A weather report on the France 2 television channel broke broadcasting records last week. Some 5.3 million viewers tuned in to watch Mélanie Ségard, a 21-year-old woman with Down syndrome, take a turn as guest meteorologist on the network. Wearing TV makeup and an irrepressible smile, she forecast clouds and rain for most of the country and lots of sunshine for Marseilles.Yes, the author's an ass.
Ms. Ségard fulfilled a lifelong dream to show that “I can do a lot of things,” as she put it on Facebook. But for French society, this was a fraught moment. It clashed with a strand of cultural liberalism that treats the existence of people like Ms. Ségard as an affront to reason and good taste.
Her appearance was facilitated by a disability-rights group ahead of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. It was all the more heartening because previous efforts to bring visibility to people with disabilities in France have run afoul of broadcast regulations that restrict images of happy people with Down syndrome. Such images are undesirable, regulators argue, since they could give second thoughts to women who have sought abortions.
At its best, liberalism revels in the hubbub of a crowded marketplace of ideas. But a dour, self-righteous and conformist model has now come to define the liberal idea across much of Europe, one that brooks no dissent from the latest progressive precepts.
Those of us who worry about the fragility of the liberal order and growing populist sentiment would be well-advised to pay more attention to how people on the sharp end of such “liberalism” experience it.
Take the Down syndrome debate in France. The Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, upheld a ban last year on a World Down Syndrome Day TV ad that showed DS young adults, like Ms. Ségard, addressing a pregnant woman considering whether to terminate a DS fetus: “Your child will be able to do many things.” “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” “He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.”
The “Dear Future Mum” ad risked “disturbing the conscience” of women who had aborted DS pregnancies, the Council of State held in a November ruling. As it is, nine of 10 fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome in France are aborted. Set aside the abortion and disability politics: It is hard to see how any ads about contentious issues would survive the ruling’s purely subjective standard. That is, if it’s applied consistently.
Friday, March 24, 2017
re: defenses of Charlie Hebdo and bans on Palestinian protests, freedom of speech vs freedom of "acceptable" speech. etc.