Speech Codes Are So Gay

CensorshipIn a stunning display of overreaction and hypersensitivity, French gay-rights groups sued an MP for making anti-gay statements and won.

Stating that “homosexual behaviour endangers the survival of humanity” and that “heterosexuality is morally superior to homosexuality” can cost you dearly in France. Exactly these opinions, expressed by the French politician Christian Vanneste last year, led to him being sentenced on Tuesday to payment of a heavy fine.

A court in Lille [Rijsel in Dutch], in the French northern province of Flanders (adjacent to the Belgian Dutch-speaking region of Flanders), ruled that Mr Vanneste has to pay a fine of 3,000 euro plus 3,000 euro in damages to each of the three gay organisations that had taken him to court. The politician, a member of the French National Assembly for the governing UMP, also has to pay for the verdict to be published in the leftist Parisian newspaper Le Monde, the regional Lille daily La Voix du Nord, and the weekly magazine L’Express.

Les Flamands Roses (The Pink Flemings), a gay activist group from the North of France, applauded the verdict, saying that freedom of speech does not allow “incitement to homophobic hatred.” Mr Vanneste had been taken to court because of what he had said in a recorded discussion with activists of the “Pink Flemings.”

Tuesday’s verdict is the first conviction on the basis of the French anti-homophobia bill of 30 December 2004, one of France’s draconian laws prohibiting so-called “hate crimes.” According to the “Pink Flemings” Mr Vanneste abuses freedom of expression “in order to insult and discriminate [against] gay men and women.”

Freedom of expression should only be used for kind, gentle, non-insulting speech? Fuck that! Laws like this result in a society dominated by the banal smalltalk best reserved for dinner parties, not a vibrant free-wheeling marketplace of ideas. On the other hand, this is a country that has an offical government agency to police the language. Now those conservatives afraid of a vast gay conspiracy to homosexualize America can point to France in the same way that Second Amendment activists point to the United Kingdom. Vive la France!

When “hate speech” codes are proposed, the supporters loudly disclaim any intent to curb all but the most vile speech, yet those same codes often end up used as swords to cut down those one disagrees with, rather than shields to protect the oppressed. Note to Howard Stern (and anoyone else prone to intemperate speech): Stay out of France.

4 Comments
  1. Your link to the article on crime in the UK raised a question. The article states that murder and rape are more common in the US than in the UK but all other crimes are less common in the US. Is it good that we trade petty crime for murder and rape?

  2. I’m not saying that it’s good or bad, but it’s important to recognize that there are tradeoffs in all policy decisions.