The effect of Breivik’s actions on Geert Wilders and the PVV

The killings of Anders Breivik, although shocking by their sheer scale, are nothing new for Dutchmen: Holland is used to political killings since the murders of anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and Islam-critic Theo van Gogh in 2004. It has long since lost its innocence after a period of self-preceived tolerance. The meteoric rise of Wilders since 2004 is another dimension in which the discussion of Breivik’s killings is taking place, because Breivik has mentioned Wilders 30 times in his manifesto. What has been said in the mainstream Dutch media sheds an interesting light on the impact of Breivik’s actions.

The moment it was clear that the Oslo attacks were the work of Breivik, Wilders sent out a twitter-message: “That the fight against islam is abused by a psychopath is disgusting and a slap in the face of the global anti-Islamic movement. This fills me with disgust that the perpetrator refers to PVV and me in his manifesto.” The self-proclaimed intellectual newspaper NRC Handelsblad was quick to link the attacks with the right-wing intellectual discourse in their commentary on Monday July 25th: “Anders Behring Breivik is no fool, but an extremist. He knows his classics. The same philosophies that right-wing politicians craft their programs together.” The next day NRC and The Press stepped up their attack on Wilders by accussing him of ‘war-rhetoric’. Wilders replied by a new statement proclaiming: “We struggle in a democratric and non-violent way against further Islamization of our society and will continue to do that. The preservation of our freedom and security is our only goal.”

On July 26th op-eds on the topic began being being published in Dutch newspapers. Dirk-Jan van Baar in de Volkskrant: “Breivik has succeeded where those who have prosecuted Wilders [Wilders was charged with hate speech and was acquitted, PS] have failed. Breivik has not silenced Wilders, but the PVV-leader should tone down his rethoric. The Left will remind us that the bomb and bullets came from the right this time.” A translated op-ed of Bruce Bawer, who lives in Norway and was mentioned 22 times in Breivik’s manifesto, was also published in de Volkskrant: “Just like other European countries, Norway has a big problem. Millions of European Muslims live within strictly patriarchal family ties in fast-expanding enclaves where women are second class citizens and where non-Muslims would rather not come. … It is this cause that has suffered serious damage by what Anders Breivik has done.” In Trouw Jan Dirk Snel was very eager to point out the similarities in thinking between PVV and Breivik: “The theories about the danger of ‘cultural marxism’ are also mentioned by PVV-ideologist Martin Bosma.”

The most interesting commentary on that day was that of the conservative-Christian commentator Bart-Jan Spruyt: “In the end Anders Breivik has rendered his greatest enemy, the ‘cultural Marxists’, a big service. He has given the ‘left’ … the ultimate weapon in this struggle against the right …: the argument that their rhetoric is not innocent, leads to hate and can instigate violence, and that they [i.e. the right] should tone down their voice. … Breivik is the demon caricature of a good and right vision. The vision of the ideal of a multicultural society has indeed failed. Diversity has been stretched to parallel communities, where there is not only the matter of social-economic backwardness but also of a set of values which is at odds with the values in our Constitution.”

The sending of Breivik’s manifesto caused some stirr in the Dutch media around the 29th of July, because he has sent it to at least three Dutchmen: Erik van Goor, Tom Zwitser and Marcel Bas. Erik van Goor and Tom Zwitser are chief editors of Catholica, a conservative Catholic monthly magazine. Marcel Bas is worth mentioning, because he has a website devotion to the Dutch heritage worldwide which focuses on the lamentable fate of the South-African Boers. The uproar resulting from the negative exposure of conservative and nationalist activists by the hostile media has led to the temporary stepdown of Erik van Goor as an editor.

In hindsight, this can be considered as the high tide of the attacks against the right as a result of Breivik’s actions. On the 28th of July Trouw already commented that the momentum of the attacks on Wilders is slacking among the political elite: “That Breivik referred to Wilders in his manifesto against Islamization and multiculturalism does not mean according to the MP’s that the PVV-leader is to be blamed. … Parliament is suffering from accustomization; MP’s let Wilders get away because they already know his rethoric. That is wrong. If the PVV speaks about Islamic voting-cattle, about the Party of the Arabs [referring to the Labour Party] or worse, he deserves to be countermanded every time.” In a speech to the Socialist Youth the Jewish former mayor of Amsterdam, Ed van Thijn argued that “The perpetrator derives his cause from the stale air, the hatred, which ascends from the midst [of Wilders]. The worst is his thesis that national-socialism and democratic socialism are branches from the same trunk.”

After a week the tide is turning. The commentator Ephimenco noted on July 30: “Attempts by some commentators or media to link the PVV-leader to the deeds of terrorist Breivik at all cost are not very noble. Thereby they are counterproductive. By attemepts to discredit Wilders by association with Breivik, one has contributed to the rise of polarization. And it is just by this creation and encouraging of contradictions that Wilders spins his success.”

This is unquestionably true. The continuous discrediting of Wilders by branding him as a racist or fascist, and try to prosecurte him for hate-speech, has made people weary to the point that even the association with Breivik’s actions will have no lasting impact on his popularity in the polls. The Oslo attacks just widens the divide between Wilders and the left.

On August 1 Wilders already felt confident enough to counter the accusations of the left concerning the Oslo attacks in an interview with Telegraaf: “If a Muslim is committing an act of terror, the left says it is not the fault of Islam. But if a deranged madman commits an attack in Norway, PVV is suddenly blamed.”

Great argument!

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