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November 2, 2004

Theo van Gogh murdered

Controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh has been shot dead in Amsterdam, the radio reports. More when I have it.

Theo van Gogh was a columnist, filmmaker and chain smoker known more for his provocative attitude, slovenly dress and outspoken views about social issues, particularly about Islam, than for his actual movies*). His last work, a TV movie called Submission, got quite a bit of publicity though: it featured misogynistic verses from the Qu'ran projected on the nude bodies of Muslim women. Van Gogh courted controversy and thrived on it. His commitment to freedom of expression was absolute, and while he made many bitter enemies in 20 years of polemical writing, he always made a point of assuring that his enemies could at all time have their say. He made no distinction between attempts to silence his opponents and attempts to silence himself.

The news now says van Gogh had received death threats recently.

Van Gogh, a third cousin of the 19th Century painter, was stabbed and shot dead on the streets of Amsterdam at 9 AM on Tuesday. The gunner was pursued by the police and shot in the leg before being arrested. One police officer was also wounded. The murderer's motive is not clear at the time of writing although undoubtedly pundits will spend the rest of the day guessing.

Van Gogh left behind one young son.

Update: The gunman was somebody known to the Secret Service, AIVD. Also, I forgot to mention that a pamphlet was pinned to van Gogh's body. The contents are as yet unknown. BBC coverage mentioning that the gunner was a Moroccan in traditional dress | CNN coverage | Harry's Place responds. | Review and report on Submission from the Taipei Times

Latest: I just heard someone say that doing one thing or another that I didn't catch was "In de geest van Theo". Brace yourselves for another episode of mass hysteria.

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November 5, 2004

Van Gogh followup

When I posted the reports on Theo van Gogh's murder, I struggled with the question whether I was qualified to write about him. After all, I hated his columns, never watched one of his movies, and didn't know too much about him. Eventually, I decided that that hadn't stopped me before, and that for my international readers it would be useful - and part of this blog's mission - to inform them of a significant event taking place in the Netherlands.

One thing that turned out to be wrong was my statement that "his commitment to freedom of expression was absolute, and while he made many bitter enemies in 20 years of polemical writing, he always made a point of assuring that his enemies could at all time have their say. He made no distinction between attempts to silence his opponents and attempts to silence himself."

Francisco van Jole mentions in a reflection on van Gogh, Rushdie and Islamic extremism that van Gogh called him a nazi, tried to ban his 'paper' (which paper?) and tried to have him fired for daring to criticize him.
For that reason, van Jole did not see van Gogh as a defender of freedom of speech. (Dutch quotation below the fold)
Van Jole still marched for van Gogh on the evening of his murder, and thinks it's important to honor his memory in the same way that Rushdie was kept in the public eye while he was in hiding. He is right about that. Van Gogh was murdered for his opinions, and that can not be forgotten.

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January 28, 2005

Donner to back swastika ban

Update: New news reports say that Donner is only "thinking about" a ban and will make a decision in March. That's sort of reassuring, but my concerns still stand.

Just heard on the radio: the Dutch Justice Minister Donner supports a European swastika ban (link doesn't mention Donner). How disappointing.
I'm a bit puzzled by this. Donner's no fool. He's one of the sanest, calmest persons in the Cabinet. Yet he supports nonsense like this, which would probably make the likes of Prince Harry think twice but won't stop mosque vandalisers from doing their already illegal work, and won't make any neo-nazi discover peace, love and understanding.
Donner also supported resurrecting The Netherlands' old blasphemy law, which likewise has never done a goddamned bit of good. In this case, at least, he had an excuse: the law was made by his grandfather (the Donners being a hundred-year-old political dynasty in the Netherlands) and keeping your ancestors' names alive is a worthy cause. That blew up in his face, in any case, which makes it even more bizarre that he should try and go that route again. Does he just like to ban things? Does he have a banning fetish that overwhelms his calm, rational judgment?

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May 27, 2005

The Dutch Secretary of Education should read this...

... and then resign in shame.
Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant

Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. Worse, it threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect that creationism or "intelligent design theory" (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name.
The creationists' fondness for "gaps" in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don't know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don't understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don't go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don't work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don't squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God's gift to Kansas.

Maria van der Hoeven, you've been had. At least your stupidity has had the positive result that all the mainstream political factions in parliament except your own party, the Christian Bloody Stupid Democrats, are now looking to remove creationism from the curricula of schools that still teach it to their unlucky, indoctrinated students. Now for the love of God, hand in your notice and let someone who actually wants to promote education take over.

(Via Pete Ashton)

June 7, 2005

He's an uncharismatic stuffed shirt who looks like Harry Potter. But he also has his bad side.

There is some sort of diplomatic row going on between the Belgian and Dutch governments. The Belgian foreign secretary, Karel de Gucht, called the Dutch Prime Minister a mix of Harry Potter and middle-class stuffed-shirtedness, a man in whom I cannot detect any trace of charisma. This scandalised the Dutch Cabinet, who called the Belgian ambassador on the carpet for a good old-fashioned flogging. It also seems to have scandalised the Belgians, or so it said on Dutch radio although the Belgians in my coterie of minions hadn't heard of the whole controversy. Then again, they gave the impression that they'd be more surprised if De Gucht ever took his foot out of his mouth.
It didn't scandalise the Dutch population nearly as much. Apparently, the popular Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that 80% of those surveyed agreed with the substance of De Gucht's comments. And De Telegraaf is a right-leaning paper whose readership one would normally expect to broadly support the current government.

What can I say? Mr. Balkenende is a stuffed shirt, a goody-two-shoes without charisma. That's why we elected him. I know that we're live in the era of the short attention span, but for heaven's sake, the year 2002 isn't ancient history. I'll recap for the benefit of the crack-addled baboons who have allowed this non-item to dominate the news cycle (this includes members of the Dutch government):

Continue reading "He's an uncharismatic stuffed shirt who looks like Harry Potter. But he also has his bad side." »

March 3, 2006

If we don't draw the line here, where do we?

Allright, allright.

So we can't rapidly naturalise soccer player Salomon Kalou until he qualifies according to the same criteria that apply to other immigrants. Kicking a ball isn't a compelling national interest even if you can add millions of Euros to the gross national product if you do it really well.

And apparently, Taïda Pasic sneaked back into the country after having returned to Kosovo with her mom, and then fibbed in her application for a temporary residence permit allowing her to finish school in the Netherlands. Or maybe she didn't - Minister Verdonk's public pronouncements on the matter have muddied the waters to the point where I for one no longer know who to believe. Well-played, Messalina. In any case, she's eighteen and pretty smart; she'll get by.

But let's not send Saba Rawi to Iran to be raped and tortured to death on the orders of Ahmadinejad and his mullahs for being gay, OK? We don't hate immigrants and refugees that much, do we?

[Via LGF Watch. NB: I would like to be pointed to Dutch mainstream media reports on this case.]
Update: RTL news and NOS at least give Verdonk's considered opinion, which is that gay people are safe in Iran as long as they don't have gay sex, do anything gay or mention that they are gay. Christians are also almost tolerated as long as they keep their religion a closely guarded secret. I also heard her quoted along similar lines on Dutch news. She insists that the two homosexual boys who were put to death in Iran last year were guilty of rape, as determined by a fair and impartial, not at all homophobic court of -

Enough of this. We know what kind of place we're sending this man back to, right? We know what the Iranian courts are worth? And Verdonk knows it too. She is trying to murder a man from her desk.

Edit by Jeroen:
Apparently Rita isn't going to impliment this policy untill it has been discussed in parliament. Which in other words, one week from an election, smells like politics. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if she's not really planning anything of the sort, but it does make her look like a tough bitch on immigration, which should get her party some votes. Let's not forget she has a habit of suggesting stupid things, like the "Dutch language only in public-law" she suggested not long ago.

April 5, 2006

A surprise endorsement

I had a long post written up in my head about how appalled I was about both Rita Verdonk's candidacy for the leadership of the "liberal" VVD and the notion that a person like Verdonk would have "crossover appeal" beyond the VVD's traditional voter base. But listening to the radio today, I've realised that Verdonk does have some redeeming qualities after all. To wit, Verdonk does not rule out a coalition with the PvdA, the Dutch Labour Party, unlike her allegedly more moderate opponent, Mark Rutte.
This, you'll realise, rather changes things. While PvdA leader Wouter Bos seems to favour a coalition with the CDA if the PvdA wins the next national elections, I am sure he will appreciate having another option open to him. Bos doesn't favour a coalition of left-wing parties (neither do I, by the way), so assuming that the PvdA becomes the largest parliamentary fraction, with Verdonk leading the VVD he will have three serious options: PvdA/CDA, PvdA/CDA/VVD or (dream the impossible dream, my friends) PvdA/VVD - a return to the days of the Purple coalition except without a useless third party hanging on. Clearly, then, a VVD lead by Verdonk will be good for the PvdA and, again, given that a Left coalition just isn't going to happen, good for left-of-center political programs in general. A vote for Verdonk is a vote for Bos!
So, as of today, my position is that I support the candidacy of Rita Verdonk as public figurehead and actual political leader of the VVD (I can't speak for the other people posting on this blog, three of whom are not likely to have even heard of Verdonk outside of what they read in Waffle), and I urge other left-wingers to support her as well, as loudly as you can. It's time we sent poor misunderstood Rita some loving. If you are a PvdA supporter, tell any of your VVD-voting friends that you think she is the best candidate for the job and that you look forward to joining forces with her in a coalition. It's the least we could do.

November 21, 2006

Dutch election candidate endorsement: Vote Oosterhuis in 2006!

Speaking of the Socialist Party, I'm voting for them tomorrow. It's the most left-wing vote I've cast in many years.
I don't base my vote on their platform, which I haven't read. Election platforms serve merely as signposts anyway; they don't ever get implemented undiluted in Dutch government.
I don't even base my choice on the, to my mind patently obvious, observation that the Socialist Party are the only left-of-center party in the Netherlands who are able to bang two rocks together. It helps, but on its own, it doesn't excite me.
Tomorrow, I will cast my vote for the number 30 on the Socialist Party list, Huub Oosterhuis, based on his outstanding performance on the issue of Making Rita Verdonk Cry. Making Verdonk Cry is an issue I care passionately about. I would go as far as to say there is no more beautiful sight in this world than Rita Verdonk Crying, if it wasn't for the existence of sights in this world that don't include Rita Verdonk at all.*)
I do not believe that Oosterhuis' comments a few weeks ago, comparing the Dutch Immigratie en Naturalisatie Dienst to the Dutch police collecting Jews during World War II, were all that inappropriate or beyond the pale, though I'll admit that such comparisons are rarely constructive. The IND, in any case, have failed to convince me that these comments were inappropriate; indeed, their counterargument could be summarized as "we're only following orders", which I'm pretty sure was the whole point of the comparison in the first place. Anyway, I'm still open to persuasion, but would very much prefer the next round of arguing about that to take place on the floor of the Tweede Kamer, between Oosterhuis and Verdonk themselves. With luck, there'll be tears.

*) Developing this line of thought further, the most beautiful sight in this world, a Zen moment of perfect beauty, is a picture of the next Dutch Cabinet without Verdonk, observed by someone who knows that outside the picture, Verdonk is bawling her guts out.

October 24, 2007

Mahometan hordes smaller than expected, or so the mahometan hordes claim

Sadly, No reports a comment from a Little Green Footballs commenter that is just too priceless for words:

#21 galloping granny 10/24/07 9:21:47 am

A friend is visiting from Europe who was in Amsterdam last Friday. I asked him about the ongoing car-b-ques and he did not know the first thing about them, even though he is from the UK and is in and out of Amsterdam a couple of times a month on business.

I think the Dutch authorities are keeping this VERY, very quiet.

In related news, there are far fewer muslims in the Netherlands than was previously thought, according to the Centraal Bureau for the Statistiek, so anyone who might be reading this who is just dying for the Great Clash of Civilisations to finally happen can just put it back in their pants right now. The Bureau came to this conclusion by switching methodologies: instead of making an educated guess about religion in immigrant communities based on existing demographic data about immigrant populations, they went to the immigrants themselves and asked them what religion they were.

Which of course will offer the likes of "Galloping Granny" an easy way out of having to admit that they haven't got a feckin' clue what they're talking about: of course they're all really Islamonaziwhatevers, they're just lying about it the better to infiltrate into our enlightened and therefore vulnerable society. You just can't trust them, can you?

May 18, 2008

Civil rights in the Netherlands: The Nekschot affair

Following on the previous post in which I rag on the US for denying travelers from abroad basic (one might say self-evident) human rights, it's worth noticing that the erosion of human rights within the Netherlands is proceeding at a steady pace as well. I had several long rants planned on the high-profile arrest of cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot last Tuesday, on the basis of a complaint against him filed in 2005, for inciting racial hatred through his cartoons. I'm not going to post any of that, though; this is not the time and place. Let's just say I don't have a high opinion of Mr. Nekschot's talent, motivations, or general character, and leave it at that. However, when it comes to freedom of speech, what happened to the worst of us could happen to any of us, so to hear that Mr. Nekschot had had a ten-person SWAT team descend upon his house, had his home searched, the tools of his trade confiscated and vague threats of the elimination of his anonymity uttered at him, is very very worrying. I am glad that support for Nekschot is pouring out from across the blogosphere, across the political spectrum and across the intellectual spectrum, from the shockblogs to places like Frontaal Naakt (pretty much the entire site there is devoted to it at this point) and Progressive Gold.

There are of course, varying analyses as to why this is happening, from "The Netherlands is becoming a Caste system in which Muslims are the Brahmins" (which statistics about the income, job opportunities, educational opportunities and general integration into society most Muslims "enjoy" would seem to disprove, but never mind that) to knee-jerk blaming of the Labour party (which wasn't in government when the complaint against Nekschot was filed, but never mind that) , to the one that I subscribe to, which is that the Christian Democrats in goverment want to restrict blasphemous and other undesirable speech, but can't do that without making a show of impartiality, so they pick on a cartoonist who insults Muslims first - who also happens to be an easy target because his work is genuinely loathsome and ugly.

I'm pretty sure that Mr. Nekschot will be cleared of all charges; his work does not incite hatred in any legal sense, though a case can be made that it reflects, and feeds on, existing hatred in himself and his readership. It's firmly in the realm of opinion and satire. So it's too early to say that some kind of turning point has been reached. Yet it is very worrying that the enemies of freedom are apparently trying to get us to that turning point and make an example of someone.

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