Thursday, June 18, 2009

Freedom of Speech in The Netherlands

Freedom of Speech is important in orienting society

In a democratic society the people are involved in steering the Nation. This makes it important that the people can orient themselves on where the Nation has to go. In order to orient, there must be Freedom of Speech concerning all matters pertaining to the state of the Nation. If there is a narrow judicial elite which decides on what can and cannot be said it will be impossible for the people to know what issues are and so it is really those who set the boundaries of debate who set the course.

Multicultural society overwhelmed by disfunctionality and the Dutch backlash

Issues of disfunctionality of Dutch Multicultural Society could not be publicly addressed after limitations on the Freedom of Speech were initiated by lawmakers in 1983. This led to disfunctionality overwhelming the densely populated country, which has a cultural tradition of extreme bluntness and outspokenness. The dam burst in 2001 with the gains made by the populist Pim Fortuyn and his party. Mr. Fortuyn's assassination ended the immediate consequences of the power gained by him and his followers.

Running into the boundaries of Political Expression

Since then especially Mr. Geert Wilders has been fuelling the debate concerning the threat of Islam against The Netherlands. Mr. Wilders has run into the boundaries of Free Speech. Because the ability to speak one's mind is a important cultural value in The Netherlands, people is receiving more and more support from well educated Dutch citizens. They see him as a defender of their Freedom.

Stealing Wilders' Thunder

Mr. Wilder's old party, the Liberal-Conservative VVD is losing these affluent voters. Freedom of Speech is a value that fits well into their program and in late May, just before the European elections the VVD-leader Mark Rutte came out with a proposal to completely decriminalize speech.

Mr. Mark Rutte announced his proposal for full Freedom of Speech and was subsequently interviewed on Dutch TV show Knevel en van den Brink. During the interview Mr. Rutte defended full Freedom of Speech, including the Freedom of Imams to call gays inherently sinfull, similar to the homosexual Mr. Fortuyn, who had said:
Imams should have the freedom to call me a pig and I should have the freedom to call their religion backward.
A full transcript of the Freedom of Speech interview is at Danish blog Balder. Remarkably Mr. Rutte also said:
Well there are idiots who deny the holocaust, I would want to know who that is, then I can show them; boys, I got a whole library full of evidence, and there are still people alive who went through all those horrible things, or lost members of their family, let's look at the facts.
This was picked up by the media who made a lot of hay against Mr. Rutte and his idea to decriminalize political speech. Former VVD leader Bolkestein, Wilders' mentor, supported decriminalizing political speech on June 3rd. Mr. Rutte must have been thunderstruck when the Freedom Party (PVV) declared being against the freedom to deny the Holocaust! This most likely in order not to lose PVV's halo as a Pro-Israeli and generally Jew-friendly party.

In the end the hullabaloo died down within a few days. The PVV achieved a historic victory in the European elections on June 4th. And the VVD did not as badly as expected, so perhaps their move to protect Freedom of Speech did pay off after all. This possibility will not have escaped the political strategists at the headquarters of Dutch political parties, especially PVV and VVD. headquarters. It is therefore to be expected that support for Freedom of Speech will continue to be strong in the future.

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