Yves here. The author may seem unduly concerned about political talk to tamp down the fires stoked by the tasteless “Innocence of Muslims” may be part of a more general crackdown on free speech in Europe, but remember in the US how reactions to 9/11 have greatly accelerated the creation of a surveillance state. I very much welcome European reader input.
By Jan Bennink, a Dutch advertising professional and a columnist for the leading newspaper De Volkskrant. He is @superjan on twitter. This column was first published in Dutch on Volkskrant Opiniel. Translated and first published in English by Wolf Richter at Testosterone Pit
As far as I can remember I’ve never been afraid of the government. When I was a young upstart protesting military parades with safety pins through my ears, I wasn’t afraid. Even if the place was swarming with soldiers. When I was the bass player in a punk band, the P.A. Splashing Tovs, screaming at all kinds of government injustice, I did not feel unsafe. And in protest rallies against nukes. I never wore a mask or helmet. We laughed at the secret service guys with their moustaches and long coats. It was 1980, not 1984.
Also on the internet, I was never afraid. On Geenstijl.nl, a provocative Dutch opinion blog, on dejaap.nl, or writing for Volkskrant.nl, a leading Dutch newspaper, I never even thought of watching my steps. My 97,000 tweets? I posted them without giving them a second thought. Even when it came to my attention that the Netherlands has the most telephone taps in the world, I did not lose any sleep over it.
In Holland we have article 7. Freedom of the press. Freedom of speech. Censorship is forbidden. You can say and write, sing and film whatever you want. At least I cherish that illusion. You may protest and express whatever opinion you have. As long as you don’t threaten or slander anybody. And as long as you leave the queen alone.
But still my critical fingers hesitate more and more when I am writing stuff. How long will the Dutch government be in charge over its citizens? The power of the “new great dictators” in Brussels grows. And they are getting more threating towards freedom of speech all the time.
Take for example the chairman of the European Parliament Mr. Martin Schulz. Angry faced, he condemned the making of the sad little film “Innocence of Muslims,” and the spread of it, while flanked by two “gentlemen” from fine countries where adulterous princesses are still being decapitated in dusty town squares.
And when one of those “gentlemen,” Khalid bin Hilal Al Mawali from Oman, started ranting about eradication of blasphemous acts, Schulz kept very quiet—though “eradication” in that sense has overtones of a dreadful history in Europe.
But the issue is broader than the behavior of Schulz. Take for example the words of Lady Ashton, the glorious EU minister of foreign affairs: “While fully recognizing freedom of expression, we believe in the importance of respecting all prophets, regardless of which religion they belong to.” In other words Freedom of Speech is great as long as we do not insult or hurt religious people. Quite a strong opinion for someone who, up until now, did not lift one finger to help those kids in Homs, Syria.
Then there is Mario Monti. Non-elected strongman of Italy. Parachuted in by Goldman Sachs and the EU. He also did his very best to bring the uncomfortable matter of “Freedom of Speech” to the table. Together with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy he expressed his fear for Anti EU Populism.… Newspeak for “the expression of EU critical opinions”
And it gets even worse. Monti and Van Rompuy are going to throw a special conference on this matter. In Rome. Not hindered by any resistance from the European Parliament. Except of course from Nigel Farage, who this week was fined €3,000 for speaking his mind on Van Rompuy. An ominous sign indeed.
It makes me curious what those newly unelected emperors of Rome are going to discuss exactly.
How to handle Anti EU Populism will soon become a discussion on how to handle Anti EU Populists! Shouldn’t those non-believers be registered? Or made recognizable? Is a “berufsverbot” a fitting measure for those elements not bowing down? Is this not a great moment for founding a European Secret Service?
If and when the insane federal plans of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, expressed in his State of the Union speech, are going to become reality, I am truly afraid that anti EU populists will not fit the story. And that guys like me, who make films, sing songs, and publish stuff suddenly have a lot to worry about from those grey mice in Brussels with their newspeak and absolute power. It’s this question that comes to my mind:
Is there anything more frightening than bureaucrats with a dream?