The Art of Guilt by Association

Marcel Bas


“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” – Mark Twain 

On the 22nd of July 2011, shortly before Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people in Norway, I became one of the ‘fortunate’ four Dutch persons to have unsolicitedly received Breivik’s manifesto. It was his ‘Declaration of Independence’, which he had forwarded to thousands of people; the Dutch media claim there were only 1001 addressees, but there were several thousand).

The following 9 months I was unable to explain why I received this increasingly extremist, aggressively neoconservative manifesto. It is true that, since 1991 I had been writing anti-immigration and pro-Afrikaner articles and essays. But my articles were rather paleoconservative and mainly written in Dutch and Afrikaans. Did Breivik read Dutch? Afrikaans? I had never heard of this person, who also went by the pseudonym Andrew Berwick. Until the moment when Norwegian newspapers started sending me e-mails, I did not realise that the enigmatic Norwegian mass murderer had sent me the e-mail.

Only recently, when I finally felt emotionally capable of paying more attention to his lengthy compendium, did I read in the Preface that I must be a Facebook friend of his, or a friend of a Facebook friend of his, if I received it from himself. The latter must have been the case. Thank you.

At the same time, when on the 27th of July 2011 Breivik’s list of 1003 addressees was going viral, Dutch and Norwegian journalists started writing articles about four Dutch recipients, including me. Most journalists never contacted me. The handful of journalists that had actually gone to the trouble of calling or e-mailing me before they started writing newspaper articles about me, wanted explanations from me: “Why did you receive it?” “Surely you must agree with what he writes.” Although I had told them that I had only been able to read two pages of the manifesto (a section about the Frankfurt School caught my attention), one journalist from a local paper called me on the phone and repeatedly asked me what I thought of the manifesto, and if I agreed with Breivik’s analyses. He sounded irritated when I told him that I had yet not found any particular paragraph that I endorsed.

Instead, he asked me whether I would hypothetically endorse Breivik’s statements about Islam if I had read them. I replied that it is logically impossible to answer such a question, and added that I am in favour of an assimilation policy with regard to Muslims—certainly a moderate position (and one not at all in line with many anti-immigration organizations and publications, including TOO, that advocate repatriation and question the feasibility and desirability of assimilation of Muslims and other non-White immigrants). He then asked me whether I am a proponent of Apartheid, since an anti-fascist group had told him that I had joined a pro-Apartheid organisation in the 1990s. I replied  that I have never been a proponent of Apartheid, even though I am interested in Afrikaners, and I added that I had joined the organisation when Apartheid was already abolished, so I could read and write articles which would mainly stressed the Dutch-Afrikaans link.

Those were too many nuances. The next day I read that I am a member of a pro-Apartheid organisation, that I am a right-wing extremist, and that the Dutch Anti-Fascist Collective knows a lot about me.

Guilt by association attempted.

My e-mail addresses are all over the internet, and on my web-site people can find my phone number. People can even read lots of articles written by me, in order to find out what my thoughts are on subjects like immigration and our heritage. Nevertheless, most of the newspaper articles about my having received this email were not about my ideas or articles, but were full of speculation that could easily have been prevented if they’d just have consulted me.

The journalists would instead consult antifascist research groups, whose members would operate under pseudonyms. I don’t like operating under a pseudonym, because I think you have to stand for your ideas. Besides, it’s a free country, or at least I thought it was. I never thought that people would make up things in order to make you fit into their worldviews about what right-wing extremists are supposed to be like. Freedom of speech is nice, but at your own risk.

That same morning I read in the national Trouw newspaper that I had recently been converted to Roman Catholicism. What’s more: I am a “bloody fanatic catholic” (verbatim), too, as one might expect from many converts. The article also claimed that I had been a Protestant, and I had threatened and offended Catholic priests. No wonder Breivik selected me as an addressee.
‘So you asked for it’, a logical conclusion would be: this is why Breivik chose you. After all, the idea that Breivik was motivated by Christian fanaticism fits very well into their world view.

I have always tried to remain considerate and fair to my opponents. I have been particularly worried about the increasingly indecent way that people treat each other in discussions on the Internet and in daily situations in the public domain. With abhorrence I notice how an increasing number of Dutch people are behaving in a hot-tempered fashion. In the privacy of their keyboards, people seem to forget about courtesy when they don’t immediately get what they want. So where did this false image of Marcel Bas as a hateful religious fanatic come from?

The answer is: guilt by association. In America, a good example when supporters of Israel emphasized that that David Duke and the Muslim Brotherhood supported Mearsheimer and Walt’s essay on the Israel Lobby.

In my case, the Trouw article also discussed two other Dutch recipients, who had – two years before – been converted to Catholicism. One of them had, indeed, been rough – not threatening – to a liberal Catholic priest on Twitter. They both wrote for a conservative Catholic magazine, and two years before that, all three of us were writing for a paleoconservative  review.

This is how guilt by association works: you know two people and they know you; therefore all of you share exactly the same attitudes and opinions. Hence, you deserve to receive the manifesto of a Norwegian mass murderer.

I angrily wrote a letter to the editor-in-chief, and I demanded he publish it as a rectification. He refused to do that. Instead, he made the journalist — who had written the article anonymously — write me a reply in which she admitted her mistakes, albeit without any excuse from her side. The next day a brief rectification was published: “Marcel Bas is a self-confessed atheist, and he has not threatened priests.” Why “self-confessed”? Was it so hard to believe? Meanwhile I found out that one of the offended priests had copied and pasted the entire article on his web-site, without the correction. I had to ask him to at least include the rectification: I had never heard of the man before. And he had never heard of me, I presume. I thought it would be a good idea to cut these undesirable ties, to put it mildly.

That same day, the journalist who had written the article, offered to write an article about me that both of us would feel comfortable about. I refused: I wanted to have my letter to the editor published. She refused, and so did I. I was not inclined to supply her with information for another sensational article. It may have been a missed opportunity, but I was fed up with it all, and all I needed was peace of mind. I was too stressed and too appalled to work; I reported sick and I spent the afternoon writing my defence, hoping for the bad times to pass.

They did not. That afternoon, I received an e-mail from a journalist who had to finish writing an article about three of the recipients. The deadline was set … that same afternoon. The article would be printed the next day in all the county newspapers. I replied too late, as I was busy defending myself against earlier assertions.

The next day the county newspapers stated that I am a “self-confessed” atheist (that must have been taken from the Trouw newspaper). “’He is the most radical one of the three’, Jaap van Beek (a pseudonym) of the Antifascist Research Group says.” Then they mentioned my website, continuing to cite the Antifascist Research Group throughout the article: “Bas has ties with the radical right-wing Voorpost group and with the Orania Movement, which tries to establish autonomy for white Africans in South Africa.”

I was wondering why the ‘antifascists’ would make such a statement about me. Had they read my articles? Consequently, I asked the collective in an email why I was deemed most radical. The reply was: “Simply because you have been active for many years; longer than Breivik’s other two addressees had been active.” And he added: “Sometimes there is just not enough time to bring a nuance to a story.” I am sure I could have added some nuances. Really.  There were some statements that are untrue or half-true. But I had to acknowledge that the ‘antifascists’ were representing the facts more exact way  than the hack at the Trouw.

After that I heard on the radio a correspondent stating that of the three addressees of Breivik’s e-mail, I am the most radical one of the three, that I have ties with the radical right-wing Voorpost Group and with the Orania Movement, which tries to establish autonomy for White Africans in South Africa. Well copied!

I wrote a long email to the journalist of the county newspapers, stating that I don’t have ties with Voorpost: I happen to know two people who are involved in Voorpost. “But”, I wrote, “I always considered some elements within Voorpost too radical to my taste, and once I have delivered a speech on their congress about South Africa.”

I also wrote to the journalist that I don’t find Afrikaner autonomy important because Afrikaners are White; I find it important because the Dutch and Afrikaans languages and peoples are closely related. The Dutch and Afrikaners have many common ancestors, and we have a great part of our national history in common. The fact that Afrikaners are White is undeniable, and it is inherent to the definition of the ethnological definition of Afrikaner. But the colour of their skin doesn’t make their plight less alarming.

This version of the story was not interesting enough to the journalist. He needed another version. I was, however, exhausted and I left it for what it was.

These were but three cases of exaggeration, lies and half-truths that I have encountered in this short while. Friends, associates and colleagues were either not informed, indifferent or very understanding about the news reports and the effect they had on me.

The following week I was given the opportunity on national TV to tell about my impressions of Breivik as a person, about some of the ideas he has advocated and how I feel towards multiculturalism and whether I think that our civilisation is about to collapse.

After the interview was aired, some people in my direct vicinity  — people who were not at all into politics or debates of that kind — wanted to hear my side of the story. Some even complimented me on the interview. There were people who told me that they appreciated that over the past years I had been writing and saying what they considered true but dangerous to express.

My family also supported me, although some were shocked about the way guilt by association works, and how the present politically charged climate could endanger me. Since 2003, our nation is severely polarised and overtly so. This is being caused and exacerbated by ongoing multicultural conflicts, loss of traditional units of society, lack of solidarity and lack of civility — the predictable costs of multiculturalism. Some people, family included, decided they no longer wanted to be ‘friends’ with me on social networks. They were afraid of being found ‘guilty’ too.

Both then and last year I was afraid: is my job still safe? I was even starting to feel guilty, so I thought it would be better to keep quiet about the whole incident. This was impossible, as it was in all the newspapers. Luckily, my boss at the time was a staunch supporter of freedom of speech — which is a less absolute right here than in the US — and to this day I am grateful to him for his support. Still, if I were to apply for a job elsewhere, I will surely hope that employers-to-be will trust my CV, and not use Google to find out about my “background” and find all these negative articles. Employers know: a search on Google might be more useful than a CV. Nevertheless, the calumnious articles about me no longer rank in the first seven places. It may only be a matter of time until the first Google page will not display such an article any longer.

True friends, family and colleagues were, overall, very supportive. In times like these, one gets to appreciate true friends. Even political opponents, who must have appreciated me for who I am, supported me and told me that I did not deserve this.

I must say that it seems to me that things are back to normal now. But for half a year after the Breivik-affair, fellow conservatives — people who must know what it is like to be a  moral pariah — were the ones who let me down most. For a while I noticed that I had been shunned by people, even by those whom I would consider more radical than I. I decided to not be bothered by this and to continue what I had always done: read and write about things that I find important. Prior to the affair I had found a New Right (Nouvelle Droite) magazine in which my articles would be published. These people did not let me down.

Our paleoconservative reading group fell apart due to individuals being afraid of being under state scrutiny from now on, and I decided to not to ‘embarrass’ the others.

Five months after the events, a large Dutch conservative meeting was held, where conservatives were invited to discuss the effects of Breivik on the conservative discourse. The other two addressees and I were also invited. Later on, I was told that the meeting was partly organised to accuse me and the two other addressees of having extremist ideas. The plan was that one of the speakers would demonstrate that Breivik is the most extreme stage on the sliding scale of radical conservatism; we three were supposed to be at the penultimate stage on this sliding scale. With our articles we would lure healthy yet susceptible conservatives into Breivik’s lair. However, the speaker who was designated for this chore turned out to be appalled by this scenario and instead, defended us by denouncing ugly statements about us in a recently published pro-immigration book.  After the meeting, we mainly chatted with this person, who must have wanted to get to know us better without assuming we were guilty by association.

Also, shortly after the events, I noticed that I was unable to discuss immigration or cultural issues with people whom I had not yet met, without being reminded of this ‘honour’ of receiving Breivik’s manifesto. Opponents on the Internet would notice that a good — yet always polite — discussion with me would focus on facts and arguments, so they would try to look for my name on Google to find out who I am. And then the Breivik link would be mentioned. That would be the end of the discussion, unless I really wanted it to continue.

There may be another media onslaught in December because of my latest initiative, which is connected to an allegedly racist detail of a custom associated with Saint Nicholas that is part of Dutch folklore. On the 5th of December we celebrate Saint Nicholas’ Day. According to Dutch (and French, Belgian, Luxemburg, German, Swiss) folklore Saint Nicholas is accompanied by one or more dark or black persons: Black Pete is his name. Only in the Netherlands and Belgium do these black persons resemble 17th-century Moors. According to Dutch activists and immigrants from the Antilles and Africa, the Black Pete character and the subordinate role he plays is a remnant of slavery days. Therefore, Black Pete should be coloured yellow, green or blue, or he should disappear. Some activists even claim that Black Pete is a sort of Blackface Minstrel: a character which people without expertise in transatlantic history have never heard of. My statement, however, is that Black Pete is much older than slavery days, and that he — like other black helpers of Saint Nicholas — dates back to pre-Christian times. Consequently, I give arguments for keeping this character in our folklore.

Clearly, as the Netherlands becomes increasingly multicultural there may be negative effects on the celebrations connected to this piece of folklore just as, in America, remembrances of Columbus Day are routinely used as vehicles for anti-White propaganda. If the media exposure focuses mainly on the contents of what I have written, there is a chance that the campaign against Saint Nicholas would be damaged. However, if media exposure focuses on me and the connection to Breivik, chances are that the St. Nicholas custom will be further blemished in the minds of the public. I suspect the latter alternative is far more likely.

Because of the power of the media, being a Breivik addressee will always be a blemish in the minds of most Dutch people. I am glad that I am involved with the New Right magazine TeKoS: which gives me the opportunity to publish my articles and essays in print.

A journalist, who wrote for the newspaper in my village, asked me if I lost faith in conservatism. “No, not at all”, I replied. And will I stop writing? “No. And if I notice that people are writing things about me that are incorrect, I will just object to it again.”

Today I can add, as a lesson, that if one wants to write things the left doesn’t like well and freely, I should continue doing what I did. Assuming that you can keep your job, things eventually blow over and you and your ideas are stronger for it.

But I have learned that I should not rely too much on people: maybe that is an even more conservative lesson than all my articles and essays together.

M.R. Bas (b. The Hague, 1970) lives in Voorschoten, the Netherlands and works at a vocational education centre. He reads linguistics at the English Language & Culture Department at Leiden University, expecting to receive a Master’s degree in 2015. Since 1991 he has been an editor and copywriter for various conservative magazines. His South African and Dutch web-site can be visited at http://www.roepstem.net.    

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