Dear Partners in thought,
Having noticed the recent position of the Human Rights chief, I feel compelled to disagree with her strange views of the French government’s response following the recent Yellow Vests developments. Her take was very critical of the government measures voted by French Parliament to clamp down on violent serial protests so I presume people could be largely free to do what they want as basic freedoms, such as demonstrating, should not be unduly controlled by the State. While liberal democracy should indeed be the perfect environment to foster freedoms and ensure the right of peaceful demonstrations whatever their focus, it should strongly prevent and condemn violence, hatred and messages against any ethnic or religious community if it wishes to preserve its very existence. Similarly far right “dissidents”, as they are called in some think tanks focused on the preservation of freedoms, of a Neo-nazi or Neo-Fascist kind have lost the right at the cost of millions of dead to express their views publicly unless liberal democracy wishes to give them a forum on the altar of absolute freedom. Lastly in an age of fast-moving technological and internet developments, social media have been used to indeed propagate fake news, often of a hate flavour, and measures, involving regulation and education, are needed to ensure as much as possible that they do not take hold in the minds of people who may not have the time nor the background to fully appreciate them. France, which is not Venezuela, North Korea, Russia or China in its approach of freedom, collective and individual, is entitled to protect “moral norms” of societal engagement to ensure we keep living in a liberal democratic environment. The response of the French government and Parliament was amply justified in the face of extreme violence, ultra-left and right groups bent on pushing undemocratic views and ethnic hatred and the corrosion of the political discourse due to poisonous fake news. For freedom to survive and thrive, we need to ensure the moral norms of liberal democracy are upheld, even if restricting the freedoms of violent rioters, hate-driven extremists and the more recent news propagators focused on pushing extreme, illiberal agendas and creating chaos. Liberal democracy is not a synonym of weakness.