Don't ask me how I got there (I don't remember), but I was heartened to find out that the National Review Online
actually spent quite some attention to the whole Pim Fortuyn saga, last year.
His rise, his murder, the suggested responsibility for his murder of the Leftists that had supposedly "demonised" him, the election results, the track record of the outgoing (in NRO's terminology, "left-wing") 'purple' government - it's all there, in surprising detail. If it's not covered in full-length articles such as, "Murder in Holland - Pim Fortuyn, Martyr"
(May 7), "Extreme?"
(May 9), "Giulianizing Holland"
(May 16 2002) or "On Tiptoe Through the Tulips - Why Holland is nervous — and an alarming case for the entire West"
, it's covered in one of a great many notes on the matter in their "The Corner on NRO
" blog. They even had an editorial on the case, "A Murder and Taboos"
. Much of it is by a guy called Rod Dreher, but not all.
Of course it's all from an angle very different from how most foreign media looked at the Fortuyn spectacle - and I sure as hell dont agree with most of their takes. But that really kinda only makes it more interesting - and it does seem like the most consistent, in-depth reporting on the episode I've seen thus far in the English-language press.
There's lots of highly disagreeable stuff there (in my view, in any case) - ranging from somewhat hysterical assertions about the Dutch (and European) "hard left", to which they count the Socialdemocrats, to their passionate abhorrence of multiculturalism in general - and the threat of "the Islamic reconquista of Europe" in particular. Or, specifically, their seemingly unquestioning acceptance of the truth of what "the voice of the street" is quoted as saying ("We see "foreign" adults and elderly, hanging out on park benches, doing nothing, shooting the breeze, all day! And we bicycle off to our eight-hour workday, so we get our paycheck and can pay our bills and taxes"!)
But there's some keen enough insights in there as well. Such as the dissection of differences between the various far right parties in Europe: "The 73-year-old Le Pen carried the baggage of a French Right tainted by Algerian violence and by Vichy. Economically, he was also an old-fashioned French statist. Fortuyn, in most of his beliefs, was a lefty libertarian. He supported drug legalization and euthanasia, two popular Dutch nostrums; he was an ostentatiously out homosexual." The fact that they are fairly apologetic about Le Pen, nevertheless, too, doesnt reflect very well on them, but at least they've got the right end of the stick when noting that the only thing that connects these people is their resistance to immigration. And whereas we here tend to mostly think -- 'see, thats what the far right's voter appeal comes down to, in the end, regardless of any other programmatic window-dressing' -- NRO suggests that it's the other way around: any party that brings up immigration like they do is automatically set away as "far right" - disregarding how wholly different they are in every other respect. Fair enough.
Of course, the whole episode seriously challenges the NRO writers. They like Fortuyn because of his free-market challenge to the "ossified" economic structures, for his attack on the 'left-wing establishment', and quite specifically and passionately, for his dire warnings about the 'dangers of Islam'. But on the other hand, "Dutch conservatism is weak tea", they warn their readers, and indeed, their readers do have some trouble embracing this new icon of the Right abroad. After all, as Dreher remarks when he finds himself forced to defend why he'd been sympathetic to Fortuyn at least until he read that Pim had been all too 'tolerant' about "man-boy love":
--- "Readers want to know basically this: "OK, so the fact that Pim Fortuyn was a promiscuous homosexual who supported abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs and legalized prostitution wouldn't have been enough to keep you from voting for him, but the fact that he was sympathetic to pederasty would have been? Aren't those other things pretty horrible too?" ---
He thus finds himself forced to argue along 'mayor-in-wartime' lines that, "My answer [is,] of course they are, but as I understand it, there's no realistic possibility in Holland's decadent culture that legislators will roll back any of those things." (Heh).
Most interesting, in that particular respect, is the way another NRO writer, John O'Sullivan, uses the Fortuyn case to sketch a Conservative future that must be quite different from what the regular NRO reader will feel comfortable with, in what is perhaps the most interesting article of the lot: "Death of an "Extremist" - The assassination of Pim Fortuyn should make us think hard"
"Old political orthodoxies are breaking down and new political alliances are being formed", he starts, to then remark on the emergence of "such things as liberal nationalisms and nationalist liberalisms". Such things are of course nothing new - thats what liberalism was like in the 19th century, too - but the writer takes heart in its revival, in as much as it gets to pit itself against "orthodox multicultural liberal opinion".
Now it may be a little ironic to see the NRO seemingly defend "human-rights liberalism" as a "Western invention" that needs to be defended "against the puritanism of the growing Muslim minority". After all, when it comes to the very things Fortuyn was supposedly defending against that Muslim minority - if they were to be debated in the US, the NRO would most probably find itself arguing the same case those Muslims are arguing here. (In fact O'Sullivan notes that, until 9/11, "there were signs that the religious Right in the U.S. might join with Muslims in the defense of traditional morality against a secularizing state").
But when different planes of self-identifications cross or conflict, some may be more important than others, I guess (or he could just be a commentator with a libertarian streak). And he sketches an interesting vista when noting that, "these nationalist strains of liberalism [..] are pushing four electoral groups — feminists, gays, Jews, and the proletariat — away from their traditional left allegiance toward new allies on the right". After all, each of these groups sees its own interests - the feminists and gays their newly acquired freedoms, the proletariat its jobs, the Jews their safety - threatened by the newly imported Muslim influence.
"Can an alliance of gays, feminists, nationalists, libertarians, blue-collar workers, and religious voters be assembled in opposition to the multicultural establishment either in Europe or the U.S.?", he asks, and basically answers, yes. I think Sofia might like it ;-). Many other conservatives might not - but, as O'Sullivan wittily points out, "The Christian Right remains in the conservative coalition to give a welcome to the gays and feminists not dissimilar to that tendered by Europeans to another boatload of asylum-seekers".
Oh - about that Fortuyn defense of "man-boy love". I must admit I'd never heard of that before, but NRO links to a quite detailed article in The Scotsman
. Dunno how to appraise the info there, exactly. But that article does manage to, in conclusion, tie an interesting observation to the almost child-like naivite that speaks from Fortuyn's remarks on his own childhood sexual encounters (which he describes in positive terms):
"Van Engelen said: "The problem with Pim Fortuyn was that he never grew up. In his mind he stayed a little boy. A lot of Dutch men recognised that. That's what made him so popular, among other things."
<nods - remembering the ubiquitous terms of endearment for "Pimmetje" (lit: little Pim), the teddybears and flowers left at his commemoration places like they would have been left at a child's grave, etc).