Why RTL and Jinek should not apologize for Koning vs Baudet

On Thursday, Baudet walked away wronged from a TV program for the umpteenth time. Comedian Martijn Koning addressed Baudet at Jinek in a way that emphasized his racism and anti-Semitism. King Baudet’s partner was also involved in this. That was a “cowardly consumption” said Han van der Horst on Joop. And Van der Horst was clearly not the only one to think so. After the broadcast, there was a lot of commotion on social media about the incident. RTL responded with apologies. Koning in turn responded with a message in which he indicated that he wanted to be completely free in his work as a comedian. The effect of this whole? The focus now is mainly on how indecent King would have been and not Baudet’s indecent positions. It raises the question for me how we view rudeness in the Netherlands. Let’s get Baudet, who says much more awful things, get away with it again?

King played it hard and on the man. He explicitly referred to Baudet’s racism. Referring to statements that Baudet actually made. For example about his wish for a ‘dominant white Europe’and about his fear of it ‘the homeopathic thinning of the people’.

In a major TV program, not only was it implied for a change that there could be something wrong with the ideas of some individuals at FvD, the problem of the ideas of the leader of the party was directly mentioned. That’s good to see, because racism doesn’t fit into it self image of our country. Because of this, it is too often dismissed as something that mainly occurs in the US or at that hard Nazis instead of a multifaceted and common problem. It is therefore brave of Koning to mention racist ideas explicitly at one of his major disseminators – regardless of what you think about the way in which it happens.

Because, admittedly, the way in which Koning did this – in the presence of the person concerned by including his personal life in the criticism – can be seen as rude. This raises questions. To what extent is this (un) justified? And does such rudeness fit in our country? To answer these questions, it is useful to distinguish between two types of coarseness.

There’s the rudeness wielded by the comedians. I grew up in a country where Youp van ‘t Hek was the most popular comedian. He has long been known for his coarseness. He is not always thanked for that. But his coarseness is especially widely appreciated because he dares to topple sacred houses with it and because he has the guts to challenge the power. This makes his posture something to celebrate. This coarse attitude still suits us, as evidenced by the fact that he was allowed to do the New Year’s Eve conference last year.

However, we also live in the country where coarseness takes other forms. Right-wing extremist politicians such as Baudet and Wilders can without consequences frequent anti-constitutional nonsense, such as fake news and hate, to spread. These are crudities in which entire population groups are put away in boxes and thus set against each other. According to these extreme right-wing delusions even contribute to the risk of extreme right-wing terror.

The difference with the coarseness of comedians seems clear to me. The comedian explores the boundaries of the decent in order to challenge power, while the extreme right pushes the boundaries of the decent and then transcends them. The coarseness of the comedian should therefore at all times precede the freedom of extreme right-wing people to get away with their rudeness.

This sheds a different light on the situation at Jinek. I do understand where the criticism of Van der Horst and his associates on King’s performance comes from. At the same time, I understand Koning’s motives much better. He wanted to Tackle a politician who says horrible things and gets away with it. Rightly so.

We must not deal with fascist ideas with the velvet glove. If we do, we give it too much space. That RTL has apologized for King’s performance is therefore genuinely inappropriate. The TV channel thus justifies the commotion created by Baudet’s supporters and thus supports those supporters in the delusion that King’s criticism is misplaced. To the extent that cancel culture exists, this is an example of it.

It is time for us to think more carefully about which coarseness we find acceptable in the Netherlands and which we do not. The most important conclusion that we must draw is that there is no place for extreme right-wing ideology.

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