Not that France ever had free speech as we understand it….

. . . but this is sad:

Brigitte Bardot was convicted Tuesday of provoking discrimination and racial hatred for writing that Muslims are destroying France.

A Paris court also handed down a $23,325 fine against the former screen siren and animal rights campaigner. The court also ordered Bardot to pay $1,555 in damages to MRAP.

Bardot’s lawyer, Francois-Xavier Kelidjian, said he would talk to her about the possibility of an appeal.

A leading French anti-racism group known as MRAP filed a lawsuit last year over a letter she sent to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. The remarks were published in her foundation’s quarterly journal.

In the December 2006 letter to Sarkozy, now the president, Bardot said France is “tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts.”

Bardot, 73, was referring to the Muslim feast of Aid el-Kebir, celebrated by slaughtering sheep.

French anti-racism laws prevent inciting hatred and discrimination on racial or religious or racial grounds. Bardot had been convicted four times previously for inciting racial hatred.

“She is tired of this type of proceedings,” he said. “She has the impression that people want to silence her. She will not be silenced in her defense of animal rights.”

Bardot’s extreme animal rights activism isn’t my cup of tea, and there’s no doubt that she’s allied herself with France’s less savory political right wing, but neither of those behind-the-scenes facts goes to the point that someone is being fined for expressing political speech that might hurt someone’s feelings.

On a slightly different, slightly the same topic, I was at a school meeting yesterday reviewing results from a parents’ poll.  The questions covered a variety of topics, and the parents had the opportunity to give narrative answers (in addition to the usual “strongly agree, agree, disagree” crap which creates black and white in a world of gray).

Anyway, the essays came back with some parents happy about things, some parents unhappy about things, and some parents obviously nut cases.  The happy parents expressed generalized happiness; the unhappy parents were very specific about their dislikes, and pretty consistent from one parent to another; and the whack jobs were unintelligible.

The core information in the responses, once you got rid of vague and loony stuff, was practical and helpful.  Nevertheless, the very strong feeling at the meeting was that the information should not go to the teachers because the negative (practical) information might hurt their feelings.  I was the lone dissenting voice.  Am I the only person left in the world who, although hating bad news, nevertheless feels that it can be useful?

I should add here that no teachers were mentioned by name.  There were no personal insults.  These were comments that went to the system as a whole, and can be remedied only by the system as a whole.  But the general consensus was that the teachers’ fragile egos just couldn’t take the hit.


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  • heather

    Strange. If teachers can handle all that the students dish out, then they can certainly take the results of that poll.

  • LarryFaren

    “…might hurt their feelings.”
    Yup. That one charge/concern/mantra is the basis behind a helluva lot of liberal drivel the past 20-30 years — and it just gets worse BY THE DAY.

  • Ymarsakar

    People worry about their feelings only because the US military protects them from having to worry about their heads and limbs being removed.

  • David Foster

    Who were the people at the meeting who objected to giving the results to the teachers? I wasn’t clear as to whether they were parents, teachers, or administrators.

  • Bookworm

    All three, David.

  • Gringo

    Not a very wise decision. I can see some irate parent saying to a teacher, “I made my complaint known to the powers that be, and nothing was done about it.” Teacher’s reply: “I never knew about such a complaint.” How credible will the teacher be?

  • Ymarsakar

    Am I the only person left in the world who, although hating bad news, nevertheless feels that it can be useful?

    Perhaps these parents did not just want to get into a confrontation or risk one with the teachers of their children. Thus it is perhaps not so much a fear that they will hurt other people’s feelings, but that those teachers will make things uncomfortable for them or their children afterwards.

    The parents, having already a social group and system of working or talking out problems, do not seem to want to get out of this comfortable zone into new and strange territory.

  • Don Quixote

    What was the purpose of the parent’s poll? Is it something the school is required by state regulations or some school board rule to do? If so (and perhaps even if not) I’ll bet the real issue is not hurting the teachers’ feelings but preventing the parents from actually having any say in what goes on in the classroom.

    My guess is that the teachers were not in the slightest interested in constructive criticism from parents or anyone else. They don’t want anyone interfering in their complete control over what they do in the classroom. Fear of hurting their feelings is just an excuse for ignoring the parents.

    On a side note, isn’t it funny how the same people who advocate citizen’s police oversight committees would be highly offended at any suggestion of a teacher oversight committee?

  • Bookworm

    Excellent question, DQ. I know that the Board is involved in crafting some of the questions (the worst ones, incidentally, that are compound and that try to force positive, but informationally-useless answers), but I don’t know if the ultimate impetus comes from the Board or from state law.

  • suek

    I was a school board member. We did such surveys annually. The goal was to help us with information that indicated that changes we effected were doing what we expected them to do, and to give parents the opportunity to raise problems we weren’t as yet aware of. The administrator was then expected to bring back to us a plan to address the problems that were raised, and we’d approve her solutions, or ask for more. Sometimes the solutions were specifically teacher oriented, sometimes they addressed problems within the system. We were pretty aware of who the problem teachers were, but in California at least, it takes 2-3 years to get rid of a bad teacher, and most of that time is spent by the superintendent observing the teacher in class and recommending changes. If the changes aren’t put into effect, eventually the teacher leaves – usually they see the handwriting on the wall, find the close oversight uncomfortable and look for other employment. Occasionally, someone is asked to leave, but lawsuits are such an expensive problem that it’s usually preferable to make their lives miserable so that they leave of their own choice.