The charismatic leader of a far-right party in the Netherlands, which had rapidly emerged to become a major force in Dutch politics, Fortuyn was assassinated on May 6, 2002.

Pim Fortuyn was vociferously opposed to all immigration into the Netherlands, and had called Islam a backward religion. To this extent he was similar to other far-right demagogues like Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider; however, he was no dour conservative. Openly, almost flamboyantly, homosexual, and with a taste for fine clothes, he had garnered surprisingly wide appeal.

He was born on 19 February 1948, and studied sociology. He became a professor of sociology, and liked to be called Professor Pim. He was a prominent commentator for many years, and came to head a rightist party called Leefbaar Nederland (Livable Netherlands). But in February this year his call for the repeal of anti-discrimination legislation, so that for example Muslims could be singled out, led to his removal as head of the party.

He went on to form a new party, called Lijst Pim Fortuyn. He took one third of the vote in a Rotterdam local election, and opinion polls said his list could win as much as 15% (even 20%) in the forthcoming general election on 15 May, which would make Fortuyn a major player and possible kingmaker in the next government. It was even suggested he could become prime minister.

Fortuyn was shot multiple times by a lone gunman in the city of Hilversum after leaving a radio studio. The assassin has not yet (at time of noding) been caught, and their affiliations are unknown. Outgoing Prime Minister Wim Kok has expressed the nation's outrage and sadness at the loss of innocence this tragedy represents for the Netherlands.

Some Dutch-language websites paying homage to him are www.pim-fortuyn.nl and www.pim-fortuyn.com and www.pimfortuyn.nu, and all have been updated to pay tribute, but as my grasp of Dutch is minimal I can't get much more from them. The same goes for most other Google hits: is doodgeschoten 'is shot dead', okay, that's easy.


Update. Okay, I don't want to encroach on the writeups below me, and I don't want to be stuck with updating this over the coming months, but here are some brief additions to my original writeup:

  • The Dutch cabinet met in emergency session the following day and decided not to postpone the election. They paid a lot of attention to the views of the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, obviously. No-one knows whether the List will fall apart without their leader, or whether they will gain more from the sympathy vote.
  • The assassin, or at least the person arrested, has been identified as a white Dutchman, linked with environmental causes. This is quite a surprise, if true, and if connected, because the Lijst weren't particularly outspoken on the environmental scene.
  • Sorry, my node is over simplistic in some respects. I was picking up BBC coverage when the news first broke. -- This is simply awful. I cannot convey how bad I feel that assassination has hit a civilized, tolerant European democracy. We (I'm not Dutch, but I'm European) are all in mourning, not just the Netherlands, not just the right-wing extremists who supported him.

"I say what I think and I do what I say!"


Pim Fortuyn - 1948/2002

Fortuyn started his political career on the left-wing. It is unmistakable that he shifted right during the last decade of his life, but until the end he vehemently fought accusations that he was politically aligned with the likes of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider. Fortuyn's ideas, especially those concerning the Muslim community were far from proper. A demagogue he was for sure, but putting him off as a fascist is all too easy. What Fortuyn's skyrocketing political career proved was that there is a gaping hole between the politician and the man in the street. He proved that the man in the street doesn't always have proper thoughts. He also proved that the man is far greater in number than we like to admit.

After the September 11 attacks the fear of the Muslim community got hold of the hearts of many Dutch people. Most of the intellectual elite immediately rebelled against these emotions and tried to beat them down with reason. To have such fears is no crime, but to judge your fellow man on the basis of your fears is a big mistake, or so the masses were told. Fortuyn on the other hand fed these subconcious emotions and, being a professor and an intellectual authority figure, gave an excuse to the man in the street to fear his neighbour. In return the Lijst Pim Fortuyn got his vote. In the end, this was what it was all about and Fortuyn was more of an opportunist than a racist.

Immigration wasn't the only issue Pim adressed. He stressed other common problems, like the dramatic degradation of railroad services and the increase in crime rates, to fuel his poll success. It worked mainly because Pim was the first politician in the history of the Netherlands to adress the problem and not the solution. Fortuyn's schtick was to constantly point out where and how the traditional parties had failed. He blew their small slip-ups completely out of proportion. In the mean time, he offered no solutions either, but this is something the masses just didn't seem to notice.

Unfortunately, his routine was very spectacular in debate and the voters that turned away from the boring Dutch politics years ago fell for it en masse. In order to understand this, it is important to remember that political battles were never before fought in the limelight in this country. In the U.S.A. it has been common practice to smear your opponents and to glorify people instead of ideas during campaign. For years, this was just not done in the Netherlands. The traditional parties were caught completely off guard.

It is Pim's undisputed merit that he has brought politics back to the people in the Netherlands, even though his ideas were radical. Now that he is gone, we must hope that at least he served as an eye opener for the traditional Dutch political parties. Fortuyn showed that Joe Average has a vote too and that he is willing to use it. He also showed that Joe Average feels unrepresented and unloved by the government.

On the morning of his death, things looked well for Fortuyn. Poll results of that day showed that he was now the most likely candidate for prime minister. Wether the Netherlands would have benefited or suffered from his rule, his death is an unparallelled tragedy for this country. On May 4, the Netherlands traditionally remembers those who have fallen in battle and violent conflict since the beginning of World War II. It is a day to remember those who gave their life in order that people can live in peace and not be prosecuted for being different. On May 5, the Dutch celebrate freedom and commemorate the liberation from the Nazi regime in 1945. On May 6, a man was shot and killed because he had a different opinion. Pim Fortuyn was perhaps a difficult man and his ideas radical, but part of our democracy died right there with him.


Update June 20, 2002:

It has been confirmed some time ago that Dutch environmental activist Volkert van der Graaf assassinated Fortuyn. As of yet, authorities have not released any additional information regarding the investigation. It is not clear if Van der Graaf acted alone or if he planned the action together with others.

Van der Graaf is known for his active role in the Vereniging Milieu Offensief, where he fought legal battles against corporations and farmers over permits which allowed the receiver to emit a limited amount of environmentally hazardous gasses, like ammonia. Van der Graaf was very succesful at this, because many corporations and farmers did not go through the proper procedures to obtain those permits. If a company was prepared to pay a settlement for the court case that was large enough, Milieu Offensief took it and used it to buy emission permits themselves, thus blocking the opportunity for others to buy the permit and actually emit toxic gasses.


Update November23, 2002:

Half a year has passed since the shooting of Pim Fortuyn. And was it ever a busy period! As expected, Fortuyn, deceased but still listed, got many sympathy votes, martyr votes and straightforward anti-establishment votes in the elections that followed. Although his close friend Harry Mens had relayed Fortuyn's lack of confidence in his own party, it did not stop the LPF from growing big enough to form a governing coalition.

To put it mildly, they messed up. Within a remarkably short period of time, the LPF members changed their leading candidate three times, had two ministers of their own involved in such a row that neither would speak to the other, had an extreme rightwing subfraction split off (two people) who got photographed and videotaped while battering a journalist on their first day, disturbed the day of the queen-husband's burial, launched one bad idea after another, and so on, and so on...

In just a few months time, the LPF turned the Dutch government into a circus, culminating in the cabinet's dismissal. New elections will take place in January 2003. One of the LPF's suggestions for the coming elections: to reintroduce the death penalty. Mind you, that would get the Netherlands kicked out of the EU.

Meanwhile, Volkert van der Graaf has finally confessed to the shooting of Pim Fortuyn. His motivation: he felt that Fortuyn and his radical ideas were becoming a serious threat to society and the environment.

Update: May 16, 2002 : Dutch election results confirm the popularity of the three month old party. With 80% of the registered electorate casting a ballot, Fortuyn’s List (LPF) garnered second place in the pools (with 26 seats), behind the centrist Christian Democrats (43 seats). Mat Herben, a former journalist and ex-Defence Ministry spokesman, has been chosen to lead the LPF. Together, the two parties will likely form a coalition government, not uncommon since the Netherlands uses a system of proportional representation.
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
~ W.H. Auden, from September 1, 1939
According to the Guardian (Fortuyn suspect is animal rights activist, May 7, 2001, 5: 30 GMT), Volkert van der Graaf, the assassin of Pim Fortuyn was a white, Dutch animal rights activist from the town of Harderwijk (in the bible belt region of The Netherlands). Reuters confirms this, adding the 32-year-old male had 'environmentalist' material and stockpiled ammunition in his home.

While coverage over the first twenty four hours focused on Fortuyn’s anti-immigrant policies1, it seems ironically that it was his public musing about lifting the ban on the fur trade (specifically, mink farming) in the region which led to his death. Rather than Islamic extremists or anti-gay neo-Nazis, it now appears to be an highly symbolic act of political ecoterrorism (Reuters, 'Dutch election to go ahead', May 7, 2001, BST). The motive shocked his political organizers, who stated firmly the party had barely even addressed the question of animal rights, and certainly had no pressing legislative agenda in that area. A well-placed eco-fascist seems to have resolved that issue prematurely, on behalf of a stunned Dutch electorate. According to Ananova, the suspect now in custody belonged to militant environmentalist group Milieu-offensief (Environmental Offensive: http://www.vmow.demon.nl/). However, after being arrested while fleeing the scene, questioned and charged, it appears Van der Graaf was acting alone.

According to ITN, recent polls had suggested one in five Dutch wanted Fortuyn's party in government. While Fortuyn made political capital of what he pointed out was an anti-democratic ethos underlying conservative Islam, in the end it was an unrelated puritanism (in another radicial force entirely) which gunned him down. The man in custody is quoted on one environmentalist site, "Many animal protectors act from the assumption that 'nature is good', but every dark side of humans can also be found in nature. Protecting animals is civilizing people." Indeed.2

In a widely read BBC interview, conducted the day before his death, Fortuyn spent much of his time with the journalist in his Rotterdam flat, openly fawning over his two beloved pet dogs (BBC News, ‘At Home with Professor Pim’, May 4, 2002). The interviewer mentioned the death threats he had recieved. In fact, several weeks before his death, Fortuyn had been hit with dung pies by several environmentalists as he exited a political debate; local police largely ignored the incident and no charges were filed.

Update: Mourning the loss of its political innocence, built up over centuries, The Guardian (Pim the martyr unites a city in grief , May 8, 2002) now reports many of the people of Rotterdam may be set to make Fortuyn a martyr for his ideals. Already having clinched 35% of the popular vote in the last set of local elections, his party now may ride a wave of sympathy and frustration with passionless politics. Already small shrines of flowers, candles and photographs have been placed throughout the city, as lines of thousands leave condolences and remembrance; already the conspiracy talk spreads - talk of politicians in Brussels who felt threatened by the maverick politician’s charismatic style. One young student points a finger at the established authorities, an unemployed window washer compares him to JFK, a 75-year old pensioned likens him to Jesus. Meanwhile, the party itself has no plans to replace his vacated leadership until after elections next week. Joao Valera, aged 27, a local businessman whose parents emigrated to the Netherlands from the Cape Verde islands is believed to be the strongest candidate to take the party helm.
Notes:
1 Fortuyn's stance against Islamism can be seen as simply opportunistic, taking advantage of wide-spread public sentiment (an easy vote getter, like kissing babies) and personal stake (Sharia law, after all, comes down very hard on homosexuality). As The Times puts it, he has made an "ideological conflict out of what is a demographic problem" (R. Boyes, Fortuyn blind to genie he unbottled). However, that said, most of his policies seem to have been focused on the necessity of cultural integration, more in the style of the American 'melting pot' model, and stricter quotas. He was essentially a radical reformer, but hardly an extremist (unlike other European neo-cons, such as Haider or LePen, he never proposed any sort of deportation or rights infringement). In fact, The Times (UK) editorial, "Deadly ideas" (May 7, 2002) states quite rightly, "there is no evidence that he was anti-Semitic, chauvinist, hostile to the welfare state or any of the other attributes characteristic of the European Right."
2 Animal Freedom: http://www.animalfreedom.org/english/reaction/volkertvandergraaf.html: "What happens to animals in factory farming is not right": accessed May 7, 2002
As someone who is writing against the trend of the current articles in this node, I feel I should include some sort of disclaimer, lest the downvoting begin in earnest.

I am not racist.

There, that's that out of the way. Let's get down to business.

Pim Fortuyn (who I hadn't heard of until his untimely death) was, as far as I can tell, not right-wing. This may come as a shock to people who have read the mainstream media (BBC's coverage was especially narrow-minded), but I hope I've got enough ground to stand on, so I may be able to convince people of this.

Firstly, his stance on immigration. A typically right-wing stance is to close the borders of the country, and kick out any non-native people. While Fortuyn indeed wanted to close the Netherlands' borders, his stance on the current immigrant population was one of integration into Dutch society, so they could be as productive and self-sufficient as any native. If you'll excuse the rhetoric question, how is this right-wing?

Fortuyn's excuse for closing the borders was that the Netherlands are already overpopulated as it is, and with (figures I found from a Google search, they're from the 90's, that's all I can tell) a population density of ~1,000 people per square mile (as a comparison, the rest of Europe (excluding Russia) has a density of ~250 people per square mile), he's got a reasonable point.

Secondly, his desire to remove the anti-discrimination clause from the Dutch constitution - this became a self-fulfilling prophecy. As far as I can tell from interviews, this desire was motivated by the fact that political correctness has gone insane. Open discussion about any subject of a reasonable taboo (race, sexuality, religion, immigration, etc) is shouted down by reactionaries attempting to appear liberal, whereas they're just censoring people's right to free speech.

While I agree that discrimination against a person (because of their sexuality, race, colour, country of origin, etc) is inexcusable, I also can see how current laws (a general policy of "you can't say that!" in western cultures) aren't making the situation any better. Keeping quiet about a problem isn't going to make the problem go away, it's just going to keep getting worse until it can't be ignored anymore, and then it'll probably be too late to do anything about it.

Finally, his views on Islam. Now, this has been a very dodgy subject around Fortuyn, and always the one that comes to the fore when the media is looking for a juicy quote to slap on him. Most 'quotes' (and I use the term loosely, because most of them only actually contain one word that came out of Fortuyn's mouth) go something along the lines of:

'Fortuyn, who described Islam as a "backwards" religion'

Now, while this appears bad, it's also taken out of context to the point that it has absolutely no relevance. Fortuyn was talking about how certain practices in Islamic countries (arranged marriages, persecution of gay people, keeping women as second-class citizens) are completely unprogressive and at conflict with liberal societies.

Now, this is where the minefield begins - how can I say I support freedom of religion (that is, the right for women to choose to be treated as second-class citizens and to choose to be forced to marry complete strangers) and freedom of expression (the right for people to say such practices are fucked-up)?

Easy. People can choose any way of life they want - as long as it doesn't hurt anyone who doesn't agree with it (and if those aren't themselves hurting anyone). So, if the people involved have chosen to be involved in unprogressive stuff, then that's fine. But I think they're idiots. But that's a moot point, and just my opinion.

Anyway, I'm wandering off-topic. So, that only leaves Islam's persecution of homosexuals, which (I hope everyone can support me, here) is fucked up, and an archaic attitude from an era best forgotten. Also, I doubt that the homosexuals in question chose to be persecuted, so freedom of choice isn't an issue. Ergo, Islam's policies can be seen as retrogressive and, in a sense, 'backwards' by our Western values.

I'll sum up. I hope I've shown people that there may be a lot more in what Fortuyn said than the mainstream media would have us believe, and that he's not simply an extremist right-wing bigot.

Two last things - he's openly gay, and when was the last time you read about a gay right-winger? This also means that by removing the anti-discrimination clause he'd be taking away some of his own rights, making him a true hero. Or something. And, the person now in charge of his party is Joao Valera, an immigrant from islands off the west coast of Africa. Now, while he could be a stooge, put in charge of the party in order to make people like me thing that Fortuyn wasn't right-wing, I can't see any evidence for that, and so have to accept that he's innocent until proven guilty.


Oh, yes, the BBC's 'interview' with Fortuyn.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/from_our_own_correspondent/newsid_1966000/1966979.stm

This is a joke, surely? From an interview of (roughly) thirty five paragraphs, eight of those contain any speech from Fortuyn, and half of those are less than four lines long (and half of those are half the width of standard paragraphs, being obscured by a photo of (surprise) Le Pen). Hardly what I'd expect from an in-depth interview with a man who has a lot to prove. The BBC's correspondant seems far more concerned with drawing comparisons with Jean-Marie Le Pen than actually listening to what Fortuyn has to say, which was basically "Stop comparing me to Le Pen!".

Kirsty Lang, the interviewer, tries to undermine Fortuyn's stance by saying (and this is the feature quote of the interview, one that appears in a seperate box, specifically designed to stand out) "Every time I try to speak, he cuts me off and rants". This is surely understandable, because "Journalists keep on ringing him and comparing him to France's Jean-Marie Le Pen", and now another one's doing exactly the same, only in person.

The second section of the interview is occupied solely with the interviewer's predeliction for interior design, as she notes similarities between Fortuyn and Le Pen's residences.

She ignored everything her interviewee has to say, which in my opinion does not make for a good interview.

Her final statement, "You may not be a racist but the people who vote for you are" only goes to show the current state of politics - if idiotic bigots want to vote for a candidate because they misunderstand his policies (or because they have been misinformed by the pigeon-holing antics of the media), then how is that the fault of the candidate? Fortuyn's answer of "So what?" shows that he was one of the very few politicians who is prepared to withstand a backlash for his views, rather than be content with towing the party line.

It's only a shame that his assassin couldn't appreciate that.


Thanks to everyone who's /msg'd me, I've corrected my spelling of 'racist' (I never can remember when the English language inserts a random superfluous letter, like in 'fascist'), and removed (reluctantly, but willfully) the term "XP pack-rape". I can't help it, I've got a weak spot for that phrase.

Oh yeah - I meant 'retrogressive', not 'retroactive'. Thank you active /msgers!

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