Clearly French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is making all the right enemies in high places. The established political class in France clearly despises her but the European Union is now getting in on the act, no doubt because of her less than favorable opinions of the continental organization. In one of the stranger stories to come out of the French election cycle, the EU has moved to suspend Le Pen’s standard immunity from prosecution over images which she posted on her Twitter account. If that sounds to you like something out of a George Orwell novel, fasten your seat belts because it gets even more strange. (Washington Post)
On Thursday, the European Parliament voted to lift Marine Le Pen’s immunity from prosecution for tweeting violent images, a crime that in France can carry up to three years in prison.
As Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, rises in the polls ahead of France’s presidential election next month, authorities will now be able to pursue a case against her. Speaking on French television Thursday morning, she was quick to condemn her European colleagues for what she called “a political inquiry.”
Apparently in France the phrase “political inquiry” is the European equivalent to what we in the United States would call “an obvious witch hunt.”
This question of immunity is the first one to sort out because the entire concept will no doubt sound like something from an alien planet to most Americans. The European Union Parliament provides immunity to its members in matters of free speech so that they will be free to express their opinions in public debate. That sentence alone is a chilling reminder of precisely how different things are across the pond if you grew up taking American rights to freedom of speech for granted. Yes, in Europe you can frequently be prosecuted for thought crimes.
The horrible, dangerous activity which Le Pen engaged in was the tweeting of an “image of violence” last year. The picture in question was one of James Foley, the journalist who was beheaded by ISIS. Such images are no doubt disturbing to some people, in this case the Foley family in particular. After a complaint was raised by relatives, Le Pen apologized and deleted the tweet but the damage had already been done.
Keep in mind that one of Marine Le Pen’s main selling points in the election is her outrage over attacks by violent Islamic extremists and her insistence that the nation do more to protect its citizens. The law in question is one which forbids the publication of violent images but this is where the true irony comes in. Le Pen was considered in violation of a rule which was designed to stop people from distributing such images as a way to recruit terrorists. She was doing precisely the opposite, drawing attention to the barbaric nature of the enemy, but now may run afoul of the law.
It’s simply impossible to deny that this is a political hit job. By lifting Le Pen’s immunity, the European Union is paving the way for France to prosecute her over a tweet. This prosecution is taking place (assuming it happens) just as the final stages of the presidential election are kicking into high gear. You don’t need the world’s best detective to figure that one out. Of course, it would be nice to pretend that this is somehow a unique situation, but it’s obviously not. You’ll recall that Dutch candidate Geert Wilders was actually taken to trial and convicted for chanting a slogan at a political rally. Wilders did not wind up serving any time for his “crime” and the trial lead to a surge in sympathetic support for him in the polls. But it still underscores the fact that freedom of speech in Europe is largely a joke.
The thing to watch for now and over the next few weeks is whether or not Marine Le Pen receives the same sort of boost in her popularity which Wilders experienced previously. Are the French truly such a nation of sheep that they want to stand by idly and watch a presidential candidate be dragged into court over a tweet expressing a political position? If not, and if they are truly disgusted by this effort to stifle Le Pen’s opinions, there may be another upset brewing in the European electoral races.