Monday, January 25, 2010

Re-criminalizing political activism in The Netherlands

The effect on political activism of the Wilders' trial

In response to an article by Lawrence Auster about Geert Wilders' trial on VFR commenter Lydia Mc Grew wrote:
I assume he's being tried by a jury, so would it be jury nullification? Or would it actually be a statement that he hadn't violated the law? Generally an acquittal means that you didn't break the law in question, however awful the law might be. So if there were a law against going to church, being acquitted on the charge would mean you were "not guilty" of going to church. On the other hand, sometimes juries acquit someone as a kind of statement of protest against the law itself. It would be much better if the entire "incitement to hatred" law in Holland were overturned by whatever mechanism exists in Dutch law for that purpose. As it is, Wilders' aquittal would leave the law in place to be used to intimidate others. A jury nullification of a bad law means that the defendent was lucky to get away with it this time. That's an unsatisfactory outcome in the long run.
First this: Dutch Courts have no juries. AFAIK none of the continental European countries have juries.

Non-liberal political activism before Fortuyn

In the Wilders trial there is a Court of three judges. If they acquit Wilders this will have the effect to somewhat lessen the threat against those who want to criticize religion. As far as I know there is no defined threshold which must be crossed before a judge can penalize a politician or a political group who criticizes an ethnic or religious minority. In 1996 a political party was penalized even though the judge noted that it had not used discriminatory or racist language, but promised to "abolish the multicultural society". Around the same time the NVU, a "volk nationalist" party was banned from demonstrating in support of the expulsion of Mr. Gümüs, a Turkish illegal immigrant. So even expressing support for the state could be punished.

The watershed of 2002

After the meteoric rise of Mr. Pim Fortuyn the judiciary was much less ready to penalize critics of multiculturalism and multicultural society. In fact there is a tyrannical aspect to the employment of article 137. It depends on what the political echelon and the judiciary feel they can get away with and how much they need to get society in line. In the 80ies and 90ies the judiciary prosecuted and penalized multicultural critics out of a sense of moral rectitude and because they could. There were no drawbacks. Today the judiciary is in a state of confusion and the political elite is devided. The reason this trial is underway seems to be that diehards are trying to turn back the clock and to force the bad spirits of religion criticism and national self-assertion back in Pandora's box.

A new phase of of Dutch glasnost or its end?

If Mr. Wilders is convicted to a jail term of more than a few days this will dampen the debate on the dark side of multicultural society. If he is acquitted The Netherlands will have formalized its current pragmatic glasnost policy. This will cause the currently prevailing ideology of multi-culturalism to fail more quickly. Because multi-culturalism is based on the false premise that all races, cultures and religions are equally good in the long run multi-culturalism will fail anyway. The question is how much damage it will do before it is discredited and our elites will abandon it.

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