The talk suggests that Trudeau has surprisingly little knowledge of his subject. He appears to think, for instance, that Flemming Rose, the Jyllands-Posten editor who commissioned the ‘Danish cartoons’, is a woman, and that in France, a country that has some of the toughest hate speech laws in Europe, ‘hate speech…is only illegal if it directly incites violence.’
More problematic, though, is his argument that Charlie Hedbo had ‘wandered into the realm of hate speech’, that it was ‘punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority’, that it was responsible for ‘triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died’ and that it would be better had its anti-Islam cartoons not been published. All this raises questions that echo those in the Barney & Clyde cartoon, questions about how a liberal like Trudeau imagines Muslim communities, whom he imagines represents those communities, and what he imagines constitutes free speech and hate speech.
…I have no problem with the claim that satire is best directed at the powerful, not the powerless (though that should be a moral goal, not a reason for censorship). I do have a problem, however, with the way many people, including Trudeau, understand ‘punching up’ and ‘punching down’.