Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders, on trial for speaking his bigoted mind about Islam, scores a win. For Geert Wilders only:
Geert Wilders, the outspoken Dutch MP who branded Islam a violent religion and called the Koran a fascist book, has been acquitted of all charges of hate speech and discrimination at a trial seen as testing the boundaries of freedom of expression.
Mr Wilders, 47, faced five charges and a possible year-long jail sentence over his anti-Islamic rhetoric and his film Fitna, meaning "discord", which juxtaposed the Koran with images of atrocities such as the 9/11 attacks.
Wilders is guilty of saying nothing about Islam that you can't say or hear in any bar in the United States (excepting enclaves in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Boston suburbs, where the speaker would lose tenure). He'd be wrong, but he'd have the right to speak his mind. Even the prosecution at first conceded as much, but after the state initially refused to charge Wilders, a group of "human rights" (all of them except for free speech anyway) lawyers convinced the Netherlands' highest court to order the government to prosecute Wilders for violating the right of Dutch Muslims, and Dutch human rights lawyers, not to be offended.
Wilders is the head of the third largest party in the Netherlands, a party that's part of the ruling government coalition. That's why he got off. Even his lawyer concedes, indirectly, that another Dutchman would have gone to jail for saying Islam is a religion of hate:
Judge van Oosten described statements about a "tsunami" of immigrants as "crude and denigrating", but legally legitimate given the wider context and Mr Wilders's acknowledgement that those who integrated were acceptable and did not call for violence. Bram Moszkowicz, the lawyer for Mr Wilders, said: "A politician, in the context of public debate, can say a little more and go a bit farther than you and I."
For all that, it's also true that Wilders was prosecuted precisely because he's a politician. In the words of another leading politician:
Is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods? You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level. The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.
Or they'll prosecute the big stalks, so that littler stalks get the message: That if, to paraphrase Wilders' lawyer, a politician "can say a little more and go a bit farther than you or I," you or I had better keep our heads down. Lest they be snicked off for saying something that offends the tyrants who decide what is and is not acceptable to say.
That message is loud and clear.
In closing, I will abuse my American right to free speech by saying that the Netherlands is a nation of child molesters who cheat on their taxes, consider horse dung a delicacy, and speak English with silly accents.