Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), has already made four trips to the United States this year. He has also been to Italy and Denmark and is planning a couple of new trips to the US later this year, plus trips to Canada and Australia.
Why does the politician from the Netherlands travel so much? This is a question the Dutch media have been asking themselves. Last week, both the weekly magazine Vrij Nederland and the newspaper De Volkskrant wrote long articles about Wilders’ travels -- by journalists who followed him on a couple of his trips. The only reason why a man would so eagerly travel the world, is obvious, they say: He does it for the money. Wilders is said to be on fundraising tours, especially among the “American far-right.”
“Dollars for Wilders; How the PVV Leader Raises Money from Far-Right America,” Vrij Nederland headlines. Both Vrij Nederland and De Volkskrant acknowledge that Mr. Wilders is doing nothing against Dutch law. De Volkskrant, however, has a couple of Dutch law professors say that the situation, though legal, is nevertheless “unclean.” “There is a problem if a donor expects something in return. In Holland we cannot ascertain this because we do not know the money flows,” says one of them.
Mr. Wilders’ donors, however, do not expect anything in return. The man is not in a position of power. He is a simple member of the parliamentary opposition. He lives under constant police protection, frequently changing safe houses; he has not even slept in his own home since Muslim terrorists threatened to assassinate him almost five years ago. In early November 2004, Mohammed Bouyeri, after slitting Theo van Gogh’s throat, placed a knife in his victim’s body with a note announcing that Geert Wilders was next on the hit list. Since that dreadful day, his wife and he (the couple have no children) live as virtual prisoners.
The Americans who give him money do so voluntarily, out of generosity and in solidarity with a man whose predicament did not end with the Muslim death threats. Political adversaries brought him to court on charges of “inciting racial hatred” and want to have him fined and imprisoned to stop him from speaking out against the Islamization of Europe. Although the public prosecutor initially declined to open a case against Mr. Wilders, the Amsterdam Court of Appeals, backed by the Dutch Supreme Court, ordered his prosecution, putting the whole weight of the Dutch exchequer against Wilders. The possibility that Mr. Wilders will really be in prison next Fall cannot be ruled out. Wilders is raising funds to pay the lawyers defending him in court. It takes a Dutch law professor and a leftist media to suggest that people who help Mr. Wilders pay his legal costs “expect him to do something in return.”
Empathy for the victims of totalitarianism is a quality which is totally unknown to the liberal media of the Western, so-called “free” world. The reason why Geert Wilders travels so much is pretty obvious. He accepts almost every invitation to speak abroad, even if there are no possibilities of being funded because, as he says, he fears that if he is convicted next Fall, he will not be allowed to travel anymore. After living in the Netherlands, in his heavily protected bulb, traveling gives him a feeling of freedom which he can no longer enjoy at home. Although armed bodyguards accompany him on his travels, the foreign trips give him the opportunity to meet people and occasionally even visit a shop to buy a pair of shoes. Abroad he is treated as a VIP, but it is small compensation for his loss of personal freedom. In the Netherlands he spends his days in the parliament building without ever being able to go out except to heavily guarded places.
Why does he travel so much? Also, he says, because he likes traveling. This is something utterly unimaginable for the Dutch journalists trailing him. Their trips are fully underwritten by their employers, who pay them their wages to do their job -- which is to harm a man who knows that he is dead the moment the police stop protecting him. Why does the Dutch press insinuate that he raises money for private purposes? What use is there in having money without freedom?
When the Dutch journalists hear Wilders’ speeches to his foreign audience of “far-right, mostly Jewish, Americans,” they report home how he receives standing ovations for “ever more radical” speeches on Islam, but they do not listen to what he, or thoes who speak with him, have to say.
Last week, Mr. Wilders spoke in Copenhagen at a conference of the International Free Press Society. One of the other speakers at the event was the Syrian-born psychiatrist Wafa Sultan, a Muslim apostate who had to flee her native country for criticizing Islam. She says that growing up as a Muslim and witnessing its effect on people as a psychiatrist has convinced her that Islam is less of a religion and more of a totalitarian political ideology. It is a thesis which Mr. Wilders has borrowed from her.
Dr. Sultan says the world is currently witnessing “a battle between modernity and barbarism which Islam will lose.” She is one of Mr. Wilders’ great admirers. In order to liberate her fellow Arabs from barbarism, [she stated in Copenhagen] “Islam has to be defeated in the West first.” This, she says, is why Geert Wilders plays such a pivotal role. Instead of interviewing Wafa Sultan, the Dutch journalists in Copenhagen tried to find out from the conference organizers and from Mr. Wilders’ friends how the Dutch politician is raising money, whether anyone knows how much he has secured so far and on what accounts he collects the money for his legal defense.
A free press is one of the main achievements of a free society. However, the Western press did not play a major role in defeating Soviet totalitarianism in the 1970s and 80s. Ronald Reagan was utterly despised by the media and only succeeded as a politician because he did not care about what the media said. Likewise, today, the media do not seem intent on playing a major role in defeating totalitarian Islam. Indeed, empathy for victims of political tyranny is something utterly unknown to journalists who often see themselves as major political players on a par with politicians who, like Messrs. Reagan and Wilders, have been elected by the people.