Liberty versus equality 2

We extracted these paragraphs from an article we liked in the Washington Post by Professor Jonathan Turley, who, though reputed to be a liberal, does actually seem to have a taste for liberty:

The greatest threat to liberty in France has come not from the terrorists who committed such horrific acts this past week but from the French themselves, who have been leading the Western world in a crackdown on free speech.

Indeed, if the French want to memorialize those killed at Charlie Hebdo, they could start by rescinding their laws criminalizing speech that insults, defames or incites hatred, discrimination or violence on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sex or sexual orientation. These laws have been used to harass the satirical newspaper and threaten its staff for years.

Speech has been conditioned on being used “responsibly” in France, suggesting that it is more of privilege than a right for those who hold controversial views.

In 2006, after Charlie Hebdo reprinted controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that first appeared in a Danish newspaper, French President Jacques Chirac condemned the publication and warned against such “obvious provocations”.

“Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided,” he said. “Freedom of expression should be exercised in a spirit of responsibility”.

The Paris Grand Mosque and the Union of French Islamic Organizations sued the newspaper for insulting Muslims — a crime that carries a fine of up to 22,500 euros or six months’ imprisonment. French courts ultimately ruled in Charlie Hebdo’s favor. But France’s appetite for speech control has only grown since then. …

Charbonnier [one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists] died, as he pledged, standing up rather than yielding. The question is how many of those rallying in the Place de la Republique are truly willing to stand with him. They need only to look more closely at those three statues. In the name of equality and fraternity, liberty has been curtailed in France. The terrible truth is that it takes only a single gunman to kill a journalist, but it takes a nation to kill a right.

While we agree with what Professor Turley’s point, we would put it a little differently. We always prefer to speak of freedom rather than of rights: as in “I am free to ….” rather than “I have a right to …”, because ideally we are free to do anything that a law does not proscribe, and ideally all laws protect freedom.

This is a good place for us to declare another of our long-held convictions. That it is impossible to have both liberty and equality. (Fraternity is a superfluous sentimentality that we’ll simply overlook.)

This seems to us so obvious that we can only wonder why everyone, even the French, can’t see it.

Equality – other than in the eyes of the law – can only be created and maintained by force, so there goes liberty. Leave people free and they will not match each other in accomplishment or anything else.

Where the people are free they are not equal, and where they are equal they are not free.

The Left wants equality. We want liberty.

  • liz

    “Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else”??!! Ridiculous drivel.
    If ones convictions can’t stand up to criticism or ridicule, they aren’t worth holding.
    Which makes it obvious it isn’t “convictions” they want to avoid “hurting” – it’s the violent tendencies of the homicidal barbarian supremacists they’ve so foolishly invited into their midst that they want to avoid provoking.

    • Thank you, liz, for that (as always) astute comment.

      I changed the title of this post, having originally given it the title of “The gag”, but in French, which might have put readers off.

      Your appreciation of the content confirms my own thinking that it was worth posting.