Talk at Emerce Tech Live in Amsterdam

Last Tuesday I gave a talk at EMERCE Tech Live on the main stage of the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. It was a lovely event and it was fun being back in Amsterdam however briefly.

It was a business focussed practical riff on my ‘Designing Conversational Interfaces’ talk that may have blown some people’s minds. So it goes!

Tech Live! 22

Tech Live! 24

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Now on stage @alper on conv interfaces. The good and bad. The power of simplicity #tel17

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Kritiek naar aanleiding van Hallo Witte Mensen

Ik heb me de afgelopen weken geërgerd aan en gegeneerd voor de domme venijnige kritieken die het boek ‘Hallo Witte Mensen’ van Anousha Nzume kreeg. Zoals de uitgever van het boek Ebissé Rouw zegt: Nederland is een intellectual wasteland. We zijn nu eenmaal een klein taalgebied waar iedereen zich heel slim en onschuldig kan voelen door het Engelstalige debat over een onderwerp compleet te missen en zelf wat bij elkaar te verzinnen.

Ik probeerde bij te houden wat voor onzin er gepubliceerd werd in de mediahype rondom het boek maar op een gegeven moment was dat ook geen doen meer. Morad van FunX vond dat Nzume dit boek niet had moeten schrijven, Pieter van der Wielen ventileerde in Nooit Meer Slapen al zijn persoonlijke frustraties eventjes, de Volkskrant liet een radicaal een totaal onleesbaar stuk schrijven (niet gelinkt) en Sylvain Ephimenco liet in Trouw zijn gebruikelijke ding uithangen (direct weerlegd in diezelfde krant door Seada Nourhussen).

Ik heb het boek wel maar ik heb het net zoals Morad ook nog niet gelezen. Ik vind niet dat je een cultureel product geconsumeerd moet hebben om erover te kunnen praten, zeker niet als het zo uitgebreid behandeld is in de media. Ik ga het daarom ook niet hebben over de letterlijke inhoud van ‘Hallo Witte Mensen’ (Waarvan ik wel geloof dat het snor zit. Koop dat boek!) maar over het debat.

Ik ben zelf redelijk bij in dat debat al weet ik zeker niet alles en ben ik ook niet overal mee eens. We hebben allemaal nog veel te leren dus laten we blij zijn dat zo’n handleiding anti-racisme nu bestaat.

Maar niemand lijkt in staat tot een kritische benadering. De ene kant doet het niet omdat een afwijkende mening hebben wordt gezien als overlopen. De andere kant doet het niet omdat ze (zie de voorbeelden boven) zo vastzitten in hun eigen hangups dat ze niet meer na kunnen denken.

Ik denk dat kritiek kan én moet. Hier drie voorzetjes.

  1. Meepraten

Nzume zegt dat ze dacht dat ze op een gegeven moment ook zou kunnen meepraten bijvoorbeeld over racisme. Dat lijkt me erg goed. Je hoeft niet zwart te zijn om te zien dat racisme nog steeds een groot probleem is.

Ik vraag me dan wel af waarom zwart Nederland er niet voor zorgt dat ze politiek vertegenwoordigd worden. In de afgelopen Tweede Kamer verkiezingen stonden er geen Afrikaanse-Nederlanders op een verkiesbare plek (zie Kiza Magendane). Artikel 1, een politieke partij aangevoerd door een prominente zwarte vrouw met een krachtig verhaal, slaagde er niet in om ook maar één zetel te halen.

Turkse-Nederlanders bijvoorbeeld die ook van ver moeten komen zijn erg goed vertegenwoordigd met een handjevol kamerleden en zelfs een eigen politieke partij.

Wat mij betreft zijn dit vier verloren jaren niet alleen voor zwart Nederland maar voor ons allemaal. Waarom is dit niet gelukt en waarom waren Nzume &co. tijdens hun gesprek met Sylvana Simons in Dipsaus zo terughoudend?

2. Intersectionaliteit

Zoals ik het concept intersectionaliteit begrijp gaat het erom dat we allemaal meerdere identiteiten hebben die elkaar voeden, raken en soms met elkaar botsen. Dat betekent dat iemand die zwart en rijk is en iemand die wit en arm is allebei lijden aan onderdrukking. Het is dan ook beter om ze allebei serieus te nemen dan ze met elkaar te willen vergelijken.

Dat vergelijken wordt ook wel ‘Oppression Olympics’ genoemd, een wedstrijdje wie het meest onderdrukt wordt. Het beste doen we niet aan dat soort wedstrijdjes omdat ze veel leed en geen winnaars opleveren.

Nzume zegt dat ze in het boek opzettelijk de tegenstelling wit/zwart heeft benadrukt. Zo’n harde scheidslijn doet geen recht aan de echte levens van mensen en zorgt ervoor dat witte mensen aanslaan. Dat aanslaan is onterecht maar ik vraag me dan wel af: Waarom zouden witte mensen mee willen doen aan een ‘Oppression Olympics’ waar ze toch altijd als verliezer uit de bus komen?

3. Globalisering

Verreweg de meeste weerstand in het racisme-debat komt van boerse Nederlanders (Hallo mensen buiten de Randstad!) die niet zoveel van de wereld hebben gezien. Hadden ze dat gedaan dan waren ze erachter gekomen dat witte mensen wereldwijd verreweg in de minderheid zijn. Discriminatie op basis van huidskleur is in een geglobaliseerde wereld achterlijk, onhoudbaar en onproductief.

Deze mensen zijn verliezers van de globalisering en ze zitten vast in het verleden. De toekomst wordt gemaakt in Afrika, China en de Golfstaten, allemaal plaatsen waar weinig witte mensen wonen.

Op lokaal niveau binnen Nederland zijn witte mensen in de meerderheid en houden er nog te vaak racistische ideeën op na. Maar zelfs daar is er meer wat zwarte en witte Nederlanders economisch met elkaar gemeen hebben dan dat ze van elkaar scheidt.

Is het racisme-debat zoals het nu gevoerd wordt (wij-tegen-zij) geen kadootje voor de financiële elites die ons willen laten geloven dat sociale voorzieningen een beperkte taart zijn waar om gevochten moet worden?

 

Hasan Bahara wilde graag dat mensen het racisme debat naar een hoger plan tillen. Misschien kan hij hier wat mee.

Highlights from We Have Never Been Modern

“Let us not mix up heaven and earth

In works produced by anthropologists abroad, you will not find a single trait that is not simultaneously real, social and narrated.

The ethnologist will certainly not write three separate books: one dealing with knowledge, another with power, yet another with practices.

the representation of nonhumans belongs to science, but science is not allowed to appeal to politics; the representation of citizens belongs to politics, but politics is not allowed to have any relation to the nonhumans produced and mobilized by science and technology.

Hobbes’s and Boyle’s followers succeeded in carrying out this task – the former by ridding Nature of any divine presence, the latter by ridding Society of any divine origin.

By playing three times in a row on the same alternation between transcendence and immanence, the moderns can mobilize Nature, objectify the social, and feel the spiritual presence of God, even while firmly maintaining that Nature escapes us, that Society is our own work, and that God no longer intervenes.

The critical power of the moderns lies in this double language: they can mobilize Nature at the heart of social relationships, even as they leave Nature infinitely remote from human beings; they are free to make and unmake their society, even as they render its laws ineluctable, necessary and absolute.

By separating the relations of political power from the relations of scientific reasoning while continuing to shore up power with reason and reason with power, the moderns have always had two irons in the fire. They have become invincible.

It is the impossibility of changing the social order without modifying the natural order – and vice versa – that has obliged the premoderns to exercise the greatest prudence.

By rendering mixtures unthinkable, by emptying, sweeping, cleaning and purifying the arena that is opened in the central space defined by their three sources of power, the moderns allowed the practice of mediation to recombine all possible monsters without letting them have any effect on the social fabric, or even any contact with it.

Seen as networks, however, the modern world, like revolutions, permits scarcely anything more than small extensions of practices, slight accelerations in the circulation of knowledge, a tiny extension of societies, minuscule increases in the number of actors, small modifications of old beliefs.

With the postmoderns, the abandonment of the modern project is consummated. I have not found words ugly enough to designate this intellectual movement – or rather, this intellectual immobility through which humans and nonhumans are left to drift.

A single modern example will illustrate the abdication of thought as well as the self-inflicted defeat of the postmodern project.

It is the double contradiction that is modern, the contradiction between the two constitutional guarantees of Nature and Society on the one hand, and between the practice of purification and the practice of mediation on the other.

There is only one positive thing to be said about the postmoderns: after them, there is nothing.

They are simply stuck in the impasse of all avant-gardes that have no more troops behind them. Let them sleep till the end of the millennium, as Baudrillard advocates, and let us move on to other things. Or rather, let us retrace our steps. Let us stop moving on.

As Lévi-Strauss says, ‘the barbarian is first and foremost the man who believes in barbarism.’

Nature and Society are no longer explanatory terms but rather something that requires a conjoined explanation.

We want to gain access to things themselves, not only to their phenomena. The real is not remote; rather, it is accessible in all the objects mobilized throughout the world.

The collectives we live in are more active, more productive, more socialized than the tiresome things-in-themselves led us to expect.

Our collectives are more real, more naturalized, more discursive than the tiresome humans-among-themselves led us to expect.

Real as Nature, narrated as Discourse, collective as Society, existential as Being: such are the quasi-objects that the moderns have caused to proliferate.

Everything changes if the staunch discipline of the principle of symmetry forces us to retain only the causes that could serve both truth and falsehood, belief and knowledge, science and parascience.

Marc Augé when he resided among the lagoon-dwellers of the Ivory Coast, sought to understand the entire social phenomenon revealed by sorcery

A symmetrical Marc Augé would have studied the sociotechnological network of the metro itself: its engineers as well as its drivers, its directors and its clients, the employer-State, the whole shebang – simply doing at home what he had always done elsewhere.

Western ethnologists cannot limit themselves to the periphery; otherwise, still asymmetrical, they would show boldness toward others, timidity toward themselves. Back home anthropology need not become the marginal discipline of the margins, picking up the crumbs that fall from the other disciplines’ banquet table.

Her tribe of scientists claims that in the end they are completely separating their knowledge of the world from the necessities of politics and morality (Traweek, 1988). In the observer’s eyes, however, this separation is never very visible, or is itself only the byproduct of a much more mixed activity, some tinkering in and out of the laboratory. Her informers claim that they have access to Nature, but the ethnographer sees perfectly well that they have access only to a vision, a representation of Nature that she herself cannot distinguish neatly from politics and social interests (Pickering, 1980). This tribe, like the earlier one, projects its own social categories on to Nature; what is new is that it pretends it has not done so. When the ethnologist explains to her informers that they cannot separate Nature from the social representation they have formed of it, they are scandalized or nonplussed.

This is the stance that makes it possible to respect the differences (the dimensions of the helixes do vary) while at the same time respecting the similarities (all collectives mix human and nonhuman entities together in the same way).

Modern knowledge and power are different not in that they would escape at last the tyranny of the social, but in that they add many more hybrids in order to recompose the social link and extend its scale.

Yes, science is indeed politics pursued by other means, means that are powerful only because they remain radically other (Latour, 1990b).

Nothing is, by itself, either reducible or irreducible to anything else. Never by itself, but always through the mediation of another.

The past was a barbarian medley; the future, a civilizing distinction.

But before long they will have achieved modernization, they will have liquidated those islands, and we shall all inhabit the same planet; we shall all be equally modern, all equally capable of profiting from what, alone, forever escapes the tyranny of social interest: economic rationality, scientific truth, technological efficiency.

Having been slapped in the face with modern reality, poor populations now have to submit to postmodern hyperreality. Nothing has value; everything is a reflection, a simulacrum, a floating sign; and that very weakness, they say, may save us from the invasion of technologies, sciences, reasons.

The moderns’ greatness stems from their proliferation of hybrids, their lengthening of a certain type of network, their acceleration of the production of traces, their multiplication of delegates, their groping production of relative universals. Their daring, their research, their innovativeness, their tinkering, their youthful excesses, the ever-increasing scale of their action, the creation of stabilized objects independent of society, the freedom of a society liberated from objects – all these are features we want to keep.

Applying selectorate theory to current Dutch and German governments

I don’t think you can draw a lot of conclusions from this bit of selectorate theory but it’s interesting to get a feel for the numbers.

The German federal election of 2013

German population in 2013: 80’620’000
Interchangeables (registered to vote): 61’946’900 (76.8%)
Influentials (turnout): 44’309’925 (55.0%)
Votes for CDU: 16’233’642
Votes for SPD: 12’843’458
Votes for CSU: 3’544’079
Winning coalition (votes for CDU + SPD + CSU): 32,621,179 (40.5%)

The Dutch general election of 2012

Dutch population in 2012: 16’800’000
Interchangeables (registered to vote): 12.689.810 (75.5%)
Influentials (turnout): 9.462.223 (56.3%)
Votes for VVD: 2.504.948
Votes for PvdA: 2.340.750
Winning coalition (votes for VVD + PvdA): 4,845,698 (28.8%)

A possible agenda for a tech workers solidarity movement

The USA example of resistance against Trump in the form of Tech Solidarity quickly gained a following in the Netherlands with TechSolidarity.nl and here in Berlin with some Tech-Solidarity-Berlin. I’ve had a small role in both of those groups’ creation but I’m currently not an active participant.

Tech Solidarity’s success is of course unique to the local environment and Pinboard’s prior activism in tech. That said there are a lot of similarities that make similar movements over here possible and necessary. The Netherlands and Germany have elections this year and are faced with similar populist disruptions. The technology industries here are also very heavily dependent on expat workers who have specific issues and interests. The time seems ripe for people in technology to organize themselves.

The idea of the Berlin organization is not to duplicate efforts. There are already lots of initiatives in Berlin that address most parts of this agenda. What tech solidarity should do here is 1. posit an encompassing vision of what we want to achieve and that it is possible to achieve that together 2. function as a switching board to match people who want to do things with things that need people.

I’m associated with the Berlin meetup but I haven’t attended any of the American events so we had to piece together what we thought would be an agenda for our local context. I suggested these five points that I personally think are relevant and critical right now.

  1. Maintain the freedom of movement and other liberal values that make Berlin and Europe an amazing place to live and work.
    Europe is an unique place in the world—increasingly so, though not as unique as we might like to think. The high standard of living and freedom enjoyed here attract people from all over the world.
    Those positive qualities and the new people they attract are not seen as positive by all Europeans alike. Populist movements want to close borders, go back in time and tear down the institutions of our liberal open societies. These measures will affect foreign workers and immigrants much more than they will local residents.
    What can we do to maintain and strengthen our local social democracies, the institutions that make up Europe and how can we scale out these values?
  2. Make it so that foreigners in Berlin can and do participate in local civil society.
    This is not just a problem for foreigners but they suffer from much higher hurdles when it comes to this. Foreigners are often here temporarily, usually do not speak German and do not get to vote. It is harmful to both residents and to society as a whole for people to be disenfranchised.
    What can be done right now to circumvent those limitations and what needs to be done in the future to create a more vibrant and inclusive civil society?
  3. Support diversity initiatives of all kinds in the workplace.
    In most tech companies in Berlin diversity is neither valued or practiced. Diversity has proven benefits to everybody involved. Also by not starting to practice this now the industry is putting themselves on the back foot when it comes to the future.
    What can we do to increase the awareness and practice of diversity?
  4. Use our skills and resources to help local immigrants and refugees.
    People working in technology have access to an immense amount of economic and social opportunities. People who are new to Berlin or who have already lived here for a while should have access to the same opportunities and be able to contribute their efforts and perspectives.
    How can we educate and include people without traditional paths into technology and make the sector as a whole more open and inclusive?
  5. Formulate actionable positions on professional ethics (data retention, car exhausts etc.).
    We need to formulate ethical standards for people working in technology and back them up when they need to abide by them. The potential to do things that are unethical and harmful is increasing just as quickly as technology’s influence but not everything that is possible should be economically determined. Laws are not a sufficient protection since they can be weakened or removed due to changing political circumstances.
    What are ethical red lines that we can agree upon and what is practical support we can offer people?

Highlights from The Name of the Rose

”there are also visions of books as yet unwritten.”

He seemed unable to think save with his hands, an attribute I considered then worthier of a mechanic.

Such is the power of the truth that, like good, it is its own propagator.

It does not seem to me that they were preaching things contrary to the Gospel, but when the session of earthly things is in question, it is difficult for men to reason justly.

When female nature, naturally so perverse, becomes sublime through holiness, then it can be the noblest vehicle of grace.

In the Italian city, on the contrary, you must have noticed that goods serve to procure money. And even priests, bishops, even religious orders have to take money into account. This is why, naturally, rebellion against power takes the form of a call to poverty. The rebels against power are those denied any connection with money, and so every call to poverty provokes great tension and argument, and the whole city, from bishop to magistrate, considers a personal enemy the one who preaches poverty too much.

The simple are meat for slaughter, to be used when they are useful in causing trouble for the opposing power, and to be sacrificed when they are no longer of use.

He replied that when your true enemies are too strong, you have to choose weaker enemies.

“But why do some people support them?” “Because it serves their purposes, which concern the faith rarely, and more often the conquest of power.”

I was upset. I had always believed logic was a universal weapon, and now I realized how its validity depended on the way it was employed.

Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

I was told that in that period, for fifteen days and fifteen nights, the rhetoricians Gabundus and Terentius argued on the vocative of ‘ego,’ and in the end they attacked each other, with weapons.

Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means, a precept that the commentators of the holy books had very clearly in mind.

Fear prophets, Adso, and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.

Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.

Europe Was Left #7 – Geert Wilders and PVV’s Decisive Moment

It’s Monday, February 20th and coming to you from Berlin I’m Alper for episode 7 of ‘Europe Was Left’.
The coming Dutch elections are dominated by the specter of Geert Wilders’s far right PVV (the Dutch Freedom Party). The PVV has been on the stage for about a decade now but this is the first election where they are leading in the polls.

Things should be looking up for them, but not everything is going as smoothly as it should.

Some repositioning from their direct competitor the ruling right-wing VVD and other parties has deflated Wilders’s poll lead from its all-time high of 35 to some 25 seats for our parliament of 150. Still huge but no longer unassailable by our current prime minister Mark Rutte.

Not having the electoral stamina to cash in on this early lead was to be expected but there are some other signs that Wilders is stumbling.
He bowed out of the first major television debate with the flimsiest of excuses. Additional parties had been invited to the debate than had been initially agreed upon because the field had narrowed. That change proved too much for Wilders and he refused to participate.

Then he bowed out of another debate by the same television channel because they had interviewed Wilders’s brother about his politics and their family ties. Wilders said this was a disgrace and again refused participation.

His brother does not much approve of Wilders’s extremist politics and has said so occasionally on Twitter over the past years. In the interview he said he’d like their family ties to be reinstated and told that he himself has been the target of threats from Wilders supporters. This is ironic since it is Wilders himself who is always paraded as the imperiled politician.

Two debates down, we are in a situation where he will be only in two major debates before we get to vote. One debate the day before the elections and the other two days before the elections. You would almost think that Wilders’s positions don’t hold up to scrutiny by his political opponents.
Wilders also had his official campaign start last Saturday in Spijkenisse, a town that is the epitome of the beleaguered white working class. For being the candidate who leads in the polls he didn’t manage to draw a huge audience of rapt supporters. Somewhere between 80 and 200 people showed up, about as many as the number of people from news organizations present to cover the event.

Dutch state broadcaster NOS tried to play up his support and opened the eight o’clock news saying that ‘unbelievable crowds of people’ were present. They were supposed to say ‘unbelievably small’ but found themselves too beholden to Wilders to be able to say the truth.

Flanked by his protection detail Wilders attempted to hand out fliers barely able to reach beyond the thicket of domestic and international press.
Wilders is under protection because he offended a bunch of dudes with small dicks ages ago but that doesn’t matter that much anymore. The protection itself has become inseparable from the entity that is Wilders. It is the source of his moral high-horse and his electoral appeal. He has admitted in private that his visible security detail nets him several parliament seats at least.

But threats to ethnically cleanse the Netherlands, such as Wilders has expressed, are not speech that deserves protection. During his last interview Wilders pedaled back from this position but even then: threatening to ethnically cleanse the Netherlands publicly and then backing off when pressed, is also not a speech act that deserves protection.
Yesterday world famous comedian Arjen Lubach aired a long segment exposing the emptiness of Wilders’s where none of his extremist statements are grounded in any kind of reality or backed by even an inkling of a plan.

Lubach’s segment was necessary. Dutch journalists, too afraid to estrange the angry old white man still buying their newspapers, have been lax and mostly absent when it comes to rebuking Wilders. A clear history and overview of the absurdity of Wilders’s position is useful both as a reference and to obliterate any votes he might get from people still susceptible to reason.

What Lubach doesn’t get though is that—well of course Wilders voters don’t watch his show—but more than that it is exactly the impossibility and unreasonableness of Wilders’s positions that makes him so attractive to a certain kind of voters. This is the quality that most makes him a fascist. Wilders’s positions do not need to be practical, or reasonable or anything else, the only thing they need to be is extreme, broad and damaging to elites, foreigners and other undesirables.

Fascists do not care that lots of treaties will have to be rescinded or the constitution will have to be cut up. The one in the White House doesn’t and Wilders won’t either.
I think Wilders is recusing himself from debates and interviews and any other kinds of public exposure that he can’t control because he is getting nervous. The coming elections are his last and best opportunity to seize power and become prime minister of the Netherlands. But even this best opportunity is still pretty uncertain.

If he doesn’t succeed this time and we manage to keep him out, he’ll have to while away another four years in opposition while people better than him govern the country. He can stand on the sidelines and shout things that are even more extreme—or try it, I’m not sure more extreme is physically possible anymore at this point—and spend the rest of his time collaborating with foreign powers and media.

What will be left of him after another four years? Not much I reckon. A decisive electoral defeat come March 15th will stop Wilders and after that we’ll be rid of him.
That’s all for this episode. Like Europe Was Left where you find it, keep the comments coming and talk to you soon.

Highlights from Open City

A grouch through and through, but it was he who first taught me the value of memory, and how to think of it as mental music, a setting to iambs and trochees.

We were all confused about what was happening; we were American, had always thought ourselves so, and not Japanese.

It was I, no less solitary than he but having made the lesser use of the morning, who was to be pitied.

But I was touched not only at the passage of these fixtures in my mental landscape, but also at the swiftness and dispassion with which the market swallowed even the most resilient enterprises.

This was part of my suspicion that there was a mood in the society that pushed people more toward snap judgments and unexamined opinions, an antiscientific mood; to the old problem of mass innumeracy, it seemed to me, was being added a more general inability to assess evidence.

Africa was always waiting, a substrate for the white man’s will, a backdrop for his activities.

It was the art of a country that had an aristocracy but did not have the patronage of courts: a simple, open-faced, and awkward art.

But atrocity is nothing new, not to humans, not to animals.

We had to leave because the future was uncertain. We would have been targeted, that was almost certain, and who knows what else might have happened.

It was only years later, when I became interested in these things for my own sake, that I surmised that my oma, heavily pregnant, had likely been one of the countless women raped by the men of the Red Army that year in Berlin, that so extensive and thorough was that particular atrocity, she could hardly have escaped it.

Not that I liked labor for its own sake—far from it—but I found something true in the work, found something of myself in it.

And the French are lazy, she said, they hate working and are envious of the Flemish. I’ll tell you this in case you don’t hear it from anyone else.

Had Brussels’s rulers not opted to declare it an open city and thereby exempt it from bombardment during the Second World War, it might have been reduced to rubble.

Islam, in its conservative form, was on constant view, though it was not clear to me why this should be so: Belgium had not had a strong colonial relationship with any country in North Africa.

He knew then that difference is never accepted. You are different, okay, but that difference is never seen as containing its own value. Difference as orientalist entertainment is allowed, but difference with its own intrinsic value, no. You can wait forever, and no one will give you that value.

There’s always the expectation that the victimized Other is the one that covers the distance, that has the noble ideas; I disagree with this expectation. It’s an expectation that works sometimes, I said, but only if your enemy is not a psychopath. You need an enemy with a capacity for shame.

It seemed as if the only way this lure of violence could be avoided was by having no causes, by being magnificently isolated from all loyalties. But was that not an ethical lapse graver than rage itself?

It’s a test case of what I believe; people can live together but still keep their own values intact.

But I have been disappointed. Europe only looks free. The dream was an apparition.

If we try to speak to the Palestinian situation, we hear six million.

He had brought me too close to his pain, and I no longer saw him.

That doubt that said, these, too, could have killed and killed and only later learned how to look innocent.

For people to feel that they alone have suffered, it is very dangerous. Having such a degree of resentment is a recipe for trouble. Our society has made itself open for such people, but when they come in, all you hear is complaints.

We’d used up our common ground, and there seemed nothing left to chat about.

It has been much too difficult to pass legislation of this kind. Future generations will perhaps wonder what took us so long.

I am used to it, but it never ceases to surprise me how easy it is to leave the hybridity of the city, and enter into all-white spaces, the homogeneity of which, as far as I can tell, causes no discomfort to the whites in them.

Dutch Public Broadcasting Goes Fake News

Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV —the far right Dutch Freedom Party— had his campaign start today for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Spijkenisse, one of his traditional strongholds.

The eight o’clock news of the NOS (the Netherlands’ state broadcaster) opened with this and their reporter Michiel Breedveld on the scene in the video below said it had attracted ‘an unbelievable crowd of people’.

Other reporters who were on the scene today (1, 2) said the number of people Wilders had attracted was somewhere between 80 to 200 and that the ratio of supporters and press was about 1:1.

Salima Bouchtaoui: ‘Spijkenisse this Saturday morning. Lots of press. And lots of police. Few people.’

Haro Kraak: ‘There were at most 150 supporters of the PVV, probably fewer. And at least as much press, probably more.’

There seems to have been so much press that this was what it looked like most of the time.

This incident is oddly reminiscent of Trump’s inauguration where the actual number of people present was much lower than was claimed by the administration.

But the crucial difference is that Trump was the liar. Wilders could spread the lie that his campaign start ‘had the most people ever’ but why should he if the state broadcaster does it for him?

Update: Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant (a newspaper I’ve given some grief before) calls the NOS’s coverage bad and harmful.

Update: De NOS have posted a rectification on their single page hard to link they use for this.

It’s not the opening of the evening news, but it will have to do. Notably they say they have used ‘wrong words’ to describe the event and they still put the number of supporters at several hundred.

Dutch newspapers should do their jobs

Just another day in the Dutch election campaign.

Geert Wilders posts a photoshopped image (tweet) of Alexander Pechtold his most direct opponent and says ‘Pechtold is protesting alongside Hamas terrorists.’

This is in reaction to the statement by Simone Kukenheim, Alderman of Amsterdam, who said Amsterdam would not recognize fascist policies under a possible Wilders government and could look to secede.

Alexander Pechtold was not amused since he has had to defend himself from death threats caused by these kind of insinuations before. Unlike Wilders Pechtold does not gain that much electorally from having his life put in danger.

This seems to have gotten really under Wilders’s skin (I talk a bit about it at the end of Europe Was Left #4), maybe because a sovereignty move from Amsterdam would effectively make him a foreigner again.

I inquire whether there is a Dutch newspaper that will do their jobs and take him to task for spreading a false image. Margriet Oostveen posting the original tweet works at the Volkskrant. The Volkskrant is what some people in the Netherlands consider to be a quality newspaper.

I don’t get a reply from her but a question back: ‘Which paper are you subscribed to?’ The answer is that I just subscribed to the New York Times. I am actually looking for a Dutch publication right now and can’t find anything suitable.

I offer to buy any article of theirs that is critical of Geert Wilders. I am told I am lazy and I should get lost. I then remember @Disruptia had pointed out that Margriet Oostveen just wrote a fairly neutral piece about Pegida.

Then later that afternoon former politician Tofik Dibi tweets a quote from the same Volkskrant where the political editor of that newspaper Frank Hendrickx in his coverage seems to have written that ‘It is unclear whether the PVV (the political party of which Geert Wilders is the dictator) knew the image was doctored.’

The second tweet is him saying that sentence was removed. I found and purchased the piece on their site using Blendle and I couldn’t find that sentence in it. The article isn’t even that bad but that makes it all the more difficult to understand how something that stupid could end up in there.

This is one case, the above mentioned nuancing of right-wing extremist group Pegida is another and the list goes on and on. The only thing you could say is that the Volkskrant is not as bad as some other Dutch newspapers. But at this point I don’t have much use for effectively slanted, pretending to be fair and balanced reporting.

Finally I said ‘Volkskrant more like Völkische Krant’ which is not fair. I take that back. But they definitely aren’t a Münchener Post either.