Saturday, March 10, 2018

Le Premier Amendement

If you need a reminder of why the First Amendment is so important, look no further than this recent story in The Washington Post about the crimes with which Marine Le Pen has been charged. The event in question is reported as follows:
Le Pen, well known and often criticized for inveighing against Islam, posted the tweets at issue in December 2015, not long after the Islamic State claimed credit for a string of coordinated terrorist attacks, including explosions, suicide bombings and shootings that left 130 people dead in the French capital. 
At the time, a French expert on Islam compared the National Front’s growing popularity among French conservatives to “jihadism,” as Le Monde reported
In response, an outraged Le Pen tweeted three grisly photographs with the text “That is Daesh!” using a nickname for the Islamic State.
Much as I disapprove of what Le Pen represents as a politician, the onus would now be on the so-called expert on Islam to provide evidence that the National Front engages in behavior comparable to the gruesome actions of the jihadists depicted in the photos Le Pen posted or to disavow the comparison (which is a bit more nuanced in the original source than reported above).

But why let grownups engage in such debate. Here is how the incident has recently played out:
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right nationalist party, was charged in criminal court on Thursday for posting images to Twitter showing brutal killings by Islamic State fighters.
Prosecutors in the Paris suburb Nanterre accuse Le Pen, president of the National Front party and a member of parliament, of distributing “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity,” as reported in the Guardian.
The crime under French law barring extreme speech carries up to three years in prison and a roughly $90,000 fine, though Le Pen’s status as a political figure would probably shield her from a stiff sentence were she convicted.
The charges came about four months after France’s National Assembly voted to strip Le Pen of immunity from prosecution, triggering an investigation into the 2015 tweets.
That's a fascinating take on civil rights. As I have noted before with regard to Le Pen, it is an unforced error to make her a sympathetic figure by reporting on her with bias or, in this case, prosecuting her for engaging in political speech.


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