Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ conviction for “hate speech”, or more precisely ‘inciting discrimination’ has drawn the usual platitudes about ‘anger’ and the ‘far right’ from the mainstream media. The Guardian moralises in its usual smarmy tone, calling his actions ‘criminal guilt’. Strange that a supposed “media” outlet would promote the suppression of free speech, but then again, Mao Zedong once said to ‘let one hundred flowers bloom’. Only later did it become apparent that he was joking.
The Guardian’s shrill admonishing tone and contemptuous abhorrence of the ‘white, conservative’ voters who are obviously to blame for his rise from the ‘right wing gadfly of the Dutch establishment’ to ‘one of the most powerful forces in national politics, remaking the image of a nation once regarded as a beacon of liberal values’ is patent. Once again, it is hard to imagine that “liberal values” wouldn’t include freedom of speech, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that Geert’s really put his foot in it this time with some horrific utterance.
There is a long litany of the crimes of the Freedom Party, including euroskepticism – that’s right, Euroskepticism! – and attracting people who would normally be afraid of the ‘far right’, such as Jews and homosexuals. To prove that Mr Wilders is a vile racist, data from the Anne Frank museum note an uptick in attacks on Muslim women in the Netherlands, including people telling them they ‘don’t belong here’ and ‘ripping their veils off’. Presumably they think that Mr Wilders is solely responsible for these attacks, whilst Islamic militants who have killed hundreds in terrorist attacks in nearby countries in the last 18 months are presumably innocent of any taint. It’s hard to tell, as that problem is not referenced in the article at all. It is lamented that the Netherlands has a tradition of ‘opposing extremist ideas’; once again, it is assumed that the reader will take the bait and lay the blame for the alleged loss of that tradition at the feet of Mr Wilders. Not a word of obituary for free speech in Netherlands or Europe, however.
The article goes on. But it does not dare address the fact that Mr Wilders has been convicted of a non-crime, nor does it dare to reproduce what he said to break the law of the supposedly ‘liberal’ Netherlands. This is left to the reader’s imagination.
What did Mr Wilders do to ‘incite discrimination’, you might wonder? What vile spewing of anti-immigrant hatred, like something out of the pages of Nazi propaganda rag Der Sturmer, has warranted a trial of a prominent politician on the national and international stage? It must be something of such barbarity of expression, such hatefulness, to warrant the use of taxpayer euros and police time, right?
In fact, it is curious that Mr Wilders has been convicted of making a statement at all. What he did was to ask a room full of people whether they wanted ‘more or fewer Moroccans?’. The crowd responded with a resounding cry of ‘fewer’, and Mr Wilders responded “Well, we’ll take care of that”. This is ‘incitement’ now? To have the temerity to ask people what they think the makeup of their country should be? If this is not protected speech, then what is? Such questions do not appear to bother the Guardian at this point, nor I suppose at any point in the past or the foreseeable future. It’s clear that the writer of the article thinks the Court’s decision reasonable, and laments the fact that Freedom Party voters will only be strengthened in their resolve as a result of this verdict. We can guess the political leanings of the 6000 complainants who were so incensed by Mr Wilders’ question that they laid complaints about his televised speech.
You see, this is how it works. Politicians put their political platform out there, honestly, for people to judge. If people think that platform is hateful or wrong, they don’t vote for it. If they think it’s good, they do vote for it. Free people do not need a court, or a law, to tell them what is hateful or intolerant, they can decide for themselves.
The fact is, Mr Wilders’ conviction is like something out of the pages of 1984, a conviction for wrongthink. Angela Merkel, in the Fourth Reich’s capital, (or more likely, some faceless bureaucrat in Brussels) has already decided what the answer should be – ‘more!’. And who are the Dutch to resist orders from the Führer? That venerable tradition is apparently long since gone, no more to be mentioned. Also unmentionable is Islamic terrorism, apparently. This expectation on the part of the Guardian and its ilk that the public will be more upset about the speech of a Dutch politician than the real problems posed by Islamic terrorist cells less than two hundred kilometres from the venue of Mr Wilders’ trial is just one example of how little the left have to offer on any matter of substance.
The indignation of the so-called liberal media aside, this verdict of the court has the potential to criminalise the thoughts and speech of millions of Dutch citizens, for expressing a belief not approved by the state. That the state presumes to rule on the permissibility of certain speech or opinions is in itself of great concern.
Of further concern is the apparent use of this law against only one part of society. It is hard to imagine that immigrants to the Netherlands would be held to the same standard as Mr Wilders. But we can hope: if asking a question about the preferences of the Dutch for having more or fewer of a certain group external to their society coming in to their country is hate speech, then what about referring to Jews as apes? How about slaying ‘idolators’? What about inciting – and I use the word advisedly – a group of people to terrorise and behead unbelievers? Surely such a publication would be banned under a law that does not allow a politician to ask a question of a group of supporters? Surely not only some “incitement” counts, and surely not only that incitement to “discriminate” is important?
And yet, such a publication does exist and if politicians such as Mr Wilders do not prevail, it will be promoted across Europe even more than it is now. That’s right, a hateful publication that promotes murder of non-believers and refers to adherents of other religions as ‘apes’ and other terms promoting the idea that they are not human, and detailing, nay inciting, very detailed ways of how to dismember and torture and terrorise them, does exist. It is the Quran, and if you don’t believe me, I suggest you do some reading yourself. A handy guide appears here.
What I suggest to Dutch voters, patriots, and citizens is the following: complain about this vile publication, this incitement to murder and terror and mayhem. Compare what Mr Wilders said with this quote from the Quran: “This is the recompense of those who fight against Allah and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement.” If 6000, or 60000, or 600,000 of you complain, will the Court hear your complaint? Do this to show that Mr Wilders is not a promoter of a hateful ideology, but a defender of the Netherlands against a hateful ideology. Do this to highlight the partisanship of the Courts in this battle for your homeland. Do this to make people think about your laws. Do this to promote free speech. For if you cannot ask a question any more, what will be next? What else might be off limits because some official somewhere says so?
This is a clarion call to the people of Europe and the world, and dare I say to Mr Wilders himself, that freedom of speech must be enshrined in the law of the lands of Europe, that no one must go on trial for hate speech – or democracy and freedom of any kind die now, and the battle is lost. When words are outlawed, only violent solutions are left to us. The need for a debate is essential to allow a peaceful solution to the many problems Europe faces in the coming years and decades.