In Zola’s J’accuse, he openly declares his support for Alfred Dreyfus and asserts that he is innocent. He also accuses the first and second court marshal of covering up the facts, and acquitting a man they knew to be guilty. In doing so, he acknowledges, “I am fully aware that my action comes under Articles 30 and 31 of the law 29 July 1881 on the press, which makes libel a punishable offense. I deliberately expose myself to that law.” (pg. 214)
Zola is publicly addressing the President, very publicly accusing the people running the trial, and aligning himself with a man who was convicted of spying for the enemy. He does this with the full knowledge of what laws he is violating, and that he will likely serve time for this. How does this help his argument? Does it make it more convincing? Why would he go to such lengths to help prove Dreyfus’s innocence, and Esterhazy’s guilt?