Thursday, January 15, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and hate crimes

Okay, we realize that we've railed a lot about the Charlie Hebdo lately, but then, hasn't most everyone? So we almost hate to write about it again today. So we won't: we'll write about an interesting tangent.

France has announced that it will crack down on 'hate crimes'. This means that, according to French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, '...reprehensible words or acts of hatred or contempt made because of religious affiliation must be fought with the utmost vigour,". What are we to make of that?

If we're supposed to identify with Charlie Hebdo on free speech grounds and freedom of speech is supposed to be absolute, how can the western world justify a condemnation of any words, even the reprehensible ones? Isn't that why so many people support Hebdo to begin with, that even though much of what they have said is reprehensible, they have a right to say it, print it, and yell it from the mountaintops? How is it that the French Justice Minister no less can call for a 'vigourous' prosecution of any speech under these or any given circumstances?

The fact is that the right to freedom of speech, just like any other right, is not absolute. There are legitimate parameters which can be placed against it: we recognize that in our laws against libel and slander, for example. Without that understanding, how can we condemn hateful speech? Isn't that what Charlie Hebdo was itself practicing?

What we have here is a prime example of how the West has lost its moral grounding. When we preach that there are no boundaries to personal behavior, at least within supposedly and wholly personal matters, we ignore that it's a hop, skip, and jump towards someone saying: Well, if it's all about me and what I want, why should I care about what anyone else thinks or does? I'll say what I want...and perhaps do worse.

We are no longer shocked at extremism of any kind. It feeds quite naturally upon the moral confusion which the West, especially Europe, has foisted upon itself. When society tolerates disgusting things such as Charlie Hebdo, you're going to bring all the extremists out of the woodwork.

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