Geert Wilders Syndrome

23 10 2009

My latest writing for the Libertas Post blog, which I thought would be relevant to this blog as well:

Geert Wilders syndrome

Geert Wilders is controversial.

That statement stands on its own merit; indeed, it may even be an understatement.

For those who don’t know his name, Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician, notable for his staunch opposition to hard-line Islamic extremism, and his questioning of Dutch immigration policies. He was responsible for a film called Fitna, which high-lighted some of the more, eh…notable comparisons between the teachings of Muslim clerics and the actions of Muslim terrorists, and he has pubicly compared the Koran to Mein Kampf.

He’s also being prosecuted for hate speech in the Netherlands, and was banned from treading on British soil, although that ban was recently repealed.

It was that prosecution which really got me involved in the man’s affairs, primarily as a news-gatherer and occasional apologist at a site that that I run called Defend Geert Wilders. But lately another thing about Wilders has nagged a little bit at my mind.

I think that ‘thing’ can probably be best illustrated by a comment that I received on Defend Geert Wilders a little while ago. The comment reads, in part:

“It’s not clear to me why so many journalists refer to Wilders as “far right”.

Because he doesn’t agree with Islam?”

And really, if you look at a lot of the media coverage of Geert Wilders, you will often run across some derivative of “Anti-Islam MP says…”; or “Far-right Dutch MP has…”; or something along those lines. The media seems hell-bent on painting the man as a Reicht-Wing,Islamophobe fascist, although, now that he runs what is probably the most popular political party in the Netherlands, to paint Geert Wilders as a fascist is to paint a majority of the Dutch population as fascist.

Ahem.

So what is the reason for this labelling? Is it malice on the media’s part? Is it some sort of partisan agenda? Do they simply dislike Geert Wilders that much?

To my mind, the answer lies in the focus of most of Geert Wilders’ attention: Islam. Islam is a very sensitive issue in Europe, and in Holland ( if you would like a very apt portrait of this issue, I would suggest some of Bruce Bawer‘s work to get you started ). Indeed, it’s a matter of difficulty and discomfort in most of the Western world. Islam has raised a variety of debates that tread the fine line between reacting to a very aggressive strain of religion, and maintaining freedom ( witness the ‘Burqa ban’ debate, for instance ). This is the line which Geert Wilders is constantly walking, and I think it is this which could be used to explain the media’s seeming incomprehension of the man.

Simply put, Geert Wilders is proposing scary answers to scary questions; answers which don’t fit the nice, polite, civlized tone of discourse, and which the political and media establishments in the West just aren’t accustomed to. Subsequently, they are horrified, and seek to distance themselves from the scary proposals, even though the man making them has good intentions in mind.

I don’t support Geert Wilders in everything that he does or says. I think that he goes too far with some things. But I think that he is, at least, trying to find a solution to a growing problem in his country, and for that he should be applauded. However, in the process, he has made himself into somewhat of a harsh, scary figure, and for it he has been damned in the press, which, for all of its ‘bravery’, has grown unaccustomed to what it perceives as incivility.

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