Dumb, but it might not be an empty threat. As you’ll see, Fox News has apologized at least twice on the air for claiming after the Charlie Hebdo attack that there are Muslim-ruled “no-go zones” in France and the UK. The legal department must be worried about something to demand that much public contrition. The comments blew up overseas too, drawing a rebuke from no less than David Cameron and getting goofed on nightly by France’s answer to “The Daily Show.” Why do Europeans care what an American cable news net says about them? Partly, I assume, it’s because Fox’s reputation as the dastardly American right-wing network transcends international borders; populist halfwit Russell Brand, for one, likes to rant about FNC to his British audience. Part of it is that it’s a property owned by Rupert Murdoch and News Corp, which also owned the British papers involved in the phone hacking scandal. And part of it, I suspect, is that uniting against Fox is a way for the French to paper over their own jitters about how their culture has changed, and will continue to change, as Muslims become a larger percentage of the population. Michel Houellebecq’s book about a France ruled by a Muslim party in the near future became an instant bestseller last week because it touches on the same fears of violent illiberal encroachment that the “no-go zone” rhetoric does. If you’re a young French man or woman wondering lately what life will be like in 25 years, mocking Fox for articulating your own worries might prove cathartic and reassuring. Muslim no-go zones in Europe? Why, that could never happen!
The lawsuit is stupid, though, whether or not it stands a chance of succeeding. It’s bad form to seek penalties after the network has apologized repeatedly. It’s counterproductive in that it’ll encourage critics of Islam and Europe’s difficulties with assimilation to double down and try to prove that “no-go zones” do exist, which will keep the issue under a media spotlight. Soeren Kern at the Gatestone Institute is promising a multipart series on the subject. And it’s bitterly ironic that France, which just held a massive rally for free speech, would suddenly turn vindictive in punishing the speech of those who’ve offended it. They did it to Dieudonne, a scumbag to the core but a citizen with rights nonetheless. Now here’s Hidalgo ready to haul Fox into court rather than dismissing the “no-go zone” fracas with a shrug about ignorant Americans. Nice job by CNN in squeezing this threat against a rival news network out of her, though. No doubt Fox will be happy to lavish coverage on the plaintiff the next time CNN gets sued for a factual error.
Update: Fox News e-mails with a statement from Executive VP Michael Clemente: “We empathize with the citizens of France as they go through a healing process and return to everyday life. However, we find the Mayor’s comments regarding a lawsuit misplaced.”