It’s that man again

Speaking of demonising Pim Fortuyn…

Only the Dutch could have a gay sociologist fascist

The murder is further complicated by the fact that only the Dutch could have a fascist leader who was a gay sociologist. Maybe he was trying to build a liberal, inclusive fascism, dreaming of the day he could announce to his followers “and now, after a hard afternoon’s goose-stepping, let’s relax, massage each other’s shoulders and get rid off all that tension before invading a neighbouring country.”

His sexuality has been cited as one of the reasons that he couldn’t have been a fascist, but the far right seems capable of gliding over these contradictions. If Hitler had been gay, the only difference to history would have been the uniforms, when he’d thrown a strop and yelled, “Brown shirts and jackboots? Have you no sense of colour co-ordination”.

It’s typical that an English comedian did have the guts to take the mickey out of Fortuyn’s death, while our own cabaretiers haven’t dared comment.

“Openly gay”

There is one thing about Pim Fortuyn that it seems foreigners, especially USAnians just cannot get their heads around: him being openly gay. And even more, his being gay and nobody caring about it. How could this be?

The fact is, the personal life of politicians is just not an issue. You may know the domestic arrangements of the various ministers, or you may not. If you know them, it’s usually because it came up in a sidebar to an interview, or because their family was also invited to some gala dinner or such. Unlike the US, we just don’t base our assesments of a politician’s suitability on their private life.

Apart from that, there’s also that homosexuality is an entirely normal and accepted fact of life here. Sure, there are people hostile to homosexuality or uncomfortable with it but on average people don’t care about it. Gay people are treated no different from others, the same legal rights as couples, including the right to marry. Being gay doesn’t mean anything here, isn’t a stigmata, doesn’t condemn you to a live of nightclubs, casual sex and having to hide from “normal” people. Few people are homophobic here.

And those who are, usually keep their hostility to themselves as it’s just not tolerated, as it isn’t for any minority. Fortuyn profited from this attitude in his private life, letting him live an “openly gay” lifestyle without reprecussions. In politics this attitude worked against him since for many people, including myself he crossed a line between legitamite criticism of certain opinions of (some) Muslims and condemning all Muslims for the sins of a few.

It’s true that there is a danger that our society will lose its tolerance towards homosexuals under the influence of immigrants and asylum seekers from less open backgrounds. It’s also true that the Morrocan community in the Netherlands is at the moment the least integrated of the big immigrant groups (others being Turks and Surinamers) as well as originally coming from very conservative areas in Morroco (theRif mountains). That does not mean all Muslims are raging homophobes wanting to burn all faggots in one big auto-da-fe, that they are all automatically suspect. Talking about all Muslims as being homophobes, as being backward and an automatic danger to tolerant Dutch society is what made Fortuyn borderline racists, is what made him controversial.

What now?

Even if the killing of Fortuyn wasn’t politically motivated, things will never be the same again, to use the same hoary cliche all the newspapers have been using. Holland has always been an country where the politicians may have been a self selected elite, but you would still find them standing next to you at the herring car, downing a Hollandse Nieuwe. You want to know when the last Dutch politician was assasinated? 1672…

I’m afraid this openess soon will not exist anymore. There have been other attacks on politicians the last two decades -a minister’s house blown up in 1991, the hotel where the extreme rightwing Centrumpartij was meeting being torched, but never anything that justified the amount of security heads of state drag around with them in countries like Germany or France, let alone the USA. I really couldn’t blame politicians if they wanted to be more protected now, but it’s a pity. Something precious will be lost if our politicians become the same as every other country’s.

The other main thing on my mind right now is what will happen in the elections on may the fifteenth. The government has decided, after conferring with the leaders of the Lijst Pim Fortuyn to at least let them go through –constitutionally they had little real choice anyway–but there won’t be any campaigning anymore [1]. The various partyleaders had already decided to stop their campaigns out of respect for Pim’s death, as a sign of their outrage about his killing, including how it damages our democracy.

That latter is what concerns most of us now, both Fortuyn supporters and opponents: this is unique in our history, this is totally and wholly undutch, something which foreigners probably won’t understand. This will be our 11 september, our day the world changed forever. We see ourself as tolerant, rational and enlightened, as somewhat smugly superior to other countries –now we’ll have to review this view of ourselves. Holland, it turns out, is not special, bad things can and will happen here.

[1] The Lijst Pim Fortuyn won’t be appointing a new leader before the elections, probably hoping to pick up some more voters that way as well as a sign of their respect for him.

More on Pim Fortuyn

When something as shocking as this happens, it always takes some time for people to adjust, to absorb what happened and to react to it. Today was a day of reaction. Lots of coverage on tv, in the newspapers, weblogs and Usenet of course. Out from all the noise and chaos a few patterns emerge.

Holland is afraid, is angry. Again and again I saw people saying on tv or in newspaper reports:

Pim Fortuyn was killed for his beliefs … If Pim couldn’t say what he wanted, what chance do we have? … He said the things we couldn’t say and now they killed them. It’s the media’s fault for demonizing him … It’s the politicians’ fault for attacking him …. It’s you lefties who killed him.

It’s scarey and frightening to hear so many people voice this — there were already riots near Parliament in Den Haag last night, just after his death. Today things have fortunately calmed down. There are long rows for the condeolance registrers at City Hall in Rotterdam, as well as people laying flowers at the murder site and his house.

And it’s not just been Fortuyn voters. It seems about fifty percent of people interviewed did not agree with his views, did not plan to vote for him, did not even like him.

One woman, asked for why she was going to put flowers in front of his house:

Ik zou nooit op hem hebben gestemd. Maar er is iemand op grond van zijn denkbeelden neergeknald. Dáár protesteer ik tegen.
I would never have voted for him. But somebody was blown away because of his beliefs. That’s what I protest against. [1]

It’s still not known whether or not she’s right on this, but it’s far the most likely motive. And I agree with her. Pim Fortuyn did not deserve to die because of his political beliefs, no matter how repulsive I find them. He should’ve been dealt with via normal democratic channels, by engaging him on issues, by showing his supporters how he’s wrong.

[1] Nrc Handelsblad “Pim Fortuyn zei wat wij denken”

Pim Fortuyn killed

Rightwing politician Pim Fortuyn, who was on course to win the general elections on May the 15th has just been shot and killed. It’s not clear who killed him or why he actually was killed, though a lot of people here are speculating about whether or not it was politically motivated. I hope it wasn’t, because that would irrevocably change our democracy for the worse.

He was a dangerous, spiteful man but he didn’t deserve to be murdered. It’s not a good day for a democracy when dangerous people cannot be stopped by democratic means.

The big question is, what now? What does this mean for our democracy, for our way of life?

The BBC has a short article up on their website.