By lex, on February 9th, 2010
Citizens of the Netherlands have no enshrined, constitutional right of free speech, which has led to the travesty of a man being tried for speaking his mind. In the US, of course, people do have a nearly unlimited right to spout off in the face of government, a fact that the US media has often happily turned to advantage. So it’s a more than a little ironic that while the Geert Wilders trial unfolds in Holland, so little is being said over here, either about the cultural issues in play, or the underlying and dominating issue of the state’s smothering an inconvenient citizen.
This probably has to do with the fact that, for most in our media, Europe represents some kind of ideal: Excellent restaurants, beautiful vistas, guaranteed employment (for those that already have jobs), free health and child care. Europe, famously, has culture while – apart from elite coastal bastions – the rest of America is a slightly embarrassing collection of country cousins gathering in fly-over country strip malls when they’re not pathetically clutching their guns and bibles or voting “against their economic self-interest.”
It probably does not help that Wilder’s ire is expressed against a minority, which is the kind of thing that enervates rather than stimulates sympathetic coverage in the US press. Because for many of America’s most enthusiastic advocates of free speech, there remain certain things one ought not to say, or even think about. Even if they’re true.
Like the potential need to defend Western Civilization. (Readers of a certain age will remember that Western Civ was once thought important enough to be taught in school. This was before we learned that all civilizations are inherently equal, and anyway, who are we to judge? Because of the Indians, and slavery and so on.)
If the press were interested in this story, the narrative might well unfold thusly.*
A man who may or may not be a dangerous crank is on trial for speaking his mind. He may or may not be correct about an existential threat to the continent that gave our own precious democracy birth. But if you want to understand these things and place them in context, you will have to go elsewhere than the US news media.
It’s a pity, because this is certainly a discussion we ought to be having.
* 09-24-2018 Link Gone; no replacements found – Ed.