A week ago, our Great Leader, JR Wilco posted an excellent article, which also got some very good Comments; about a brouhaha in France involving Tony Parker and an anti-Semite "comedian" named Dieudonné. Tony was collateral damage in an anti-hate-speech campaign against Dieudonné. This is a follow-up to JR's article.
Interior Minister (kinda like Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security rolled into one) Manuel Valls (on the left in the photo) was on TV yesterday, continuing his campaign to put an end to the performances of "comedian" Dieudonné (on the right in the photo).
A bit of background: Europe has a lot of blood in its history. Everyone knows the most recent major episode, the Holocaust, with its ten to fifteen million murders of innocent people, for no reason other than their belonging to some group declared anathema by the Nazi regime. (Among other despicable actions, Dieudonné gives support to people who deny that the Holocaust ever happened.)
But horrific as it was, the Holocaust was only the latest episode in a long series of ethnic and religious slaughter going back centuries. A thousand years ago a bishop led the massacre of an entire city, where there were "some" heretics. "How shall we know the heretics, your Grace?" he was asked. "Kill them all! God will know his own!"
... and so on, for two thousand years...
So Europeans have become very allergic to incendiary language, to words that incite to hatred. There are laws that define the limit beyond which "free speech" becomes "hate speech". (In America, free speech has limits, too: "Fire!!" in a crowded place. Europeans consider that hate speech is another, only slightly slower, way of provoking innocents' deaths...)
Dieudonné has been condemned many times by the courts for breaking the hate-speech laws. He is a very nasty critter. He doesn't pay the fines, because he is legally in bankruptcy. His real-world $ 400 000 per year revenues are all in his wife's and his mother's names.
Interior Minister Valls wants a new law that will allow him to prevent "performances" like Dieudonné's from ever happening. After so many precedents, he says, there's no point in operating after the fact. Valls says that Dieudonné's shows are not comic performances; they are political meetings, where hate-speech is the rule. My own opinion? Yes! Exactly. Stop the bastard!
Second bit of background: France is a nation with a lot of immigrants. Manuel Valls himself is a second-generation immigrant. His parents fled from Spain when Franco won the 1936 Civil War, with help from the Nazis. Oh... them, again... Nicolas Sarkozy, the President before the current one, is also second-generation; his father is a Hungarian prince who fled from the Soviets after WWII.
Second-generation-immigrant Tony Parker is not perceived by the French public as "son-of-an-American'... but as a Frenchman. Period. Just like Spanish-first-named Manuel Valls and Hungarian-last-named Nicolas Sarkozy.
So... last night, Manuel Valls was on French TV, lambasting Dieudonné. At one point, he said "Lots of decent people have been sucked into appearing with Dieudonné, without realizing what he actually stands for. The good ones, like basketball star Tony Parker, have immediately and fully apologized, as soon as they understand what Dieudonné really stands for..."
Rewind: When the Dieudonné/Parker photos hit the front pages of national newspapers... Tony immediately said he hadn't realized what Dieudonné's politics were, and he apologized to anyone who was offended.
Now... I'm personally a bit skeptical of Tony being so naive about what Dieudonné stands for. The "comedian" has been highly radioactive in France for a decade. His court cases have had national coverage in newspapers, on the radio and on TV. Not knowing what Dieudonné stands for requires political obliviousness on a truly monumental scale.
And also... it just happens that Tony's most manic fan-base -- the people who spend lots of money on stuff that Tony flogs on TV -- is largely urban, hip-hop Black/Brown. And Dieudonné's most manic fan-base is... very similar. Lots of overlap. So I kinda think that maybe Tony was throwing a bone to that public when he appeared with Dieudonné. Tony is a fantastic basketball player, but he has proved on more than one occasion that he can show adolescent-level bad judgement. Pre-ado, maybe...
(Let's not forget that he didn't think Eva Longoria was enough... or that he got himself caught in the middle of an epic bar-fight and almost lost an eye... right before a major competition for the French National Team. Tony makes questionable life-choices, sometimes...)
So maybe Tony thought there was a little ad-contract upside in appearing with Dieudonné... totally forgetting the mega-downside if the fact ever hit the general public. Which... in this Internet age... was absolutely inevitable.
Whether Tony was astonishingly oblivious or slightly venal... he reacted instantly and correctly to rectify the situation, when the stuff hit the fan.
Even Manuel Valls says so!