reading time 5 minutes
168 points of view
© cc photo: Carlos ZGZ
If you believe the commentators in the (extreme) right-wing alternative media, the debate in the Netherlands is flattened because certain words are said to be banned these days. Is that really true? And is that something to worry about?
Oddly enough (or not really), the words you should no longer be using are mostly words used by far-right politicians and opinion-makers. For example, think of words like ‘courts’ and ‘population’. What is the problem with those words?
The word ‘courts’ was brought to the attention of the general public by FvD MP Pepijn van Houwelingen, who whispered to his colleague Sjoerd Sjoerdsma (D66) during a debate in November: “Your time will come, in the next courts.” Regardless of the context, that’s an intimidating comment.
Most people will associate the word “courts” with war crimes tribunals, especially after World War II. In the context of the covid pandemic, it is useful to note that courts were frequently discussed in the wappie world online during the pandemic. Van Houwelingen is no stranger to the wappie world.
In that international community on the Internet, coronavirus deniers and anti-vaccines expected a lot from those courts. People fantasized about prison sentences, and even the death penalty, for politicians and virologists. But also for Bill Gates, George Soros and journalists, for example. At one point, the dates of those corona courts were even announced. (And then it happened again.)
In a recent broadcast from Ongehoord Nieuws, Van Houwelingen has yet to notice any damage. He said that according to Van Dale, a ‘court’ is simply a ‘special court’. He omitted to mention that in the dictionary it reads like this: ‘for example for war criminals’.
In the unlikely event that Van Houwelingen really did not intend his use of the word ‘courts’ to be suggestive, something is still not quite right: after being repeatedly reminded of the associations of that word, why should he continue to use it? And then one more thing: what kind of special courts exactly is Van Houwelingen referring to?
Another supposedly forbidden word is ‘population’. Firstly, it’s not a good Dutch word (it’s not in Van Dale), secondly, this word is also a word with a dubious connotation. The depopulation theory is a common conspiracy theory in far-right circles. In short, this theory implies that the globalist (Jewish) elite wants to replace the original population of Western countries with non-Western immigrants. With all kinds of dubious intentions, of course, but that usually remains vague.
‘Omvolking’ is a Germanism of the German ‘Umvolkung’, a concept that originates from Nazi Germany. The contemporary far-right conspiracy theory was introduced in 2010 by French author Renaud Camus as ‘Le Grand Replacement’ and quickly became popular within the Identitarian movement. In the Netherlands as well as the population theory. Until recently, the American population theory was enthusiastically promoted by Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Ever since a white supremacist in Buffalo killed 10 people and talked about “The Great Replacement” in his manifesto, Carlson has denied it. It is no exaggeration to say that ‘population’ is a loaded concept and that words have consequences.
On the new station Ongehoord Nederland, the Flemish nationalist politician Filip Dewinter (Vlaams Belang) was recently allowed to announce this mortal population theory. In the program Ongehoord Nieuws you are welcome if you want to utter forbidden words on television. Including the guarantee that the presenting duo won’t ask any tough questions.
The broadcast with Dewinter rightly sparked outrage in the well-thinking Netherlands and questioning in the House of Representatives. The announcer was also punched in the fingers by the NPO ombudsman. The board and programmers were, of course, unaware of any damage and in later broadcasts it was stated that ‘population’ is a very normal concept. The commentator Raisa Blommestijn shouted something indignant about the ‘banned words’ in the Netherlands. (Thanks for that. ^W)
Banned word lovers say it’s outrageous to compare their words to the very words used in far-right conspiracy theories that happen to be the favorite words of mass murderers. After all, they mean something else entirely, they only have reasonable criticism of immigration policy, and they should be allowed to say that, right?
In other words, you could choose to put your arguments in the spotlight. If only to avoid giving a bad impression. You can’t eliminate a word like ‘population’ with the meaning of something else. So just say what you mean. If you don’t do that while you are (now) aware of that charge, you will have to formulate your intention differently. If you don’t already, you probably mean exactly what you say you don’t mean.
Do you still follow him? It is a complicated and exhausting pun. But we must not allow any misunderstanding about the intentions of frequent users of supposedly banned words. Its intention is to serve the radical bases with the jargon of the extreme right. Meanwhile, the entire shadow play of denial and outrage serves to remain as acceptable as possible to a wider audience.
Context and intent
Are words like ‘courts’ and ‘population’ prohibited or not? No, they are not forbidden words, I use them frequently in this piece and I don’t expect to have any problems with them. There are no forbidden words in the Dutch language. There are words that we find unacceptable, such as racist swear words or words that are offensively combined with a disease such as cancer. But even those words, while generally undesirable, are not prohibited. If you put a series of words in a certain order with the aim of hurting or inciting hatred, it can also lead to your words having legal consequences. Ask Geert Wilders.
The use of words has to do with context and intention. You can read in this article that I put two supposedly forbidden words in context and it is also clear that my intention is not to promote extremism. On the other hand, it is not very difficult to see that those who prefer to downplay the context and shout angrily that nothing can be said anymore have a completely different intention.
You will see that a word like ‘population’ will soon disappear from the vocabulary of the dumb right. Simply because many people understand the trick. We are not crazy Henkie and Ingrid. Rather, it happened with words like “cultural Marxism” and “boreal.” In a while they will come up with new words and the puzzle will start all over again. I can already tell you that the solution will turn out to be exactly the same.
It already seems to me a tedious prospect that we will soon have to decipher the new fascist jargon. However, it is important that we continue to do so. History shows that words have consequences and that we cannot afford to normalize this kind of rhetoric.