I found it somewhat unsettling a few weeks ago, to read in an interview with Freedom Party deputy Fleur Agema that the party selected its people on a desire to get rid of the elite. Which elite was the young architect referring to. The intellectual elite that she belongs to or the rich elite which are are in a separate league.
The Freedom Party alongside it crusade against Islam runs a little sideline demonising the left. Geert Wilders constantly refers to the leftist church and the grachtengordel – Amsterdam’s Golden Age canal houses which have been added to Unesco’s World Heritage List – where he claims the intellectual left live. I don’t know if anyone’s seen the prices of those properties recently – but they are prohibitive for most ordinary people, even those who have had the priveledge of studying for a college degree. But the current trend of fact free politics doesn’t concern itself with trivialities such as is what I’m saying true. If something is said often enough and with enough force people will start believing it. Truth is the current round of government cuts approved by the Freedom Party have very effectively hit the left hard. Cutting cultural institutions and nature organisations harder than any other sector means a lot of left-wingers will find themselves without a job next year. And I am one of them.
But now I am veering off my point which is my concern about Agema’s comment on getting rid of the elite – and although she does not specify I am pretty sure it’s my sort she is talking about. Let’s draw a couple of parallel’s with history. Where in the past has the intellectual elite been vilified and persecuted. In Russia under Stalin, in Germany under Hitler, in China under Mao, in Cambodia under Pol Pot, more recently, in Zimbabwe under Mugabe… Well no need to say where it all led to. But any comparison with former dictators is quickly stamped into the ground. Besides today’s advocates of freedom of speech have not yet suggested anything that goes that far.
And why would you want to get rid of the intellectual elite. To silence the voices of criticism? Geert Wilders has shown himself to tolerate little criticism from people around him. As if one rule applies to him and another for the rest. In a documentary on the trial of Wilders for inciting hatred he even picks up on a comment by one of the judges that he could “imagine” that one of the plaintiffs in the case did not want to view the footage of his film Fitna. For a court it is not unusual for a judge to say such a thing, but under the glare of public opinion the judges were dismissed after one of them made the mistake of trying to provoke Wilders – who up to then had refused to speak – into responding to questions. “The court also watches television and you are known to avoid debate…”
It seems strange for someone who claims to be a champion of free speech to be so offended by the words of others. You would think he would readily enter the arena of debate. But no, outside parliament, Wilders shies away from being confronted with other opinions. He never appears in talkshows or answers journalist’s requests for a reaction in documentaries. You will only see him answer a couple of questions on his way to a parliamentary session. Party discipline is so strict that his party’s MPs never comment on subjects outside their own specific brief. What is he afraid of? These are the people who back his ideas.
More recently a student got top marks for his thesis in which he argues that the Freedom Party idealism is a prototype for modern fascism. At last, I hear the politicians on Twitter sigh. We can finally call a spade a spade. Does this mean we’ve reached a turning point in Dutch politics – where the left are no longer tongue-tied by political correctness even towards their political adversaries and freedom of speech is no longer limited to those to claim to advocate it but seldom tolerate it from their opponents.