Every kid learns that yelling “Fire” in a crowded movie theater is where free speech runs up against public safety. It’s an ever-shifting terrain. Countries in the West have tended to err on the side of allowing free speech even at the risk of endangering the public. This attitude is encapsulated in Voltaire’s famous description of the dilemma real free speech presents: “I may not agree with what you say, I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Now Belgium and other Western nations are not so sure.
French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala was sentenced by a Belgian Court to two months in prison for a 2012 performance in Liege during which he made “homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic comments,” according to CNN. The charge was “inciting hatred.” Dieudonne is no stranger to controversy. He is already banned from performing in Britain. The French government also sentenced Dieudonne to two months, a sentence that was suspended, for “condoning terrorism” with comments he made after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.