France wages war on “disinformation”

19 Feb

G’day. Couple of recent headlines for you. This from a few days ago …

… and this from four months ago:

For now France is ahead of the game, but the rest of the “free West” is close behind:

“Kill the Bill” protestor 3 years ago at the UK’s impending Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Act

I speak here to those who suspect or know that Western democracy is largely bogus – some say entirely; I say almost – and that we are in reality ruled by rentier oligarchies.  Given such realities as …

  • environmental insanity, decline of Western supremacy, soaring inequality in ‘our’ hyper-financialised economies 1
  • diminishing trust in mainstream media, and rising interest in alternative sources …
  • the near-literal unthinkability 2 of any solution challenging private profits …

… those oligarchies will, as night follows day, see repression and clawbacks of hard-won civil rights as increasingly attractive options. All the more so if such moves can be sold on the back of appeals to liberal and even, given its vast potential for sowing division, ‘woke’ sentiment.

This, I submit, is the overarching context in which, on January 16 this year, Ursula von der Leyen fired the opening shot of a new war. Not on poverty or ecocide, but on “disinformation”. I spoke of this in EU fury as Tucker goes to Moscow, when I commented on the EC President telling the WEF billionaire gathering at Davos that she:

wants social media corps hit with huge fines for allowing “disinformation”. Let’s set aside the acceptance as natural and unremarkable that so vital a common as social media would be owned by zillionaires, and focus instead on an equally glaring elephant in the room. Who gets to define “disinformation”? Given this century’s form on demonising or marginalising eminent voices who dissent from mainstream narratives, and back that dissent with hard fact and sober reason, the signs are not good. Think 9/11 ..Syria ..Covid … China rising …

Of course [she would] begin with tropes that play well with the majority. Of course [she would] start with the low hanging fruit. As Pastor Niemöller might have put it: “first they came for the climate change deniers, and I said nothing because I was not a climate change denier …”

(Both Germany and Russia outlaw “Holocaust denial”. A slippery slope if you ask me. Whatever happened to countering bad ideas with good arguments? And for that matter with derision?) 

My rhetorical questions in that last paragraph sparked a mild three-way contretemps, below the line, which you can read for yourself if so inclined. Since then I’ve received an email from a pal and steel city reader in France. His country seems highly committed to Queen Ursula’s war; an impression given added weight by a Nick Corbishley piece last week (another steel city reader alerted me to it) on Naked Capitalism. Its immediate context is medical but when vaccination = big pharma = ruling class interests, it demands inordinate credulity not to see this as the thin end of a very thick and decidedly Orwellian wedge. 3

Over to you Nick.

France’s Macron Government Is Trying to Criminalise Criticism of Officially Recommended or Mandated Medical Treatments

A new escalation in the war on what governments deem to be medical mis-, dis- and mal-information appears to be under way.

To begin, a couple of important caveats: First, I came to this story late, having only heard about it yesterday afternoon. As such, I have not been able to get as deep into the undergrowth as I would have liked. Plus, it is about France, a country that is not my bailiwick and whose language I am not nearly as versed in as I am in English (my mother tongue) or Spanish (my second language). In addition, at the heart of this story is draft legislation Macron’s government is determined to bulldoze into law, and I am even less versed in legalese than I am in the French language. Now, I’m having to put the two of them together.

That all being said, this is a story that I believe needs reporting, for the simple fact that if the French government is successful in criminalising criticism of medical treatments, its approach could be replicated by other governments in Europe. But given the time pressures, there are likely to be some big gaps in this summary. Even more than usual, the input of members of the Commentariat, especially those of you living in France and/or with knowledge of the inner workings of the French political and legal system, is most welcome. Now, to the story.

On Wednesday (Feb 14), France’s Chamber of Deputies passenew legislation aimed at intensifying the crackdown on what the Macron government calls “sectarian abuses-” Contained within that legislation is an article (#4) that essentially seeks to make it criminal, and punishable with jail, for any person or organisation to encourage other people to abandon or abstain from receiving medical care or treatment. Here’s the first paragraph (machine translated) of the article’s original text, which has since been tweaked (more on that later):

Incitement to abandon or abstain from following therapeutic or prophylactic medical treatment is punishable with one year of imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 euros, when this abandonment or abstention is presented as beneficial for the health of the persons targeted when in reality it is, according to medical guidelines, clearly likely to be detrimental for their physical or psychological health, taking into account the condition from which they suffer.

Second paragraph:

Incitement to adopt practices presented as having a therapeutic or prophylactic purpose for the persons concerned is punishable by the same penalties when it is clear, according to established medical guidelines, that these practices expose the persons to an immediate risk of death, or injuries likely to result in mutilation or permanent disability.


When the provocation provided for in the first two paragraphs has had an effect, the penalties are increased to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros.

Fourth and last:

When these offences are committed through the written or audiovisual press, the specific provisions of the laws which govern these matters are applicable with regard to the determination of the persons responsible.

The new offence seeks to “facilitate the prosecution and repression of behaviour that could seriously harm people’s health, without prohibiting the promotion of additional practices that fall within individual freedom”, according to Vie Publique, a website produced, edited and managed by the Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information.

The ostensible goal is to address the growing proliferation of non-professional practitioners within the alternative healthcare sector. Since the pandemic, the number of lifestyle gurus, naturopaths and other health coaches has mushroomed. Many of them have found success and even a certain amount of fame on social media. According to the government, some are putting their clients’ health at risk by distancing them from the public health system.

In response, the government proposes not only to escalate its war on alternative forms of medicine but also to apply a battering ram to three basic fundamental human rights: the rights to freedom of expression, bodily autonomy and bodily integrity. And it is applying the broadest possible brush by not specifying to whom the proposed article 4 may or may not apply to. It is not hard to discern the likely main target here: criticism of the COVID-19 vaccines, as the bill’s co-sponsor, Brigitte Liso, recently all but admitted (clarification in brackets my own):

“[A]fter the COVID-19 crisis, protest movements against public institutions and doctors, and the emergence of the famous anti-vaxxers, Miviludes [a French government agency charged with observing and analysing the phenomenon of cult movements and coordinating the government response] has seen the number of cases explode, often linked precisely to the subject of well-being, care and health. It became urgent to propose a law which creates a real crime.”

That crime is to incite people not to take certain “therapeutic or prophylactic medical treatments” or “adopt certain practices presented as having a therapeutic or prophylactic” effect that in reality does not have that effect. As readers will no doubt appreciate, signing these measures into law raises a host of ethical, professional and practical concerns.

For a start, recent history is littered with scandals regarding medical treatment in which public health authorities have found to be complicit. One such case is that of Mediator, a drug produced by Servier Laboratories that is believed to have caused the death of between 1,500 and 2,000 French people. The French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM) was fined 303,000 euros for negligence.

Other examples include Levothyrox, Dépakine, Distilbene, growth hormones, Isomeride, Vioxx and Thalidomide. All of these came to light thanks to whistle-blowers or painstaking research from journalists. With the passage of the new bill, in particular article four, similar such medical and scientific alerts, whether in the mainstream press, scientific journals or in the alternative media landscape, could be met with penalties including fines and even risk of imprisonment.

Without an open, informed debate, science can not properly function, as the NGO Bon Sens warnedin a letter to the deputies (again, machine translated):

Constructive criticism and questioning of information are essential aspects of the scientific process , and this should be done transparently and respectfully. A scientific consensus only has value over a limited period and only if it takes into account divergent opinions. Science is an ongoing debate, and stifling this debate in the name of a false consensus amounts to killing both any progress or any corrective mechanism. It is the pluralism of ideas – and not censorship – that allows us to progress.

Faced with the abnormal and often illegal influence (known corrupt practices and conflicts of interest) of pharmaceutical laboratories in Public Health decisions, it is essential to preserve the safeguard of freedom of expression on these issues…

Remember, in the Covid-19 crisis…, the discourse of the health authorities [around vaccines] evolved from “safe and effective” toward a general recognition that vaccines ultimately did not protect against infection but only serious forms of illness and finally to the acknowledgement several months after the vaccine roll out that they could cause myocarditis and pericarditis, especially in young men,… or hemorrhagic menstrual disorders… potentially requiring hospitalisation in young women… At this time there is no certainty about the impact this may have had on their fertility.

None of this is to say that the problem of digital health charlatans does not exist (snake oil salesmen and -women have always existed and there can be no doubt that social media offers their present day ilk a lucrative market place), or that the problem is not serious. However, the government’s proposed solution is totally out of proportion to the scale of the problem. That’s not just my interpretation but also that of France’s Council of State, which acts both as legal adviser to the executive branch and as the supreme court for administrative justice.

In November, the Council concludedthat the government has failed to demonstrate “the necessity for or the proportionality of these new legal offences”. It also noted that the undesirable behaviours the proposed law is supposed to tackled are “already amply covered” by existing criminal offences. What’s more, aiming to prevent the promotion of so-called “unconventional” healthcare practices in the press, on the internet and social media “constitutes an attack on the exercise of the freedom of expression, protected by Article 11 of the Declaration of 1789.”

The Council then hammered what should have been the final nail in article four’s coffin:

[The Council] also notes that the European Court of Human Rights deduces from Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms the freedom to accept or refuse specific medical treatment, or to choose another type of treatment, which is fundamental to controlling one’s own destiny and personal autonomy, in the absence of inappropriate pressure (see ECtHR, judgment no. 302/02 of June 10, 2010). Even though the legitimacy of the objective pursued by the bill is incontestable, the Council of State notes that it was not able, within the time limit set for the examination of the text, to develop a drafting given these criticisms. It therefore recommends that the provisions in question (articles four and five) are not retained.

The Macron government chose to ignore the recommendation. But when the bill was presented in the senate in December, an overwhelming majority heeded the court’s advice and rejected article 4. But when it reached the House of Deputies earlier this month, it was reinstated, only for a slim majority of deputies to vote against its inclusion this Tuesday. But even that was not enough to deter the Macron government. On Wednesday, it took it back to the floor and finally got it past. After falling at literally every hurdle, article 4 is closer than ever to becoming law.

But there is apparently good news. Before presenting the bill in the Chamber a second time, the language in article 4 was significantly watered down. The new text allegedly specifies that the incitement to abstain from following a course of treatment must be the result of sustained pressure on the patient. Also, any “incitement” will not count as an offence if it is “accompanied by clear and complete information on the potential health consequences” of taking or not taking a particular treatment, or if “the conditions in which the incitement was made do not call into question the [patient’s] free and informed consent.”

As Bon Sens notes, this will probably make it a lot harder to prove that a crime has been committed. But it is still early days. The law will now go to the Joint Commission and will have to return to the Assembly before being taken up by the Constitutional Court, where hopefully sanity will prevail. But the mere fact that Article 4 is still alive is deeply troubling. This is, to my knowledge, the first time an EU member government has gone from trying to get people systematically cancelled (or “de-ranked” or de-monetised) on social media for spreading what it deems to be medical mis, dis- or mal-information (one of the purposes of the EU’s Digital Services Act) to trying to systematically criminalise their actions.


I’ve noted before that, for a site with a wide readership and lively commentariat, Naked Capitalism – here’s the post link again – has an unusually high average standard of BTL comment. My good friend Dave Hansell, another steel city reader, gets in his own two pennorth. As does a reliably cogent Rev Kev, with this:

As a thought experiment, imagine this law back in the fifties. What would happen to those trying to warn pregnant women not to take Thalidomide, even if their doctor prescribed it? Would they be threatened with prison and a huge fine? And what if, later on, it was realized the catastrophic effects of that drug on unborn babies which the French government finally had to admit? Would the French government say that at the time they were ‘following the science’?

* * *

  1. ‘Hyperfinancialisation’ is shorthand for export of manufacturing to the global south by decidedly unpatriotic elites who find it more profitable to have Western economies FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate) driven.
  2. The tale varies as to whether the observation – It’s easier to envisage the end of the world than the end of capitalism – was first made by Slavoj Žižek or Frederik Jameson. Either way it rings true.
  3. I’m not anti-vax per se.  Vaccinated in infancy against once killer diseases, I’m dismayed by the Russian Roulette reasoning – as a species we’re crap at probability and not much better at causality – of “I didn’t let my boys have the measles jab and they turned out strapping dudes”. NB: I’m deriding duff logic here, not any given position on vaccination. I had two Covid jabs before deciding enough was enough. My refusal of 3 and 4 was not due to me being sure that shot 2 caused blood in my urine. (This is post hoc, yes, but I now see the link as neither causal nor coincidental but catalytic.) Speaking of catalysts, my refusal was not caused – just not hindered! – by the irrational speed with which every medic I encountered, and I encountered many, ruled out any  connection between jab 2 and, four hours later, my urine flowing deep red for the first time ever in my then 69 spins round the sun.

4 Replies to “France wages war on “disinformation”

  1. From your point number 3, I gather you’ve now perhaps evolved regarding these experimental brews. I have no idea if my thinking or should I say my hunch is right, but I’m now totally convinced with many medical practitioners that ALL vaccines are either useless or dangerous. I’ve gone even further down this rabbit hole and am also convinced, like Dr Lee Merritt and others (Tom Cowan, Amandha Vollmer come to mind, but there are many others), that viruses DO NOT exist and may as well be parasites. I’ll never be entirely sure, since my medical knowledge is pretty much nonexistent and the truth is carefully being hidden from us, BUT I’m already 100% ready to live by this borrowed truth, until proven otherwise. I only rely nowadays on my deeply rooted cynicism about anything that’s been stamped as consensus approved in the medical realm, and will always pay attention to dissenters first and foremost, at the risk of being labelled crazy or conspirationist and being strapped in whatever dungeon the EU has already planned for misfits of my kind. Whoever you are, unless you have seriously looked at the evidence and have arguments to produce, I don’t really care what you think, even or should I say especially if you don a white coat ! Talk about being biased, ha ha ha ! That’s me, and I do not even try to convince anyone else about this radicalized way of thinking. Everyone has to do their own research and come to their own conclusions.

    • Bravo, Alain! Your words were music to my ears and I must say that I agree with you 100%, even down to the tricksome ‘virus or no virus’ issue – on which, like you, I am increasingly persuaded toward the latter, but lack the scientific frame of mind to be able to determine the truth one way or the other. I’ve found the videos of New Zealander Dr Sam Bailey (and the work of her husband Mark) to be particularly helpful on this issue.

      The ‘Covid’ ‘vaccines’ were always, I maintain, going to be harmful (they were, after all, being touted as the ‘solution’ for a manufactured ‘problem’ very early on, and there were – or at least ought to have been – myriad concerns about how this would be realised. Instead, I had would-be ‘leftie’ friends literally bragging on facebook about having been ‘Pfizered’, and through this sudden about-face and veneration of Big Pharma, there was plainly something seriously amiss.

      So I began by being anti-Covid-vax only. However, the more I have dug into the truth around vaccines, listened to some of the voices you name above (plus various others) and understood the whole context behind allopathic (‘Western’) medicine in general, and its essential corruption in both origin and growth, the more I have been persuaded to be a proud Anti-Vaxxer, period (as the Americans would say).

      Again, I’m not quite there yet (as I don’t know enough to be sure), but that is definitely the direction in which I am headed.

      • Totally agree with you regarding the incredible treasures you can discover when you spend some time listening to and sorting out alternative voices, often ridiculed or shadow-banned by the entirely corrupt Western legacy media as well as social media, most of which we know is in bed with the 3 letters agencies. It’s quite a task to look for needles of truth in a haystack of lies and nonsense. Assume those in charge usually want you to look in the very opposite direction of where truth lies, and you’ll be safe. My view, not to be followed blindly.

  2. Sorry to hear about your health issue through note no.3, Phil. But at least this effect (vax-induced kidney damage, perhaps?), or at least the woefully inadequate response you got from the medical profession, prevented you from taking any more.

    With regard to the NHS, I now find myself in the curious position of being a natural defender of an institution that has, as far as I’m concerned, willingly taken part in – and promoted – one of the greatest ever crimes against humanity. Of course I maintain strong admiration for many of the indiviuals within it, and I hate the fact that the pseudo-pandemic has accelerated the Tories process of ripping it apart, but it’s hard for me to now feel anything but contempt for our Natonal Health Service as a whole.

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