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<nettime> theo van gogh: eye for an ear digest [bradley, hettinga]
nettime's_indigestive_system on Fri, 5 Nov 2004 18:04:00 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> theo van gogh: eye for an ear digest [bradley, hettinga]

Rick Bradley <roundeye {AT} roundeye.net>
     Theo van Gogh shot in Amsterdam
"R.A. Hettinga" <rah {AT} shipwright.com>
     Fatal Detraction

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Date: Wed, 3 Nov 2004 12:27:24 -0500
From: Rick Bradley <roundeye {AT} roundeye.net>
Subject: Theo van Gogh shot in Amsterdam

The only link I see so far for this is at:


    "AMSTERDAM, Netherlands Nov 2, 2004 \u2014 A Dutch filmmaker who had
    received death threats after releasing a movie criticizing the
    treatment of women under Islam was slain in Amsterdam on Tuesday,
    police said.

    A suspect, a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality,
    was arrested after a shootout with officers that left him wounded,
    police said.

    Filmmaker Theo van Gogh had been threatened after the August airing
    of the movie "Submission," which he made with a right-wing Dutch
    politician who had renounced the Islamic faith of her birth. Van
    Gogh had received police protection after its release.


 http://www.rickbradley.com    MUPRN: 182
                       |  French wrote: Was just
   random email haiku  |  at Bookstar and got a
                       |  copy of "MySQL mSQL".

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Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2004 09:39:39 -0500
From: "R.A. Hettinga" <rah {AT} shipwright.com>
Subject: Fatal Detraction



Fatal Detraction
A provocative, and offensive, filmmaker and columnist attacks Islam and
pays with his life.

Friday, November 5, 2004 12:01 a.m.

AMSTERDAM--It was only two years ago that an animal-rights extremist
assassinated the populist Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, explaining later in
court that he did so, in part, to stop Fortuyn from using Muslim immigrants
as "scapegoats." Now the Netherlands is once again in shock. On Tuesday,
the filmmaker and newspaper columnist Theo van Gogh--a distant descendant
of the artist Vincent--was murdered, allegedly by a Muslim immigrant (now
in police custody). On Wednesday the police arrested eight Islamic radicals
in connection with the slaying. The Netherlands prides itself on being a
liberal and tolerant country. What is going on?

 Like Mr. Fortuyn, whom he admired, Mr. Van Gogh was a radical libertarian,
a champion of free speech who refused to be constrained by taboos or social
codes. I know from personal experience what it felt like to be the target
of his invective.

Mr. Van Gogh's pen could be vulgar and radical, and he managed to offend me
more than once. In 1984, after I directed a feature film called
"Frontiers," about a Dutch journalist who goes abroad to interview a
terrorist and discovers his own violent side, Mr. Van Gogh accused me of
"selling out my Jewish identity," although there was not a single Jewish
character in the picture. Writing elsewhere about Jewish writers or
filmmakers, he made Holocaust-tinged jokes like: "Hey, it smells like
caramel today--well then, they must be burning the diabetic Jews." Such
attacks went on for almost 20 years. (Mr. Van Gogh was 47 when he died.)

 To be clear: Mr. Van Gogh did not limit himself to Jewish topics. He
attacked Christian values and symbols as well. Theodor Holman, another
Dutch columnist, once wrote that "every Christian is a criminal," and a
storm of controversy broke out. Mr. Van Gogh came to his defense by writing
that people offended by those words were only "the fan club of that rotting
fish in Nazareth." After viewing Mel Gibson's recent film, Mr. Van Gogh
remarked in the daily Metro: "I just went to see 'The Passion of the
Christ,' a film as bad as an LSD trip which shows once again that also in
the sewers of Christianity collective daftness just leads to mud."

 After the death of Mr. Fortuyn, who warned that Holland's open culture
would clash with its growing Muslim community, Mr. Van Gogh turned his
attention to Islam, spewing invective in his columns and earning many
enemies. Many people went out of their way to avoid him, including me.

 Even so, Mr. Van Gogh remained a member of the artistic establishment. He
worked for the leading Dutch television companies, for newspapers and
magazines. In August he caused a sensation by collaborating with Ayaan
Hirsi Ali, a Somali who fled to Holland 10 years ago and who eventually won
a seat in Parliament. Two years ago, Ms. Hirsi Ali declared that she no
longer considered herself a Muslim. Death threats followed, and she was
given round-the-clock protection by the Dutch secret service. Certain
segments of the public hailed her as the true heir of Mr. Fortuyn. She
certainly has a charismatic persona: She is black, beautiful and
elegant--and knows Islam inside-out.

 It was the film that Mr. Van Gogh and Ms. Hirsi Ali made,
"Submission"--the title is a literal translation of the Arabic word
"Islam"--that appears to have led to Van Gogh's murder. In his 20-minute
movie, based on Ms. Hirsi Ali's script and screened on television in
August, Mr. Van Gogh portrayed written passages from the Koran on partially
clothed female bodies to accentuate the texts' hostility to women. The
intention, of course, was to provoke a discussion among female Muslims.

 And provocative the film was, but in the context of Holland's often brazen
filmmaking culture it was reasonably cautious and subtle. In fact, it led
me for the first time to write something positive about Mr. Van Gogh. I
thought the negative reaction to "Submission" was unfair. In Elsevier
magazine I wrote that the "people who are offended by this film have a big
problem." I noted that it did not openly show naked women--as so many
critics had claimed--and that it was rather modest in its style, subdued
and carefully made.

 In his own statements, Mr. Van Gogh made no concessions to the
sensibilities of Holland's Muslim immigrants. He was an artiste
provocateur--troublesome, offensive and hyperbolic but, it should be said,
accepted within the wide boundaries of Dutch culture.

 But not by everyone. On Tuesday, a 26-year-old observant Muslim named
Mohammed B. (officials are withholding his family name) decided to act,
unable to accept that unbelievers like Mr. Van Gogh might be led to
criticize or ridicule Islam. The son of immigrants who had found work,
prosperity and freedom in the Netherlands, he had a history of violence
and, it now appears, was allied with a group of radical Muslims.

 Having shot Mr. Van Gogh while the filmmaker was riding his bicycle, and
clutching a knife in both hands, Mohammed B. tried to cut off Van Gogh's
head--"as if he were slicing bread," as one eyewitness related. For the
deed, he had dressed himself in traditional Moroccan garb and, it seems,
attempted to ritually slaughter the infidel, like an animal. He stuck a
note on Van Gogh's chest with a knife.

 The minister of justice announced yesterday that the note was a letter
addressed to Ms. Hirsi Ali, threatening her and filled with threats and
anti-Semitic remarks. The letter, he noted, "shows an extreme religious
ideology; it says that its enemies should fear for their lives." The
minister of the interior, for his part, remarked that the letter was "a
direct attack on the Dutch democratic system."

 And so it seems to be. In a strange and appalling way, Mohammed B. did to
Mr. Van Gogh what Mr. Van Gogh did to the actresses and extras in
"Submission"--the essential difference being that the actresses could wash
the words away and leave the studio without a care, while the words on Mr.
Van Gogh were pinned by his murderer to his dead flesh.

 This difference highlights what many in the Netherlands see as an enormous
problem with the fundamentalist parts of Arab-Islamic cultures: an
inability to view the world according to abstract principles, to transcend
the literally militant passages of sacred texts. To some, the Koran to this
day offers no prospect of a free interpretation, or a tolerant one, that
can exist alongside the free speech of a liberal society.

 In the heyday of their multicultural utopia, the Dutch political and
intellectual elites believed that radical Muslims and radical libertarians
could exist peacefully together in the same society. In recent years it has
become clear that such a belief was an illusion, although the politically
correct media long tried to avoid the whole subject.

 Mr. Fortuyn, in his outspoken political career, broke the taboos
surrounding the problems of immigration and paid with his life. Mr. Van
Gogh paid the same price for a provocation that, had it been directed at
Christianity rather than Islam, would have hardly raised an eyebrow.

Mr. de Winter is a Dutch novelist and adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah {AT} ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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