6 July 2021
JONATHAN TURLEY — We previously discussed the prosecution of controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala for antisemitic jokes and comments. The comedian has now been sent to prison for four months for “public insults,” including “public insult of an anti-Semitic nature” and “contestation of a crime against humanity.” M’Bala’s jokes and comments are deeply offensive to many of us but the prosecution for such comments is a further attack on the core principles of free speech. …
The very name of the crime of “public insults” shows how speech controls become insatiable devices for regulating speech. What constitutes a “public insult” is intentionally vague and allows any group to seek to silence those with opposing views.
The most serious charge involves a couple of videos that the comedian insists was a “deepfake” made to look like him. The court rejected the claims and found “the character appearing on the screen, identified by investigators as Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, has the same name, the same appearance, the same voice and the same lexical references as the defendant.”
The point however should not be whether it is the same person but whether people have a right to espouse unpopular and offensive views. […]