These days in Europe, when you meet a stranger and let slip that you're an American, you know beyond any doubt what the next question is going to be.
“Who did you vote for in the presidential election?” he asked. It was the other day, and I was in Amsterdam, and I had just sat down next to him at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic.
“Donald John Trump,” I said amiably.
“I'm impressed,” he said.
“When I ask other Americans that question, they get emotional. They act like I've attacked them. You're the first who didn't react like that.”
We were in a gay bar. “So are you talking about gay guys that you meet here?”
“And they voted for Trump?”
“Some of them. Not all. The Hillary voters are proud. The Trump voters....”
“Well, that's understandable,” I said. “They're used to being told that they voted for the incarnation of evil. I find it interesting that so many gay guys you meet did vote for Trump.”
“But of course he is bad for gays.”
I looked at him. His look and manner were strikingly reminiscent of Freddie Miles, the shifty, obnoxious character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Talented Mr. Ripley. I proceeded to defend Trump on gays. (“He made a guy guy his ambassador to Germany. He's the first president who was for gay marriage long before he was elected.” Etc.) He shot back with a series of other charges about Trump, all obviously based on nonsense he'd picked up from the Dutch media. I felt as if I was being grilled by one of those unusually aggressive interviewers on BBC's Hardtalk. But I played along, setting him right point by point and doing so without being combative about it.
I've spent enough time in the Netherlands to be familiar with this type – the guy who enjoys trying to whip up political arguments in bars. Of course, such people don't exist only in the Netherlands, but the type does flourish here to an unusual degree. Decades ago, when I was new to the country, I managed to fall into these people's traps and end up in ridiculous shouting matches about socialism, the “real reason” why the U.S. entered World War II, and so on.
This time, I was determined not to argue, but rather to discuss the subject in a firm but pleasant manner.
This plainly irked Freddie Miles. He was especially irked whenever I laughed.
Finally there was a pause. We sipped our drinks. “Okay, my turn,” I said. “What do you think of Geert Wilders?”
He didn't like him. “But don't you think,” I asked, “that Islam is a problem in the Netherlands?”
“Yes, it is,” he admitted, rather to my surprise. But Geert wasn't his guy. He preferred another politician.
Which one? He told me: Thierry Baudet.
The name was unfamiliar to me. I asked him to write it down.
When I returned to my hotel, I looked Baudet up. He's thirty-five, and, as his name suggests, his background is French. His politics were shaped largely by 9/11 and the murder of Pim Fortuyn, both of which took place during his first undergraduate year at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He holds degrees in history, law, and philosophy and has written several books about the history of conservatism, the importance of nation-states, and, not least, “oikophobia” – the fear of, or hostility to, the familiar.
Oikophobia: it's a phenomenon that Baudet quite rightly identifies with the mainstream politics of our era. It's oikophobia that led Democratic politicians and G-Men to call Trump voters “deplorables” and “retards” even as they rushed to speak of MS-13 gangsters' “spark of divinity” and to condemn Trump's proposed temporary travel ban as racist. It's oikophobia that causes European governments to cut back on health care for natives while expanding welfare benefits for foreigners, to remove retirees from their homes in order to free up housing for newcomers, and to welcome armies of scoundrels into their countries knowing that at least some of them will kill, maim, or rape.
Baudet opposes the EU. He's against multiculturalism. He has opinions on art: he dislikes atonal music, post-1950 architecture, and most twentieth-century painting. Sounds good to me. Why do his views on these aesthetic issues matter? Because the wrong turns taken by contemporary composers, architects, and painters represent a deliberate rejection of Western civilization and an aggressive embrace of anarchy and ugliness.
Baudet also scorns the Dutch tradition of “consensus” politics. Taking a cue from Fortuyn and Wilders, he founded his own party, the Forum for Democracy, in September 2016. In March of last year, his party won two seats in the Dutch lower house.
But the first thing that jumped out of his Wikipedia page, when I looked at it, was somebody else's name: that of Yernaz Ramautarsing, whom I profiled here four years ago. At that time, thanks to a series of public debates, TV interviews, and newspaper articles, Yernaz, a Suriname-born UvA student who admires the U.S. (as well as its current president) and disdains Islam, had begun to acquire a national reputation as a rebel against the left-wing orthodoxies of Dutch higher education. Apparently, while I'd been busy catching up on developments in other European countries (and, I guess, paying too much notice to Donald Trump), Yernaz had been named #2 on Baudet's 2018 municipal elections list – only to drop out three months ago because of two statements made by him, one in a year-old interview, the other on a conversation at the “WhatsApp” social media site, that the Dutch media had blown up into controversies.
How had I missed all this? Well, the fact is that things have shifted. Radically. A few years ago, when it came to Islam in Europe, the Netherlands felt like the center of the action: Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But in the last couple of years, major acts of terror have taken place in pretty much every Western European country except the Netherlands. Yes, slow and steady Islamization has proceeded apace – but the big drama has been elsewhere. In the Netherlands, the news has been the attempt of establishment politicians to sound like Wilders: in January of last year, for instance, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told newcomers who won't adapt to Dutch values – who harass gays, or won't shake women's hands – to buzz off. The last few times I've visited Amsterdam, it's felt safer to me than Oslo (which doesn't mean that Amsterdam is getting better, but that Oslo is getting worse faster). I've paid close attention to Geert Wilders, but that's not the same as paying close attention to the Netherlands.
But back to Yernaz and his controversies. His first statement was that gay rights have made society dumber – his logic being that gays, as a group, have a higher than average I.Q., and that it's better for society's aggregate I.Q. (if not necessary for gays themselves) if they marry members of the opposite sex and pass on their genes instead of pairing off with one another and not reproducing. This observation got Yernaz labeled a homophobe. Yet it seems to me – gay though I am – that he was clearly right. In fact, I'd add that by not reproducing, gays are, in the long run, steadily removing genes for homosexuality from the population and hence rendering themselves extinct.
Yernaz's second statement was related to the first: he echoed Charles Murray's claim that some groups, such as Jews and Asians, have higher median I.Q.s than others. Yernaz was quick to lament that his own ethnic group is, in this regard, not one of the lucky ones. But that admission wasn't enough to keep this dark-skinned son of Suriname from being branded a racist.
And so he dropped out of the elections.
Well, I thought, it's time to see Yernaz. The next evening I was downing beers with him at a bar in east Amsterdam.
For all the nonsense he's been put through, Yernaz was every bit as congenial and down-to-earth as I remembered him being four years ago. Yes, he's been banged around by the media (as have virtually all of us in this field), but he ain't down yet. Needless to say, despite the smears, there's nothing whatsoever of the bigot about him. He's a libertarian, a fan of America and Israel who's delighted by the Trump presidency. “I actually predicted he would win!” he said to me with a grin. He has no desire to trash Wilders, but he made it clear that he prefers Baudet, largely because of the latter's more conservative economic policies.
Yernaz told me about another anti-Islam Dutchman: gay conservative Lennart van Mil. It's long been known that Moroccan immigrants and their offspring are grotesquely overrepresented as perpetrators of gay-bashings in the Netherlands, but as far as the PC gay establishment is concerned, it's hate speech to say so. Van Mil says so. Last year, when he led a gay conservative – “Gayservative” – contingent in Rotterdam's gay pride march, he was savaged for this by the gay establishment as well as by local Labor Party leader Co Engberts, who cheered on the violent Antifa-like thugs who tried to shut down van Mil's group.
As for Baudet's Forum for Democracy, “it has a bigger following on YouTube and Facebook than any other Dutch party,” Yernaz told me. Like Trump, Baudet's party is “stronger in the provinces than in the cities.” In last year's elections, it came out on top “in some of the coastal towns – Volendam, Urk, Katwijk.” It also did well in such medium-sized burgs as Leiden and Dordrecht.
That's quite a contrast to the situation in the larger cities, at least two of which, Yernaz noted, already have Muslim mayors. I knew about Rotterdam's Ahmed Aboutaleb, that prince of a fellow who, a few months ago, actually said that “every Muslim is a bit of a salafist.” But, as Yernaz informed me, “now Arnhem has one too. Ahmed Marcouch.”
Marcouch became mayor of Arnhem last September. This is a guy who, I later discovered, applied in 2005 for €150,000 in taxpayer cash to subsidize a public event featuring “theologian” Yusuf al-Qaradawi – that notorious supporter of Hezbollah and suicide bombings, defender of the Holocaust, and gung-ho enthusiast for the death penalty for apostasy.
Both Ahmeds, by the way, are dual Dutch-Moroccan citizens. “You know,” Yernaz pointed out, “the people who live in the cities don't get to vote for their mayor.”
“And the mayors aren't even from the cities they run! Both of these guys are from Amsterdam.”
As it turned out, that was right, too – the Muslim mayors of Rotterdam and Arnhem, as I later read, have actually been imposed on those cities' inhabitants by their respective City Councils. Instead of picking locals who love the cities and are familiar with their histories, needs, and problems, the City Councils tapped dicey Muslims from Amsterdam.
That's how it works now in the Netherlands. Well, hey – if you don't get to vote for the heads of the European Union, why should you get to elect your own mayor?
Yernaz is a huge soccer fan: he taped the World Cup's Brazil vs. Switzerland match so he could meet me for drinks. Underscoring the fact that it's not only America that has bubbleheaded showbiz lefties, he explained that in the run-up to the World Cup, a raft of Dutch celebrities appeared in YouTube videos proclaiming their support for Morocco's World Cup team – Morocco being one of the two countries (along with Turkey) that have supplied the Netherlands with most of its Muslims.
(I later found a couple of the videos online. Surprise! They oozed dhimmitude.)
Anyway: yes, on the one hand, Islamization – and the cowardly appeasement thereof – haven't ceased to be a challenge in the Netherlands. Far from it. On the other hand, when it comes to standing up to Islam, Geert Wilders is no longer the only show in town. Thierry Baudet is obviously a young man worth watching. Ditto Lennart van Mil. And so, of course, is Yernaz Ramautarsing, who at thirty years old is at the beginning of what may well turn out to be a major political career.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but there's no reason to see these guys as rivals. Well, OK, yes, to a degree. But the fact that other Dutch politicians are joining Wilders's struggle is a good thing, not a bad one. Let's face it: the Netherlands's Islam problem is a weight too massive even for the broadest pair of shoulders to take on. Given that this beautiful little country has its fair share of enemies within, it only makes sense that it can use all the strident, gutsy patriots it can muster.