Fashion designer and all round despicable person John Galliano is facing up to 6 months in prison in France and 22,000 Euros in fines for an anti semitic rant at a bar in Paris. Galliano is accused of "public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" against three people.
I am not particularly interested in Galliano or in what he said - he's a fashion designer with an outsized ego and a bad alcohol habit. In the scheme of things, he isn't exactly important.
However, the fact that he may face prison time for insulting someone is absolutely outrageous, and I think that warrants some serious scrutiny.
I'm a big fan of France's welfare state, its culture, food and beautiful language, but its policy of locking people up for saying things is a travesty in a modern Western democracy. While the US may illegally invade other people's countries, bankrupt the world economy with its criminal banking system, treat its poor like dirt and kick sick people out on the streets because they don't have health insurance, it does militantly protect freedom of speech - and in my eyes, makes it one of the greatest nations on the planet.
The fact that I can insult America openly and freely is one of the reasons I love this country. My right to air my views, no matter how ridiculous or offensive they may be, is protected in stone and no one can take them away from me.
Galliano's diatribe against Jews may be monstrously offensive, but he wasn't attacking anyone and he didn't present any danger to the recipients of his venom. While Galliano could be booked for drunk and disorderly conduct, the content of his rant should be completely off limits when it comes to the law.
In a free society, all efforts must be made to protect freedom of speech - because as Thomas Paine wrote:
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.