Free Speech Under Attack in the Netherlands
Geert Wilders has long been a thorn in the side of Holland’s politically correct powers that be. In an era of rigid multiculturalism, the gadfly politician has persisted in asking uncomfortable questions about the compatibility of Islamic mores and European values – an often-lonely campaign that has earned him death threats from Muslim fanatics and the disdain of the Dutch political class, media, and civil authorities. But rather than challenge Wilders in the court of public opinion, the Dutch establishment has decided to put him on trial.American exceptionalism holds here, of course, and we can’t imagine anything like this happening in the U.S. -- at least not yet.
This Wednesday the Dutch Court of Appeals in Amsterdam ordered a criminal prosecution of Wilders on charges of “incitement and hatred and discrimination.” His specific crime: statements that he has made about “Muslims and their belief.” Citing Wilders’s comparisons of Islam with Nazism, the Court of Appeals claims that criminal prosecution is the “obvious” response to this allegedly intolerable insult.
To understand just how outrageous is the court’s order it is necessary to consider the substance, such as it is, of the charges against Wilders. It does not exaggerate the case to say that Wilders is being accused of nothing more than holding an opinion with which the court’s judges disagree. (One cannot call it an unpopular opinion since, if recent polling is any guide, majorities of the Dutch public share Wilders’s apprehensions about Islam and Muslims’ ability to assimilate.) Thus, the court cites Wilders’s “insulting statements” and complains that his “presentation is characterized by biased, strongly generalizing [sic] phrasings with a radical meaning, ongoing reiteration and an increasing intensity.” In fact, the only truly “radical” idea is the notion that having a “biased” opinion, even one that some consider “insulting,” constitutes a crime. According to this absurdly open-ended standard, any Dutch citizen who has ever expressed an opinion has potentially committed a crime. “Apparently this is the Netherlands today,” Wilders darkly observed yesterday. “If you speak out you might be prosecuted. To participate in public debate has become a dangerous activity.”
But the same sort of people who dote on Europe for having gay marriage, socialized medicine and no death penalty would, if they can amass enough political power, impose the same kinds of policies here. We already see that in the intolerance of college campuses, in attempts among Democrats to reinstate the “Fairness doctrine” and the imposition of orthodoxy tests in professions like social work.
Europe may be the wave of the future, at least if the left gets its way.