Sunday, January 5, 2014

Taubira Statement on Dieudonné

This blog has been inundated in recent days by hundreds of inhabitual readers directed here by a mention of my previous post in The New York Times. Many of these new readers have left comments, most of them in defense of Dieudonné and derogatory of my characterization of him. Quite a few have suggested that I am quite ignorant of French realities and presume to grace me with their intimate and visceral understanding as members of an oppressed "people" subject to an all-powerful "elite" in control of the media and other forms of public expression.

From long experience of the Internet, I know that it's useless to respond to trolls, so I won't. In their own minds their logic is ironclad, and I'm quite sure that no argument from me is likely to penetrate. Since Dieudonné is a comedian, I think it might be more profitable to respond with humor, for example, as a friend of mine suggested, by organizing a "quenelle cooking contest." Nevertheless, I think it's worthwhile to cite the response of the minister of justice, Mme Christiane Taubira, to the Dieudonné affair. Since Mme Taubira has herself been the object of very public attacks that the elite Establishment allegedly in control of the media in France has been powerless to suppress, perhaps her testimony will have some value, though I suspect its import will be lost on Dieudonné's defenders. Her statement can be read in full here. I single out the following passage for your edification (h/t KJS):

Il est triste, infiniment triste, d'achever une année sur les pitreries obscènes d'un antisémite multirécidiviste. Faut-il que son talent soit stérile pour qu'il n'ait d'autres motifs pour faire s'esclaffer des esprits irresponsables ou incultes ou pervers, qu'une tragédie, un génocide, un indicible drame, de ceux dont on sait qu'on ne guérira pas, car rien ne nous consolera jamais des enfants dont la destinée s'est interrompue, brusquement ; et avant même cette violence de la mort industrielle, qui ne distingue pas, frappe sans rien connaître de ses victimes, la violence de l'arrachement, de la malnutrition, de la maladie, du désarroi, de cet inconnu irrationnellement hostile, la violence de la révélation de parents démunis qui ne peuvent protéger que par l'amour. Faut-il frayer avec les monstres pour trouver quelque plaisir à se faire complice, après coup, de ce crime contre l'humanité ?


Cincinna said...

I believe that Art's comments on Dieudonné and his despicable, hateful "jokes" and "gestes" have been spot on, well thought out, and fair. The "supporters" of Dieudonné are all the usual suspects, not those defending his right to free speech. I am not a fan of Mme Taubira's politics, but applaud her taking a stand on this issue. I believe Mme Taubira has been ridiculed, insulted, and taunted because of who she is; her race, sex, and place of birth, rather than for the content of her comments. Unfortunately, many on the far left in France, as well as the far right, share Dieudonnés odious views, but express them in a less obvious, less crude manner.
Dieudonné reflects a repugnant thread running throughout French history and culture, that of anti-semitism and racism. He is not alone; he is just a symptom of a societal sickness with deep roots in history.
There is a huge divide between the French and Americans on questions of freedom of speech and liberty of expression. In the US, free speech is sacrosanct, protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The French have no such protection, and look to censure, ban, or criminalize offensive speech, the very kind of speech our Framers sought to protect. We know that from the Framer's writings in the Federalist Papers, and the debates that took place before the adoption if the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution.
For those using this opportunity to compare the right side of the political spectrum in the US with this vile irrational hatred of Jews, the Jewish religion, and the Jewish State of Israel, think again. The Tea Party, which many on the French left demonize, stands for Taxed Enough Already! It is not an organized party but a strong current in public opinion on the right. Tea Party people come from all walks of life, of different races and religions, and have in common a belief in smaller, less centralized, less intrusive government on individuals, more individual freedom and liberty, a lower, less confiscatory tax system, a belief in the US Constitution, and in equal opportunity for all Americans. It has nothing to do with the extreme far right, the neo-nazi right of related groups like the neo-nazi group, Storm Front, in the US, the National Front in France, and other neo-Nazi extremist groups throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union.
I believe in individual freedom and liberty, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech (in short, the US Constition), and equal opportunity for all Americans. I detest and condemn racial and ethnic hatred and speech, like that coming from Dieudonné and his allies and supporters on the French neo-nazi right, like Jany Le Pen, her odious husband, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and his daughter, a chip off the old block, a wolf now in sheep' s clothing, Marine le Pen.

FrédéricLN said...

I agree in full with Cincinna (worth being said as it does not happen so often). But on two points:

* comparing people with animals is the very shameful practice we criticize when anti-Taubira protesters do — so let us avoid that;

* and " The French have no such protection" (of freedom of speech): yes we have!

Sure we have, and tons of ink have been spent on defending this freedom, not to speak about human blood.

And it's in our Constitution, too.

But yes, the French law also values civil peace at a high level, and condemns those speeches in public that might endanger civil peace.

And, "pushing to racial or antisemitic hatred" falls in this case. The law forbids that. So far, I agree with that.

It became common (and I do not agree with that) that people, including Jean-Marie Le Pen, were condemned under this law, when they held anti-Semitic talks, even when I consider questionable whether they were pushing for antisemitic hatred.

Moreover, our Assemblies may have went further in banning the expression of some opinions (see ). Most American citizens would probably consider such restrictions as opposed to constitutional liberties.

See a list of cases at

bernard said...

To find myself in agreement with Cincinna is not something I would have expected (though not on the tea party, there are limits to goodwill!), and is a reflection of how grave this subject actually is and how urgent it has become.

Anti-Semitism and racism have always been present in France, either overt or covert depending on times:

- when I was a small kid, at the time of Jean Moulin's transfer to the Pantheon, common people would usually try to revert my name to some sort of Jewish pronunciation, ignoring that it was actually a regional French name (this was ironical because little did they know that my mother's name was the same as that of one of the chiefs of the Tcheka...). That was covert anti-Semitism and little as I was, me and my small friends, all sons of survivors, knew exactly what it was and the virtues for us of remaining hidden.

- Nowadays, this century, I was able to go and watch what I at the time called an actual real anti-Semitic mass demonstration. This was the great demonstration in Paris against the coming war in Iraq - something I thought was going to turn out a huge mistake -. Every single banner bearing portraits, I kid you not, featured exaggerated noses and features in the classic anti-Semitic mode. This is a new, repugnant, feature of the ultra-left and diverges strongly from the ultra-left of the seventies (and before) to which I belonged and which, at a guess, was 90% Jewish. Our favourite pastime then when not demonstrating in favour of Vietnam was sending Le Pen's buddies to the hospital, first and foremost on account of their anti-Algerian racism. Times have changed indeed, and not for the better.

Cincinna said...

"Anti-Semitism the new gift of God" by Werner Cohn, from his blog "I Beg To Differ." 
  Werner Cohn, born in 1930's Berlin, is former chair of the Sociology Department at University of Vancouver, British Columbia, and now resides in NY. He writes extensively about cults and fringe groups. We are proud to count Werner, his wife, and family, as friends and neighbors. 
  His article about Dieudonné with video, written in 2007 is more valid than ever.

Jonathan VORMANN said...

Sur le terrain, au quotidien, le français de base n'est qu'un raciste "pas tenté" si je devais reprendre du président français lors d'un discours dans un diner avec le CRIF, il est copain avec tout le monde mais n'aime personne. En tant que français, tu as le droit d'insulter et de traiter comme des animaux les roms et les immigrants illégaux mais tu n'as pas le droit de faire une remarque à caractère racial ou religieux à l'encontre d'une communauté sans te faire traiter de xénophobe, d'islamophobe ou d'antisémite ... à part les asiatiques.

La France a un réel problème identitaire à l'heure du communautarisme absolu. Ce n'est pas qu'il ne sait pas sur quel pied danser si je devais reprendre une expression local, mais qu'il n'a pas de pied pour danser, pas de base pour traité le communautarisme comme il le devrait, c'est à dire de manière neutre, impartiale et dure. A vouloir satisfaire tout le monde, on ne satisfait personne. Liberté, égalité, fraternité ne sont-ils pas les valeurs que la république française veut véhiculer à travers l'éducation et la société? En théorie, c'est possible mais dans la pratique, c'est complètement une énorme blague. L'intégration "à la française" n'est qu'un échec et elle n'est qu'à sens unique. L'ascenseur social pour un français d'origine étrangère n'a jamais réellement fonctionné et il sera condamné à rester là où la société française à toujours voulu qu'il soit, dans les quartiers au périphérie des grandes villes bâtis spécialement pour installer les migrants après les décolonisations successives, à vivre du RSA et des petits boulots en attendant qu'il veuille bien rentrer dans son pays d'origine dégoûté par ce système hypocrite. Voilà une des réalité du français moyen à l'heure actuel et cette impression d'injustice (pas justifié à mon humble avis) se ressent très bien avec la popularité de plus en plus croissante du parti d'extrème-droite dans l'opinion publique surtout chez les populations vivant dans les quartiers dite sensible touchée par le chômage et l'insécurité.

Jonathan VORMANN said...

Alors si je devais vous donner ma vision du "phénomène Dieudonné" que les politiques et les media français semble littéralement obnubiler cela se résumerait à un sketch potache diffusé sur la télé publique où Dieudonné M'Bala Bala déguisé en colon israëlien faisant un salut nazi. A partir de là, tous les media l'ont boycotté, les élites l'ont traité comme un antisémite et des associations et groupuscules extrémiste juif (ça existe) l'ont agressés et ont blessés des spectateurs lors d'une de ses représentations et aucune condamnation publique n'a bizarrement été faite à l'époque. Ce genre de déconvenue réveille bien sûr en vous un relent complotiste lorsque vous constatez une justice, une politique et un traitement médiatique à deux vitesse, qui fait une véritable condamnation publique lorsque vous faites une blague jugée antisémite et qui fait une bref lorsque des groupuscule extrémistes réagissent de manière violente à ce genre de blague. C'est en surfant sur cette vague subversif peudo anti-complotisme, anti-sémite et anti-système que Dieudonné va rallier un publique se sentant laissé pour compte par les politiques actuels. Et c'est là où tout le monde essayent de se rejeter la faute. Les politiques voient en Dieudonné un dangereux énergumène pouvant rallier des électeurs potentiels, les diriger vers le FN et montrer au monde que le français n'est vraiment qu'un raciste qui se cherche, les associations le voient comme une personne dangereuse pouvant renverser leur hégémonie au sien d'une démocratie et d'une société qui acceptent de plus en plus de traiter les blacks de singes et à dire que les juifs dirigent le monde, et le français de tous les jours qui regard ses spectacles sur internet le voit comme un comique libre de s'exprimer mais qui risque de finir en prison ou assassiné par un extrémiste s'il continu à vouloir montrer une vérité qui n'existe que dans son imagination. Bref, la France est au bord du gouffre, les syndicats et les associations ont un poids politique évident sur le gouvernement mais s'en branlent complétement des problèmes des français et les politiques font la chasse à la quenelle plutôt qu'au chômage.

Don't worry everyone and welcome in France!

And sorry to not write my comment in english now but if anyone asks me, i do ...