France, the country of the French Revolution that nurtured and developed incredibly important freedoms now found across the West today is slowly descending into chaos. Police brutality is now common across the country, especially in Paris, where the Yellow Vest movement was most widespread. Some of who participated in the protests were delivered beatings that lead to permanent disabilities including the loss of eyes and/or hands.
And, despite this concerning increase in police brutality the French government passed a law, supported by President Macron, that disturbingly attacks the presumption of innocence and the right of French citizens to protest. It also gives the police the ability to arrest anyone almost without cause. Unfortunately, the passing of this particular law has not received as much media attention as it should have.
But France’s restricting of its citizens rights has not stopped there. In June another law was passed. This one, also supported by President Macron, is an attempt to fight what France calls online ‘hate speech’.
The law obliges social media networks to remove ‘hateful’ content within 24 hours and implement another button that allows users to flag abuse. Any failure to comply with this new legislation could lead to a fine of up to 1.25 million euros. The legislation is modelled on a similar law passed by Germany last year.
Despite what could be called the French governments misplaced ‘best intentions’ at attempting to stamp out ‘hate speech’, this particular piece of legislation is something that should concern everyone who firmly believes in freedom of speech and the right to voice ones concerns.
The biggest issue, among many, with this new law is the term ‘hate speech’. Basically, what is it? Who defines it? And do the citizens of a sovereign nation really want a government to dictate what can and can’t be said regarding issues they might be facing? I would assume not, and history provides us with plenty of reasons why this is a bad idea.
The law itself is extremely vague, which has led to Jonathan Turley, an American legal scholar, stating that “France has now become one of the biggest international threats to freedom of speech”.
And despite these huge concerns within France, its increasingly dire economic situation and the risk of riots, the French governments priority lies elsewhere, mainly, in climate change. Which, again, despite what many might describe as the French government and Presidents best intentions is not what the people of France are currently most concerned with. And attempting to vilify them for being more concerned with things within their direct purview does not help anyone, something President Macron doesn’t fully understand.
On July 14th, Bastille Day, a day widely celebrated in France, President Macron drives through Paris as thousands gather, with some shouting insults and calling for his resignation as he drives past. Some members of the Yellow Vest movement show up and are quickly and firmly dispersed after releasing yellow balloons into the sky and distributing leaflets. Then, ‘Antifa’ protestors show up not long after and riot for several hours before the police manage to regain control.
Then, later that night thousands of young Arabs come out to ‘celebrate’ the Algerian soccer teams victory which led to looting and damage across an area near the Arc de Triomphe. Within this ‘celebration’ many heard slogans such as “Death to France” and “Long live Alegria” shouted out and saw Algerian flags being waved everywhere. Police managed to contain some of the violence but mainly sought to limit its reach.
It appears the French government is quick to crack down on peaceful protests but hesitates when dealing with riots and protests by ‘Antifa’ and immigrants. This weakness in enforcing the law and preventing riots is causing deep division within France. So much so that former French President Francois Hollande said that “France is on the verge of partition”. The French governments attempts to ‘contain’ the situation are only to exacerbate them.