Banned Column #1
By Joshua Livestro
Maybe you missed it, but a new political party was founded the other day: the Journalist Alliance. The founding meeting took place at the Journalism Department of the Hogeschool Utrecht. Dignitaries like Ad van Liempt (former editor of NPS’ current affairs program NOVA) and Pieter Broertjes (current editor of leftwing newspaper de Volkskrant) were invited to debate the question “How do we tackle a subject like Geert Wilders?” A nice touch of course, this double entendre. On the one hand ‘tackle’ as in: deal with, write about. On the other ‘tackle’ as in: block, bring down, destroy. It seems a bit of a limited agenda, by the way, but hey, single issue-party are doing quite nicely in Holland right now. Why wouldn’t the same be true for an anti-Wilders Journalist Alliance?
“Whoah, wait a minute,” I can hear my journalist friends object, “that’s not true. We’re not into politics. We don’t make the news, we just cover it. All we do is test the truthfulness of political statements.” That’s at least how Pieter Broertjes himself put it in a recent speech to the Dutch Association of Editors. He talked about the media being a “necessary countervailing power in any democracy. Journalists check both government and parliament.” Just how seriously Broertjes takes this duty was shown a couple of months ago. A story about possible cases of torture of prisoners by our boys in Iraq was given prominent front page coverage. The fact that it was merely days away from the general elections and could therefore be construed as a cynical attempt at vote-rigging in favor of the Social Democrats (the party with which the paper is closely aligned) honestly, truthfully didn’t play any role whatsoever – none! – in his decision. It was a simple case of duty first. Now that’s what I call journalist ethics at its finest.
Unfortunately, this old-fashioned sense of duty seems to be dying out, to be replaced by a new idea: participation journalism. The participation journalist still calls himself a journalist. But he doesn’t just do the checks and balances stuff, he jumps right in to fight the good fight. In other words, a participation journalist doesn’t limit himself to covering the most recent statements of this or that politician. He uses his platform to fight back. Take the example of NOS News political reporter Job Frieszo, who covered the launch of Pim Fortuyn’s new party by brandishing a copy of a pamphlet by the leader of Holland’s main fascist party, Hans Janmaat. [The tiny Dutch fascist party has no connection to Pim Fortuyn]. Or that of the liberal newspaper NRC Handelsblad, which printed a cartoon which summed up the position of rightwing rebel Geert Wilders on the issue of dual citizenship of government minister as “One ‘Volk’, One Country, One Passport.” No mincing about, then, but whappa, a big straight left hook. Followed by an immediate ducking behind their journalist cover: “Remember, you’re not allowed to hit me, I’m a reporter, I’m not a party to this fight.” Participation journalism isn’t really proper journalism. It’s rather a political strategy based on the noble art of boxing: participation (straight left), journalism (duck for cover).
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for combat-style debate. That’s why I’m a columnist, right? I don’t even mind journalists who cover the news from a certain political perspective – as long as they’re honest about it. I much prefer a good partisan piece to a weak and wet neutral story. But this sort of ‘How do we get Wilders?’ participation journalism really is one step too far. They’ll have to make a choice: either they participate, or they practice journalism. Either they cover political debate from a higher neutral vantage point, or they descend into the mud to participate in the big political wrestling match. But you can’t do both. We can’t have the referee in a boxing match throwing punches himself. What do you call it again when someone pretends to be above the fray while actually being actively involved in the fighting? Oh wait, I just remembered: hypocrisy.
Banned Column #2
By Joshua Livestro
Dear viewer, I need your help. The thing is, I’m starting a petition. That way, I hope to force Parliament into launching an official enquiry into the actions of the Socialist Party in the run-up to the Second Gulf War. This party preached a message of “global justice” and “solidarity with the oppressed, wherever they are in the world.” In practice, however, it mainly acted as an advocate of the fascist dictator Saddam. How was this possible?
“The SP is a party committed to international solidarity”, the party’s website claims. The party leadership is glad to present itself as the formal representative of the Earth’s poor, huddled masses. Unless, of course, this means that it is somehow forced into supporting the United States. The moment Uncle Sam arrives on the scene, the SP exits stage left. Ever since the First Gulf War of 1991, we always see the same pattern repeating itself. Every time America wants to take decisive action against tyranny around the globe, the SP stands up for the rights of the threatened dictator. Foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel offered himself as a human shield of excuses to protect the mass murderer Saddam against the threat of a military invasion. The party has nothing whatsoever to say about the Maoist open air museum called North Korea, with its regularly recurring famines and its network of concentration camps. And to the SP, military action or even economic sanctions against Iran are out of the question. You know, Iran, that regime of Holocaust deniers that has made a sport out of hanging homosexuals and young girls who happened to have had the misfortune of getting raped. The same regime that is now busy turning its bike shed into a nuclear bomb-making facility. Naturally, the SP remains fully committed to solidarity with the world’s oppressed. But in the fight against the Great Satan America you can’t be too precious about who you choose to have as an ally.
“Give peace a chance!”, the SP’s leader Jan Marijnissen sang during the Stop the War demonstration of spring 2003. That sounds great, of course. But his real message was: give the mass murderer Saddam a chance. Yankee go home!
How is it possible that the SP always manages to get away with its selective solidarity with the oppressed? Why is nobody ever willing to confront the party’s endless list of excuses for the actions of fascist dictators, provided these dictators oppose America? I think it’s time Parliament looked into this matter. And with your signature, you can make it happen. Just to be sure, here’s the address: www.stopthehypocrisyoftheSPaboutIrak.nl.
I’m counting on you!
Banned Column #3
By Joshua Livestro
“The bullet came from the left!”, List Fortuyn chairman Peter Langendam declared shortly after his party’s leader, Pim Fortuyn, had been murdered by an animal rights extremist. He soon wished he’d never said that. In next to no time, a leftwing storm of indignation had blown his little house down. Leftwing commentators wrote quasi-shocked editorials in which they warned that this sort of statement only served to feed a rightwing “culture of hatred”. It’s what people in the old Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam would call a ‘gotspe’. An extreme leftwing antispecieist – a difficult word for antifascist, only for animals rather than humans – had just shot a prominent politician, but we were supposed to be more concerned about an imaginary rightwing terror campaign.
In truth, Langendam was much more right about things than he thought he was. Have a look at this table here. It was printed the other day on the Dutch political shock-jock website Geenstijl.nl. By the way, a little request to the gentlemen editors of the site: next time please include a link to the source. Now it took me at least thirty seconds searching the Web before I found it. Right, back to the table, then: it appeared in the most recent edition of Europol’s Annual Report on Terrorism in the European Union. It threw up some interesting findings.
In 2006, eleven selected EU Member States registered a sum total of around 500 acts of terrorism. Of these 500 only one – one! – was committed by an extreme rightwing organisation (somewhere in Poland, I think). Apart from one Muslim terror attack, all the others were committed by extreme leftwing terror groups.