French President Wants (Another) Crack Down on Free Speech

In yet another sign that Europe is descending into a wasteland of authoritarian leftism, French President Emmanuelle Macron has announced that he wants to make “gender-based insults” a thing of the past in his country. In a speech celebrating the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against women, Macron proposed that France create new legislation that outlaws these insults in such a way that punishes users by a fine.

“The streets should not become hell for the women of France,” he said, signaling that the Ministry of the Interior was now working on regulations that would be rolled out within a few weeks.

“We will be creating an offense which will give the police the right to issue fines if there is a verbal attack on a woman,” he said. “Let’s seal a pact of equality between men and women.”

There are elements of Macron’s proposed law that could actually do some good – the government has indicated a willingness to expand the statute of limitations for the rape of minors, make it easier for women to report sexual assault online, and improve women’s safety on public transportation. It is not a problem that Macron wants to crack down on sexual assault and actual violence.

The problem comes when he conflates speech with violence, which is a point of confusion he shares with Angela Merkel and many American leftists. Through this mechanism, he can begin a slow and steady march against freedom. Sure, it starts with a few gender slurs here and there. Then it moves into the realm of ideas. Suddenly you not only cannot call a woman a “bitch” in public without risking a fine, you can’t criticize a woman at all. Doing so is now classified as hate speech, and the consequences are in line with the penalties for actually committing an act of assault. This is where the whole train goes off the rails.

Standing up (meaningfully) for free speech is never easy, because the types of speech that people like Macron want to outlaw are almost always unpopular. Who wants to rally for the rights of men to yell slurs at women in the streets of Paris? Who wants to stand up for the rights of Neo-Nazis to march in Charlottesville? People see you defending hate speech and they assume that you approve of hate speech. Human psychology dictates that few people will want those associations. That’s why, in the absence of a First Amendment, it’s so easy for a government to begin banning certain forms of expression “for the good of society.”

Bill of Rights or no Bill of Rights, leftists are going to soon try and start doing this in America. That’s why it’s so important that we have the courage to fight them off, no matter how much we may personally disagree with the speech they’re trying to ban. Once you start heading down that road, there’s no coming back.