Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brigitte Bardot on Trial Once Again for Insulting Islam

She is Charlie

Brigitte Bardot is on trial again in France for violating the country's hate speech laws prohibiting the incitement of discrimination, violence or harm against protected categories including those of race and religion.

Bardot has been charged with insulting Islam.

(Well, technically, it's Muslims, but please don't try arguing that there's a meaningful difference in this context.)

Indeed, this is the fifth time she has been so charged. She has lost the previous four cases, paid fines totaling thousands of Euros and received two "suspended" jail sentences. (For many of the quotes below as well as links to the original sources, see the Wikipedia articles on Brigitte Bardot and France's Hate Speech Laws.)

What precisely Bardot said this time, to whom and in what context has not been reported (as far as I can tell). In the past however, she has made statements such as these:
My country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims (1999). 
Over the last twenty years, we have given in to a subterranean, dangerous, and uncontrolled infiltration, which not only resists adjusting to our laws and customs but which will, as the years pass, attempt to impose its own (2003). 
I am fed up with being under the thumb of this (Muslim) population which is destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its habits (2008).
Now, Bardot has courted controversy on other matters, including animal rights (she's very much in favor) and homosexuality. On the latter, it appears that she was guilty of using politically incorrect analysis and potentially offensive language, but tagging her as a "homophobe" would be bizarre in the full context. Here's Wikipedia on 2/22/15 (the !'s were added by me):
In (her 2003) book, she also contrasted her close gay friends with today's homosexuals, who "jiggle their bottoms, put their little fingers in the air and with their little castrato voices moan about what those ghastly heteros put them through" and that some contemporary homosexuals behave like "fairground freaks". In her own defence, Bardot wrote in a letter to a French gay magazine: "Apart from my husband — who maybe will cross over one day as well (!) — I am entirely surrounded by homos (!!). For years, they have been my support, my friends, my adopted children, my confidants."

She has also called Sarah Palin "stupid" for being against gun control and against efforts to arrest global warming.

In other words Brigitte Bardot, like many public celebrities, has been outspoken on a number of issues--some putting her on the "right", more putting her on the "left" and a few just being, well, curmudgeonly (she's now 73). In France, that can get you into legal trouble.

In addition to suppressing criticism of Islam, the current French hate speech laws have been directed against Holocaust deniers as well as being invoked by Christian groups to suppress public advertisements and the like that they have deemed offensive--a satirical picture of a naked Jesus wearing a condom, for example. And it's not just the "major" groups. Recently, Bob Dylan was briefly charged with insulting Croats.

Thus, all sorts of interest groups can attempt to bring "offenders" to trial, with the results--whether the accused party is acquitted or convicted--being then somewhat arbitrary (or so it seems to me, looking at the record). Sometimes the accusations are struck down, sometimes the culprit is fined and in a few cases the guilty party has even been given a prison sentence (though as far as I know, they have all been suspended). Looking at the list of cases--one involving Charlie Hebdo (what a surprise)--I can find no general rule for why some have succeeded and some have not. What is clear is that the laws act as a deterrent to expressing all sorts of views, although in a few sorts of cases--such as Holocaust denial--they may even encourage such speech in that the accused party is guaranteed to get a certain amount of notoriety and publicity from it.

But most of the notorious cases have been against critics of Islam, with Salman Rushdie, Oriani Fallaci, Michel Houellebecq, Charlie Hebdo and of course Bardot, heading the list. And since Islam is now on the table, so to speak, it seems plausible that the greatest current effect of these laws is to suppress criticism of Islam.

But what about "Je suis Charlie" and all that?

Don't ask me. As my good friend John Kerry once said, "The French are...the French."

But there's no question that Brigitte Bardot has been particularly hard hit. As far as I can tell she has the record for these silly prosecutions.

In the current case the prosecutor has asked for the largest fine ever--€15,000 and a two-month jail sentence (though, as noted above, one suspects--and hopes--it would be suspended). Indeed, the prosecutor seems grumpy about it all--"I am a little tired of prosecuting Mrs. Bardot."

Well, whose fault is that?

Je suis Charlie, everyone.

1 comment:

  1. A much needed reminder that Europe is not the United States. "Freedom of Speech" does not exist "everywhere."

    As some American tourists are probably finding out.