Following on the previous post in which I rag on the US for denying travelers from abroad basic (one might say self-evident) human rights, it's worth noticing that the erosion of human rights within the Netherlands is proceeding at a steady pace as well. I had several long rants planned on the high-profile arrest of cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot last Tuesday, on the basis of a complaint against him filed in 2005, for inciting racial hatred through his cartoons. I'm not going to post any of that, though; this is not the time and place. Let's just say I don't have a high opinion of Mr. Nekschot's talent, motivations, or general character, and leave it at that. However, when it comes to freedom of speech, what happened to the worst of us could happen to any of us, so to hear that Mr. Nekschot had had a ten-person SWAT team descend upon his house, had his home searched, the tools of his trade confiscated and vague threats of the elimination of his anonymity uttered at him, is very very worrying. I am glad that support for Nekschot is pouring out from across the blogosphere, across the political spectrum and across the intellectual spectrum, from the shockblogs to places like Frontaal Naakt (pretty much the entire site there is devoted to it at this point) and Progressive Gold.
There are of course, varying analyses as to why this is happening, from "The Netherlands is becoming a Caste system in which Muslims are the Brahmins" (which statistics about the income, job opportunities, educational opportunities and general integration into society most Muslims "enjoy" would seem to disprove, but never mind that) to knee-jerk blaming of the Labour party (which wasn't in government when the complaint against Nekschot was filed, but never mind that) , to the one that I subscribe to, which is that the Christian Democrats in goverment want to restrict blasphemous and other undesirable speech, but can't do that without making a show of impartiality, so they pick on a cartoonist who insults Muslims first - who also happens to be an easy target because his work is genuinely loathsome and ugly.
I'm pretty sure that Mr. Nekschot will be cleared of all charges; his work does not incite hatred in any legal sense, though a case can be made that it reflects, and feeds on, existing hatred in himself and his readership. It's firmly in the realm of opinion and satire. So it's too early to say that some kind of turning point has been reached. Yet it is very worrying that the enemies of freedom are apparently trying to get us to that turning point and make an example of someone.