The Great Free Speech Experiment – What good have Holocaust-denial bans done?

By Sam Schulman

France’s momentary appearance on the world stage as a champion of free expression, after the execution of the beloved Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, made for a break in her relentless culture of repression of free speech, which she shares with most of Europe. Aside from a handful of exceptions​—​Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons now being the most famous​—​official France and its media have for years done all that they could to prevent journalists, essayists, and fiction writers from questioning Islam and immigration policy, or drawing attention to the rising antisemitism and anti-Christian feeling that had driven so many French voters into the arms of the once-out-of-bounds National Front. Just the month before, Eric Zemmour, France’s most popular political commentator, had been fired by his major TV outlet and threatened with prosecution for inciting hatred. Targets for persecution ranged from the notorious to the recherché: Renaud Camus, an aesthete devoted to art, literature, his sensational diary, 20 volumes of it so far, and his eccentric political party of one, le Parti de l’Innocence. When he threw the featherweight of his party’s support to the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the 2012 presidential contest, his longtime publisher told Camus he would no longer publish his books.