A Comparison of Free Speech and Hate Speech in France, Citing Charlie Hebdo Shootings as the Biggest Threat to Free Speech this Year
How it works
The line between free speech and hate speech is constantly debated. When does one cross the line from expressing an opinion to openly encouraging hatred of a group? Ridiculing a belief system is protected under free speech, as long as one is not inciting hate or violence against the followers of that belief system. Free speech exists to allow us to openly express our beliefs and argue with others about theirs.
France has, for a long time, separated church and state.
This has taught them the worth of freedom and civil liberties. However, those civil liberties led to the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The Islamists are accepted in France, under the protection of free speech. They openly preach about their religion and spread their ideals. Many Muslim beliefs are the exact opposite of the ideas expressed in the French constitution. However, their beliefs are tolerated in France because of free speech.
Eventually, free speech can evolve into hate speech. But where is that line drawn? Everyone is free to voice an opinion. Politeness is not the issue when it comes to voicing an opinion. People can even choose to listen to an opinion. Ridiculing a belief system is not hate speech, as long as you do not incite hate or violence against the followers of that belief system. This is the reason that preachers have the freedom to mock certain ways of life. Freedom of speech works both ways. If the freedom of speech to preach and mock certain ways of life exists, then the freedom of speech to ridicule your beliefs must also exist.
The Charlie Hebdo shootings can be seen as the biggest threat to free speech this year. This is not because of intimidation, as the French did not cave into the demands of the terrorists.
Charlie Hebdo had no choice but to publish a depiction of Muhammad following the attack. If they hadn’t, the terrorists would have won and set an example that violence can silence criticism of a belief system. Muslims do have the freedom of speech to express their anger at Charlie Hebdo for publishing a caricature of their prophet. However, being offended doesn’t mean hate speech has occurred.
Freedom of speech may cover publications like Charlie Hebdo, but they do not add anything constructive to any idea. Free speech can be used to mock any religion. But buying a magazine or newspaper that mocks a religion for no reason other than to offend the followers of that religion adds nothing to society. Freedom of speech does work both ways. The freedom to ignore and ridicule other people does exist. However, Charlie Hebdo was heading towards bankruptcy for a reason.
France is a country where even minorities can express their views without the fear of being prosecuted. Ridiculing a belief system is protected under free speech, as long as one does not incite hate or violence against the followers of that belief system. Free speech allows a society to openly voice their beliefs, and hopefully those beliefs contribute to society. However, a group simply being offended by one’s opinion does not make that opinion hate speech.