I Smell French Blood. Also, Croat.

Law

I smell French blood. Croat blood too. It smells like thuggery, cowardice, officiousness, and petty and insipid bureaucratic tyranny.

Okay. I can't actually smell anybody's blood. That's silly. But I see and hear French cretinism, leavened by Croat entitlement.

The occasion is French and Croat pestering of professional mumbler Bob Dylan. Dylan, interviewed by Rolling Stone, offered some thoughts about race in America:

This country is just too fucked up about color. It's a distraction. People at each other's throats just because they are of a different color. It's the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back – or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery – that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can't pretend they don't know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.

Dylan is an American. He was talking about race and culture in America. He was speaking to an American publication. He was being interviewed in Santa Monica, California, which — notwithstanding some French elements — is in America.

Yet French magistrates — acting upon the demands of something called the Council of Croats — have brought "preliminary charges" against Dylan for "public insult and inciting hate" in France:

French magistrates have pressed preliminary charges against Bob Dylan, a poster child of the American civil-rights movement, for allegedly violating antidiscrimination laws in a 2012 magazine interview in which he appears to compare Croatians to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

The probe is a turn of fortune for the iconic American singer in France, where just three weeks ago he was awarded the country's highest cultural award, the Légion d'honneur.

Preliminary charges of "public insult and inciting hate" were filed against Mr. Dylan on Nov. 11, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office said Tuesday. That was two days before he was honored by France's culture minister, who called the singer "a hero for young people hungry for justice and independence."

Dylan probably faces a monetary fine, like other celebrities pestered by the French for Wrongthink. The Croats don't want Dylan jailed. They only want to use the French government to coerce a sign of submission from him:

If he apologies we will withdraw the suit,” Ivan Jurasinovic told the Telegraph. “The aim is not to hurt anyone but to hopefully have him say that he didn’t mean what he said and that he regrets it.”

This Croat organization is angry that Dylan associated all Croats with genocide and atrocities. But some Croats are undeniably guilty of atrocities. You can — and should — conclude that not all Croats are morally responsible for the attrocities of some Croats. But that's a rhetorical point, not — at least in a civilized society – a legal limit on speech. If Ivan Jurasinovic doesn't want Croats associated with atrocities and genocide, then he's a damn fool to abuse the mechanism of the state to charge critics with crimes to silence them, because that's how the perpetrators of historical atrocities act. Ivan Jurasinovic's message is "some of my people may have committed genocide but I'm going to have you prosecuted by the government if you talk about it in a way I don't like." Does that sentiment flatter the Croats?

This use of French hate-speech law to police historical and social commentary should not surprise us. "Hate speech" laws will generally be used as weapons in political infighting. They will generally be used to pursue ancient grievances and to punish others for pursuing them. They will generally be used to batter opposing sides in religious and ethnic disputes. That's why, as I've shown in my continuing series on blasphemy law, laws protecting group feelings are often used to persecute minorities and the powerless. Bob Dylan has money, and therefore freedom and power; he's not powerless. But in a system in which the state will use unprincipled force to protect the feelings of a vast array of squabbling interest groups, that power doesn't buy him much other than the ability to pay the arbitrary fine when the state imposes it. Moreover, his prosecution sends a powerful message to the powerless: shut up about grievance-mongering groups, because you might not be able to afford this.

Dylan's rhetorical conceit that people can smell tainted blood is silly and obnoxious. The remedy for that amongst civilized people is to call Bob Dylan silly and obnoxious, to write about it, to speak about it, and to buy some other mumbler's records. Civilized people shouldn't plead for the machinery of the state to grind their rhetorical enemies.

Bob Dylan could yield to French state-sponsored ethnic coercion and apologize to Croats for a rhetorical fillip. He could go to court and defend free speech and ultimately pay the fine when he loses because freedom of expression is not a defense in France. But he could also really impress me: he could tell the French, and the Croats, to fuck right off. He could return — postage due, please — the Légion d'honneur, and tell the French he doesn't want the recognition of thought-policing twits. He could stop traveling to France. He could encourage his artistic friends to stop traveling to France and performing there. He could inspire a new free speech movement amongst the artistic elite. Imagine the power of him telling actors and artists and musicians this: "why do you want to do business with a country that thinks it should be able to launch official proceedings against you for offering your opinion in an interview thousands of miles away in Santa Monica because a mouthpiece for an interest group didn't like what you said?"

After all, if the French want to start asserting aggressive extra-territorial jurisdiction, they should do it like Americans, by killing people with drones and kidnapping them, holding them without due process, and occasionally torturing them. Who would complain about that?

Last 5 posts by Ken White

89 Comments

89 Comments

  1. Darryl  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:40 am

    Last paragraph wins the Internets today.

  2. SarahW  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:43 am

    FEE FI FO FUM. I'VE GOT MY DAD's FEAR OF ACETOPHENONE. ALSO FRENCHIES. http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/01/mice-inherit-specific-memories-because-epigenetics/

  3. Dion starfire  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:46 am

    Free speech may not be a valid defense in France, but wouldn't they have a bitch of a time asserting jurisdiction over actions taken by a foreign citizen in a foreign country directed at foreign peoples?

    Also, why are you surprise, this is France! Their government have been whiny little bitches for several years, at least.

  4. Lizard  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:46 am

    FWIW, I never took it to mean that Serbs have Detect Croat, 20" Radius as an at-will supernatural ability. I took it to mean that such grievances are not easily forgotten, that they are passed down from one generation to the next as *cultural* values, and that they become so engrained in the self-identity of a culture that they are *metaphorically* genetic. Consider how America is still fighting the Civil War[1] almost 150 years after it ended.

    [1]"Waah ahf Nawthawn Ahgresion, Ah say, ahf Nawthawn Ahgression!" comes a response, proving my point. Ditto, my use of idiomatic "hick" spelling as a means of "othering" Dixie-Americans.

  5. Michael Donnelly  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:48 am

    Well, shit, I guess it's not so bad that 23AndMe got nixed by the FDA. See, I was about to send in a sample to see if I have any KKK blood in me.

    But I have a couple of black friends and they never seem to sniff at me strangely. So, clearly, I don't.

    Thank you, Bob Dylan! You're my (anti) hero!

  6. Lizard  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:48 am

    @Dion: That depends entirely on how much America likes Bob Dylan and/or how much the current cultural consensus agrees with him. If Dylan had said something more Americans disagree with, he'd be on a plane to Paris faster than the French can say "We surrender."

  7. Clark  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:51 am

    Dear Frenchies,

    "Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery …"

    "If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that."

    Please leave English to the ones that speak it natively.

    Otherwise:
    Vous, Monsieur sont un douchebag censorous.

  8. James Pollock  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:57 am

    Does Mr. Dylan own property subject to French jurisdiction? I would assume that might influence how Mr. Dylan reacts to this. I, who have no property in France, would be inclined to ignore this completely.

  9. David  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:03 am

    Alternate post title: "Scent of a Tuđman"

  10. Roscoe  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:09 am

    I don't know about this one. Apologizing would be knuckling under to legal thuggery. However telling the French to fuck off is doubling down on a statement that, at best, is pretty damn stupid.

  11. Hoare  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:09 am

    serbs? croats? I was more concerned with the stained blue dress back in those days …..
    weren't the Serbs the bad guys?

    Why would bob say the croats were the bad guys?
    I'm thinking Bob doesn't know WTF he's talking about…. is that a defense?

  12. Ken White  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:19 am

    @Roscoe: I share the view that it's pretty damn stupid. But should Americans let the French police, by force of law, the pretty damn stupid things our celebrities say? If nothing else, think of the drain on the French public fisc from Alec Baldwin alone.

  13. John  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:24 am

    Of course, the French law is crazy, but the argument is basically that libeling a group is no different from libeling an individual.

    And once, the Supreme Court upheld such a statute in Beauharnais v. Illinois (1952).

    There are a few states having enacted group libel statutes, and although these are unenforced and certainly unconstitutional by modern First Amendment standards after Sullivan, R.A.V and Brandenburg, the rationale is not completely alien to American legal history.

    See Collin v. Smith, 578 F.2d 1197 (1978)[Striking down a Skokie ordinance forbidding distribution of hate literature],

    Blatty v. New York Times Co., 42 Cal.3d 1033, 1042, 232 Cal.Rptr. 542, 728 P.2d 1177 (1986)[Holding that of and concerning plaintiff is constitutionally required].

    The French law is problematic, because it provides a cause of action for defamatory speech not targeting a particular identifiable victim.

    Even truth is no defense, and given the breadth of the law there is no prospect that it is going to be enforced equally against all group defamation.

    The problem of truth is further compounded by the uncertainty in categorizing speech as either true, false or a value judgment when applied to statements concerning large groups.

    However, some argue that we should follow the European approach.

    See for example, Kenneth Lasson, Racial Defamation as Free Speech: Abusing the First Amendment.

    If you want to know how America would be with any group defamation law, France, Germany and Canada are examples of living hell.

  14. MattM  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:33 am

    @Hoare – Many of the genocidal jerkbags back then were Serbians but the Croatians, speaking as a Croatian, had a few also.

  15. Roscoe  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:36 am

    Ken. Americans shouldn't let the French dictate what we should say. But I don't see a good way out of this for Dylan. If he fights this thing it will only highlight the stupidity of his comments.

    I mean, I can see standing up for someone else's right to be an idiot or racist, but I wouldn't (I hope) stand up for my own right to be an idiot or racist.

    And Croat guy has pretty much put Dylan in a no win situation. If I were Dylan I might hire a lawyer and fight the suit, while at the same time apologizing for the comments. But Croat guy says this is all he wants.

  16. Anonymous  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:41 am

    "Normally, I would have looked into the situation and, if wrong, apologize, but my hand has been forced – I cannot in good faith apologize with a gun pointed at my face and be believed to be truly apologetic."

  17. Bob  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:55 am

    This is staggering, especially in light of the vocal opposition the French mustered to American exercises of policy over the last 15 years or so. I believe that the publication in question WAS the French edition of Rolling Stone though. The interviewer and publisher's legal team should have made clear that there were potential consequences for this type of statement in France and given Dylan a chance to proceed according to his own conscience. In light of the nature of this interview and the specifics of French Law I think the proper targets (if not exactly just targets) would be the publishers for putting the statements into the public arena despite a duty to know and respect the laws of their region.

  18. Ryan  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:09 am

    It's bad timing for my opinion of laws in European countries that this and the case of the Italian woman who is likely to lose her child to a British adoption process after they seized it while she was visiting came up in the same week.

    Dylan probably should apologize for his remarks – they were spectacularly stupid.

    That said, Dylan should also make it clear that he is apologizing BECAUSE they were stupid and, oh, btw, France can take their inquisitorial legal system and F right off with it.

  19. Drakkenmensch  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:10 am

    So, what's next? Saudi Arabia sending cease-and-decist orders to women drivers in north america because it offends them to know women are equal to men over here?

  20. JB  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:11 am

    @Hoare

    I believe the root of the animosity between the Serbs and Croats that Dylan is referring to actually dates to WWII when Yugoslavia was occupied by the Germans. IIRC the Germans used the Croats already present animosity towards the Serbs in an attempt to pacify them. This in turn was was a lingering ethnic conflict left over from when the Ottoman Empire ran things in those parts…

  21. CJColucci  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:19 am

    I know there's a Dylan lyric on point here, but I'm having a rough day and can't think of one.

  22. David  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:24 am

    Wouldn't the defense be that Bob Dylan is so unintelligible when he speaks that there is insufficient certainty that what was reported was what he said?

    While I agree with the general sentiment criticizing the French system here (and I'm not a fan of any "hate" speech codes, save and except for situations of immediacy analogous to shouting fire in a theatre or situations specific enough to be false defamation of individuals rather than groups), don't blame the magistrates, blame the legislators who imposed a law that requires an investigation when there is a complaint; there is no discretion to refuse even if the complaint is ridiculous.

    I see this news as nicely bookending the decision from a few months ago ordering Google to prevent searches from turning up (true, accurate) pictures of Mosely…

  23. perlhaqr  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:26 am

    Drakkenmensch and Anonymous@10:41 — Thumbs up. :)

    Stupid or not, I hope Dylan tells France to sniffé his périnée. :D

  24. Ann  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:29 am

    @Drakkenmensch

    Why stop there? Maybe it's time that all countries' laws become applicable to residents of all other countries, simultaneously. The Saudis could sue us over women drivers, and we could countersue for discrimination. Imagine pushing for gay marriage in Russia while it pushes for making the promotion of homosexuality illegal everywhere else. For a short while, at least, it would be an utter riot. :-)

    What's interesting is that it's all a part of our rampant globalization. I remember an online data controversy once in which someone in France tried to file a complaint because the situation violated her EU rights–while perhaps true, I don't think it could be applied to something on US servers. It's a mad world.

  25. Roland  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:31 am

    Author is right, of course. Irony is that the idea for this sort of thing came from the US govt, who extradited Marc Emery from Canada for selling seeds thru the mail, which is legal in Canada. Mr. Emery had never even been to the US.

    "Imagine the power of this: 'Why do you want to do business with the US, which thinks it should be able to imprison you for doing something legal in Vancouver BC because the DEA didn't like it?'"

    So naturally other countries are saying 'If the US govt. can do it, why can't we?" Now nobody's safe, anywhere.

  26. TomB  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:42 am

    I wish Americans would stop apologizing to Europe for "racism" when it is so much more prevalent over there (and not just Eastern Europe). It is almost impossible to watch a soccer match in any league in Europe that doesn't have the ubiquitous banana thrown at a black player or the the chant of "go home ni**er" or the like.

  27. L  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:46 am

    What he said was wrong, and might under the right circumstances merit an apology.
    Jews:Nazis::Serbs:Croats is not a good analogy.
    Jews:Nazis::Serbs:Ustaša is the right analogy.
    If Jurasinovic had pointed this out politely and asked for a retraction or apology, I might think Dylan should agree.
    But given what Jurasinovic did instead, I agree with most people in the thread, particularly Anonymous:

    "Normally, I would have looked into the situation and, if wrong, apologize, but my hand has been forced – I cannot in good faith apologize with a gun pointed at my face and be believed to be truly apologetic."

  28. Kilroy  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:47 am

    I have it on good authority that if you go through Belgium, the French will quickly surrender and offer little resistance.

  29. Frank  •  Dec 4, 2013 @11:57 am

    I don't particularly like Bob Dillon and believe him to be a self-important douche bag, but to me the right response would be to send the French courts a certified letter stating the French equivalent of, "Go tell your mom she loves you."

  30. gramps  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:01 pm

    French? French? Something rings a bell here… maybe wars, duck hunting, accordions…. Anyway, I will not pursue it for fear of some French court reaching out… Are kangaroos native to France?

    As to Dylan, he forgot to note that there are a lot of black folk who seem unable to get past the slavery of early America, possibly due to lingering dreams of reparations… There. Now I can get some home-grown hate.

  31. Jeff  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:03 pm

    So if we can somehow lure Roman Polanski into making a racist joke in a French publication does that mean the child rapist will finally face some punishment?

  32. Richard L Routledge  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:07 pm

    I would refer the cheese eating surrender monkeys to the proceedings in Arkell v Pressdram

  33. Anton Sherwood  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:17 pm

    Does anyone else think the "French surrender" joke-like entity is well past its use-by date?

  34. OrderoftheQuaff  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:17 pm

    From Agincourt to Waterloo to Puebla to WWII, French soldiers have distinguished themselves in battle. Unfortunately, not all distinctions are positive. Unbathed Frogs, do you remember your craven, truckling Vichy collaboration, and are you going to come after me in Oregon for posting this comment?

  35. Kilroy  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:25 pm

    Does anyone else think the "French surrender" joke-like entity is well past its use-by date?

    maybe for some. But when your avatar is based on a WWII meme, you are exempt.

  36. The Man in the Mask  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:27 pm

    Has Dylan's poetic license expired?

    If not, then I suggest that he was speaking metaphorically, because THAT'S WHAT DYLAN DOES. See verses 1, 2, 3, 4, 6-17, 23-57, 98-874, and the rest of his recorded output.

    He was speaking, and eloquently in my opinion, about the racism that lingers on well after we've all congratulated ourselves that we've finally (yes, finally) (this time for sure) eliminated it. There's nothing hateful about his remarks: he's just pointing out what everybody knows but few will admit.

    The correct response to this is to send his award back and tell them to pound sand. And maybe to take a look inside their own hearts — a long cold one — and seriously consider just how right Dylan is.

    Again.

    You used to be so amused
    At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
    Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
    When you ain't got nothin you got nothing to lose
    You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal

  37. Steven H.  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:40 pm

    @OrderoftheQuaff:

    Agincourt might be a bit of a stretch there. While individual Frenchmen may have exhibited the courage of a lion, the abysmal stupidity of the French leadership there is what comes to mind whenever thoughts turn to Agincourt…

  38. Mercury  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:40 pm

    Dylan says:

    “This country is just too fucked up about color. It's a distraction. People at each other's throats just because they are of a different color. It's the height of insanity,…”

    But then he goes on to describe how it’s perfectly understandable that members of certain racial or ethnic groups can “sense” ancestral guilt in the blood of members of other racial or ethnic groups.

    That sounds pretty fucked up to me Bob.

  39. TGeek  •  Dec 4, 2013 @12:49 pm

    Lets not forget, this is the country where Lars von Trier was banned from the Cannes film festival for making a comment about Hitler. I 100% support Mr. Dillon's right to freely utilize Nazis as an example in a poorly conceived, convoluted off hand comment. Or as I call it: Strapping on size 50 boots and going for a run into a minefield ( a.k.a. the Marge Schott 5k)

  40. naught_for_naught  •  Dec 4, 2013 @1:01 pm

    "…professional mumbler Bob Dylan."

    I take umbrage, sir.

  41. Shropshire Blue  •  Dec 4, 2013 @1:30 pm

    Those in favour of anti-blasphemy laws to protect their own religious opinions are those so quick to blasphemy the religious opinions of other people.

  42. Trevor  •  Dec 4, 2013 @1:31 pm

    @Roscoe and @Ken White,

    I think Bob Dylan's statements are ridiculous if interpreted as making a statement of fact. In a factual sense, nobody can smell anyone's blood, and whether or not it is tainted. But I don't think it was meant as a statement of fact. If interpreted as a metaphor, I think he's saying that there are cultural mmmmmm maybe wounds? that persist between groups where members of one group have horribly wronged members of the other group in the past.

    @L

    Jews:Nazis::Serbs:Croats is not a good analogy.
    Jews:Nazis::Serbs:Ustaša is the right analogy.

    Yes, that's more precise than what Bob Dylan said, certainly. It's also less well known, so there's the problem that it might communicate to readers what he's trying to say less effectively. But more to the point, when someone is being interviewed in the classic sense, they are of necessity SPEAKING their answers, and can't look up any facts that they don't have readily available in memory. If Bob Dylan didn't remember the name Ustaša easily, he would not have been able to produce it on the spot for the interview, and went with "Croats" as communicating the thought about the group responsible for the roughly World War 2-era atrocities that clearly occurred at that time.

    @Ken White

    He could stop traveling to France.

    For what little it's worth, Bob Dylan's website says that his upcoming tour is of the UK and Europe, but no specific tour stops are yet mentioned so we don't know whether or not it includes France.

    Finally, the following post at The Atlantic is mildly entertaining on this subject:
    Tangled Up in Thought Crime: The Persecution of Bob Dylan

  43. Shropshire Blue  •  Dec 4, 2013 @1:32 pm

    Say what you want about the French, they were America's loyal allies in the Napoleonic Wars, what we here call the War of 1812.

    They kicked most of Europe's butt for a while.

    Until things turned around for them and their ally.

  44. Simon  •  Dec 4, 2013 @1:46 pm

    Hate speech laws are the acme of civilization compared to summary execution, imprisonment or deportation for "inciting terrorism." Oh, and summary execution of your 16 year old son too.

  45. Jack B.  •  Dec 4, 2013 @2:01 pm

    Dylan could make this right by hiring Jim DeBerry of Definitive TV to make a PSA featuring Wong Fung Shu.

  46. Peter H. Salus  •  Dec 4, 2013 @2:23 pm

    One might note that Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman and that his grandparents immigrated from Odessa and Lithuania. His remarks may be OTT, but the French law (like the UK libel statutes) mere prove the law is, indeed, "a ass."

  47. Clovis Sangrail  •  Dec 4, 2013 @2:41 pm

    I had all sorts of sensible responses to the various comments above and then somehow I just lost it.
    This is awful. Poor old Bob does not deserve this sort of shit for something which he could probably explain adequately in a suitably disinterested venue.
    But so is what the US legal system is perpetrating left, right and centre. Extraterritoriality (with or without rendition, drone strikes, torture and Guantanamo) is just what the US does now and you should get with it. It's not for nothing that most non-US financial firms are deciding to have NO American clients or dealings with US institutions.
    Moerover speaking as one of les Anglais, I have to say that whoever adduced Waterloo as an example of French incompetence and cowardice is a pissant idiot (are those fighting words? I do hope so). As the immortal Duke of Wellington ( a man who was not given to hyperbole) said " It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life". The French may have suffered under some appalling generals but they are not generally lacking in bravery or audacity.
    To return to the meat of the matter, the point is that the French have (or have they?) asserted extraterritorial control over the utterances of a poet. That seems to me to be three sins and surely we can all agree that – otherwise why are we reading this blog?

  48. Joel  •  Dec 4, 2013 @2:41 pm

    @Roland
    The difference being that Emery was selling those pot seeds to US customers (amongst others), wasn't he? If he was selling them from Canada, to Canadian citizens, by Canada Post and to Canadian addresses… well, actually he was doing that for years and the Canadian govt didn't give a damn.

    But by selling to US citizens and sending to US addresses, he became subject to US law. While the pot prohibition laws are stupid and counter-productive IMHO, it is hard to ague the national sovereignty card when you are engaging in international commerce.

    IMHO, the correct analogy in this case would be Dylan making these comments in a live interview with a french broadcaster on french TV

  49. EpeeGnome  •  Dec 4, 2013 @2:50 pm

    On the French surrendering issue being discussed I feel compelled to point out that it has never been the French fighter that was the problem, but the French leadership. French generals and politicians (or just the fortunes of war) are to blame for every notable French defeat, and when they were lead by a non-Frenchman (a Corsican by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte), they were suddenly able to conquer half of Europe. As another example, in WWII the leadership may have gone Vichy, but the French people fought on.

    This is relevant to the post because once again the politicians of France are embarrassing the rest of their people.

    professional mumbler Bob Dylan

    Ha! I do enjoy Dylan's songs, but I still find this description delightfully apt.

  50. Bobby Zimmerman  •  Dec 4, 2013 @2:56 pm

    Say… How do you say "piss off" in Frog?

  51. SimpleMachine  •  Dec 4, 2013 @3:02 pm

    How long shall our new republic suffer the continued insults and depredations of these Gallic privateers!? When these Talleyrands demand XYZ, it is the broadside they shall receive!
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/Combat_naval_pendant_la_quasi_guerre.jpg

  52. Vorkon  •  Dec 4, 2013 @3:02 pm

    @Simon

    Hate speech laws are indeed the Acme of civilization; Wile E. Coyote tries to get the Road Runner convicted on a hate speech charge, and it later blows up in his face when coyotes start being prosecuted for the same offense.

  53. barry  •  Dec 4, 2013 @3:53 pm

    Is this France and America still fighting over who invented freedom?

    If you take 'freedom' literally and/or seriously, a fine is not as bad as imprisonment. Cat Stevens was locked up when he arrived in America in 2004, and I don't think he had broken any American law. As far as I can tell it was only because he had changed his name to a more Islamic sounding name like 'Islam', rather than anything he had said or had planned to say to Dolly Parton.

    So which is worse, to fine (assuming a bad outcome) a foreign singer for breaking a stupid law, or jailing a foreign singer breaking no law? Comparing the relative stupidity of the actual laws becomes one-sided and meaningless here.

    In Germany they took Justin Beiber's monkey away from him, but that sounded totally reasonable, and a win for the monkey.

  54. Ken White  •  Dec 4, 2013 @4:01 pm

    Did I write the last paragraph in invisible ink?

  55. owen hogarth  •  Dec 4, 2013 @4:07 pm

    While there's a lot of France bashing, it's important to realize that it's easy to point out inadequacies in other countries legal system but how many of us have taken a deep look at the system currently hovering above the people in the U.S. of A?

    Freedom isn't granted by any governments on this planet, the governments are here to help keep the radicals in line. This is actually a freedom syphoning system. Just because it's not currently sucking on a freedom that you currently hold dear doesn't mean that it's not happening.

  56. barry  •  Dec 4, 2013 @4:14 pm

    Did I write the last paragraph in invisible ink?

    That was my starting point, but I thought it needed singing examples.

  57. OrderoftheQuaff  •  Dec 4, 2013 @4:56 pm

    Clovis Sangrail, that was me who mentioned Waterloo. I had to hit the highlights of French military history in the limited time I had budgeted for that comment, and those were the first three battles out of many to choose from that popped into my head.

    You ask if "pissant idiot" would constitute fighting words, and my opinion would be no, but cf. our leading case on the subject, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) 315 U.S. 568, in which a unanimous Supreme Court held that "God-damned racketeer" and "damned Fascist" were indeed fighting words unprotected by the First Amendment. What do the popes of Popehat think about this? Can I have Mr. Sangrail arrested in England and extradited to Gitmo for calling me a pissant idiot?

    Also, love your username, I read the entire Saki canon when I was just a teenager, which was quite some time ago.

  58. Anon-UV-Squirrel  •  Dec 4, 2013 @5:02 pm

    Ridicule the French law…

  59. Karka  •  Dec 4, 2013 @5:12 pm

    The Croats don't want Dylan jailed. They only want to use the French government to coerce a sign of submission from him:

    Why bring the French government into the picture? Doesn't the idea of separation of powers ring a bell? Or do you hold your government responsible for any stupid lawsuit brought in front of a US court and expect them to interfere?
    When a baseless lawsuit is brought to a US court, you expect it to be quashed. Why not just expect the same thing from other countries judiciary branches?

    He could go to court and defend free speech and ultimately pay the fine when he loses because freedom of expression is not a defense in France.

    Freedom of expression is not a defense within the EU. These limits to free speech are part of the European Convention on Human Rights (which supersedes national laws). Wether this is fortunate or not is another subject.

    A guilty verdict would certainly be over-reach, although that is a clear tendency followed by an ever increasing number of courts around the world (and especially by American courts). If that verdict is ever reached…

  60. cpast  •  Dec 4, 2013 @5:13 pm

    @Owen

    Take a look at the other posts on this blog. I think you'll find that Ken, Patrick, and Clark do a fine job of doing just that. (apologies if other authors here do as well; my mental categorization is that the main 4 writers are Ken, Patrick, Clark, and David, and David seems to do mostly awesome art-related stuff)

  61. Ken White  •  Dec 4, 2013 @5:22 pm

    @Karka:

    Why bring the French government into the picture? Doesn't the idea of separation of powers ring a bell? Or do you hold your government responsible for any stupid lawsuit brought in front of a US court and expect them to interfere?

    I may not be an expert on the French separation of powers, but the judiciary didn't create the "public insult and inciting hate" statute itself, did it?

  62. Clovis Sangrail  •  Dec 4, 2013 @5:34 pm

    @OrderofThe Quaff
    And now I have to eat my words because of a civilised and charming reply.
    Damn! Who do I have to hit to pick a fight 'round here?
    I know – I'll tell Clark that he's an authoritarian goon.

  63. StewBaby911  •  Dec 4, 2013 @6:00 pm

    Dylan is in his 70s now. the old Dylan of Manchester (rock band, audience member booing, shouting 'traitor') would definitely have told them to eff off…

  64. mud man  •  Dec 4, 2013 @8:35 pm

    Possibly the lawsuit is a provocation from those purists who think the Legion of Honor should not include dope-smoking hippie guitar pickers. The timing is suggestive. If so, isn't it giving in to legal terrorism to send the bauble back?

  65. jdgalt  •  Dec 4, 2013 @9:31 pm

    I would think that the recent law (SPEECH act?) which blocks enforcement of libel judgments from places like Britain in the US (at least until they enact a right to free speech as expansive as our own) ought to apply to "hate speech" charges also. If it doesn't, we need another one that will.

    Those who believe the US ought to have the same law as the French should move to Canada, which pretty much does. (They even have an Orwellian-named "Human Rights Commission" whose job is to pursue violators.) This law makes Canadian publications a lot more polite (at least on some sides of some subjects) than their American counterparts; but conversely, it has the effect of banning certain political views from ever being spoken — unfortunately including the view that the Human Rights Commission should go away. Talk about job security!

  66. Sami  •  Dec 4, 2013 @10:02 pm

    I live in a country with laws against hate speech, and I support those laws.

    However.

    That statement is perhaps mildly dickish, but on the other hand, it's Bob Dylan and he is, by word, deed, and action, a complete and utter tool, so what the fuck do you expect?

    It is not, however, hate speech or racial vilification. It's just not. Had he made that comment IN AUSTRALIA it's possible some Croat group(s) might register offence, but… not actually guaranteed.

    I can't imagine any kind of legal consequences.

    The idea of bringing charges against a foreign national for comments made in another country, to a foreign domestic publication, is absurd.

  67. Christopher  •  Dec 5, 2013 @12:19 am

    I share the view that it's pretty damn stupid. But should Americans let the French police, by force of law, the pretty damn stupid things our celebrities say? If nothing else, think of the drain on the French public fisc from Alec Baldwin alone.

    This is one of those situations that makes me feel all flag-wavey and jingoistic.

    I don't care whether what he said is stupid, he can compare Mr. Rogers to the Nazis if he feels like it and the government can't say jack about it, because it's none of their damn business.

    If the Council of Croats had just argued that his opinion is wrong, I'd be all for it. Hell, they can call for a boycott if they want.

    But I really, strongly feel that it's none of the government's business to police our opinion, and I'm glad, proud to live in a country where the law says they can't.

  68. Karka  •  Dec 5, 2013 @12:47 am

    @Ken

    I may not be an expert on the French separation of powers, but the judiciary didn't create the "public insult and inciting hate" statute itself, did it?

    Certainly didn't. But as stated above that statute is pretty much standard within the EU (and unlikely to change, for both cultural and historical reason), although each member had the opportunity to implement it/modify its historical statute as they saw fit.
    As a first amendment lawyer you may dislike the very spirit of this law, but because people are abusing the possibilities it offers (i.e. going for the letter instead of the spirit) doesn't mean the law itself promotes the abusive behaviour.

  69. That Anonymous Coward  •  Dec 5, 2013 @2:00 am

    @Karka – "When a baseless lawsuit is brought to a US court, you expect it to be quashed."

    Ask Kim Dotcom, DaJaz1, RojoDirect, and so many others how that works out.

  70. Sami  •  Dec 5, 2013 @2:03 am

    I would argue that statement doesn't incite hate, though. It claims to describe some patently bullshit attributes of Serbian-Croation relations, but it is not even close to an actual encouragement of people who don't already hate Serbs to start.

    Which is to say, it's not even in tune with the letter of the law, let alone the spirit.

  71. Albert  •  Dec 5, 2013 @2:37 am

    Disclaimer: I'm French.

    Wait, scratch the "disclaimer" part of it. I post this reply because I am French, which gives me 1) a good view of how the French legal system works and 2) the capability to research the event involved by reading the existing sources in French. This allows me to fix some facts — fixes which are in themselves unrelated to my being French.

    (note: I am well aware of the difference between USA and France about freedom of expression, but none of the following is about this.)

    1) Mr Dylan is the subject of "mise en examen", that is, a judge is investigating whether Mr Dylan should be tried. There are no "preliminary charges", in the sense that there are not charges for now, only a claim which has only passed the barrier of "standing a chance of not being a complete piece of crap", and is not under the test of "actually not being a complete piece of crap" (nonwithstanding the media effect of being "en examen"). Only if it passes this test too will there be charges, and a trial, and a verdict.

    2) The reason for this inquiry is *not* what Mr Dylan said while being outside France. The reason is the publication of a translation of Mr Dylan's words in France, in the French edition of Rolling Stones. So this is not a case of the French reaching outside their jurisdiction, at least, not as was painted in some comments.

    3) Ken: you are correct that the judiciary power in France does not make laws. But neither does the Government, which is the Executive power. France as a legislative power for that just like the US IIUC. :)

    That being said, I won't make even a ballpark estimate of the probability that the claim will survive the investigation phase, in which it could well be dismissed for various reasons, such as targeting the wrong person(s), or the plaintiff lacking standing, or the law not actually applying to translations of statements, or the statements not actually infringing the law.

    I can, however, keep an eye on the story and submit updates to Popehat. I should however mention that I'll try and avoid ponies in them (except of course if I have to report that Mr Dylan eventually had to pony up).

  72. John  •  Dec 5, 2013 @2:42 am

    @Clovis Sangrail  

    "This is awful. Poor old Bob does not deserve this sort of shit for something which he could probably explain adequately in a suitably disinterested venue."

    So far as the French and other hate speech laws are concerned, no.

    Truth is not a defense, so Bob could not "explain" his way out of the prosecution.
    The law is deliberately set up in such a way as to bar truth as a complete defense.

    And how would Bob prove that his statements are true?

    In any civilized society, the accusing party ought always to establish that the criminal made the statements with knowledge of their falsity.

    You can't prove or disprove a general statement concerning a group's historical behavior.

    This is precisely the reason why group defamation and vilification laws are dangerous.

    They do not purport to distinguish between categorically truth and false speech and would therefore fall flat of the First Amendment.

    "Moerover speaking as one of les Anglais, I have to say that whoever adduced Waterloo as an example of French incompetence and cowardice is a pissant idiot
    (are those fighting words?"

    Clearly no.

    In order for speech to constitute fighting words, it must be directed at an individual and must be likely to provoke immediate violent retaliation.

    The Chaplinsky case which first dealt with the notion of fighting words would seem to suggest that speech which generally is of slight social value causing injury may be forbidden and that certain statements are per se an invitation to fight, but later cases of the Supreme Court have limited the rationale to physical person to person insults.

    So in order for pissant idiot to constitute fighting words, the words must be directed at an individual and uttered in a physical proximity productive of a breach of the peace.

    Saying it over the internet does not suffice, because there is no likelihood of immediate violent retaliation.

  73. Karka  •  Dec 5, 2013 @2:44 am

    @That Anonymous Coward

    Ask Kim Dotcom, DaJaz1, RojoDirect, and so many others how that works out.

    I'm not sure these are the best examples (the Dotcom case is ongoing and DaJaz1 and RojoDirect were targeted by government agencies, without due process) although what you hint at is very clear.

    Sure, in some cases people/groups filing baseless lawsuits end up winning in court. And that is unfortunate. But is that the standard outcome? When looking at the bigger picture, aren't these cases outliers?

  74. Albert  •  Dec 5, 2013 @2:53 am

    John:
    The law is deliberately set up in such a way as to bar truth as a complete defense.

    Umm, not exactly. Truth is not a defense against allegation of insult because insult is defined as unprovable allegations, as opposed to defamation which is defined as a provable (or not) allegation, so by definition, you cannot prove the truth of some insult. For defamation, truth is a defense (albeit tricky to get right).

    Anyway, here, the complaint is about insult, so Mr Dylan cannot use a truth defense; but then, if the whole thing goes to trial and the judge finds his statements to be defamatory, then… well, a defense of truth won't be needed, as the case will be dismissed because French libel laws doesn't allow the judge changing the reason of such complaint from 'insult' to 'defamation'.

  75. Clovis Sangrail  •  Dec 5, 2013 @3:40 am

    @John
    Thank you for the (partial) illumination. Your legal point probably still applies but what I actually meant was that Mumbling Bob could, given opportunity, explain his words in such a way that the intent to give public insult and incite hate was clearly not present. Now I do not know whether this law is "strict liability" but I would have thought not. Anyone better informed?
    I take it as read, BTW, that all such laws are intolerable anyway but I live in the UK so must celebrate diversity in legal provision along with everything else…

  76. John  •  Dec 5, 2013 @3:46 am

    @Albert  

    "Truth is not a defense against allegation of insult because insult is defined as unprovable allegations, as opposed to defamation which
    is defined as a provable (or not) allegation, so by definition, you cannot prove the truth of some insult. "

    But reading what Bob said, it seems more like a value judgment.

    It's a statement concerning the moral culpability and historical record of Croats.

    Of course, you can't prove or disprove a moral value judgment, but that's exactly my point.

    If the statement is categorized as a moral value judgment, it ought not be actionable at all, because only false statements can be defamatory and there is no neat way of forbidding moral judgments without abridging the core of freedom of expression and creating vagueness

    But if it is categorized as a statement implying a factual allegation, truth ought to be a complete defense.

    Creating a third category, wherein the defendant neither can plead truth as a complete defense, nor can argue that the speech is protected as a moral value judgment is legal reasoning straight out of Orwell's or Kafka's totalitarian society.

    Now, the state might argue that the speech is a trigger to violence, and that might justify depriving the defendant of
    arguing truth or moral value judgment, on the reasoning that incitement to violence is an act not a fact or moral argument.

    But the state would likely not defend the prohibition on that rationale because it's obvious that the connection between the speech and anticipated violence is too tenuous.

    I also doubt how insults can be legally separated from statements or facts.

    Simply having the state legislating that certain moral judgments are outside free speech labeling these as insults helps the government avoiding the defamation label and the problem with truth or falsity, but that's exactly why an insult ban in the context of group vilification and history is obnoxious.

    It's like a ban on heresy against certain moral tenets held to be sacred by the church.

    A law stating that it's forbidden to draw certain moral conclusions about the record, historical culpability and desirability of a certain group's influence is a textbook example of what a society claiming to cherish free speech should not permit.

    The jurisprudence of the ECTHR on these laws is lamentable, because it neglects to impose any meaningful limitations on the state's power to punish blasphemy and group vilification.

    "For defamation, truth is a defense (albeit tricky
    to get right)."

    Is truth an absolute defense, where the statement is categorized as an implication of a fact?

    If it isn't there is a vagueness problem for the defendant.

    He could attempt to plead truth, but what if the court found that the overall tenor of the speech or the motives of the defendant made the truth irrelevant?

  77. Albert  •  Dec 5, 2013 @4:26 am

    @John

    If the statement is categorized as a moral value judgment, it ought not be actionable at all, because only false statements can be defamatory

    It then ought not to be actionable as defamation, and it actually would not be. However, it might still be actionable as insult (I know that's a point where French and US speech laws differ. There is virtually no barrier to insult speech in the US, whereas there is in France; however, the plaintiff has to act quickly — to simplify, any publication older than 90 days is not actionable — and the process is quite complex for both parties involved).

    But if it is categorized as a statement implying a factual allegation, truth ought to be a complete defense.

    For factual allegations, truth is a (quasi, see below) complete defense.

    I also doubt how insults can be legally separated from statements or facts.

    As I wrote, insults are not separated from statements of facts, they are separated from defamations, and the criterion is whether the speech can or cannot be the subject of proof. The usual examples are "this bloke is a moron" (insult) vs "this bloke is a mugger" (defamation). The latter can be verified by going through said bloke's record and finding (or not) a conviction for mugging.

    Simply having the state legislating that certain moral judgments are outside free speech [...]

    Er… The state does not label what is insult and what is not. This is the done by the judge, based on context and current social norms as he sees them.

    Is truth an absolute defense, where the statement is categorized as an implication of a fact?

    Not sure what you mean by 'absolute defense', so I will expand a bit on what kind of defense truth is in France.Basically, the truth defense always works (provided the allegations are actually true!) except for statements entirely infringing on the private life of the person and statements on facts older than 10 years.

    what if the court found that the overall tenor of the speech or the motives of the defendant made the truth irrelevant?

    That should not affect the truth defense if the statements are found to be true. Motives might, however, ruin a second type of defense, the good faith defense (which can come into play when the truth defense fails). Good faith implies among others that the defendant had no personal animosity against the plaintiff at the time he uttered the statements; existing motives might go against this. Ditto for another requirement of good faith, that is, that the statement not be excessive — this might show through the 'overall tenor of the speech' and lead the judge to think the defendant wasn't speaking in good faith.

  78. John  •  Dec 5, 2013 @4:49 am

    @Albert  

    I agree, thank you for your explanation.

    "Er… The state does not label what is insult and what is not. This is the done by the judge, based on context and current social norms as he sees them."

    What I meant but was inept at stating clearly was that the state is selective in its statutory selection – speech which denigrates groups on account of race, religion, nationality etc is subject to the insult law, whereas speech denigrating groups on account of political ideology, philosophy and haircut is not.

    I assume that it's perfectly legal to make derogatory speech about political affiliation — not particular associations or its members — because political affiliation, ideology is not a group identity protected by the law.

    Is that correct?

    If it is correct, I think that other groups have a right to demand that all defamation and insult laws are made equally applicable to all forms of group vilification.

  79. G.  •  Dec 5, 2013 @4:57 am

    TLDNR. Fuck all the French. Fuck all the Americans. Fuck Bob Dylan. There. Solved it for all y'all. Now I just gotta sit back and watch the peace happen!

  80. Albert  •  Dec 5, 2013 @5:33 am

    @John

    What I meant but was inept at stating clearly was that the state is selective in its statutory selection – speech which denigrates groups on account of race, religion, nationality etc is subject to the insult law, whereas speech denigrating groups on account of political ideology, philosophy and haircut is not.

    I assume that it's perfectly legal to make derogatory speech about political affiliation — not particular associations or its members — because political affiliation, ideology is not a group identity protected by the law.

    Is that correct?

    Not exactly; let me add some precision.

    First, the only criterions used by the French law against insult (resp. defamation) are that the speech considered must qualify as insult (resp. defamation), regardless of the 'qualities' discussed in the speech, and that the target of the speech can legally complain (or that an association representing the target can legally complain, here the CRICCF representing Croats).

    Therefore, insult based on belonging to a political group is as punishable as insult based on belonging to an association, or based on handicap, or based on ethnic group.

    Now, the law does make a difference regarding insult based on ethnic group, race, nation or religion, not in differenciating between actionable and non-actionable speech, but in allowing the judge to inflict harsher punishments (45 000 EUR maximum fine vs 12 000, and up to 1 prison year vs. no prison possible). And those are maximums — racial insult could result in lower fines than non-racial, depending on the contexts.

    Regarding derogatory speech about political affiliation per se, but not particular associations or members, I know of no case where the French insult and defamation law was ever invoked against such a speech, as it hardly targets a person or a group which an association could represent.

  81. Votre  •  Dec 5, 2013 @7:32 am

    The only time the words of Bob Dylan need to be taken seriously is when they make you laugh. When they make you angry, that's just Bob playing games and goofin' on you.

    Whatever else he may not be, Bob is a consumate put-on artist – like most political songsters from that era.

  82. CJK Fossman  •  Dec 5, 2013 @9:46 am

    I'm not sure these are the best examples (the Dotcom case is ongoing and DaJaz1 and RojoDirect were targeted by government agencies, without due process) although what you hint at is very clear.

    Sure, in some cases people/groups filing baseless lawsuits end up winning in court. And that is unfortunate. But is that the standard outcome? When looking at the bigger picture, aren't these cases outliers?

    No, these cases are not outliers. I don't see how one could even ask that question after reading this blog for any length of time. Prenda? SLAPP suits? Popehat signal?

    Having a case dismissed is not a win for the defendant, even if the court awards attorney fees, which courts seldom do. A defendant in a bogus case wastes time engaging and working with an attorney as well as suffering some, perhaps a lot of, mental distress.

  83. Frank  •  Dec 5, 2013 @10:10 am

    @Albert

    It *IS* about something that Bob Dylan said outside of France. he was not in France when he made the remarks. He was in the United States. If the magazine that he made the remarks to re-prints the article in the French version of their publication, that is on them, not on him. Therefore, at best, the only people that could be held accountable are the publishers of the article in France. That would be like me calling some French guy a "cheese eating surrender monkey" to a local newspaper here in the United States and it getting picked up in a French publication.

    Did I read you right, or did I misread it, that you SUPPORT anti-insult laws? If you did, in fact, say that you support anti-insult laws, that would tend to bias your opinion on this whole mess.

    Again, let me state that I believe Bob Dylan to be a pompous self-important windbag, but for the purposes of this discussion, he did nothing illegal.

  84. Albert  •  Dec 5, 2013 @11:13 am

    @Frank

    Your argument is essentially correct, but your introductory conclusion is false or too broad. Yes, the investigation is about the French translation and reprint; but precisely because of this, it is not about the original speech.

    Which indeed leads to the question whether Mr Dylan can be held responsible, since he is obviously not the editor, and probably not the author, of the translation published in the French issue of Rolling Stone… or maybe the information available to the investigating judge shows that he qualifies as author, unbeknownst to us because we lack that information. As to the end result of the mise en examen, I will refer you to my first comment, and I offer, once again, to keep Popehat updated.

    Re my opinion on French laws regarding insult and defamation: you certainly did not read me right, as I have actively refrained from expressing my opinion on the French law regarding insult and defamation (and I feel compelled to refer you to some previous Popehat article).

    Actually, I am not sure why I should have to express my opinion on the law; and if I did, I can't help wondering how expressing my opinion on the law, whatever it is, could actually bias the purely factual description I did of it and the 'case'.

    Besides, you seem to offer me only two options: I should either (fully) support or (fully) oppose the law. This is quite a reductive view, as this law contains 74 individual articles and touches various topics and situations, and can only be reduced to "anti-insult law" by sheer lack of knowledge on it.

    Again, my opinion on this law does not matter, but for the sake of the argument, let it be known that I support part of it (good luck trying to find out which one), I object to part of it (ditto), and I don't care much about the rest (that one's easy if you got the previous two right). So, you see, I am neither a proponent nor an opponent, or, at your preference, I am both.

    Which implies that in order to evaluate the value of my person and therefore of the information I gave, you have used a binary classification which is actually not applicable to me — nor is it, I suspect, to most individuals.

    You might thus want to revise your use of such a binary sieve. I would also suggest that you refrain from assuming that every sentence uttered is, or must be, an opinion (or, for that matter, that the opinions of the author determine the face value of their speech, as opposed, to, say, the actual content of said speech).

  85. Frank  •  Dec 5, 2013 @12:04 pm

    It's actually pretty binary. Either you support an unjust law or you don't.

    Here in America you do not have the right to "not be insulted". Nor are there any legal ramifications for insulting someone. It's called freedom of speech.

    Defamation laws and what not, at least here in America, have nothing to do with insult and everything to do with saying something about someone that is factually untrue.

    If I call someone an asshole in a public forum, that is perfectly legal. If I call someone a pedophile in the same public forum, I had better have facts to back that up or I can be taken to court for committing a crime.

    Bob Dylan, the pompous windbag that he is, has a right to his opinion and has every legal protection to say it. Just because what he said hurt someone's feelings doesn't make it a crime. And even more so that he said it *IN* America makes it even less of something that the French courts would have jurisdiction over. Now, if they would like to go after the publication, in France, that printed it, they would have a legal "leg to stand on" as it were. Americans are not obligated to follow the laws of a country that they are not in. Just like if a Frenchman says something that violates American law, they are not obligated to follow our laws.

    If he were standing on French soil when he said it, they might have some jurisdiction over it. However, he wasn't. That should be the end of it all right there as far as the French courts are concerned.

  86. Karka  •  Dec 5, 2013 @12:17 pm

    @CJK Fossman

    No, these cases are not outliers. I don't see how one could even ask that question after reading this blog for any length of time. Prenda? SLAPP suits? Popehat signal?

    I might be wrong, but Popehat does not look to me like a comprehensive blog on lawsuits. For every frivolous case publicised on Popehat (or elsewhere), how many others, based on serious grounds, go unnoticed?
    Whether these cases are outliers or not depends on the ratio of valid/baseless lawsuits overall, not just on cases reported in medias/online: nobody ever talks about a common, valid lawsuit.

  87. Albert  •  Dec 5, 2013 @12:27 pm

    Frank: It's actually pretty binary. Either you support an unjust law or you don't.

    This statement manages to i) beg the question whether the law we are talking about is unjust, ii) ignore the fact which I just raised that the law we are talking about is anything but binary, and iii) try for the second time to involve personal opinion where I believe it should not be.

    That's three strong signs indicating that our discussing any further would be useless.

  88. Frank  •  Dec 5, 2013 @3:25 pm

    You're right. It would be useless. French law no more applies to an American on American soil that an American law applies to a Frenchman on French soil.

    Again, it's pretty black and white.

  89. Sami  •  Dec 8, 2013 @9:29 pm

    @Frank: You do seem to be missing a key point of Albert's point. To wit: the mise en examen.

    It is entirely proper for the French courts to examine allegations where they have been made, because there is no justice for reasonable complaints if unreasonable complaints are not heard.

    This does not mean that the complaint will be upheld, and Albert pointed out that the court may find that the complaint targeted the wrong person(s). For example, since the complaint is with reference to the French edition of Rolling Stone, then it may be within the realms of reason for the complaint to be found to be of sufficient merit to proceed if applied to that magazine, but not Dylan himself.

    And I agree that your view is unnecessarily binary and reductive. One doesn't either "support or not support" a complex law. It may be that the law has some aspects which are good, and some which ar bad. In that case, the law is in need of amendment, not wholesale repeal.

    Nuance is important.