It’s Friday, and you know that I spend much too much time around here knocking France’s current administration in all of their infinite Socialist “wisdom” not to have a chuckle with this one. I actually didn’t even know this was a thing, and only do now inasmuch as it’s not a thing anymore: Apparently, and in a win for freer speech, the French legislature decided do away with a particular aspect of an old law forbidding public ‘rudeness’ directed at the French head of state, via Reuters:

Being rude to the French president is no longer an offense after parliament agreed on Thursday to amend legislation dating back to 1881 in favour of freedom of speech.

Whereas before any rude remark risked an automatic fine for “offending the head of state”, the president is now reduced to the same category as ministers and parliamentarians and would need to have a judge prove there had been slander or defamation. …

Anyone found by a judge to have slandered the president still runs the risk of a fine of up to 45,000 euros.

President Francois Hollande has so far shown a thick skin, however, as critics have given him a string of unkind nicknames like “Flanby”, a brand of wobbly caramel pudding or “Mr. Little Jokes”.

Oh, goodness. Francois Hollande might have thick skin, but he is not at all a much-liked figure in France right now — he’s hardly more than a year into his presidency, but his approval rating in June already dropped to yet another new low with only 31 percent of French citizens having a “good opinion” of him. …I wonder if he isn’t going to be the subject of quite a bit more public ‘rudeness’ in the not-so-distant future.

In related news, the French economy is struggling to such a degree that the government is for once trying to actively protect their status as the world’s number-one tourist destination — by nudging the French away from their legendary rudeness and getting residents to condescend to speak “touriste,” via the AP:

France has long had a reputation — particularly in the English-speaking world — for being a bit difficult to visit. We love to hate it, with its surly waiters and superior shopkeepers. But we also love to love it: More people visit France than any other country in the world.

But now, after years of casually riding a reputation for stunning monuments and world-class food, the French are starting to talk about tourism as an economic benefit — and one they need to do more to capitalize on. This is a sea change in a country that has long prided itself on not doing anything as gauche as catering to visitors.

“I want to make France No. 1, period,” Tourism Minister Sylvia Pinel told reporters last year as a new government took the reins and laid out its priorities. Improving France’s “welcome” was one of those — creating a true tourism policy for the first time, Pinel said.

Pinel wasn’t shy in linking the cultural and commercial: She called tourism a lever for growth and jobs, both of which France desperately needs. The country’s economy is in recession, and unemployment is nearly 11 percent. So it cannot afford to ignore the tourism industry, which accounts for more than 7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, more than the auto industry, she said.