Condemning Geert Wilders

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We’ve posted a couple of recent articles on the pre-cooked report by the IVA Research and Consultancy on the “radical right” nature of the PVV and Geert Wilders. The Dutch government commissioned the “scientific” study, obtained exactly the result it desired, and released the report just in time for the second phase of the Wilders trial.

Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated an article from Het Vrije Volk about the now-notorious report. A caveat to our readers: this is very thick stuff. Editing it into something that approaches normal English was an immense challenge, and was impossible to achieve completely.

Most of the text below consists of excerpts from the official report. I have no idea whether the original Dutch version was written in the same sort of dense bureau-speak that VH’s translation and my editing produced, but there is no doubt that the raw material justifying a conviction of Geert Wilders may be readily found in the turgid prose of this document.

Here’s what Het Vrije Volk had to say:

Government Report says: condemn Wilders

by Joost Niemöller

Whoever reads the report will see that the advice to the court is above all: condemn Wilders.

Well, here it is, the much-discussed study on polarization and radicalization in the Netherlands, which is also simultaneously advice to the government, by four researchers: Moors, Lenke Balogh, Van Donselaar and De Graaff.

The report

Now to the contents of the report. The political question that is playing out here, which was also noted by Wilders himself, is how this report might contribute to the conviction of Wilders in the trial that is now being conducted against him. In other words, is the advisory report to the government in fact a political move to influence the judge and punish Wilders?

Geert Wilders as Galileo

That is indeed seems to be the case. But in order to demonstrate it, a long road has to be taken. Fortunately shorter than the road the researchers themselves thought they should pursue, but nevertheless, fasten your seatbelts. We going on a roller coaster, it will be a rough ride.

There has been, as mentioned in the report, a substantial effort made to distinguish Wilders from the extreme right. But also… not entirely. For there is some overlap. For instance, see this blubbery quote, in which the authors of the report strongly distance themselves from any criminal aspect. But again: not quite. For there “appears” to be a discriminatory aspect:

The PVV and its leader Geert Wilders — depending on the chosen definition — are regarded as radical right, but with ifs and buts clearly connected to this classification. The most important is that with respect to ideology the PVV cannot be put on the same line with “racial revolutionaries” such as neo-Nazis. There is no sign at all of any anti-Semitism in the PVV.

It should be noted that Wilders and the PVV do not consider themselves as extreme right and distance themselves from right-wing extremism. Furthermore, neither among the founders of the PVV nor with the current Parliamentary group are found any people with a previous far-right “career”. Unlike the “traditional” radical right-wing parties or movements, the PVV does not derive from a right-wing extremist tradition.

Thus there is — as with the LPF / Leefbaar stream [named after the former party of Pim Fortuyn] — no question of a social genealogy. Ideologically, there are certain elements, however, of right-wing radicalism (in this case “national-democratic”‘) ideas to be found in the PVV, such as a positive orientation to “one’s own” [i.e. Dutch culture], a dislike of “the foreign” [i.e. Islam and immigrant Islamist radicals and criminals] and of political opponents [it is rather the other way round], and a leaning towards the authoritarian [promoting toughness against crime is viewed extremist in the Netherlands].

The rejection of “the foreign” concerns alleged “Islamization”, “non-Western immigrants”, and is reflected in a series of strong terms on this matter used in the public debate. These expressions, in which the criminalizing, the making of a social dichotomy, or the exclusion of rights are important themes, appear in a criminal sense to have a discriminatory nature. In that respect, the court has made a judgment.

Later the report talks about two important terms related to Wilders, “polarization” and “radicalization.” It is stated that in society there is talk of polarization, and that Wilders plays an important role in that. It seems to me that such is difficult to deny. Then again, the question is, is that important for a judge? Now comes the point where the report moves into quicksand. An “on the one hand other hand” hustle and bustle that will make you seasick:

– – – – – – – –

In 2009, the breeding ground for, and with it also the appearance of polarization have become more diverse in the Netherlands. “Polarization is all back again”, as the Council for Social Development stated recently. Population groups experience a drifting apart from each other, especially the indigenous and immigrant Islamic groups, although at the same time there are indications that both groups at the level of shared values and mutual tolerance grow towards each other.

The political debate has become sharper. Polarization is on the one hand a fundamental part of the democratic praxis. Polarization contributes to an open dialogue which in principle everyone can join. On the other hand, polarization, may also threaten that participation and an open debate when “the atmosphere” is so bad that people do not dare join in. The present report provides several examples of situations in 2009 where such is the case.

Radicalization does not follow automatically from polarization. But polarization as a process of (experienced) estrangement (discrimination; stigmatizing) between (groups of) people can make individuals sensitive though radicalization. From the studied “radicalisms” arise the main outlines of the image of contrarian movements.

In other words: The appearance of Wilders enhances the polarization. But polarization cannot be viewed as directly undermining democracy, of be corrosive to society, right? Even on the contrary, isn’t it? Well, again not quite:

In the Action Plan on Polarization and Radicalization 2007-2011, polarization is interpreted as “the intensification of discrepancies among groups in society that could result in tensions between these groups and the increase of segregation along ethnic and religious lines.”

And this would already be worrisome in the Netherlands:

In a November 2009 study published Eurobarometer, the Netherlands scored the highest in the perceived dimension of ethnic discrimination in the labor market. With eighty percent on alleged discrimination on ethnic grounds (compared to 61 percent in the European Union as a whole) the Netherlands took the lead in the European rankings (79 percent in 2008). Also in terms of perceived discrimination in the labor market, the Netherlands scored significantly higher than the European average: nineteen to twelve percent.

Also with perceived discrimination in the labor market on religious grounds, the Netherlands was leading the rankings, with 59 percent (an increase of four percentage points over 2008) compared to a European average of 39 percent (a decrease of three percentage points). The perceived discrimination on religious grounds in the Netherlands was twice the European Union level as a whole: ten percent versus five percent.

Tricky stuff, that polarization, the judge might think. Wilders should for once take into account the state of the country. And that is already worrying enough. Or again, maybe not? Well, following this the report really starts to drift about with respect to this “polarization”, ending in a exhausting series of questions:

That brings us to the question whether polarization as such is harmful. According to the Dutch government, that is not necessarily the case. In the Trend Analysis 2008 it was stated that tolerance and trust in society may “even be the result of polarization”. This government believes in the open public debate with room for contradictory and sometimes even conflicting views [just think of Nekschot]. Polarization in this sense makes the positions clear and open for discussion […]. Besides, a certain degree of polarization is often a necessary step in the emancipation process of certain social groups. According to the Dutch government polarization is thus part of a process in which opinions may strongly conflict with each other and be incompatible.

Polarization was called inappropriate in the Trend Analysis 2008, in which trends of segregation and tension between ethnic and religious population groups put up obstacles to meeting and debate. In other words, as with the title of a publication of the Council for Social Development in 2009 on the topic “polarization”: polarization is both threatening and enriching. The Council also sees a useful role for polarization as a way to deal productively with disagreements. Polarization in this perspective leads to better mutual understanding and may contribute to identification with one’s own group, participation, and stability.

Thus polarization may be displayed both from each turning his back on the other (segregation, which is considered undesirable) and entering into a confrontation not involving violent acts (tensions, clashes, which to some extent do not have to be harmful, but rather lead to clarification and emancipation). Numerous scientific studies indicate, however, that differences of interests and especially confrontations over ideologies may easily degenerate into the undermining of social peace and harmony and thus lead to (violent) conflicts.

To avoid polarization of the favorable sort resulting in polarization that leads to violence, the process of polarization, the debate about the discrepancies, must be properly directed. This raises the question: Who in the current polarized debate in the Netherlands is the standard normative denominator? In other words: who determines whether the debate still happens within secure limits, that there is “a manageable political polarization”, “a responsible form of polarization” and “polarization within the limits of the democratic order of law” Is it the government? Or should they be the participants in the debate themselves? Or possibly other actors, such as the judiciary?

It is a clever judge who can bake a cake from this, you might think when you get to this point. But many pages further in the report they do manage to come up with an argument to discern why the polarizing way Wilders conducts politics might lead to a form of disruption in which for example the AIVD [Dutch security service] would get involved in the argumentation. Not directly the “law”, but the open society might be harmed by Wilders:

At the same time, the more a collective identity develops, for example as result of polarization, the more the feeling arises of being threatened, or of being superior, of being a minority or a majority. And in all these cases there is an increased preparedness to use force against others. For the more one party feels threatened, the more it will find the other party immoral and will consider it inferior, because of which the inclination emerges to settle the conflict by force and fighting. This then leads to further polarization and thus will emerge a cycle of escalation. Even more so, by deliberately polarizing, politicians and other opinion leaders may cause citizens to radicalize.

The AIVD uses in the elucidation of research topics, the terms “extreme” and “extremist”. With the term “extreme”, individuals and groups are indicated who operate at the border of, but still within, the existing political spectrum and the boundaries of the democratic order. The addition of “extremist” points to a movement that goes across that border, at which point, for example, one uses violence to achieve goals or makes use of hate speech.

Then the democratic order as a starting point. The advantage of an approach wherein the democratic order is central is that threats to it from various forms of extremisms are a starting point, and because of that the basis of other problems, such as the left-right dividing line, may be somewhat overcome. But then the democratic order has to be defined. And there lies a problem […]. In the annual report of the AIVD it is not pointed out what must be understood by “the democratic order”. [they do in “From Dawa to Jihad, the various threats” p.11 etc.] This seems strange, but it is in line with the legal basis of the AIVD, the Law on Intelligence and Security, in which also no definition of the “democratic order” is established.

Some publications of the service however, do address the democratic legal order, as in “Radical dawa in transition” [pdf]. In this it is asserted that the democratic legal order would be based on two dimensions: the democratic constitutional state and the “open society”. The democratic constitutional state, as is stated, “[…] is based primarily — although not entirely — upon principles, procedures and institutions founded in law. They include the separation of powers, basic rights such as equality, freedom of expression and freedom of religion [Moors et al. leave out “government caution in encroaching into people’s private lives, universal suffrage, the freedom to pursue political power, the democratic control and review of decision-making, open government, the principle that decisions are taken by the majority but with respect for the minority, and so on.]” […]

Then the open society. According the AIVD it is about: “[…] the whole body of conditions for a democratic legal order [Moors et al. leave out: ‘which are not enshrined in written legislation’]. Such a democratic order requires more than simply that citizens formally acknowledge and comply with the principles and procedures of the democratic constitutional state […]”. The democratic order “ceases to function properly when particular conditions (which are difficult or impossible to formulate as specific rules) are not met” [Moors et al. add: “or is hardly present”]. A democratic legal order namely requires “a certain degree of confidence, social cohesion, solidarity, active citizenship and loyalty. At the heart of this are a number of standards and values: respect for the open nature of society, respect for its pluralism and diversity […]” [Moors et al leave out “mutual respect amongst its citizens respect for divergent interests and a genuine willingness to reconcile them as much as possible, respect for the private lives of others, respect for other moral and religious views, and so on.]

Voilà. The finisher.

In other words, the researchers advocate a tougher approach to Wilders, which is a direct threat to Wilders in the process now underway against him. The researchers find in so many words the government to be still too soft towards Wilders. A judge here should change that. In short: thanks to this report Wilders certainly does have something to fear.

For that matter, the vise is further tightened on Wilders by the authors of the report. Unlike initial finding by the Public Prosecutor (OM), it is clear to the researchers that with Wilders’ statements there may be a matter of discrimination. And Wilders would thus be punishable. A clear hint to the judge, who in his ruling could well refer to the following passage:

Then the second main question of the monitoring research on the PVV: to what extent do expressions of the PVV have a discriminatory character? Davidovic et al. go into detail on the question to what extent the expressions of the PVV, in the context of the prohibitions on legal discrimination, have a discriminatory character and on the prosecution policy of the Public Ministry.

They note that neither the legal literature, nor the case law, is unambiguous. Much depends on the specific circumstances of the case and that, as is argued, requires an opinion of a judge. The researchers have tried to put the statements of Wilders in a broader context and to compare them with recent judgments. From that it shows that also politicians are not immune from convictions when they put their political ideals into words. This line for that matter is also to be found with the European Court of Human Rights. Wilders makes use of expressions in which respectively the criminalizing, the creation of social division, or the exclusion of rights are important issues.

The monitoring researchers point out that precisely these issues have led to criminal convictions. In the consideration of the Public Ministry on whether or not to prosecute, the aspect that there may be discrimination based on race is entirely ignored. Davidovic et al believe that Wilders effortlessly pulls the line from religion to culture, and point out that in recent rulings by the Supreme Court, this plurality in that deprivation of Muslims precisely were involved in the considerations. All the more reason, as they conclude, that a judge will fully pronounce judgment on whether the expressions are possibly worthy of a sentence: not Justice should judge, but the independent judge.

Here is a text that the court can do something with. Which is to condemn Wilders.

2 thoughts on “Condemning Geert Wilders

    “Numerous scientific studies indicate, however, that differences of interests and especially confrontations over ideologies may easily degenerate into the undermining of social peace and harmony and thus lead to (violent) conflicts”.


    “This then leads to further polarization and thus will emerge a cycle of escalation. Even more so, by deliberately polarizing, politicians and other opinion leaders may cause citizens to radicalize.”

    Of course deliberate “polarizing and radicalizing” by Islamist leaders not applicable here! Just get Wilders!

    Can’t wait for the Koran Mein Kampf comparison/ANAL-ysis.

  2. From the report:

    From that it shows that also politicians are not immune from convictions when they put their political ideals into words.

    This makes no sense whatsoever. How can a politician have an ideal, but not a conviction. Are they not synonymns?

    Seriously, the report is very much misdirectional. As cindy said, it basically asserts Wilders point for him (if it were applied to the overt, radical Islamofascists), but then shifts the blame to Wilders.

    It’s enough to make your eyes roll out of your head, and your brain fly off to the moon for a holday!

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