Fewer, fewer

Geert Wilders has been convicted of incitement.

Geert Wilders, the far-right politician who is seen as a likely contender to become prime minister when Dutch voters go to the polls next year, was convicted on Friday of inciting discrimination and of insulting a group for saying that the Netherlands would be safer with fewer Moroccans.

The three-member judiciary panel found that Mr. Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom, had violated Dutch law with his remarks on March 19, 2014, but it elected not to convict him of inciting hatred, and it imposed no punishment, rejecting the prosecutors’ request to fine him 5,000 euros, or about $5,300.

Mr. Wilders was found to have violated laws on inciting discrimination and group offense when he led a crowd at a political rally around the time of municipal elections in The Hague in chanting “fewer, fewer” to the question, “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?”

Should that be treated as free speech and thus protected? I have serious doubts that it should…while also having serious doubts about treating it as a crime. But leading chants…I don’t see how that can be seen as anything but incitement.

“The most important thing is that he is found guilty of group insult and inciting discrimination,” said a spokesman for the public prosecution service, Frans Zonneveld. “For now, we’re very satisfied that he has been found guilty of these two charges.”

In their ruling, the judges said that Mr. Wilders’s comments at the rally had contributed to the further polarization of Dutch society by using “nationality as an ethnic designation” and that mutual respect was imperative in the “pluralistic” Netherlands.

But respect isn’t really a kind of thing that can be imperative. Mind you, it’s a shifty word – it can mean just not-insult, but it can also mean affirmative good opinion. This subject needs a word that means only not-insult – forbearance is the closest word I know of.

“He said that he was supported by millions of people and therefore was not to blame of offending a group,” Judge Steenhuis said. “It’s important to answer the question of whether he was guilty of this. That question is answered in our court system. We state that you cannot offend groups of people and discriminate against them.”

What a very Trump way to think (and of course Wilders is a big fan of Donnie from Queens). Support from millions of people doesn’t make xenophobia not xenophobia. Majority opinion is no guarantee of moral okayitude.

Peter Kanne, a pollster with I&O Research, an independent Dutch polling organization, said the most recent data, released on Nov. 25, indicated that the Party for Freedom had gained support and was currently about even with the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.

“A lot of people mentioned that they’re really getting angry that he is being accused and judged only for what he said,” Mr. Kanne said. “They think that he said something that is true, and they’re very angry that a politician cannot say that in a society where there is freedom of speech.”

Saying it is one thing; leading people in a chant of it is another. The difference makes a difference.

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