Bruce Bawer has weighed in on the plight of Geert Wilders. He says that this decision to prosecute Wilders was not “out of the blue” but part an ongoing progression:
…a long, shameful process of accommodating Islam — and of increasingly aggressive attempts to silence Islam’s critics-on the part of the Dutch establishment.
Such knowledge makes Wilders’ prosecution all the more dismal and daunting to contemplate.
Bawer discusses the saddest of worlds, “what might have been”:
What a different road the Netherlands might have taken if Pim Fortuyn had lived! Back in the early spring of 2002, the sociologist-turned-politician-who didn’t mince words about the threat to democracy represented by his country’s rapidly expanding sharia enclaves-was riding high in the polls and appeared on the verge of becoming the next prime minister. For his supporters, Fortuyn represented a solitary voice of courage and an embodiment of hope for freedom’s preservation in the land of the dikes and windmills. But for the Dutch political class and its allies in the media and academia-variously blinded by multiculturalism, loath to be labeled racists, or terrified of offending Muslims-Fortuyn himself was the threat.
Because of the way the Establishment (media, politicians and academics) chose to portray Fortuyn, the “message” was clear. Fortuyn threatened their grasp on the levers of power. Like so many lone acts of cowardly despair, the assassination of Fortuyn by a radical Leftist was seen as a blessing by those in charge. In reality it was a catastrophe that has disfigured the present and will haunt the future of liberty in the Netherlands.
As Bawer cries:
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The Dutch establishment remained in power. For many Dutchmen, hope died that day.
It is difficult not to let one’s mind wander to what might have been had Fortuyn become the Prime Minister. I would have found many of his programs uncongenial to my American Catholic conservative mindset. But those would be quibbles compared to what was lost as Fortuyn’s life ebbed away.
And his death set up the subsequent murder of Theo van Gogh and the hounding of Hirsi Ayaan Ali. Free speech, like so many inconvenient old people in the Netherlands, was euthanized to make room for more expedient ideas. Wilders had the gall to resurrect it.
These obvious breakdowns in the social order have escalated the exit of native-born Dutch leaving the country before it sinks into an Islamist morass. Here is a 2008 report drawing on statistics from 1999 to 2006 regarding the phenomenon of emigration (of which Mr. Bawer himself is a statistic):
For the fifth year in a row, emigration from the Netherlands exceeded immigration last year, reaching 123,000 emigrants, which amounts to 7.5 emigrants per 1000 inhabitants. Dutch media has repeatedly reported this phenomenon because it caught demographic forecasters by surprise. The last emigration wave occurred fifty years ago, and at present the Netherlands is the only Western European country experiencing net emigration, although similar trends are visible in the UK (Salt and Rees, 2006) and to lesser extent in Germany.
People leaving the Netherlands on such a large scale has worried the media and politicians. The big Dutch puzzle is that it contradicts common knowledge and economic logic. The reason why immigrants come to the United States or Europe has been widely, studied and the general driving force behind these migration flows is thought to be a higher standard of living (cf. Hatton and Williamson, 2005). The Netherlands is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, so why are people leaving a country that has been immigrants’ destination for so many years?
National emigration figures for 1999 to 2006 show that men are twice as likely to emigrate as women, and it is mostly the young (under 30) who emigrate. Furthermore, it is the Dutch in the top decile of the income distribution who are most likely to emigrate. Netherlands…
Our study suggests that the quality of the public domain is an important part of quality of life, and those Dutch who have moved are implicitly casting a vote of no confidence in those who govern the nation. This lesson may also be of some relevance to other European countries where emigration has taken off and crowdedness has become a concern. [emphasis mine]
One has to ask if this vote of no confidence among the Dutch has any effect at all on those in power. In the final analysis, holding onto power becomes an end in itself, and we are seeing this played out across Europe.
Mr. Wilders is a pawn in this power struggle. His political party is young and without the fiscal means to prevent the punishment that those in power have in mind for him. His treatment is to be a lesson to anyone else who steps out of line. It is an echo of the draconian punishment meted out to Bart Debie in Belgium.
Does that make Geert Wilders a martyr? Most likely. He knew what he was doing, and he did so anyway, because he is trying to save his country from itself. And, of course, he has a vision of what his country might be were its leaders less venal, less protective of the perks and prerogatives of power.
If you want to understand this situation from the inside, I recommend a re-reading of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. In this short book of advice to Wormwood, an apprentice demon, his master, Screwtape, offers much sage advice.
In the Preface, Lewis points out the mechanisms behind the ritual sacrifice of lone souls like Wilders:
…picture an official society held together entirely by fear and greed. On the surface, manners are normally suave. Rudeness to one’s superiors would obviously be suicidal; rudeness to one’s equals might put them on their guard before you were ready to spring your mine. For of course “dog eat dog” is the principle of the whole organization. Everyone wishes everyone else’s discrediting, demotion, and ruin; everyone is an expert in the confidential report, the pretended alliance, the stab in the back. Over all this their good manners, their expressions of grave respect, their “tributes” to one another’s invaluable services form a thin crust. Every now and then it gets punctured, and the scalding lava of their hatred spurts out.
The thin crust has punctured in the Netherlands and in Belgium. But this is only the beginning.