Watch your Words

10th June 1944 an SS Panzer division entered Oradour sur Glane, a sleepy village in the Haute Vienne, just north of St Junien.

The events that followed culminated in the systematic massacre of nigh on all of the men, women and children of that village. 642 souls lost their life on that day.

The women and children were led to the church where they believed themselves to be relatively safe. That safety was shattered when the invading forces brought in a chest packed with explosives and exploded it.

The history of this town is very well documented so I’ll not go into all the details of what happened and when. You can start to gain a more indepth view here.

One of the miracles of that day was a young boy called Robert Hebras who managed stay hidden and survived. He has since then become one of the leading historians on the subject of Oradour and has penned many books on the subject.

The reason I am telling you this is an article today in the Charente Libre. Mr Hebras, now 87 has been tried and found guilty of overstepping the limits in one of his publications. He casted doubt on claims that the French Alsacian soldiers were forcibly made to join the German army and suggested that some of the recruits did so not involuntarily.

So what did he say ?

parmi les hommes de main, il y avait quelques Alsaciens enrôlés soi-disant de force dans les unités SS"

”Among them, there were some Alsacians enrolled, so they say, by force into the SS units”.

He was found guilty, fined a symbolic Euro and had to pay €10.000 in costs – and this was a first hand witness and massacre survivor.

Given our recent debate on defamation of character, I thought this serves as an excellent example of what you can and can not say about people in France if you are not 100% sure of the truth.

This kind of fits in well here, seems times so well:

Both of the links in Nick's piece now only show Error 404, whereas at the weekend they opened up files. The world we are living in is becoming more and more censurial under a mantle of all being easily accessible.

Thank you Celeste, I am not bothering to watch it. Thematically it does not interest me. The same would apply with Jef's hypothetical point about Christ. But the major point is raised, moral responsibility. If somebody makes, is party to making or supports the point of view expressed by such things then let them explain how they are morally responsible. If they have a good case then fine, but the rest of us do not need to concur with that case. The point you make about the media allowing it to run is good BUT there is a problem. Is a racist? Well, it is criticising the life of the prophet who founded a religion so no it is a personal attack on somebody who is long since dead and whether the racism argument sticks is thin, then Islam is a belief not a race, indeed is followed by many races. Incitement to hatred, certainly. Unfortunately the response to this rather stupid film is hatred in two or more directions. So yes, incitement to hatred but where does that begin and end? All of the issues such things raise are complicated beyond simple solutions. The complete idiots who clearly knowingly do these things need to be taught a very serious lesson, there's is the ultimate responsibility for the whole debacle.

The point of the Bavarians putting 'Mein Kampf' on the history curriculum is that there is a lesson to be learned from it. Until recently it was forbidden absolutely in Germany but I bought my copy in a secondhand bookshop in West Berlin quite openly. There were several on the shelf. That it was a left wing shop was not an excuse. Now very easy internet access has made further bans quite pointless. However, potentially providing future 'haters' with material is questionable. Why not teach about it without even extracts of texts? I do not see the rationale of having the racial hate and eugenics expressed by that maniac is of any earthly use to anybody. For me it is part of a political knowledge I attempt to use responsibly to point out the folly of humanity in falling for such doggerel and making ideologies out of them.

Beginning and end, Celeste, those are beyond definition I fear. Saying 'No' can be pushed back and back and... until we believe we have every right to say what we like but can in fact no longer open our mouths. It goes the other way too. It is, Nick's point, emotive and there we also have the equally difficult question about what will be tolerated whether true or false and how we can sometimes tolerate the truth being denied or censored. Dictatorship is never too far away.

Jef is making an interesting point. However it is an impossible one to resolve. The alleged filmmakers Nakoula and Klein are denying making the film, at least denying the message it supposedly contains, others are denying it is inflammatory but the fact remains that it has caused enormous disruption and the death of diplomats. YouTube/Google are applying the rule of freedom of speech but in so doing are endangering the lives of people who have had nothing to do with making the film. Quo vadis?

It is, of course, virtually impossible to compare the Hebras case and the above, since the former is based on fact and the latter is conjecture. However, where do the boundaries between truth and forbidden truth begin and end? We go all the way back to how on earth Hitler managed to get his ranting, rambling work 'Mein Kampf' published in the first place? Had publishers be worth their salt, then it would never have seen the light of day. Everything speaks against it, down to the fact that it is contradictory, mostly written in the most abyssmal German and should never have passed review, editorial or readers' desks. Yet it was published, printed in small numbers at first, then in increasing numbers until there was a surplus. It may not have been 100% of all that lead to a war, exterminations and all other events of the 1930s and 40s, but it certainly did contribute. History very conveniently overlooks how many translations there were and sales in other countries. Has anybody ever considered the impact of those as well? It is an example of the extremity of polemicism that is seen contextually as freedom of speech (opinion, at least) in its time, then as the opposite later.

If Facebook was censoring the two posts rather than it being a glitch, then somebody has reviewed them and now let them through. I have seen far more offensive things on Facebook than either of these and more than a few that have hardly a grain of truth in them. So, whatever the reality in 'Watch your Words' here, the message in Mr Hebras' prosecution, despite its tragi-symbolic end, and the possibility of the censorship of a joke that I suspect many of us have heard several times before, where are our freedoms? The debate might be whether as an often convincing façade of rights is bestowed upon us, in fact an ever closer watch is being kept on us all and whosoever speaks out of turn and place does so at risk of being deprived of as much as all rights. To some extent, is that not what the entire Wikileaks debate is about as well? We do not know, but there is no assurance that Julian Assange would not be executed for 'espionage', when from the point of view of his supporters it is merely his right to free speech.

I find it particularly rich that Facebook has censored two SFN posts in the last so many days on the grounds that ''some" people have reported them as inappropriate. I frankly found the parody of Breakfast at Holland to be rather lame, but it has done no long term damage and even poor humour is certainly protected under free speech in Western countries.

It leaves me rather dumbfounded that Google, the owners of YouTube have declined to remove a film that not only is clearly disrespectful of a large part of the world's population, but has directly resulted in the death of four American diplomats and a number of others in the Arab world. I wonder if they would be so tolerant of a poorly acted film that portrayed Jesus as a womaniser and a pederast?

The New York Time reported thus in edition of yesterday:

Google said on Friday that it would not comply with a White House request to reconsider the anti-Islam video that has set off violent protests in the Arab world in light of its rules banning hate speech on YouTube, which it owns.Google said it had already determined that the video did not violate its terms of service regarding hate speech, because it was against the Muslim religion but not Muslim people.

Lots of spelling mistakes. Now I can get into both via FB, so what was it about?

Who knows what it was/is but it happened and was the 'may contain offensive material' reason. Facebook does soem strange things and has been 'attacked' for such things as accepting racist, rightwing propaganda whilst blocking mildly leftish comments. If Zuckerberg thinks his timeline of 20 years of FB future is how he is going to see the online world develop then with compulsory timelines and so on we are going all to be easily accessible dossiers as it is. To block, erroneously or deliberately, facts smells to many people of pure American Internet paranoia. I may not entirely agree with how Bruce puts it below but I think he is part of a growing number of disillusioed people with similar feelings.

Just re the Facebook link - could it be anything to do with settings or some other hidden gremlin? I was connected directly to the link yesterday and again today with no censoring, re-routing, nothing.

Half the world seem to tell half of the strangers in the world about

of of their most intimate details.

What they ate for of the new born babbies.

Dogs dressed up in baby clothes and all about the problems

they are having with their OH.
Now that I know how it works I use to to

contact a few people to instigate contact.

Thanks Katie! x

You don’t need fb, you have SFN.

Regarding Facebook…I’ve recently withdrawn my membership as I came to the conclusion that it’s like so many other American institutions (McDonalds, KFC, Burgerking, etc)…insidiously taking over the world. The US, as a nation, is so paranoid, holier than thou, and up its own butt (did you notice I included an Americanism there?). It has no history of culture as such, so insists on diluting everybody elses’, by shoving its dross at us. Would you believe thst Frsnce, famous for George Escoffier and Paul Bocuse is the biggest consumer of McDonalds, after the US?
Sorry, went off the point a bit, and I’m not condemning individual Americans.
So, i’m going to wait for the English or French equivalent of Facebook.

Sure Catharine... totally slipped my mind to be honest :) I'll get on to it now :D

Yes it is Katie - it is blocking all kinds of things and people at the moment. Grrr. But thanks very much for letting us know! Appreciated. Cx

ps any chance of a photo please?

Just thought I’d add, fb (at least from my try) has blocked me from reading the latest survive france blog post also… I’m wondering now if it is a ‘blip’ in the system… I have emailed James to check it out…

You got it Frances - FOS!

OK, it is very emotive. However, if today we have two very extraordinary things in the form of FB censorship of truth and the very fact that anything Mr Habras wrote brought aout a trial, then are these not misplaced responses to emotion? Had the circumstances been different and had too few French escaped for there to be a Free French Army can we be sure that history would not still have praised the French patriots for the liberation of their country instead of the allied armies?

Patriotism is itself often far too overzealous. Is this still not the same France that captured a teenage girl, tortured, tried then executed her, then pardoned, rehabilitated, canonised and made a national symbol of her although historically she had made one speech that raised the issue of fighting for justice in God's name, but is not known to have overtly been a French patriot? Jeanne d'Arc is a symbol of France, yet she only saw two real victories and was with the heads of the French army at as many defeats. As much of that history is known, it is still reshaped to the fiction of a great patriotism that I imagine all countries prefer to being seen as fallible, is it punishable to say so? If so, what are the real moral issues in even trying Mr hebras or others who simply go for facts and get them back in their faces?

Fair enough, standing by what you say but who's to decide whose memories are wrong and who's hiding? Two private individuals. I don't go about deliberately trying to hurt people but if someone says or does something and I want to write about it Why shouldn't I? The other party can write what they want too. Didn't it used to be called freedom of speech (I do not refer to gossipping).

I think it’s a valid point Frances.
You have to be able to stand by what yo say here.

I can't even access the page, I'm told there is an 'error". Hmmm