BO du Blog

jeudi 6 décembre 2012

A propos de Klout, de la liberté d'expression, des agences de notation, de l'homophobie et des plaies de WWII

C'est a priori mon dernier post en anglais sur ce blog. Désormais, tout est basculé sur un blog dédié et sur une page Facebook dédiée. Je vous invite,bien entendu à vous rendre sur les deux.


Mr Vanneste is a 64 years old French politician. He always had been a politician despite some time spent teaching philosophy in a high school in North of France. He had been a representative at National Assembly between 2002 and 2012 (two terms). A National Assembly elected represents not only his electoral base (typically 80.000 people and 22.000 voters for him the last time he was elected).  Each member of this Assembly also represents all of the French citizens. Mr Vanneste was a member of UMP, the main French conservative party reigning on France for the last decade. He was part of the right wing of this party and in favor of an alliance with the extremist, anti-Islam, anti-Arabs “National Front” Party. He’s part of the so-called “no-shamed to be conservative” thinking group. That led him to say that he’s pro-death penalty (minority opinion in France), thinks that the Nation should thank people who took part of the colonization of large part of Africa and to be a friend with some extreme-rightist militia-like groups. But his “thing” is homophobia. I won’t tell you what my position is on same-sex marriage (a fierce debate right now in France) because it would be irrelevant here. But Vanneste expressed his views very clearly:


  • “Being gay is something learnt, some kind of negative reflex that can be re-educated”
  • “Homosexuality is a threat for the Humanity survival. It’s inferior to heterosexuality. The gay behavior is mentally inferior“
  • “Homosexual are heterosexual-phobic”
  • “Homosexuality is Apartheid between genders”
  • “The opposition between pedophilia and homosexuality is overrated and is just a matter of age”

Well, I hereby stop the list, I think you see the picture. Whatever my opinion is on racial or sexual matters, whatever other people feels (I do respect any opinion if expressed with moderation and respect), I’m ashamed to had been represented by this man (and the French Republic too!) for 10 years. Whatever your opinions are, some ways to express them are out of line. In 2012, Mr Vanneste had gone too far saying that “homosexual deportation from France is a legend invented by the Jewish lobby”. After some hesitations, he had been banned from the conservative party and lost elections.

Freedom of speech: one significant difference

The interesting point is how do we handle this on both side of Atlantic’s ocean? In USA, one of the pillars of the democracy is the “Bill of Rights” and especially the 1st amendment (free speech amendment): 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Pretty clear. No law. In France, it’s more complicated. First of all, we need to refer as the 5th Republic Constitution (by the time you relied on one constitution and few amendments, we changed ours 19 times not counting numerous amendments). French current constitution began (and is submitted to) the Human Right French declaration and the Universal Human right declaration. The translation would give:

« The free communication of thoughts and expressions is one of the most precious rights of Mankind: every citizen can therefore talk, write, print, freely; but he may have to take responsibility of this freedom abuse in cases determined by law »

“Any individual has the right to the freedom of opinion or expression, which means he cannot be prosecuted for his opinions (….)”. Note that he cannot be prosecuted for opinions but, as for expression of such, he may. 

The difference is thin but clear and fundamental. In USA, you have free speech. In France, you have free speech … unless law tells otherwise. And laws are subject to change. That’s typical: Americans are very endeavor to protect their individual liberties adnd/or civil rights (what we called in French being “libéral”) when we’re keener to waive our individual rights for the greater good (or, at least, a protection from the Nation). Nobody will see a problem to see his trunk being searched by police; everybody would consider spontaneously that’s for good reasons. Of course, things changed a little on the wake of 9/11 and the creation of Homeland Security Department and limitations of individual liberties. But I don’t think there’s something comparable to a new law voted in France to ban Nikab (integral veil from head to toe that wears some Muslim women) in the street. There’s equilibrium to find between security and freedom.

We do have many laws restricting freedom of speech: denying some genocide (Jewish during WWII, Armenian by Turkish during WWI), saying some racist (like a race is inferior to others) or homophobic sentences. Vanneste had been prosecuted many times and convicted once in a while (symbolic sentences, no jail). Some associations are specialized in suing any homophobic, negationist (saying Jewish extermination never took place), or racists. That’s sort of an expression’s police. But here is the Pandora’s box. Who decide what it’s OK to say or not ? It’s forbidden to say mass killing of Armenians during WWI never took place (1,200,000 casualties) but you cannot be prosecuted for Rwanda genocide (800,000 casualties), Cambodia or China’s Mao Zedong atrocities denial. You cannot say something racist or homophobic but you’re allowed to declare fat people are lazy or ugly folks should hide in their home. What’s the logic?

France : a wound that’s still bleeding 70 years after

When the IIIrd Reich legions invaded France in 1940 in 3 weeks only, this was a huge trauma for France. How could such a great Nation like France could have been crushed like this? That raised many questions about army incompetence and even French Jewish responsibilities. Anyway, it was a real trauma and it still is. Then, France splits in 3 parts: huge majority of French people ducked, another one followed General de Gaulle into resistance. The last one gathered around a collaborationist government, held in a small baths town named “Vichy” and led by a WWI hero General: Petain. Hence the question for folks like me: what would I’ve done?


The collaborationist government decided, to handle the situation and “limit the consequences”, to work hand-in-hand with Germans. Some of Vichy’s government, administration, or police (the “militia”) members, were acting in full faith, some half-convinced, some with a double-allegiance. Some were heroes and saved many lives. Complicated period. Anyway, this policy led to denunciations, looting, arrest, deportation and death of French political opponents, Jewish (including children) or homosexuals (7 or 8 according to historians). This is a scar in our history and a burden I have to carry on my shoulder, as any other French, even if my family had nothing to be blamed for. Even if thousands of resistant’s lost their lives fighting the IIIrd Reich. Even if teenagers stood up and died before having known the warm of a beloved woman arms to fight the tyranny. I don’t think about this every day but the way France works, in 2012, is deeply shaped by this. If you, as Americans, don’t take this part of France history into account, you cannot understand France 2012.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Our (strong) welfare system is based on “corporations”. There are hundreds of different retirement systems. Although the welfare system had been setup in 1946, this vision is inherited from Vichy
  • French Jewish fate guilt is the main reason for the limitations to freedom of speech
  • Ethnic census is strictly forbidden. Ethnic impact on criminality, economy and society is based on fantasy only. Ethnic census is not allowed because it would recall the yellow star Jewish were forced to wear during WWII. This leads to odd results. The National Committee for Broadcast Regulation (CSA) gave recommendations to networks two years ago saying they need to give more room to “visible minorities” (black, Arabs), especially on prime time. But  how did they know those “minorities” were under-represented ? We simply don’t know what percentage of French resident declares himself as “black” or “arab”.
  • Americans may wonder why a Communist Party still exists in France in 2012. Why have they still mayors of large cities or Parliament’s representatives? Why did they get close to 30% voters in the late 70s? Ministries in the governments in early 80s and 90s ? Why where they strongly backed up by most of French intellectuals in 70s/80s (fans not only of USSR but also of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution)? Because communists were the core of French resistance during WWII and many of them lost their lives
  • Why so many strikes in the railways in France [LINK] ? Because the company is basically managed by pro-communist labor unions. And that’s coming from WWII too. The Nation’s held company (SNCF) was packed with communists. And many of them were heroes sabotaging Nazi ammunitions or troops convoys at the risk of their lives.
  • Denunciation of a felony is still a moral flaw in France, even if it’s for the greater good (because a lot of people had denunciated Jewish or simply their hatred neighbors to French militia during WWII)

Two examples of consequences

Klout is a web site that measures your influence on social networks. I found myself with a score that does not seem to reflect my activity. I contacted their support, they admitted to fight with a pretty long list of bugs and basically tell me to go to hell (in a nicely manner). Well, if I’m not happy with my score, I just got to unsubscribe with the service. But Klout is calculating and publishing your score without your consent! I think they’ll say it’s just an opinion and thus protected by the first amendment. But it also creates small damages for me. Imagine that I’m looking for a platform to host this blog and gain visibility; the hoster (like a newspaper online edition) may check my Klout score and conclude that I’m not worth of their paper and would decline my offer.

The same game – at a more serious level – is at play with rating agencies. Those agencies had been violently (verbally) attacked since the beginning of the crisis in Europe. But they protect themselves under the shelter of first amendment. And that’s reasonable because what they give is an opinion. The fact too much importance is given to this opinion cannot be put on them (often it’s in the regulations like Basel agreements). Nevertheless, some Italian governmental entities are suing Standard&Poors and Fitch because they feel they have been damaged by those opinions. And the 1st does not apply in Italy. S&P had been convicted but it’s on appeal. I’m looking forward for the outcome.

Again, there should be a balance to find between complete freedom of speech and damages limitations. But who’ll rule? That’s another story … and another post!

"Environment
The environment exceeding on the level
Of our unconciousness
For example
What does the billboard say
Come and play, come and play
Forget about the movement

Spoken quietly: anger is a gift

Yeeeaaahhhh!
Uggh!
Awww, bring that shit in!
Uggh!
Hey!

Freedom...yea...
Freedom...yea right...
Freedom...yeeeaaahhh!"

Rage Against The Machine "Freedom"

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