime.
  • Indirect provocation (apology), that is, stating that certain crimes were justified, including “war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes in collaboration with the enemy.”
  • Provocation to hate, violence or discrimination, which could be based on a person’s “origin, sex, family situation, state of pregnancy, physical appearance, family name, state of health, handicap, genetic characteristics, morals, sexual orientation, age, opinions, politics, labor union activity, belonging or not belonging, real or supposed to a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion.”
  • Provocation to or apology for terrorism.
  • Contesting “the existence of one or several crimes against humanity as defined by Article 6 of the charter of the International Military Tribunal [the Nuremberg Tribunal] annexed to the London Agreement of August 6, 1945, and which were committed by the members of an organization declared criminal in application of Article 9 of the said charter, by a person recognized as guilty of such crimes by a French jurisdiction or by an international one.” Enacted in July 1990 and called the Gayssot Law.
  • Offending the president of the Republic. [This law was repealed in 2013.]

Many of these laws are seldom invoked; others are used frequently. To put flesh on the matter, I offer you a list of cases from 2013 that I put together in 2014 for an article that never found a publisher. (Sorry, but the work of assembling it was too tedious for me to undertake it again, and I think the general impression given by more recent cases would not be different.) Although details of the offensive language are frequently omitted in the news reports from which this list is compiled, a quick look will give a sense of how routine the cases are.

One thing should be mentioned first. An anti-racism law passed in July 1972, commonly called the Pleven Law, strengthened the restrictions on speech and granted to private associations dedicated to fighting racism the right to participate in the prosecution of criminal cases and to claim damages as well. Amendments to the law empowered additional categories of associations, for example, associations working “to defend the moral interests and the honor of veterans and victims of war and of those who died for France” or “to defend the memory of slaves and the honor of their descendants.” Such associations are frequently the first to blow the whistle on remarks they consider violative, and because they have the standing to file complaints even when no particular person is targeted by the contested remarks, their legal recognition is an important factor in the number of cases brought before the courts today.

2013 in Review

January

Marie-Josée Roig, the mayor of Avignon, files a complaint for public insults contained in a book purporting to be fiction (“Le Monarque, son fils, son fief”) by Marie-Célie Guillaume in which a character who resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, demands a quick sexual “present” from a woman who resembles Roig.

Daniel Boyer, the mayor of Châteaubernard, files a complaint for public insults after a wave of graffiti attacking him and various acts of vandalism.

Frédéric Haziza, a Jewish journalist, files a complaint for public insult and public insult committed against a person because of his religion, after being attacked on the website of Alain Soral, a self-described anti-Zionist activist. Haziza had refused to invite Soral onto his show to discuss Soral’s book “Comprendre l’empire” because of Soral’s “clearly antisemitic” views.

March

A judge, Jean-Michel Gentil, files a complaint for contempt and insult against Henri Guaino, a deputy in Parliament, for having said that the judge “dishonored the [state] institutions and justice” after Sarkozy was interrogated on suspicion of abusing the weakness of a rich aged widow.

Bloc Identitaire, a nationalist group, announces its intention to file a complaint for public insult against Yann Galut, a deputy from the Cher department, for having called the members of the bloc “casseurs” (protesters who destroy property) in a Twitter message.

April

Rama Yade, a former secretary of state for human rights and for sports, is found guilty of defamation and insult for eight of twenty-eight contested statements posted on her blog about a political opponent, Manuel Aeschlimann, after she was challenged over her domicile status in the Hauts-de-Seine department.

May

Yvan Benedetti and Alexandre Gabriac, right-wing activists, file a complaint against Jean-François Carenco, the prefect of Lyon, and Albert Doutre, director of public security, for “hateful” public insults (such as “imbecilities” and “thugs”) made during the containment of a nationalist youth protest in front of the Socialist Party local headquarters.

June

The city of Angers files suit against a shopkeeper for public insult in the form of signs he put up to protest a proposed tax on businesses that serve clients on the sidewalk, which followed among other things a police check of whether he was serving alcohol without the proper license.

Pierre Dubois, the mayor of Roubaix, and the Human Rights League file a complaint against an unnamed man who, during the course of a heated discussion at a public meeting, suggested that the Roma (Gypsies) be sent to Auschwitz.

July

Sylvie Goy-Chavent, a senator of the Ain department who prepared a report on the security of meat production in France, files a complaint against a website, Internet JSSNews.com, which describes itself as a webzine of Israeli opinion, for calling her such things as “bitch” and “little shit” and writing, among other things, “Goy, she wears her name well.”

September

The Union of Jewish Students of France says it will file a complaint against the weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles for provocation of racial or religious discrimination, hatred or violence. The group describes the cover of the magazine’s Sept. 26 issue, which shows a white bust of a woman representing France wearing a black Islamic veil and bearing the title “Naturalized: The Invasion They’re Hiding,” as “racist” and “hateful.” The magazine says in return that it will file a complaint against the group for calumnious denunciation, defamation and attack on freedom of expression.

The Foundation for the Memorial of the Black Slave Trade, along with the Federation of African Associations, the National Union of Overseas France, and other organizations and individual citizens file a complaint against Jean-Sebastien Vialatte, a deputy in Parliament, for public insult, defamation and incitement of racial hatred and racial discrimination, for his remarks after vandalism occurred during a celebration of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team. He had sent a Twitter message in which he said sardonically that “the people who vandalize are surely descendants of slaves, they have excuses[.] #Taubira [the justice minister] will give them some compensation!”

October

The League for the Judicial Defense of Muslims files a complaint against the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo for its July 10 cover which had a cartoon captioned in large letters with “The Koran, it’s shit; it doesn’t stop bullets”; against the magazine Valeurs Actuelles for its Sept. 26 cover; against the website Riposte Laïque for various articles; and against Manuel Valls, the secretary of the interior, for provocation of discrimination and hate, for saying, “Within ten years we will show, we are in the process of showing, there is a will, that Islam is compatible [sic] with the Republic.”

Bruno Gilles, a senator in the Union for a Popular Movement, files a complaint against a socialist, Patrick Mennucci, for “defamation and public insults.” “He called me a racist and xenophobe,” the senator said.

France-El Djazaïr, a Franco-Algerian friendship association, announces that it will file a complaint against a police officer in the city of Alès for “insults and incitement to xenophobic and Islamophobic hatred”; the officer had put on his Facebook profile page a photo-montage representing the Algerian flag over which was written “I hate Algeria,” attached to an image of a man wiping his bottom with the flag.

Bachir Bouhmadou, adjunct general secretary of Citizen Resistance, and Ali Saab, president of the Association of Muslims of the Territory of Belfort, file a complaint against Christine Tasin, a militant with the group Republican Resistance, for videotaped comments opposing ritual Islamic butchery and criticizing Islam.

Abdellah Zekri, the president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, says he will file a complaint after his house was defaced with swastikas and graffiti saying “Islam Out” and “Heit [sic] Hitler.”

The National Front says it will file a complaint against Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, for public insult for having described the party’s way of thinking as “deadly and murderous” and summarizing it thus: “It’s the blacks in the branches of the trees, the Arabs in the sea, the homosexuals in the Seine, the Jews in the oven and so forth.”

November

A 65-year-old man is found guilty of insulting Claudine Ledoux, the mayor of Charleville-Mézières, on his website, l’Union-l’Ardennais, in a manner described by a regional newspaper as “menacing, racist and sexist,” in relation to her being made a knight in the Legion of Honor; he is ordered to pay a fine of one thousand euros and damages for mental distress of the same amount to Ledoux.

The association SOS Racisme says it will file a complaint for incitation to racial hatred against Minute, a 16-page rightist weekly, for its cover with a photo of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is a native of French Guiana, and for the title “Clever Like a Monkey, Taubira Finds the Banana Again,” which combines two common French expressions; to have the banana (or the peach) means to be full of energy.

A player files a complaint for racial insult after a rough soccer game (three red cards) between the second-stringers of the Sablé and Lude clubs. A player explained: “This attacker called me a dirty white. I called him a dirty black.”

The Movement Against Racism and for the Amity of Peoples files a complaint for provocation of racial hatred against Manuel Valls, minister of the interior, for comments about the Gypsies including, “The Gypsies should stay in Romania or return there.” The case will be dismissed in December 2013.

Bob Dylan is put under formal investigation for insult and provocation of racial hatred after the Representative Council of the Croatian Community and Institutions of France files a complaint against both him and the magazine Rolling Stone, the French version of which republished an interview in which he said, “If you’ve got a slave master or the Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. … Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.” The case will be dismissed in April 2014.

December

The comedian Nicolas Bedos testifies after being accused of complicity in making a public racial insult in an article in the magazine Marianne as well as on its website; among the phrases he used were “Negro bugger,” “island indolence” and “lazy natives.”

Gérard Huet, the mayor of Loudéac, is sued by the Human Rights League for comments about Gypsies he made at a meeting to discuss expenditures to renovate the area where the Gypsies were living. “They’ve stolen all our plumbing,” he says, and he later objects to the comment of another member of the city council with, “You’re defending thieves?” He sues the league in return for harassment.

The comedian Dieudonné files a defamation complaint after Alain Jakubowicz, the president of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, describes the “quenelle,” a gesture used by the comedian and his fans, as “corresponding to an inverted Nazi salute signifying the sodomizing of the victims of the Holocaust.” Dieudonné also says he will sue Le Monde, Le Figaro, BFMTV, France 2 and Manuel Valls, the interior minister.

The imam Hicham El Barkani files a complaint for insult after a protest described as islamophobic against the opening of a mosque in Papeete.

Historians on Trial

Some cases have greater import than those listed above, as when historians are attacked for their work.

The Columbia University historian Bernard Lewis gave an interview to Le Monde on November 16, 1993, in which he discussed the killings of Armenians by Turks during the First World War. In the course of it he said, “If one speaks of genocide, that implies that there was a deliberate policy, a decision, to systematically annihilate the Armenian nation. That is quite doubtful. Turkish documents prove a will of deportation, not of extermination.” On January 1, 1994, in response to strong objections to his remarks, he published a further explanation of his position, again in Le Monde, ending with a repetition of his main point, that “no serious proof exists of a decision and a plan by the Ottoman government aiming at exterminating the Armenian nation.” He was sued by the Forum of Armenian Associations of France and the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism on the claim that he had “gravely hurt the memory and respect of the survivors and of their families.” The civil court of Paris ruled that Lewis had “failed to meet his duty of objectivity and prudence in expressing himself without nuance on so sensitive a subject” and ordered him to pay a franc each to the two associations as well as the cost of publishing the decision. Lewis was also the defendant in other civil cases and one criminal one on the same subject, all of which were dismissed.

In 2001, the French Parliament “publicly recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915,” and in 2012 the Parliament passed a law instituting a punishment of imprisonment for one year and a fine of 45,000 euros of anyone who “contests or minimizes in an outrageous fashion” genocides recognized as such by French law, but the Constitutional Council ruled the latter law unconstitutional a month later. Both of the main candidates for president that year, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, soon announced that they would seek a new law to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, and in January 2017 a law took effect providing for a year of prison and a fine of 45,000 euros for those who denied, belittled or “banalized in an outrageous way” recognized genocides, crimes against humanity, and enslavement or exploitation of an enslaved person.

In 2001 Parliament also passed a law recognizing “that the trans-Atlantic trade in Negroes as well as the trade in the Indian Ocean on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the slavery perpetrated starting in the 15th Century, in the Americas and the Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe against the Africans, Amerindians, Madagascans and Indians constitute a crime against humanity.” Four years later this law was invoked against Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, a professor at the University of Southern Brittany. In the course of an interview given on June 12, 2005, in relation to his book “Les traites négrières” (The Negro Slave Trades), which had won many awards including the Senate History Book Prize, Pétré-Grenouilleau rejected a comparison of the slave trades to the Jewish Holocaust: “The slave trades are not genocides. The slave trade didn’t have the goal of exterminating a people. The slave was a good that had a market value that one wanted to make work as much as possible.” An association representing people of the Caribbean, French Guiana and Réunion filed a complaint against him for denying a crime against humanity and demanded that he be “suspended from his university functions for revisionism.” In the vehement debate that ensued, Pétré-Grenouilleau was strongly supported by many prominent historians, and in February 2006, acknowledging this opposition, the association withdrew its complaint.

Shortly before the Pétré-Grenouilleau affair erupted, another “memorial” law had been passed, in January 2005, aimed generally at recognizing the suffering of those French citizens who had been repatriated from North Africa at the end of the Algerian War. This law had itself evoked controversy, by requiring that “school programs recognize in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in North Africa.” A year later the law was emended and the “positive role” removed.

Real Prison Sentences

I know of only three writers who have recently been given sentences that were “fermes,” as the French say, that is, that were not suspended as soon as pronounced. Vincent Reynouard is a Frenchman born in 1969 and trained as a chemical engineer who has argued that the Nazis had no plan to exterminate the Jews and that gas chambers were not used to kill people. Among the many videos he has placed on the Internet, there is one in which he expresses his admiration for Hitler; he says, “I think that Hitler was a man too good for the 20th Century, too honest, too straightforward.” A month after being arrested in Belgium, Reynouard was extradited to France in August 2010 and served seven and a half months in prison for contesting a crime against humanity. He has continued to produce writings and Internet videos, and in February 2015 he was convicted of contestation of crimes against humanity and sentenced to two years in prison. In November 2016 he was given a five-months sentence for publishing two videos in which he stated that he would offer 5,000 euros to “anyone who can show me, in free, candid and courteous debate, that the homicidal Hitlerian gas chambers are not a myth of history.” To avoid a return to prison, he is said to be living in England.

Hervé Ryssen, according to Wikipedia, has been sentenced several times for his writings about Jews on counts, among others, of racial insult, racial defamation, defamation against a group of persons because of their belonging to a certain race, and incitation to racial hatred; and Boris Le Lay, who is living in Japan, has been sentenced in absentia many times, most recently in July this year to serve 32 months in prison and to pay 31,500 euros to the groups representing the supposed victims, for his writings judged to constitute incitement to discrimination and to racial hatred and violence, and to contain public racial insults. Among the recent charges against Le Lay was one of making death threats against activists of the Human Rights League; I have not been able to determine if he was convicted of this; if he was, he appears in that instance to be an exception to the other cases discussed in this article, which involve no violence or threat thereof.

Politicians on Trial

Although many speech cases involve politicians, two in particular deserve mention because they arguably played a role in the presidential election of 2007.

The first round of the previous election, in 2002, had stunned the country as Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, edged out Lionel Jospin, the Socialist candidate, for a place in the second round. Le Pen’s share of the first-round vote was only 16.9 percent, but Jospin was handicapped by an abundance of rivals on the left who split the vote. Before the second round, a broad denunciatory publicity campaign to block Le Pen took place, and his opponent, Jacques Chirac, the incumbent, refused to debate him. Chirac was re-elected with 82 percent of the vote.

Before the next election, in 2007, both Le Pen and the party’s second-ranking member, Bruno Gollnisch, would be defendants in high-profile cases over things they said.

On January 7, 2005, the rightist weekly Rivarol published an interview in which Le Pen said: “In France, at least, the German occupation wasn’t particularly inhumane, even if there were slip-ups, inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometers.” He also related a story about a German lieutenant, “crazy with pain” after an attack on a train in which many young soldiers died, who he said would have shot up a village had the Gestapo not intervened. Various groups filed complaints, and in March an investigation was formally opened. In February 2008 he was found guilty of complicity in the contestation of crimes against humanity and complicity in apology for war crimes. In January 2009 the appeals court in Paris confirmed the verdict on the first count but threw out the war-crimes verdict. In April 2011 the Court of Cassation overturned the crimes-against-humanity verdict, and remanded the matter to the appeals court, which again found him guilty in February 2012, a judgment confirmed by the Court of Cassation in June 2013. Le Pen was sentenced to three months in prison (suspended) and assessed a fine of 10,000 euros, and the editor of Rivarol and the interviewer were fined 5,000 euros and 2,000 euros respectively. Three of the complainant groups were awarded damages of 5,000 euros each, and Rivarol was ordered to pay for the publication of the decision in Le Figaro.

In the other case, Gollnisch, a professor of Japanese language and culture at the University of Lyon who at the time was director general of the National Front (before the ascension of Marine Le Pen), was charged with contestation of crimes against humanity for responses to a journalist’s questions at a press conference in October 2004. No electronic recording was made, but he was quoted as saying: “There is no serious historian who accepts completely the conclusions of the Nuremberg Tribunal; I think that the discussion should remain free concerning the drama of the concentration camps. The number of deaths, the manner in which the people died —historians have the right to discuss. … I don’t deny that there were homicidal gas chambers, but the discussion should remain free.” In 2006, before the verdict was rendered, he was suspended from his university post for five years.

During the trial Gollnisch was questioned intensively for hours one day in November 2006 over his true beliefs on the matter, and the attorney examining him, Alain Jakubowicz, representing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, said he would withdraw from the case if Gollnisch would only admit “that the organized extermination of the Jews of Europe by the Nazi regime during the Second World War constitute an incontestable crime against humanity perpetrated notably by the use of gas chambers.” According to Le Monde, Gollnisch appeared surprised and hesitated before giving an answer that might alienate the “hard fringe of his movement.” Gollnisch replied, “Completely.” Asked to repeat his answer, he said: “My answer is affirmative.” He was convicted in January 2007, three months before the first round of the presidential election, and sentenced to serve three months in prison (suspended) and pay a fine of 5,000 euros. An appeals court in February 2008 confirmed the conviction and added fines totaling 39,000 euros to be paid to nine associations devoted to fighting racism or representing people deported from France during World War Two. But in June 2009 the Court of Cassation, judging that his contradictory remarks as presented to the court did not constitute contestation, overturned the verdict without possibility of retrial.

However these cases might be viewed in relation to freedom of speech, they also merit attention from a purely political point of view. In the 2002 election, Jean-Marie Le Pen scored an upset in the first round; in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidency by, in the view of many commentators, “borrowing the discourse” and luring the voters of Le Pen’s party. In between, both Le Pen and his righthand man were put on trial, to the accompaniment of much public commentary, on charges that suggested their approbation of Nazi atrocities. Under such circumstances, borrowing and luring may be much easier than would otherwise be the case.

Censored Books

In September 2013 the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism sought an injunction from a court in Bobigny to order the excision of passages from five books republished by Kontre Kulture, a publishing enterprise whose publication director is Alain Soral. David-Olivier Kaminski, an attorney for the league, described Soral as someone known as a “vector of hate” and characterized the re-editions as a “provocation, with the purpose of arousing tensions.” The league also asked for 20,000 euros in damages for each of the five books.

In November the court ordered the withdrawal from sale of one of the books, “L’Anthologie des propos contre les juifs, le judaïsme et le sionisme” by Paul-Eric Blanrue, which had originally been published by another publisher in 2007, and the removal of certain passages from the four others, all of which were reprints of books published long ago: “La France juive” by Edouard Drumont, “Le salut par les juifs” by Léon Bloy, “Le juif international” by Henry Ford, et “La controverse de Sion” by Douglas Reed. The court judged that the works constituted “insult toward a group of persons because of their belonging to a specific religion,” “negation of crimes against humanity,” and “provocation of racial hatred.” Kontre Kulture and Soral were also ordered to pay 8,000 euros each to the league as well as a part of its legal expenses. In December 2014 a court overturned the previous ruling on the “Anthologie” and it was again allowed to be sold.

The media reaction focused principally on the book by Léon Bloy. Bloy’s great-grandchild, Alexis Galpérine, reminded readers in Le Figaro that Bloy was a “philosemite” and that “Le salut par les juifs” had been recommended as a “book against antisemitism” by Franz Kafka. Pierre Glaudes, a professor at the Sorbonne, wrote in the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur : “This decision of justice arouses astonishment and disquiet by attacking a literary work that is 122 years old and has been republished several times without having attracted lightning strikes by justice. … This condemnation sets a dangerous precedent. Why not censor ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by Shakespeare, ‘Gobseck’ by Balzac or ‘Money’ by Zola for their antisemitic statements?”

Stage Show Blocked

The case of the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala merits notice particularly for the legal manner in which the performance of his show “The Wall” in Nantes was forbidden in January 2014.

Dieudonné, the son of a Cameroonian man and a French woman, performed for several years early in his career with a Jewish partner, and their sketches often made fun of racism. Eventually he came to hold Jews responsible in large part for the slave trade, he expressed resentment at the attention given to the Holocaust in comparison with that given to the slavery, and he came to regard Jews not as fellow victims of prejudice but instead as important members of a power structure in which people of the Third World and of Third World origin are kept down. His new acts were sharply criticized, and he responded with provocations such as including Robert Faurisson, notorious as a denier of the Holocaust and gas chambers, in his acts. Dieudonné was found guilty of racial insult or defamation on numerous occasions, for example, for saying that a television host financed the Israeli Army, “which doesn’t hesitate to kill Palestinian children”; for characterizing Holocaust remembrance as “memorial pornography”; for stating that the directors of a pro-Israeli website were trying to paint him as an antisemite and “son of Hitler”; for describing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism as one of the “mafia-like associations that organize censorship, … that deny all concepts of racism except that concerning the Jews. In fact, they are nothing but Israeli agents.”

Largely excluded from television and other standard venues, he has nonetheless maintained an enthusiastic and politically and racially mixed following through his stage shows and videos. In January 2014 his stage show “The Wall” was challenged by the government as a threat to public order and to the dignity of the human person. Its performance in Nantes was banned by the prefecture of the Loire-Atlantic region, which judged that it contained antisemitic remarks that would incite racial hatred and constitute an apology for discriminations, persecutions and exterminations perpetrated in the course of the Second World War. The ban was lifted on the day of the show by the region’s administrative tribunal, which held that the show “could not be regarded as having as its essential purpose an affront at human dignity,” but the tribunal’s ruling was overturned and the ban reinstated later the same day by a judge of the Council of State, the highest court in the administrative-law system, after an urgent request by Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Conclusion

French people in general seem content with the way free speech questions are handled. If in private they will occasionally murmur that “one can’t say anything anymore,” in public there is very little disagreement over the necessity of punishing infractions involving remarks characterized as racist or antisemitic or “negationist.” Prominent cases, such as the many brought against Jean-Marie Le Pen, are approved, explicitly or implicitly, by the vast majority of commentators in the press and on the radio and television. Even publications that push the limits of public tolerance in other ways — for example, with crude or even violently obscene and sacrilegious writings and cartoons — do not defend the targets of anti-racism or anti-contestation laws on general free-speech grounds; quite the contrary.

There is no high-profile organization or figure that publicly espouses the famous words that Voltaire apparently never really said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Over all the attitude is closer to that attributed to the revolutionary Saint-Just, “No liberty for the enemies of liberty.” The slogan of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, one of the organizations most active in denouncing speech offenders, is “Racism is not an opinion but a criminal offense.” Even a group such as Reporters Without Borders, which works to further the freedom of the press throughout the world, generally makes no objection to the laws discussed above, although it did oppose the one criminalizing the denial of legally recognized genocides. In an interview, Antoine Héry, in charge of the group’s activities in the European Union and the Balkans, explained to me: “I think that the problem in France is that there really are racist statements — many. … This climate exists; it isn’t a phantasm. There is, from this point of view, a necessity to regulate a little the domain of speech, because there are abuses. I don’t think that in the United States one finds this sort of mass behavior — because it is massive, it isn’t just one guy in his corner doing his thing.”

There have been dissident voices on the subject of the criminalization of so-called negationism and other “memorial laws.” One of the most prominent is a group called Liberté pour l’Histoire, which was formed in 2005 in response to what seemed about to become a wave of such laws. In a public appeal signed by nineteen historians in December of that year and later by hundreds more, it stated that “in a free state, it is not the business of the parliament nor of the judicial authority to define historical truth” and called for “the abrogation of these legislative measures unworthy of a democratic regime.” But even this unambiguous stand is not so solid as it might appear. In 2010, at the International Congress of Historical Sciences in Amsterdam, the group’s president, Pierre Nora, spoke of the Gayssot Law and stated: “It is now twenty years since the law was voted, and even if we continue to regret it intellectually speaking, the association Liberté pour l’Histoire does not campaign for its suppression and does not wish to challenge it for the simple reason that this legal and official challenge would only be seen in the public eye as authorizing and even encouraging the denial of the Jewish genocide.” There could hardly be a better illustration of the French ambivalence on the matter than this.

This ambivalence derives from an evident fact: the characteristics of the system that make it vicious from a free-speech perspective — the vagueness and elasticity of the definitions of the crimes, the politically selective application of the laws, the tendency of the trials to become examinations of the defendants’ thoughts and beliefs rather than merely of their public statements — are virtues for a system of political repression, and in France there is a general consensus that the “extreme right” needs to be kept down and that expressions of “racism” and “antisemitism” deserve to be squelched. While there are pockets of dissidence — such as the websites Polémia and Boulevard Voltaire, the independent rightist station Radio Courtoisie and the Internet television channel TV Libertés — the assumption remains widespread that anyone arguing that freedom should extend to such speech must have evil motives.

The legal procedures through which speech is restricted do sometimes come under criticism. For instance, the ban on Dieudonné’s show “The Wall” was widely criticized because it imposed a prior restraint, seen as equivalent to censorship in a way that punishing the performer afterward would not be. Jack Lang, who was minister of culture in the Mitterrand administration, said that the Council of State had opened a Pandora’s box of potential abuses; he objected as well to basing the decision on a vague principle of “human dignity” and pointed out that the risk to public order was not credible. Michel Tubiana, a former president of the Human Rights League, which also objected to the ban, told me in an interview that Dieudonné should have been allowed to do his show and then he could have been prosecuted in the normal way. On the league’s website, one reads: “Clearly it is necessary to let nothing pass, to systematically bring prosecutions against the delinquent, to denounce systematically his crimes.”

For the future, there is pressure to increase the surveillance, particularly of the Internet. At its annual dinners, which are grand affairs similar to those of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the United States, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France presses the attending government officials hard for ever more stringent restrictions, especially on Internet communications. In March 2016, for example, its president, Roger Cukierman, urged that the state of emergency “should also apply to the Internet,” and this year its new president, Francis Kalifat, called for “zero tolerance” for bloggers “of hateful content.”

In the meantime, France, like the other countries of the European Union, is a party to the Council Framework Decision “on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law,” adopted unanimously by the ministers in the Council of the European Union in November 2008. In a report in January 2014 on the implementation of this decision, the European Commission stated: “Member States must ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable when directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin:

  • publicly inciting to violence or hatred, including by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;
  • publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising
  • crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court; or
  • the crimes defined in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal appended to the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or one or more of its members.”

And France does its part, by continuing to reinforce its laws. On August 5 of this year it made illegal any “nonpublic” insult or defamation (as, for example, made during a meeting in a company’s offices) “made toward a person or group of persons because of their origin or belonging or not belonging, real or supposed, to an ethnic group, a nation, a putative race or a particular religion; … [or] because of their sex, their sexual orientation or gender identity, or their handicap.”

The law provides for fines of 1,500 euros initially and 3,000 euros for recidivists. It also gives a judge the option of augmenting the punishment with a compulsory course in citizenship.

Lawrence G. Proulx is a retired copy editor who worked for more than 30 years at the Washington Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and International New York Times.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

Catalonia: Rajoy Moves Towards Extreme Measures

By Craig Murray | October 4, 2017

Things have taken a much more sinister turn in Catalonia, without sufficient notice being paid internationally. The leader of the Catalan regional police force has been formally arraigned for sedition by the Spanish attorney general, for refusal to comply enthusiastically with the beating up of old women. That carries a minimum jail sentence of four years. It is the first step towards major imprisonment of Catalan leaders. It is also extremely significant that this first step is aimed at decapitating the only disciplined and armed force under some measure of Catalan government control. What does that tell you about Rajoy’s next move?

This extreme action against Major Trapero is precisely in line with last night’s ultra hardline address by a man with the comic opera name of Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Grecia. It is hard to take seriously anyone named after a whiskey, but we live in such a strange world that this unelected, far right and immensely corrupt, inbred buffoon could spout about democracy and accuse anyone who did not bow the knee to him of disloyalty and sedition. That precisely prefigures the legal action taken against Major Trapero. It can only be a precursor to a Spanish attempt to impose physical control on Catalonia and imprison its leaders. Having rejected both dialogue and mediation, I see no other direction Rajoy will take.

The Catalan government has said it will declare Independence within days. I am not, and have never been, a pacifist. A vital duty of any state is the defence of its citizens. Once Catalonia declares Independence it will be in a different position as a state than as a movement for Independence within Spain. The highly impressive and disciplined non-violence of the Independence movement will no longer be appropriate. But physically, I am not aware of any capacity to defend itself against the Spanish forces which there is every sign Rajoy will unleash immediately after any Declaration of Independence. Catalonia will also need to move instantly to dismantle any parts of the state fabric, and particularly the judiciary and prosecutorial service, which may remain loyal to Madrid,

The EU failed to draw a line in the sand when Rajoy’s Francoist paramilitary thugs beat up old ladies, en masse, before the eyes of the whole world. Rajoy will be certain to calculate that if he now invokes article 155, seizes Catalonia by force, and imprisons all the Catalan leadership for 30 years for rebellion, that the EU will continue to back him. Following the “royal” address yesterday and the extreme charges against Major Trapero today, the Francoist solution seems to me to be where we are heading, with nobody in any position of authority in Europe making the slightest effort to stop it.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Catalan Independence Vote Risks Creating ‘Domino Effect’ in France

Sputnik – 04.10.2017

While Paris has taken a dim view of the Catalan independence referendum, members of French autonomist group Breizh Europa praised the vote as an example of the people’s right for self-determination.

Even as French President Emmanuel Macron voiced his support of Spain’s constitutional unity in the wake of the October 1 Catalan independence referendum, the proponents of Brittany’s autonomy welcomed Catalonia’s choice and even sent their representatives to act as observers during the vote.

Caroline Ollivro, president of the autonomist Breton movement Breizh Europa that promotes the concept of an “autonomous Brittany within the federated Europe,” told Sputnik France that her group regards the Catalan referendum as a glimmer of hope.

“Our unitary Jacobin state is unable to organize referendums even though all the mechanisms are detailed in the constitution. A French president would never organize such vote because he’s too afraid of the outcome. A referendum on the simple autonomy of a French region, let alone independence, is simply not possible,” Ollivro said.

She pointed out that Breizh Europa has been asking for a referendum on the reunification of historical Brittany (the Loire-Atlantique department and the city of Nantes which used to be part of the historical Brittany currently belong to another administrative unit of France, the Pays de la Loire region). However, the French government continues to ignore these requests despite the fact that “each year opinion polls show that 60-65 percent of respondents support the reunification,” apparently due to concerns that the referendum could be followed by calls for greater autonomy of the region.

Ollivro also added that even if Madrid “currently opposes the events in Catalonia, one day the law would have to be changed” in accordance with the people’s right for self-determination.

“France does not have the kind of cultural and historical unity that is being presented by Paris or the textbooks. The unity of the French nation is determined by the so-called ‘republican unity pact’ which was not brought forth via a referendum. The centralized France is a centuries-old tradition that is being actively supported by a press which strives to diminish the scale of autonomist movements,” she explained.

Meanwhile, historian and Catalan affairs expert Garcia Dorel-Ferre told Sputnik that the issue of separatism is a concern for the region as a whole, and lamented that no one in Europe appears willing to deal with this problem.

“Minority issues are not limited to Lombardy, Catalonia and Corsica; the scope of this problem is much greater. There are many countries in Europe that have minorities… with which these countries have to come to accord and to respect their peculiarities. This is a real problem for Europe, and one day this matter needs to be taken seriously,” Dorel-Ferre warned.

On Sunday, October 1, Spain’s northwestern autonomous region of Catalonia held an independence referendum despite the fact that the vote had been previously outlawed by Madrid, with over 90 percent of more than 2.26 million Catalans who took part in the referendum voting ‘Yes’.

Following the vote, Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont announced that the region will declare independence in a matter of days.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment