This time, the attack against the publication of satirical Mohammed cartoon, was not only an act of terrorism, but an attack on the spirit of free speech.
And the government response this time? After staging a photo op of world leaders, various heads of state have proposed new waves of surveillance and repressive attempts to ban encryption and violate the freedom of speech in communication devices through new spy policies and laws.
On Sunday, as more than 3 million people flooded the streets of Paris in support of the free speech principles that Charlie Hebdo embodied, a group of 12 European ministers issued a joint statement calling for internet service providers to more swiftly report and remove online material “that aims to incite hatred and terror.”
Establishing a framework to enhance police work and intelligence sharing concerning the actions of alleged terrorists and extremists, the joint statement from 12 European ministers and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declares the intent to: “counter violent extremism” and “fight against radicalization, notably on the Internet,” in part through the “swift reporting [and removal] of material that aims to incite hatred and terror.” Meanwhile, it aims to beef up European border control, “step up the detection and screening of travel movements” and enhance law enforcement, particularly in “working to reduce the supply of illegal firearms throughout Europe.”
Although the statement takes a vow of respect and “scrupulous observance of fundamental freedoms, a forum for free expression, in full respect of the law,” it doesn’t hold much water with the focus on new surveillance and police powers to chill free speech in the name of fighting radicalization. It seems the terrorists have once again won before the fight has even begun.
The irony should be perfectly palpable, but instead leaders in Europe and the U.S. seem oblivious to the fact that they are, pound for pound, violating many more rights than the terrorists ever could… yet they are not exactly stopping and catching terrorists either. (As a side note, in case the Europeans don’t know, Eric Holder is a pretty poor partner in the effort to reduce the supply of illegal firearms, since he was caught deliberately arming Mexican drug cartels in the Fast and Furious scandal).
The spirit of freedom is hardly embodied by the leaders of the so-called “free world.”
As Ron Paul noted:
The mainstream media immediately decided that the shooting was an attack on free speech. Many in the US preferred this version of “they hate us because we are free,” which is the claim that President Bush made after 9/11. They expressed solidarity with the French and vowed to fight for free speech. But have these people not noticed that the First Amendment is routinely violated by the US government?
Another lesson from the attack is that the surveillance state that has arisen since 9/11 is very good at following, listening to, and harassing the rest of us–but is not very good at stopping terrorists.
Specifically, France has already proposed new terrorism-surveillance laws – despite have just passed legislation for new powers in November – while the Anglo powers are meeting to ramp up security and UK Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed ridiculous and draconian powers to breach encrypted communications.