The Dutch Stockholm Syndrome
In November 2008 a Dutch journalist, Joanie de Rijke, was abducted by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. She was held captive, raped repeatedly, and released after six days for a ransom of 100,000 euros ($137,000). After her ordeal, she acknowledged that her captors “did horrible things to me,” but added in several media interviews “They also respected me,” and emphasized “They are not monsters.”
In a speech in the Dutch Parliament last Thursday, the Dutch opposition leader Geert Wilders referred to Joanie de Rijke’s case. “She was raped, but she was not angry. The journalist who went looking for the Taliban in Afghanistan saw her curiosity end in a cruel ordeal of multiple rape. While this would make others angry or sad, this journalist shows understanding. She says: ‘They also respected me.” And she was given tea and biscuits.”
“This story” Wilders said, “is a perfect illustration of the moral decline of our elites. They are so blinded by their own ideology that they turn a blind eye to the truth. Rape? Well, I would put this into perspective, says the leftist journalist: the Taliban are not monsters. Our elites prefer to deny reality rather than face it. Our elites, whether they are politicians, journalists, judges, subsidy gobblers or civil servants, have dumped common sense in order to deny reality. It is not just this raped journalist who is suffering from Stockholm syndrome, but the entire Dutch elite. The only moral reference they have is: do not irritate the Muslims - that is the one thing they will condemn.”
Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in hostages, where the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which the hostages have been placed.
In his speech in parliament last week, Geert Wilders argued that the entire Dutch elite is suffering from Stockholm syndrome and behaves in a fashion similar to Joanie de Rijke. Rather than trying to refute Wilders, the Dutch establishment attacked him, accusing him of “immorally abusing de Rijke’s ordeal for his own political goals.” De Rijke, too, said she was appalled at Wilders’s statement. “I did feel angry because of the rape,” she explained, “what I tried to make clear was that the acts of the Taliban cannot be reduced to rape. The fact that I wanted to stress that aspect of my feelings is not the same as the Stockholm syndrome people like Wilders like to talk about. In a war situation people seem only able to think in black and white. I wanted to refine the story. A person is not a monster because he calls himself Taliban.”
De Rijke’s reaction confirms precisely what Wilders was trying to say. In reality the Taliban are not monsters because they call themselves Taliban, but because they behave like monsters. People like de Rijke, however, no longer judge people by their behavior and their actions, but condone them for the noble motives which they imagine have driven them to commit their acts. As Wilders said, “They are so blinded by their own ideology that they turn a blind eye to the truth.”
This attitude led Joanie de Rijke to travel to Afghanistan in the first place, with the aim of interviewing Taliban terrorists who had killed ten French soldiers. This attitude leads her editor to question whether the Taliban who abducted and raped de Rijke are “real Taliban” because “real Taliban” do not behave that way. This attitude recently led an American woman in Bakersfield, California, to approach a man lurking in the parking lot where she had parked her car because, as she told the police, though the man looked like a thug she did not want to appear racist. The man held her at gunpoint, threatening to kill her 11 month old daughter, and robbed and raped her. This attitude has led Western Europe to open its doors to large scale immigration from Muslim countries. This attitude, and here Wilders does not take the argument far enough, is worse than the Stockholm syndrome.
Those who have been abducted and suffer from Stockholm syndrome usually have not placed themselves in danger willingly. They had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The phenomenon illustrated by the case of Joanie de Rijke is that of people who for ideological reasons deny the existence of danger and subsequently put themselves in danger. Unlike ordinary Stockholm syndrome sufferers they do not begin to shown signs of loyalty to the criminal while in captivity, but have already surrendered to the criminal before their captivity, and, indeed, have ended up in captivity as a consequence of their ideological blindness.
Before elaborating, let us take a closer look at the Joanie de Rijke case.
Mrs. de Rijke is an attractive 43 year old Dutch free-lance journalist with long blonde hair. Though she is a Dutch citizen, she does not live in the Netherlands but in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern half of neighboring Belgium. Most of the time she writes for P-Magazine, a glossy Flemish men’s weekly which features pictures of girls in lingerie and skimpy bathing suits, pornographic cartoons, articles about fast cars and political pieces.
Last Fall, de Rijke was traveling in Afghanistan for P-Magazine. Dressed in a burka, she tried to get in touch with the Taliban to do a human interest story about them. She managed to contact a group of Taliban fighters who had ambushed and killed ten French soldiers in August. De Rijke arranged an interview with Ghazi Gul, the commander of the group. When her interpreter and she arrived for the interview, however, Gul abducted her. He sent the interpreter back to Kabul with a message for P-Magazine demanding a ransom of $2 million for the journalist or he would slit her throat.
The Dutch government refused to pay. So did the Belgian government, although Michael Lescroart, P-Magazine’s editor, claims that initially the Belgian authorities were willing to pay but later changed their minds because they are “cowards.” Lescroart also said that he believed the group which abducted de Rijke were not real Taliban but “some sort of Taliban ‘freelancers,’ scum who were after money. They did not want the real Taliban to know what they were doing, because the real Taliban do not accept that kind of behavior.” Given P-Magazine’s anti-Americanism and leftist inclinations, Lescroart probably harbors sympathy for the Taliban and finds it hard to accept that the “good guys” do evil things.
During her captivity, de Rijke was raped repeatedly by Gul. In her book In de handen van de Taliban, which she published last month, she writes that the Taliban commander “could not control his testosterone. I had the impression that afterwards he regretted what had happened. He knew it was wrong.” The noble savage even “invited her to a threesome,” i.e. to have sex with him and one of his three wives. “Ghazi was a very religious man. It is all so hypocritical. He was a complete fool,” she writes.
Because the Dutch and Belgian authorities refused to pay, P-Magazine raised 100.000 euros and offered it to Ghazi in return for the journalist’s release. The commander accepted. De Rijke was freed after six days in exchange for the money, which, says de Rijke, was transferred to the Taliban with the aid of the Dutch authorities.
Abduction and kidnapping of Dutch and Belgian journalists is very rare. It has only happened once before, in the 1980s, when a Dutch journalist was kept hostage for a while in Lebanon. Lescroart demands that the Dutch and Belgian authorities do more for kidnapped journalists in the future: “It is intolerable that the life of journalists should depend on the money which their colleagues manage to collect.”
After her release, Joanie de Rijke, too, criticized the Dutch and Belgian authorities for their refusal to pay ransom. “The Belgians have done nothing. They said it was a matter for the Dutch. And the Dutch authorities said they never pay ransom. In Afghanistan they know well enough that Western governments pay up after an abduction. Germany, Italy and France have all paid ransoms.”
Though de Rijke was angry with the Dutch and Belgian authorities, she told the Dutch media in interviews given after her release that she was not angry with her abductors. “I do not want to depict the Taliban as monsters. I am not angry with Ghazi Gul. After all, he let me live,” she said. About the rape ordeal she declared that although the experience had been horrible, she was also shown respect. “It’s not black and white. These things can exist side by side. That doesn’t mean that I’m suffering from Stockholm syndrome.”
Some of her colleagues, however, tend to disagree. Newspaper columnist Elma Drayer wrote in Trouw (14 May) that de Rijke’s case was a “classic example of Stockholm syndrome - the phenomenon in which the victims afterwards tell us that the culprits had noble motives and could not help doing what they did.”
Wilders’s remark about the European elites’ “Stockholm Syndrome” seems to have hit a nerve. The Dutch elites - from the left to the right, from the Greens to the Conservatives - tried to distract attention from this by focusing on his alleged “insult” of an abused woman.
Wilders’ words caused instant fury on all benches except those of his own party. Parliamentarians and government ministers reacted furiously to his reference to Joanie de Rijke. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” Femke Halsema of the far-left Green Left Party said. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, a Christian-Democrat, called Wilders’ statement “extremely painful and tasteless.” The PM said the opposition leader was “shamefully abusing” the journalist by turning her “once again into a victim unable to defend herself.”
The Dutch media, too, attacked Wilders. “Everybody is angry with Wilders” the Amsterdam daily Het Parool wrote. Even the conservative weblog De Dagelijkse Standaard headlined: “Geert Wilders insults journalist raped by Taliban.”
And so, in a way Joanie de Rijke is right. She did not develop Stockholm syndrome while in captivity. She had the syndrome even before she left for Afghanistan. It is natural that she should resent her state of mind being described as Stockholm syndrome, because she considers it to be the state of mind of a righteous and intelligent modern intellectual. It is the state of mind which she shares with almost the entire political and intellectual class of Europe today, that of the hostage to political correctness.
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