sábado, 18 de fevereiro de 2017
Geert Wilders’ American connections
Geert Wilders’ American connections
What, apart from the hair, links Dutch far right leader and Donald Trump.
By NAOMI O'LEARY 2/14/17, 4:01 AM CET Updated 2/16/17, 8:07 PM CET
AMSTERDAM — Geert Wilders is approaching the Dutch election bolstered by the shock victory of a like-minded campaign in the United States, and with something of his worldview reflected in Donald Trump’s White House.
Trump’s order barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States — currently blocked by the U.S. courts — echoes Wilders’ calls for countries across the West to stop all immigration from “Islamic countries,” which he has been advocating in speeches since at least 2014.
Now, Wilders’ U.S. contacts are pushing for a meeting with Trump in the hopes that it would give the Dutchman a new platform for his outspoken challenge to the European Union from within one of its founding states. For their part, Trump supporters see Wilders’ campaign as the next step — following the U.K.’s Brexit vote and the election of Trump — of a populist revolt that is shaking up the world order.
“I have sent those messages to the inner circle and encouraged that they communicate with Mr. Wilders,” Congressman Steve King, an Iowa Republican, told POLITICO in a phone interview. “It’s important for the Trump administration and for this White House team to be engaged in an effort to restore Western civilization.”
Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) is on course to become the biggest in the Dutch parliament in the March 15 election, although it may struggle to take any part in government as it is shunned by the political mainstream. Wilders portrays Islam as a totalitarian ideology locked in an existential struggle with the West and his election program proposes closing all mosques and banning the Quran.
Although historically U.S. Republicans have found little sympathy among Dutch voters, Trump’s election has boosted the confidence of PVV supporters hoping for a similar upset to the status quo.
“That’s definitely made its mark on the political landscape here,” said Tim de Beer of pollster Kantar.
The PVV were early admirers of Trump’s presidential campaign. “Donald Trump talks about immigration. Elites disgusted. Citizens embrace it,” Martin Bosma, a PVV member of parliament, tweeted back in July 2015.
“What Geert Wilders was talking about was telling Americans what could happen if we didn’t act to address the spread of radical Islam” — Christopher Barron, conservative activist
Wilders got a ticket to the Republican National Convention to see Trump nominated, and spoke at a pro-Trump event there alongside alt-right journalist and firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos.
The invitations came thanks to years of working the American anti-Islam lecture circuit, through which Wilders has promoted his views in right-wing circles from Silicon Valley to Texas.
Here is a breakdown of Wilders’ U.S. links and how they lead to the White House.
Twinks for Trump
In July, Wilders delivered his usual message to an atypical crowd: an event called “Wake Up!” that was billed as “the most fab party at the RNC” and presented Islam as a threat to LGBT people.
Photographs of slim men wearing Trump hats — “Twinks for Trump” — hung in the background as Wilders told the crowd Europe was “collapsing” and becoming “Eurabia.”
His account gave a sense of urgency to Trump activists, the organizers said, bolstering the impression the U.S. could be next to face the dire scenario Wilders set out.
“What Geert Wilders was talking about was telling Americans what could happen if we didn’t act to address the spread of radical Islam,” said organizer Christopher Barron, a gay conservative activist.
Wilders’ ticket to the Republican National Convention came from Bill Ketron, a Tennessee state senator who once sponsored a bill to criminalize Islamic law. Ketron gave Wilders his single extra ticket, the Tennessee Republican Party told POLITICO.
The organizers of “Wake up!” heard that Wilders was coming from Pamela Geller, an activist who was also to speak at the event. Jim Hoft, the man behind the conservative Gateway Pundit blog, told POLITICO he sent Wilders the invitation.
Geller is a long-time Wilders ally. She first invited him to the U.S. in 2009 in the wake of the controversy over his 2008 film “Fitna,” which has a strong anti-Islamic message and at one point likens Islam to Nazism. She brought him to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in February 2009, and soon after, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl screened “Fitna” at the Capitol.
Geller is at the center of a constellation of recurring names and groups linked to events Wilders has attended in the U.S. Some have given him concrete support, such as Nina Rosenwald, an heiress who founded The Gatestone Institute. (Rosenwald told POLITICO she had supported Wilders but did not give details.)
Another supporter is Daniel Pipes, who told POLITICO his Middle East Forum paid for Wilders’ lawyer as he fought hate speech charges over the years.
The David Horowitz Freedom Centre (founded to battle “the radical left and its Islamist allies”) has donated €126,000 to Wilders’ party, according to Dutch newspaper NRC.
In the early 2010s, Wilders was in the U.S. “every month or every six weeks,” said Wim Kortenoeven, a former Freedom Party lawmaker who left the party in 2012 but remains sympathetic to its aims.
The friends and cheering crowds Wilders found in the U.S. provided a respite from his life in the Netherlands as a hugely divisive political figure living under a security lockdown.
“It’s like a refuge for him,” Kortenoeven said. “Here he is a hunted man.”
When Wilders visited Tennessee in 2011, as Ketron’s hometown of Murfreesboro was embroiled in controversy over a planned mosque, he was introduced as a “world hero” and greeted with a standing ovation.
“Nashville, Tennessee I love it here :-)” Wilders posted on Twitter from a bar last year.
King visited Wilders’ office, Saint Denis in Paris, Rinkeby in Stockholm, and Molenbeek in Brussels.
His busy U.S. schedule — in 2015 alone, he met congressmen in April; attended a Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas in May and spoke in Silicon Valley in August — stands in contrast to his limited campaigning in the Netherlands, where security threats and controversy hamper his ability to hold public events.
Visits sometimes go the other way. King, the congressman, hosted Wilders at an event in Washington and held a joint press conference with him, but also met Wilders in the Netherlands on several occasions, he told POLITICO.
King went to Europe to investigate what he called “no-go zones” — a repeatedly debunked notion that some areas are under the control of Muslims who have forcibly excluded outsiders and imposed Sharia law. King’s description of them was also at odds with his own account of walking through the places he named: Saint Denis in Paris, Rinkeby in Stockholm, and Molenbeek in Brussels, where he was disturbed to see a street market and people in “Islamic garb”, he told POLITICO.
Ketron made a similar trip to Europe, visiting London, Brussels, Antwerp and Amsterdam to learn about “radical Islam.” According to The Tennessean, it was paid for by the head of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition — the same group that hosted Wilders in 2011. (It still sells DVDs of the event on its website, called “Geert Wilders: “A Warning to America.”)
Ketron sponsored a bill to combat “no-go zones” in Tennessee in 2015. His worldview chimes with the rhetoric in Wilders’ speeches.
“Look at Europe’s inner cities. Visit Europe and you will see that they have come to resemble Northern Africa and the Middle East. They have become areas ruled by Islamic Sharia law,” Wilders said in Los Angeles in 2013, according to a copy of his speech. “Islam is taking over European societies,” he told a Nashville audience the following year.
(Ketron responded to a request to speak to POLITICO with a one-line statement: “Geert has taken a position to stand firm on what the Netherlands has always stood for — and I respect him for that.”)
Wilders does not have up-to-date experience of walking the streets of Europe, because he has lived in a security bubble since 2004, due to threats on his life. But to several of those who heard him speak, the police protection added dramatic force to Wilders’ arguments. Wilders himself is keenly aware of this and emphasizes his police protection in his speeches. His book is called “Marked for death”.
Bonded by Breitbart
Trump and Wilders do not have identical views. While Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wilders keeps his distance from Moscow, which is widely blamed in the Netherlands for the shooting down of an airliner over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 that killed nearly 300 people, including 193 Dutch passengers.
What is clear is that Wilders’ network are hopeful the success of Trump will play out in similar victories in Europe.
However, they do share a connection through the Breitbart website. Wilders writes for and was interviewed several times by Breitbart when the site was headed by Steve Bannon, now Trump’s chief strategist in the White House.
Bannon and Wilders are also linked by Avi Davis, whom Bannon knew and praised as a “friend” to Breitbart News in a 2015 obituary. Davis was founder and president of the American Freedom Alliance and organized the 2009 dinner at which the group celebrated Wilders as a hero of conscience. Neither camp responded to questions on whether Wilders and Bannon know each other.
What is clear is that Wilders’ network is hopeful the success of Trump will play out in similar victories in Europe.
“Everyone is finally breathing freely after eight nightmarish years,” Nina Rosenwald told POLITICO in an email. She added she would be happy to support Wilders “in any way legally permissible.”
Pamela Geller said “all those who believe in the freedom of speech” would do the same. “Both the election of Trump and the soon-to-be election of Wilders are indications that free people are rising up against the elites,” she said.