While these roundups won’t focus directly on acts of terror, much of the debate regarding civil liberties stems from how we choose to respond to them. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, many were quick to point out that those supposedly standing up for the ideals of free expression don’t exactly have that ideal in all circumstances.
Shortly after the attacks, the French arrested comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala for writing that he sympathized with Jewish supermarket attacker Charlie Coulibaly. As disgusting as that sentiment is, it shouldn’t be a crime merely to have an unpopular opinion. And thankfully in the United States, it isn’t.
The allure of these laws is obvious – a desire to combat racism in general by trying to outlaw individual instances of it. But the failure of these laws isn’t just a matter of poor implementation. It’s simply impossible for any government to draw that line without a strong subjective bias. One person’s biting satire will always be another person’s offensive broadside. Trying to criminalize the latter without infringing upon the former is an impossible task. The logical end is a system where some extreme views are penalized while others are overlooked, a process that often exacerbates the underlying racial issues you’re trying to address in the first place.
Of course, the extremism exhibited by the Charlie Hebdo attackers is of a far more repugnant variety, one that doesn’t even make an attempt at pluralism. The idea that one’s religious beliefs give them the right to dictate everyone else’s speech and behavior is a far more toxic ideology than the state-based variety above. And the co-mingling of that type of religious decree and the unrestrained government power defines a number of the worst regimes around the world, who will be featured in these roundups a lot.
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