Holland's national suicide note
You can read the English page of the court's website announcing the decision here.
It is a national suicide note, a white flag of surrender flown by a once-great empire in the face of illiberal fascists and hoodlums. It is a homicide note, too -- announcing the murder of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. And it is a warning note to other Western democracies. The warning is this: liberal democracy, multiculturalism and immigration -- pick any two.
Holland has picked multiculturalism and immigration, and has heaved liberal democracy overboard.
The announcement is so eye-scratchingly stupid, it really must be read line for line. Here goes. (The spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors are from the court's own English translation):
Amsterdam, 21 january 2009 - On 21 January 2009 the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam ordered the criminal prosecution of the member of parliament Geert Wilders for the incitement to hatred and discrimination based on his statements in various media about moslims and their belief.
Did you catch that? It's just like the execrable section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Incitement to... what? Violence? Murder? Riot? No. Incitement to hatred.
Hatred is an emotion. And apparently in Holland, "making" someone feel that emotion is a crime. And inciting "discrimination" is, too. Not just discrimination itself, mind you. But inciting someone to discriminate. The Dutch court has not announced the prosecution of anyone who Wilders has "incited" to discriminate against someone else. But they're still charging Wilders with discrimination, once removed -- even if that discrimination hasn't happened, and isn't logically tied to his political criticisms of Islamic fascism. (Question: don't we all have a duty to incite each other to discriminate against -- or at least hate -- fascists who would destroy our liberal way of life?)
In addition, the Court of Appeal considers criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers because of the comparisons made by Wilders of the islam with the nazism.I appreciate the honesty. This is the criminalization of "insults".
Of course, the comparison of radical Islam and Naziism can be found in their fascist, anti-democratic and illiberal streaks. And -- something the Dutch should know -- anti-Semitism. But, more practically, if comparing people to Nazis is now a crime, how about the countless comparisons of Jews to Nazis -- comparisons ubiquitous at the United Nations conference in Durban, just to pick one big example?
The Court of Appeal rendered judgment as a consequence of a number of complaints about the non-prosecution of Wilders for his statements in various media about moslims and their belief. The complainants did not agree with the decision of the public prosecution which decided not to give effect to their report against Wilders.
So the prosecutors -- whose job it is, as in Canada, to determine which prosecutions have merit and which don't -- were overruled by the court... because there were "a number of complaints". Is that all it took? Bitch enough and you can coax the cowardly Dutch courts to prosecute a political enemy?
The public prosecution is of the view, amongst others, that part of the statements of Wilders do not relate to a group of worshippers, but consists of criticism as regards the Islamic belief, as a result of which neither the self-esteem of this group of worshippers is affected nor is this group brought into discredit.
Some statements of Wilders can be regarded as offending, but since these were made (outside the Dutch Second Chamber) as a contribution to a social debate there is no longer a ground for punishableness of those statements according to the public prosecution.
(That is the court's statement of the prosecutor's point of view.)
The Court of Appeal does not agree with this view of the public prosecution and the considerations which form the basis of this view.
The Court of Appeal has considered that the contested views of Wilders (also as shown in his movie Fitna) constitute a criminal offence according to Dutch law as seen in connection with each other, both because of their contents and the method of presentation.
Again, you must admire the honesty of the court to describe their self-destructive, amoral attack on Wilders so clearly and without euphemism. There you have it: his "views" were unacceptable in content and presentation.
Apparently critics of Islamic fascism must be inarticulate and ineffective; or articulate and bold communicators must only be supportive of radical Islam. Now we know the ground rules in Holland.
This method of presentation is characterized by biased, strongly generalizing phrasings with a radical meaning, ongoing reiteration and an increasing intensity, as a result of which hate is created.
Stop. Just stop for a moment and realize the amazing gulf between this court and reality. This case is about Islamic radicalism. And yet it is a critic of that radicalism who is charged with "radical meaning"; it is a critic of the relentlessness of radical Islam who is charged with "reiteration". Who knew that one could only make an argument in a wishy-washy -- not radical -- way? Who knew that one could only make an argument once -- not to reiterate it?
The court is clearly making this up as they go. That is not law; it is politics masquerading as law. It is merely the court's mewling disagreement with Wilders and his effectiveness. There is nothing inherently wrong about being "radical" -- radical simply means "from the root". It is the nature of that radicalism that is of interest. Wilders is a radical democrat, a radical anti-fascist, a radical anti-terrorist, a radical liberal. The Muslims who pursue him are radical theocrats; radical terrorists; radical fascists. But it is Wilders' "radicalism" that is criminalized.
But the best line is the last line: "as a result of which hate is created." Is that how one creates hate -- by having a radical meaning? Again -- to state the obvious -- hate is an emotion. One cannot force one's neighbour to feel hatred; hatred is a natural reaction to things that call out to be hated. Feeling hate -- or "causing" or "inciting" hate -- are not real crimes. If someone were to act violently based on hate, those actions could be crimes. But merely creating a feeling is not a crime.
You'll notice, never does the court claim that Wilders' facts are wrong; never do they claim that his opinions are unfair. They only claim that he is radical and opinionated.
It is trite to point out that the court, too, is being radical and opinionated. And -- the elephant in the room here -- radical Muslims are radical and opinionated. But only Wilders' radical opinions are being criminalized. Wilders' radical opinions (unlike the radical censorship of the courts, and the radical fascism of the Islamists) are in fact the only radical opinions in synch with Western values of liberalism.
According to the Court of Appeal most statements are insulting as well since these statements substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers. According to the Court of Appeal Wilders has indeed insulted the Islamic worshippers themselves by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief as well.
Here you have it again: Wilders isn't wrong. He's just "insulting". He harms the "esteem" of radical Muslims -- who, apparently, are looking to Wilders for their religious validation. (Do these judges have even a simpleton's grasp of Islam? Is any Muslim's "religious esteem" hanging on what a Dutch MP says?)
Again, let me state the obvious: if "insulting" "religious esteem" were a crime, radical Muslims who call Jews and Christians every name in the book would be guilty of that crime -- as would any other insulter, from Dan Brown and his anti-Catholic DaVinci Code, to Woody Allen's Jewish skits. Insulting religious esteem isn't a crime in the West -- except for in the Islamic Republic of Holland.
Secondly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether a possible criminal prosecution or conviction would be admissible according to the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court based thereon, which considers the freedom of expression of paramount importance. The Court of Appeal has concluded that the initiation of a criminal prosecution and a possible conviction later on as well, provided that it is proportionate, does not necessarily conflict with the freedom of expression of Wilders, since statements which create hate and grief made by politicians, taken their special responsibility into consideration, are not permitted according to European standards either.
George Orwell had a phrase for this: doublethink. It's the ability to hold two mutually contradictory ideas in one's head at the same time, even knowing they're contradictory. In his book 1984, doublethinking was a great skill, a sign of one's intellectual and philosophical agility. In other words, a sign one was willing to abandon logic and common sense, and not be flustered or embarrassed by it.
The Dutch court grudgingly acknowledges that its criminalization of Wilders' political views is contrary to European norms "which considers the freedom of expression of paramount importance." Paramount means the most important. So it take some doublethinking to trump something of paramount importance with the newfound "special responsibility" of "politicians" not to "create hate". Oh, and a new crime: to create "grief".
Thirdly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether criminal prosecution of Wilders because of his statements would be opportune in the Dutch situation (the question of opportunity). According to the Court of Appeal the instigation of hatred in a democratic society constitutes such a serious matter that a general interest is at stake in order to draw a clear boundary in the public debate.
That last line is gorgeous. A court of appeal has made the determination that there is a "general interest" in circumscribing public debate. Not for itself, of course -- it can review anything; it can read anything, including Wilders' opinions; it can see anything, including Wilders' movie, Fitna; it won't tolerate any censorship of itself -- for its own freedom of speech is paramount. But for the little people, mere citizens, debate will be limited. "Boundaries" will be created -- whatever the court says those boundaries are on a particular day. "Hate", "grief", "insults" and "religious esteem" are today's boundaries, but there are so many tomorrows coming! Again, the obvious: these boundaries apply only to the critics of radical Islam, not to the purveyors of radical Islam.
As regards the insult of a group the Court of Appeal makes a distinction. In general the Court determines that the traditional Dutch culture of debating is based on tolerance of each others views to a large extent while Islamic immigrants may be expected to have consideration for the existing sentiments in the Netherlands as regards their belief, which is partly at odds with Dutch and European values and norms. As regards insulting statements the Court of Appeal prefers the political, public and other legal counter forces rather than the criminal law, as a result of which an active participation to the public debate, by moslims as well, is promoted.
However, the Court of Appeal makes an exception as regards insulting statements in which a connection with Nazism is made (for instance by comparing the Koran with “Mein Kampf”). The Court of Appeal considers this insulting to such a degree for a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.
Again, a perfunctory nod to "Dutch and European values" -- before throwing them out. And look at the excuse: comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf. Not to publishing Mein Kampf; not to planning to carry out Mein Kampf -- the Nazi agenda. But to merely comparing (in the court's view) the Koran to Mein Kampf. Apparently it's not just a crime to be a Nazi, it's a crime to call someone a Nazi.
But if it's a crime to call someone a Nazi -- and that is torqued view of Wilders' thesis to begin with, but let's accept it for the purpose of this debate -- if it's a crime to call someone a Nazi, what do you do when you believe you are being beset by the new Nazis?
If you believe that there is a group of people, following a noxious fascist philosophy, who preach and conduct violence (and hate Jews), why can't you call them Nazis?
Why is it worse to call someone a Nazi than to actually be Nazi-like?
(Again, obvious point: no Muslim radicals, with their ubiquitous signs equating Judaism with Nazism, have been charged as Wilders has.)
The Court of Appeal concludes that the way in which the public debate about controversial issues is held, such as the immigration and integration debate, does not fall within the ambit of the law in principle indeed, but the situation changes when fundamental boundaries are exceeded. Then criminal law does appear as well.
Translation: we don't have the right to limit public debate. But we're going to limit the public debate, by merely declaring that some public debate isn't public debate, if we don't like it. The distinction? When "fundamental boundaries are exceeded." And what are those? Esteem, feelings, grief. Those are apparently "fundamental boundaries" that can trump the "paramount" freedom of speech.
Otherwise, the Court of Appeal emphasizes that this is a provisional judgment in the sense that Wilders has not been convicted in this suit of complaint. The Court of Appeal has only judged whether there are sufficient indications – at the level of a reasonable suspicion – to start a criminal prosecution against Wilders. The penal judge who will ultimately render judgment in a public criminal trial will answer the question if there is ground for conviction, and if so, to which extent.
Why, that could have been written by Barbara Hall, the chief commissar of Ontario's human rights commission. She declined to hold a hearing into Mark Steyn's essay in Maclean's magazine -- but proceeded to denounce the essay as racist nonetheless. Why bother with a trial? Same thing here: paragraph after paragraph condemns Wilders in every way imaginable -- all without a hearing -- yet the court pretends that it is undecided and unbiased on the matter. The court says it's Wilders who is biased, radical, intense, outside the boundaries, creating grief, hurting esteem, creating hate, etc. That's quite a calumny, given that the man hasn't had a day in court.
But, really: when you're disassembling centuries of legal tradition, dismembering fundamental freedoms, demolishing Holland's great liberal heritage, and effectively prosecuting an Islamic fatwa through a secular court, why not go the whole distance?
Holland's court of appeal is an international disgrace.
Canada has long had a special affection for Holland; it was our troops who liberated them during the Second World War; to this day, that's why Ottawa has a Tulip Festival. We rescued them from fascist tyranny forced upon them. Who knew that, just two generations later, they would bring fascism upon themselves?
I predict that Geert Wilders will ultimately be vindicated. I don't think that all of Holland is a morally rotten as their court of appeal. But, like Mark Steyn and me, Wilders will have to spend countless thousands of dollars, and thousands of hours of time, defending himself in what is obviously a biased court system that has already judged him to be anathema. Perhaps they're trying to run him out of town like they did Ayan Hirsi Ali.
I think Wilders will stay and fight, with a renewed vigor and with the growing support of a shocked electorate who themselves must feel insulted that some appointed judges high on Mount Olympus have just ordered an entire swath of public affairs sealed off from vigorous debate -- but only one side of that debate is gagged.
Here's wishing Geert Wilders strength and good luck. He's fighting not only for his own freedom now, but for the freedom of all Dutchmen, and for the very future of Holland.
UPDATE: Here's Wilders' movie, Fitna. See for yourself what the fuss is about. The Dutch court of appeal has watched it. They just don't think anyone else in Holland should be allowed to watch it.