French President Emmanuel Macron introduced drastic measures that are supposed to help his country fight what some still describe as a coronavirus-based pandemic.
Many French citizens aren’t amused. Some of them showed their view in a billboard, erected on the outskirts of Toulon and La Seyne-sur-Mer. It displays an image of Macron dressed in a Nazi uniform, sporting Adolf Hitler’s trademark toothbrush moustache.
Here’s where to find the place: the third-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille and Nice. Toulon is known for its naval construction, fishing, and wine-making. You can also find factories making aeronautical equipment, armament production facilities in Toulon, as well as producers of maps, paper, tobacco, printing, shoes, and electronic equipment.
And now the place is scandalised by somebody’s irreverent views of the President. The Toulon prosecutor’s office announced that it views the billboard as a full-fledged defamation of the country’s top elected official, and it opened an official investigation into the matter.
France Bleu was the first to report on the Toulon prosecutors’ indignation.
France Bleu is a network of French local and regional radio stations, a part of the national public broadcasting group Radio France. It serves local audiences and provides local news and content from each of its forty-four stations, as part of its public service mandate.
The billboards disagreeing with the drastic official measures that President Macron announced himself aren’t new. Last week one of the two posters simply displayed the word Honte. It can be translated into English as shame, or ignominy, or disgrace.
Judging by the fact that the Toulon prosecutors didn’t lift a finger on that occasion, we can deduce that telling the head of state he’s disgraced his country is an integral part of public discourse.
Canadian officials would have taken a dimmer view, perhaps, given their violent reactions to critical observations regarding the country’s de facto head of state, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but, then again, it was the French who had brought such mottos like Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) on the political scene, not Canadians.
Hinting that Emmanuel Macron’s anti-Covid-19 rules equal those introduced by Adolf Hitler, that’s taking it too far, according to French officials.
That’s defamation, pure and simple, they say.
What is it? Herewith the legal definition: any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.
Defamation can be tried as either a criminal or a civil charge. It includes both written statements (libel), and spoken statements (slander).
Whether a plaintiff will recover damages in a defamation suit depends to a huge degree on her/his standing in society, especially on the answer to the question whether the plaintiff is a public or private figure in the eyes of the law.
In the eyes of the Toulon prosecutors’ office, showing Macron as a typical Nazi stretches far beyond the permissible limits of civil public debate.
Just imagine how it looks: the billboard features the letters LREM, an abbreviation for Macron’s La Republique En Marche party (Republic On Parade). These significant letters are squeezed into a white circle. They’re precisely where the Nazi swastika used to be in Hitler’s Germany, with the Nazi party infamous red background.
Is this defamation?
The new rules pushed through by Macron personally include, for example, visible marking for the uninoculated. Not much difference between those and the Stars of David worn by the still-surviving Jewish population in Nazi Germany (and her occupied countries).
President Macron’s support has gone down the toilet. Public opinion agency IFOP reported recently for Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD, or Sunday News) newspaper that Macron’s approval went down by 13 points among people aged 18-24. Surprisingly, it was among French retirees where his support did not collapse. In fact, it even grew on some occasions within their group.
But, in any case, French public are not enthused about the new measures such as mandatory vaccines for certain groups, including health workers, and introduction of vaccine passports for entry to leisure and cultural venues.
Compare Canada’s timid and scattered demonstrations to the estimated 114,000 people who rallied across France to protest what they believe is an unjust intrusion into their private lives. Protesters chanted “Liberty!” and demanded that Macron resign.
Anger across the English Channel (La Manche)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to mandate vaccinations for people entering crowded venues from September has met with similar reactions in Great Britain. Hashtag ‘arrest Boris Johnson’ has become a most popular demand.
Of course, the British situation has just got somewhat more convoluted: the country’s top medical testing facility now belongs to an organisation run by George Soros, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This bodes ill for the British.
Yes, lawsuits have begun popping up against some of the leading politicians (and governments as such), challenging them for violent violations of basic human rights. In fact, the International Criminal Court in The Hague is studying a document filed by a group of lawyers, physicians and sundry scientists from Slovakia, accusing their government precisely of these crimes. And similar actions like this have been emerging elsewhere, including the U.S.
If such a lawsuit happens to be filed in France, and President Macron happens to lose, will the billboard near Toulon remain defamatory? Or will it be simply stating the truth?