vrijdag 22 april 2011

Freedom Party inspires censorship. What freedom?

What do you call it when a regional government invites someone to give a lecture and then cancels it because it contains political views? I call that censorship. 
The government of the Dutch province of North Holland invited cultural historian Thomas van der Dunk to deliver the annual Willem Arondeus lecture on 26 April 2011 in Haarlem. The lecture series aims to exchange views about freedom, including controversial ones.

Thomas von der Dunk
(Wikimedia/Jos van Zetten)
Mr Van der Dunk, however, appeared to be a touch too controversial for the Haarlem authorities. In his lecture, "The new World War II taboo" (published by daily Leidsch Dagblad) he draws parallels between the collective pre-1940 blindness for the creeping Nazi influence in Dutch society, and today's growing fear to criticise the anti-elitist, anti-Islam, anti-rule of law views propagated by a certain political party. In other words, Mr Van der Dunk says it is becoming taboo to compare Geert Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) to the 1930s fascist NSB party.

Criticism becomes taboo
Being a cultural historian, Thomas van der Dunk adduces a wealth of arguments to corroborate his views. Yet none of this evidence was able to turn the Haarlem authorities' minds. Mr Van der Dunk was asked to tone down his lecture and drop the criticism of the PVV party, which of course he refused. So the lecture committee cancelled the lecture.
In doing so, the hapless provincial deputies proved Van der Dunk's point: it is becoming taboo to criticise the Freedom Party. What's really worrying is that the committee which cancelled the lecture was really broad-based, including as it did five parties from left, right and centre – in other words, not a rightist group with an axe to grind.

Radio and TV are shit-scared
So why was this censorship row barely reported by the Dutch public broadcasters? Because they are also proving Van der Dunk's point: Geert Wilders' Freedom Party hates the public stations' guts and through his key support for the fund-cutting government, he's got the broadcasters by the goolies. That's why they are keeping very, very, quiet. Rather than criticising the party that's lurking in the shadows, waiting to kill unbiased public broadcasting. We all know what happened in the 1940s.

(Anti-semitism… Another reason why we haven't heard Van der Dunk on the radio might be that he has the worst possible voice for it. But I would have preferred his unbearable croaky falsetto to the crass stupidity of Freedom Party MP and Provincial Representative Hero Brinkman, who denounced Thomas van der Dunk as "an antisemite". Van der Dunk is the son of renowned historian Herman van der Dunk, who fled Nazi-ruled Germany in 1937. Thomas van der Dunk's grandmother was Jewish. But that is beside the point. Or is it?)