France: Banning the Burka? Perhaps. Monitoring the Internet? Definitely

The situation in France worsens every day. If the old notion that “something has to give” has any meaning, it does not apply to France. Not yet anyway. France is inert and headed for some kind of implosion unless the adrenal glands are reactivated.

The French blogger Yves Daoudal has been publishing some excellent articles in his weekly newsletter, available through subscription. Some of them are quite long, but what I like about them is that they cover a whole story from start to the most recent developments, rather than the bits and pieces one gets on a daily basis. The story of banning the burka is one such story. My opinion is that banning the burka means nothing. It is merely an outward symbol of Islamic conquest. Unless Islam itself is banned from French territory, a ban on the burka will serve only to make Nicolas Sarkozy appear to be “tough” on Islam. The world will say he is being true to the principle of laïcité, that he is placing the well-being of the Republic above all else, that he is determined to show the Muslims who is boss, that he cares about the dignity of women, and other similar inaccuracies (i.e., inanities).

In fact, he is deviously working to recast his country, through a new law, not only as a land where Islam will be totally protected from “discrimination”, but as a country where the freedom of conscience provided for by the law of 1905 is totally and in totalitarian manner subjugated to laïcité. Today, freedom of worship is guaranteed by the law of 1905 on the condition that public order is respected. Under the new law, hypothetically, freedom of worship will be guaranteed only if laïcité is respected. Changing the wording slightly changes the degree of power invested in the concept of laïcité. It becomes almost the official State religion, superior to any religion. If atheists have no problem with this, how will traditional Catholics feel?

The answer, so far, is that Catholics are not being consulted, nor are they voicing any objection to not being consulted. They are slowly being factored out of any consideration on the values that govern French society. What they think or feel is of no consequence to Sarkozy.

All of this and much more is contained in a new report issued by the parliamentary commission studying a possible law that would ban the burka. This Daily Mail article from January 26, the day the report was issued, gives the surface facts. The commission, for your edification, heard testimony from well-known Islamic militant Tariq Ramadan, and from numerous members of the masonic Grand Orient, but not from any representative of the Catholic Church!

If you have read in the English-language press that the burka is banned in France (I have seen such articles), be advised that it is not yet law – it is still in the discussion stages. Sarkozy, using a well-tested tactic, will not allow the question to advance further until after the regional elections this spring.

One of the most troubling aspects of the report is the revelation that any ban of the burka will be in fact a quid pro quo that will compensate the Muslims for the inconvenience of having to accept the ban. Their reward? More mosques, more Arabic taught in the schools, hence, more power...


Monitoring the Internet

Meanwhile, at François Desouche comes word of a serious, concerted, effort to ban from the Internet those websites deemed by public moralists to be “racist.” Following a January 2009 meeting of the Inter-ministerial Committee on Racism and Anti-Semitism, Prime Minister François Fillon decided to assign to Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, Counselor of State, and President of the Forum on Internet Rights, a mission on the means with which the spread of racist and anti-Semitic content on the Internet can be combated.

A Counselor of State is a member of the Council of State (Conseil d’Etat), that advises the government (i.e., the ministers) in the preparation of laws and decrees. It also acts as the supreme administrative judge in litigation involving the administration. The Conseil d’Etat also manages the administrative courts, i.e., those courts that try cases involving government officials. In a word, it is the supreme judge of the government itself. The Conseil d’Etat consists of 300 members, 200 of whom sit at the Palais-Royal in Paris, and 390 agents. Although the opinions of the Council of State are not binding in theory, they are to a large extent followed by the Government in practice.

The report entitled “fight against racism on the Internet” was turned over to Prime Minister Fillon on January 21, 2010. The report attests to the expression of racist commentary on the Internet and suggests a plan of action at the national and international levels, mobilizing public authorities, Internet operators and special-interest groups (associations), in this case most likely ideologically left-wing.

Four contrasting observations emerge from the report: 1) the existence of racist content on the Internet and a real difficulty in qualifying them; 2) the risk of seeing the everyday expression of racism become commonplace online; 3) a French arsenal of repression that is complete but inadequately mobilized on the Internet; 4) vigilance by the participants and heterogeneity of their actions (meaning that there will be various methods employed to deal with “racist” commentary).

Based on these observations, the report advises the implementation of a collective plan of action.

The website Forum Internet summarizes the 64-page report available in pdf format at François Desouche, linked above. The full report is also linked at Forum Internet. Here are excerpts from that summary.

(...) the report recommends an increased action from the Central Office that deals with the fight against crime in the Information Technology and Communications sectors (OCLCTIC), an organism that gathers data on illicit content online. It also recommends an improved system of information among public authorities; and a systematization of the sharing of information between the various parties.

The report recommends that the current methods of repression be unified, that the duration of a ban relevant to racist crimes be maintained at one year, and that the associations be given the right to respond to the racist content online.

The report brings out the need to develop a penal policy adapted to the specifics of the Internet. To do this, it proposes sensitizing anti-discrimination agencies (pôles) to the specific problems connected to the Internet, improving the mobilization of prosecutors (parquets) with regard to the repression of acts of everyday racism (racism ordinaire), and making better known the convictions connected to racism on the Internet.

In view of the primordial importance of both Internet operators and the associations, several proposals are offered: improve the action of the associations, the visibility of the detection procedures, the exchange of information between the OCLCTIC and the technical intermediaries on the issue of detection, and a pedagogical kit for Internet moderators...

The above is quite opaque. It seems to boil down to an improved method of detecting those web moderators who don't comply with the new dictates. This includes more power to the associations, some of which, like HALDE (which is not really an association, but a government agency), are already close to having police powers. A pedagogical kit would mean something like a booklet of instructions, such as the ones employers in the U.S. get on affirmative action, etc...

Another proposal involves an increased awareness on the part of the general public, the school-age population and families, regarding the illicitness of racist expression, by means of information campaigns and specific sensitizing efforts.

Now we get to the good part – the role of foreign countries, including the United States.

It is surprising to note that the international dimensions of the Internet and the different laws and cultures on the question of racism are used by some to escape their responsibilities.

The French report is, in a way, comparing those French bloggers who are hosted in foreign countries, to those wealthy persons who move out of France to foreign countries where the taxes are lower. I wonder if this can be legally justified? Money is not involved here, only ideas. If it is upheld by the courts, it would definitively criminalize both speech and ideas, EVEN when expressed in a foreign country!

In terms of police cooperation and the elaboration of a European policy on detection, it is desirable that the differences in attitudes (sensibilités) within the European Union, on the gravity of certain racist acts, be reduced (...)

In particular, the report regrets the small number of signatories of the 2001 agreement on cyber-criminality and recommends a diplomatic action directed at certain member States of the European Union and the United States of America as well.

Having noted the need to develop an international plan of voluntary measures by enterprises, the proponents of the report urge the French and American public authorities to work out a good-conduct code common to the technical intermediaries [I assume this refers to Internet providers and web administrators, but I’m not sure], and to allow for the participation of national and international NGOs involved in the fight against racism on the Internet.

It is recommended that within eighteen months the public authorities order a new report on the phenomenon of Internet racism to verify the progress made through the implementation of the proposals of the current report.

There will no doubt be more on this latest government effort. See future posts. Barack Obama has said he wants to maintain Internet neutrality.

Final note: The report overtly cites François Desouche (hosted in the U.S.). The readers there are in an uproar over this. But the U.S. has to comply with the French demands. Since Obama is in office, it’s hard to say how things will go. The Republicans were often accused of censoring the Internet, but it was more an issue of national security, not racism. Democrats are anti-racists, but they claim also to favor Internet neutrality. Will they be “neutral” in this case, or will they be “neutralizers”?


The MRAP report

Last January, MRAP (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples), one of several so-called watchdog agencies monitoring “racism” in France, published a 154-page report [pdf] containing the findings of an exhaustive investigation undertaken in 2008-2009 that traced, tracked, and identified websites deemed by MRAP as “racist”, “anti-Semitic”, “racialist”, “ethno-differentialist”, “extreme-right”, “extreme-Catholic right”, “Nazi”, etc... I cannot here list all categories.

The Brussels Journal is cited on page 136, not as a racist site but as a site that VISITED a racist site, namely Novopress. My personal blog, Galliawatch, is cited for the same offense on page 132. The report states that those sites hosted in countries that do not have laws against hate-speech, such as the United States, cannot be pursued by MRAP. This does not prevent MRAP from citing countless Blogspot websites hosted by Google.

At the MRAP website has an introduction to the report that summarizes its aims. Here are excerpts:

More that two thousand URL (including 1,000 blogs) were thus rated. A summary analysis of the general tendency was done for almost 1,500 of them and a few dozen were analyzed in detail, with quotations.

Since anybody today can express himself on the web, it is necessary to be able to differentiate between an isolated blog of a fanatic and the networks that are formed, between a site with confidential followers and those that are referenced by dozens of others that gather there information.

Sites and blogs that develop overtly racist themes: Anti-Semitic: 44; Islamophobic: 75; Nazi: 25; Negationist: 11; Diverse racist: 23.

Other sites, without being qualified as racist, develop themes exploited by the racists: denunciation of the "dangers of immigration," clash of civilizations, lack of security, etc... :

Extreme Catholic Right: 101; Front National: 106; Identitarian: 264; MPF: 33; Parti de la France: 9; Soral: 14; Other extreme Right site: 125.

The report notes the following:

The very great interconnection of the sites: the study identified the “hubs” of the web: François Desouche (Identitarian), Le Salon Beige and E-Deo (extreme Catholic Right), Novopress (Identitarian press agency), for example.

To accuse websites such as Le Salon Beige of racism is in itself “racist” against the Catholic religion. In recent years, the main theme at Le Salon Beige has been the pro-life movement, not anti-Islamism. Bernard Antony is also cited numerous times. He is a defender of Catholicism and Christianity. He is not a racist. To read this report one would think that being a traditional Catholic is grounds for prosecution on “racist” grounds, presumably because such sites do not want Islam in France.

Here are more ways of identifying undesirable sites:

The role of auction sites, of sites where videos are shared, of Wiki encyclopedias.

Why auction sites? I think it is because some of them may sell items such as Nazi emblems (or possibly a Mohammed cartoon?). I wonder if MRAP would condemn an auction site for selling a photo of Hitler conferring with the grand mufti of Jerusalem?

The persistence of Nazi themes.

The difficulties of the struggle against negationist sites.

I'm not sure what that refers to.

“Traditional” anti-Semitic sites, heirs to pre-war publishers, hosted by Anne Kling, Hervé Ryssen, Boris Le Lay, as well as the anti-Semitic drift of the site “Les Ogres”, connected to Dieudonné, that use as a pretext the defense of the rights of Palestinians...

The above is carefully twisted language. While MRAP cites Anne Kling directly, it only cites Les Ogres and its founder Dieudonné obliquely – notice the “drifts” and the “connected to” as if Dieudonné really is not responsible.

The report accuses Dieudonné of being an extreme right-winger(!) and part of the Front National, with a pretense of helping the Palestinians, a highly debatable (and not worth debating now) claim. The machinations and provocations of the attention-seeking Dieudonné, and the ambiguities of the Front National are topics unto themselves. Dieudonné is at bottom a friend of MRAP, but since he has made anti-Semitic comments he must be included on MRAP’s list. Anne Kling is not a friend of MRAP, so her anti-Semitism can be attacked directly. MRAP has to deal as deftly as it can with the fact that it is expected to fight anti-Semitism, all the while being a protector of Muslims in France. Using left-wing Jews as pro-Muslim agents is an excellent way to “amalgamate” two entirely different issues; just as using Muslims as pro-Jewish agents can show that Muslims are friends of Jews. (Note: this happened recently when an “imam” claimed he was attacked by Muslims because he was a friend of Jews.)

The twists and turns of the language used by the report, its fallacies, its “amalgamations”, i.e., what we call "guilt by association" are staggering.

The report lists websites entering into those sites called “hubs”, as well as websites referenced by the hubs.

The report cites the readers’ comments at François Desouche as being “condemnable”, noting however that the site itself is “prudent”. Would MRAP take to court an FDS reader? Or FDS itself?

I post this with an appeal to be cautious about this report. I do not know if it can be taken seriously, if the French government will take measures against the accused websites, or even if it is worth reading carefully.

For a very brief English-language introduction to MRAP itself here is a link to Wikipedia. MRAP was inaugurated in 1949. Back then, in the wake of the war, it was primarily an organization that monitored anti-Semitism. It has evolved into a pro-immigration agency that protects Muslims, although many left-wing Jews are still members, often attorneys serving the Muslim cause. Tunisian-born Gisèle Halimi for example, a radical left-wing feminist who befriended and defended Jean-Paul Sartre, collaborated with Simone de Beauvoir, presided over a commission on American war crimes in Viet-Nam, among her other accomplishments. The current leadership of MRAP is in the hands of a “college of presidents”: Bernadette Hétier, Mouloud Aounit, and Renée le Mignot.

With its focus on one-way racism, affirmative action and forced métissage, MRAP today is an agency of intellectual terrorism, and quite useful to the State in the implementation of its anti-French policies. MRAP has, on occasion (and I assume only to save face) condemned anti-white racism. I know of no French conservative website or writer that has anything positive to say about MRAP. The KGB-style investigations, the ambiguous language, the stated goals vs the real goals, the fear instilled in innocent people at the prospect of being dragged into court by MRAP, place it on an equal footing with the worst thought-police inquisitions of the past.

A Better Tactic

In defending the burka ban, Sarkozy should just invoke the western concepts of an "open and free" society.  We don't want people walking around with their faces covered.  What would happen if someone walked into a bank dressed that way?  How do you drive a car wearing a burka?  Better yet, if you get pulled over for speeding, how does the cop know who you are when you present him with your driver's license? 

RE: Banning the Burqa

I understood that Sarkozy revised laïcité by publicly acknowledging both France’s Catholic heritage and the contributions made by France’s main religions i.e. “positive laïcité.” However, Sarkozy also supports banning the burqa and claims that it is “not welcome” in France. I suspect he is trying to fight Islam with laïcité, but by doing so he cannot avoid encouraging anti-clericalism. The movement against Islam has yet to find free expression, let alone secure institutional support; anti-clericalism, on the other hand, remains an entrenched part of the establishment.