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The crisis in France is about sovereignty, not free speech

What happened in Nice today was not about free speech. Credit: Getty

October 29, 2020 - 4:00pm

We should be clear about one thing: what happened in Nice today was not about free speech. When the killer entered the Notre Dame basilica this morning and beheaded a 70 year old woman, slit the throat of its sacristan and stabbed to death a young mother at prayer, he had no idea whatsoever what their views were on secularism or freedom of expression.

The church was not a symbol of the French state, nor of its Laïcité. They were not murdered because they had mocked Islam, or even Erdogan, but because they were French and because they were Christians. That was enough for him to see them as an enemy to be destroyed, in their own country, in the house of God.

To frame the events in France as an abstract debate over free speech is thus to avoid the central issue: it is a question of sovereignty. The essential problem Macron is grappling with is not the content of what can or cannot be said in France, but who gets to decide. The question, now, is whether the French state holds the monopoly of force, or whether any young radical can pick up a knife and declare his beliefs sovereign over the laws of France, and the lives of his countrymen.

For five years, the French army has been deployed on the country’s streets to protect its own people from their fellow citizens, and over the past two weeks it has become clear that this is not enough. There is no room for compromise in this scenario, a state of exception outside the ordinary bounds of politics: Either the state is sovereign, or it is not. The dividing lines, too, have now been drawn up clearly: between friend and enemy, citizen and terrorist.

Those who would challenge the state’s authority by murdering their fellow citizens cannot appeal to their own wounded feelings as just cause; those providing cover for them, like the American journalists churning out equivocating editorials on their behalf, are not liberal humanitarians but enablers of terrorism, however much they invoke the self-pitying language of identity politics.

There is, simply, no means of coexistence with those who wish to destroy you.  In Houllebecq’s 2015 novel Submission, the narrator reserves his ire for the commentators who averted their gaze from the horrors on the horizon. He wrote:

History is full of such blindness. We see it among the intellectuals, politicians and journalists of the 1930s, all of whom were convinced that Hitler would ‘come to see reason.’ It may well be impossible for people who have lived and prospered under a given social system to imagine the point of view of those who feel it offers them nothing, and who can contemplate its destruction without any particular dismay.
- Michel Houellebecq, Submission

“All the same,” the narrator realises, “the widening gap, now a chasm, between the people and those who claimed to speak for them, the politicians and journalists, would necessarily lead to something chaotic, violent and unpredictable.” It is Macron’s challenge now to bridge that gap, before the escalation of Islamist terrorism, fuelled by Turkish government rhetoric, makes the French state powerless to assert its authority.

The endless, tiresome debate over free speech may pad out word counts for Anglo-Saxon columnists but what is at stake here is the integrity, and ultimately the survival of the French Republic itself.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Importing people who are hostile to your culture and way of life never ends well. Immigration must first work for the host nation, not the other way around.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

At first the hostility is well hidden. They claim they are eager to join us because our way of life is so much better than the one they are leaving behind. How many times have we heard that old trope about migrants “only seeking a better life”?

In fact they are drawn by the material wealth of the West but once safely settled they prefer to import their own “way of life”. Eventually they come to resent having to share territory with their hosts ““ and the hosts themselves mirror that resentment.

bobertc172
bobertc172
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Islam is a Muslim’s “complete way of life”.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Quite. They never make the connection between riches and freedom; riches and work, because the society from which they come is about patronage, clients and extraction, in a spirit of fatalist passivity, a mood induced by the terror which lies frankly at the heart of their oppressive belief system. So, throughout history, the practitioners of that belief system have battened on established cultures – Persia, Byzantium etcetera – and gradually degraded them.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Sounds like the social equivalent of a viral infection. You might call it a “soft invasion” ““ ie. an invasion that does not need to use deadly weapons. Instead, our own laws, beliefs and morals are used to overcome resistance.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

This is exactly what it is. It happens when the patient – western society – is deprived of its natural antibodies such as self-belief, confidence, love of home, religious observance and public duty. Instead we have lived on doubt, experiment, travel, hedonism and medication – and the result is our current decadent wreck, with the new settlers eagerly moving in and taking over. Note, this is not the same as normal processes of migration and adjustment. Over time, no doubt, populations shift and change; but they never “transform” with any happiness. The key element in all this is SPEED. A hundred thousand newcomers over fifty years will assimilate. Three million newcomers in ten years will form states within a state. And as they have confidence, religion and duty in buckets, they will defeat their ailing host. It’s an established process – too obvious, too natural and too true to be acknowledged by the malignant left or cowardly centre.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Self-belief and confidence would be tremendous assets if only they were not continually undermined by the one core Christian virtue we have managed retain (and ultimately reduce to a vice) ““ namely the continual examining of our collective conscience and subsequent pursuit of atonement. Those who wish to belittle and cow us are only too eager to encourage that vice.

Betty Fyffe
Betty Fyffe
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Ditto politicians of a country. Ours certainly do not work for our nation.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

There’s an element of pedantry in this piece, so let’s be clear: The issue concerns sovereignty as expressed over the crucial matter of free speech – the freedom which guarantees all the others in a supposedly free society. And unless France or Britain or any European state has the sovereign authority and force to protect it, then we are nothing but the satrapies of expanding Islam. This will not only betray the European natives but those among the immigrant groups who imagined that they were settling in free Europe, which includes any Liberal Muslims out there. To ensure that we remain free, therefore, a moratorium on any further migration should be established at once. Clearly, people are no longer assimilating to even the most basic cultural norms requisite for free social function and it is about time the establishment woke up to this fact.

Simon Holder
Simon Holder
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Brilliantly put – well done.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

There’s far more at stake than the survival of the French republic

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago

Why do the Hindus, Buddhists, and Jainists never cause trouble? Even The Troubles aren’t stirring up any more.

David Lawler
David Lawler
3 years ago

Because Hindus and Buddhists aren’t primitive ignorant savages.

Miguelito
Miguelito
3 years ago

Well, probably because they aren’t of a religion created by a warrior that taught that they had to conquer the world.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

I hope you’re not implying all the trouble comes from those people who’s religion starts with an ‘M’ and who’s women dress in black sheets and men in nightgowns and sandals? Tut tut

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

Buddah was born in 632 BC, whereas Islam is only 1400 or so years old. If you think about the evil Christianity was perpetrating in its 15th century, it is not all that different to what Islam is doing now. The problem is we can’t afford to wait a few more centuries for Islam to grow up.

I don’t know what the solution is, however I do know nobody else does either, which is very worrying given what is likely to happen if we get it wrong.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Nuke them now. Turn the whole of Saudi to glass.

It may not frighten the Chinese, but either way it will be excellent practice.

Sidney Falco
Sidney Falco
3 years ago

Christendom (Europe) has always been at war with Islam. The idiots who have taken control since WW2 have forgotten that and allowed millions of them to settle here.
Our ancestors must be turning in their graves.
We are all paying the price for their folly and it will only get worse.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Sidney Falco

Yes, you are right. in the future we might see a ‘great trek’ eastwards of western Europeans and Scandinavians to Central and Eastern Europe. At least, those that survive. Of course, this assumes that Central and Eastern Europe hold out.

Rob Alka
Rob Alka
3 years ago

I tried getting these two comments below into the Times today. Both were greyed out “pending approval”. It’s now been over 2 hours and they will be gone.

That’s the difference between a newspaper like the Times and Unherd. (Message to moderator: Please don’t prove me wrong on that point)

Rob Alka Pending Approval
When Douglas Murray’s book “The Strange Death of Europe” (subtitled “Immigration, Identity, Islam”) was published in 1997 it was an essential truth unfolding before us and yet the dinghies kept on coming because this country has become plagued with Woke-Conscious Useful Idiots and Governed by Compromisers, Appeasers and Liberalisers. You want to know how serious it really is? My email below after 47 minutes remains invisible and labelled “pending approval”. Yet it is no more outspoken than this posting, which I’m sure also won’t see daylight. We walk in fear and we either don’t know what to do about it, don’t dare think about it and don’t dare speak, let alone write about it. As long as there are important influential newspapers that gag free speech, we won’t be able to reverse this terrible trend

Rob Alka Pending Approval
We in Britain are reminded – just in case we had forgotten – that if you rub up Muslims the wrong way, something bad will happen to you or other British non-Muslim citizens. Which might well explain why Government and the media are treading on eggshells when they make any announcement about Muslim atrocities in our country. Tolerance and equality across ethnic, racial and religious segments might well be just a virtue-signalling camouflage for what is really the instincts of appeasement and fear. Because let’s face, (a) there are a lot of them, (b) guerrilla warfare taking place on our home soil is frighteningly effective and (c) 25-30% of UK and French resident Muslims want Sharia Law incorporated into each country’s national law – and that’s just admissions in a survey – goodness knows what the real percentage might be that Muslims admit to one another. And still we let them in.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Rob Alka

As much as I despise MSM the sooner pathetic rags like the Times (not to mention the holy than thou Guardian) go up the wall the better we’ll all be

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Well, yes, and many of us have been saying this for some years because it applies to every country in Europe.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

Not quite sure why you think free speech is unimportant.
It is the bedrock of Western society and hence democracy and hence sovereignty.

Miguelito
Miguelito
3 years ago

I think the point is that it’s not about free speech. It’s about freedom from subjugation. Doesn’t the word in Islam mean “submit”. They mean that.

Lou Campbell
Lou Campbell
3 years ago

Great article.
….there is not enough remembered that appeasement had so much to answer for. A denial of the scale of the problem combined with thinking it was someone else’s.

henry.mayhew
henry.mayhew
3 years ago

The Libyan armed forces were destroyed by French and Etonian airpower against the vigorous objection of the Italian government who are the Libya specialists. This threw open North Africa to the Islamists, fuelled by economic collapse and a soaring birth rate. The EU’s economic embargo particularly on agricultural products does not help.

On the plus side Dave won a war.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  henry.mayhew

Indeed, an incisive analysis of this is in History’s Fools by David Martin Jones
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hi

“The end of the Cold War announced a new world order. Liberal democracy prevailed, ideological conflict abated, and world politics set off for the promised land of a secular, cosmopolitan, market-friendly end of history. Or so it seemed. Thirty years later, this unipolar worldview–premised on shared values, open markets, open borders and abstract social justice–lies in tatters. What happened? David Martin Jones examines the progressive ideas behind liberal Western practice since the end of the twentieth century, at home and abroad. This mentality, he argues, took an excessively long view of the future and a short view of the past, abandoning politics in favour of ideas, and failing to address or understand rejection of liberal norms by non- Western ‘others’. He explores the inevitable consequences of this liberal hubris: political and economic confusion, with the chaotic results we have seen. Finally, he advocates a return to more sceptical political thinking–with prudent statecraft abroad, and defence of political order at home”‱in order to rescue the West from its widely advertised demise. History’s Fools is a timely account of the failed project to shape the world in the West’s image, and an incisive call for a return to ‘true’ politics.”

Sarah
Sarah
3 years ago
Reply to  henry.mayhew

This was a globalist coup. Problem is sovreign nations are not the only players anymore. A t*t for tat against France is missing the mark and playing into the hands of those who have desired the fall of Europe.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago

Coming from Roussinos, a wise writer not known for blustery rhetoric, this issue now concerns me even more, and clarifies for me that this could really be major moment in the destiny of a free Europe. And sadly if Macron does stand his ground, there will be more lives lost. But if he does not stand his ground, with Europe’s backing, how many many more lives will be lost in the long term.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

When the killer entered the Notre Dame basilica this morning and beheaded a 70 year old woman, slit the throat of its sacristan and stabbed to death a young mother at prayer, he had no idea whatsoever what their views were on secularism or freedom of expression.

Isn’t that a bit simplistic? Couldn’t it be a message that if you allow free speech that includes mockery and criticism of Islam, then this is what will happen to you all.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

I like that – your solution is to eliminate free speech – good one.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

I must have expressed myself badly, though for the life of me I can’t see how anyone can conclude that “my” solution is to eliminate free speech.

I am a staunch advocate against free speech and I’m appalled at the attempted encroachment on this right by social justice warriors, the left in general, the SNP, Islamic organisations wanting a blasphemy law, and various other authoritarians.

Someone needs to explain that free speech is exactly the right that allows Muslims in the west to propagate their doctrine, including its most offensive and insulting aspects.

I find it highly ironic that the photos from anti-Macron demonstrations show protesters holding signs reading “Insulting Islam is not free speech”, when a second’s thought should be enough for them to realise that if free speech does not allow insults we’re going to have to ban the Koran, or at least radically redact it.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Advocate OF free speech, obviously. 🙁

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
3 years ago

Not his solution at all. He suggests that is the ‘message’ of the killer.

Miguelito
Miguelito
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

It doesn’t matter if you mock Islam or not. It won’t change that Islam teaches that Islam must conquer all other cultures and make them Islamic or kill them. No matter what you do, that is what they will do and they will kill all the Muslims that don’t work with them to do it.

Simon Holder
Simon Holder
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

And why not? Too simplistic, as you say: the point is that, if the suppression of free speech through various global factions, liberals, communists and the Twittersphere becomes absolute, as the SNP would now also appear to wish, then we will all have to keep quiet, as people in Soviet Russia had to do. That means that it’s essential to be able to criticise or mock Islam – or anything – if one feels the need to as well as discuss and uphold one’s views in public. The terrorist who perpetrated the Nice horror was exposing his views through frustration of not being able to frame a debate, having probably previously lived in a country where free speech was not allowed; therefore, he made his views apparent in the only way he knew – through base violence – in order to suppress free speech and instil fear. Macron must act fast – how about a decree to ensure that all free speech is sacred and that anyone (including lefty liberals) must honour that fact or be incarcerated? If he does not, then these atrocities will increase and France is dead.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Holder

The terrorist who perpetrated the Nice horror was exposing his views through frustration of not being able to frame a debate

Any debate on or critique of Islam is forbidden, isn’t it? Forbidden by Islamic doctrine, I mean.

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Exactly the point!

tiffeyekno
tiffeyekno
3 years ago

‘Either the state is sovereign or it is not’. In this comment by AR lies a full analysis of the issue and the solution. Everything else dances around the edge.

Steve Payne
Steve Payne
3 years ago

I am new to this website and I too am disturbed by the knee-jerk anti immigrant sentiment expressed by some.
But neither do I see the French state as to blame. I don’t see anything wrong with a policy of assimilation into a secular polity since as far as I am aware France also allows freedom of religion and Muslims are not prevented from living and expressing their faith in a peaceful and democratic way.
But France does say that it will not be bound by Islamic rules and sensibilities; it celebrates the freedom of religion and expression which is lacking in most if not all Islamic states.
To do that is not to denigrate, humiliate or persecute Muslims, but it is to be clear that Islam is not sovereign in France. The Islamic world cannot expect to bully France to change this.

John Alyson
John Alyson
3 years ago

Not sure that the argument that this is about free speech (or the French republic’s version of it) contradicts the idea that the sovereignty of the French state’s monopoly of force or sovereignty is at stake – such things are always at stake when a state encounters violent confrontation within it.

I also think that the fact that these Catholics and the church don’t represent the French state (in fact quite the opposite) is somewhat moot. I doubt the killer really thought much about this. However, it is a salient point that this was an attack on Catholics by a terrorist offended by what the French state and its secular values holds in high esteem. In this sense, the Catholics got caught in the crossfire of a conflict between two ideologies that have little time for them. The French state enshrines the right for their own supporters to offend both Catholics and Muslims whilst not being able to defend Catholics when Muslims murder them because they mistakenly identify them with the French state. Perhaps it is time for the Catholic church in France to put some more distance between itself and the French state?

GEORGE DAVIDOVICI
GEORGE DAVIDOVICI
3 years ago

The real questions today are how important sovereingty is for the citizens of France and how to eradicate the forces that want to destroy sovereignty if indeed it is important.

Peter KE
Peter KE
3 years ago

This is not just a French problem, it is the whole christian and anglo sphere. These terrorists who hate us need removal without concern, they are not British or French or European and we should not care for them.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

Trying to work out where you are coming from here Aris.

The atrocity in France is simple enough to understand. The French have a cultural policy of assimilation which affords no official recognition of cultural or religious rights, especially to minorities like Muslims and more especially to minorities in the banlieues.

Therefore, using denigrating cartoons as teaching materials in schools is akin to teaching French schoolkids that grossly insulting other people’s cultural and religious beliefs is perfectly acceptable.

This is State sponsored cultural persecution disguised as freedom of expression. These cartoons are intentionally meant to denigrate and humiliate Muslims out of their perceived stubbornness for not upholding French universalism which is really French secular particularism.

As such French culture is not based on pluralism but on monoism and the quiet rejection of that by Muslims is punished with denigrating cartoons which are banned in the UK, Germany and Italy for their predisposition towards revengeful violence.

These Radical Islamic murderers were channelling the collective resentment felt by Muslim communities who are culturally oppressed and culturally denigrated.

These brutal murders were revenge killings, nothing more or less. It was Islam acting in revenge for a Christianity that allows State sponsored humiliation of the Muslim people. It was Islam acting in revenge of State sponsored bombings of Libya, Syria and Iraq in order that Western States could ensure their energy security.

These Islamic terrorist revenge killings will not go away soon, especially in a country that puts the humiliation of Islam before human dignity.

eleanorhazleton
eleanorhazleton
3 years ago

I am appalled by the anti Islam/anti implicit African sentiments expressed in the Comments… + host countries should be aiming at integration NOT assimilation.
What appears to be lost is that the teacher brought in the Charlie Hebdo cartoon to stimulate discussion as to how far should free speech be allowed even when we know it will offend – a kid (not even in his class) then misrepresented his lesson on social media with the tragic consequences.
Muslims make up 7% of France – it is a shame that the majority cannot respect/accept the minority

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago

Its an even bigger shame that the minority cannot respect/accept the majority.

Les Wilson
Les Wilson
3 years ago

What have they done to earn this respect ?

Leon Wivlow
Leon Wivlow
3 years ago

When in Rome do like the Romans.

Simon Holder
Simon Holder
3 years ago

No, it’s a pity that the minority cannot accept/respect the majority.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
3 years ago

I was tempted to vote this down, but I’ve decided that it would be more generous to assume that there’s something missing before the final sentence, because it doesn’t follow at all from what went before or from the facts of the case as known, so far.

Betty Fyffe
Betty Fyffe
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

Perhaps you are just too reasonable. Too much niceness is what has got our countries where they are. Islam sees kindness as weakness, reasonableness as stupidity – which both are, if applied to Islam. They know no reason, they are primitive, uneducated (by Western standards) peasants.

They do not belong in the West.

J A Thompson
J A Thompson
3 years ago

No country should have to reject a basic tenet of its social structure to accommodate the prejudices of those from other cultures who have chosen to live in it. No civilised country should consider limiting the freedom of speech for any reason. Freedom of speech is not conditional; having said which, it is probably desirable to discourage active incitement of violence.
There is way too much consideration given to the voices of what is usually an extreme minority of minority populations in European countries backed by a small group of virtue signalling indigenous fellow travellers, of which you appear to be one, and it is strangling European culture.

hfortin32
hfortin32
3 years ago

First paragraph and last sentence are utter nonsense, showing arrogance and ignorance. Significant (not total of course) assimilation is a condition to integration. This means accepting women are (supposed to be) equal to men, the concept of blasphemy des not apply, shaking hand with a woman is the norm (or kissing her, depending on the context).