Jesse Klaver Jesse Klaver, leader of the Green Left. Photo: Wikimedia

The election in the Netherlands didn‘t bear out the media‘s prediction of a right-wing surge, writes Alastair Stephens

The media’s interest in Dutch politics, never great, is about to evaporate like a puddle on a sunny day.

Of course the media was not really that interested in its politics to begin with, merely in its illustrative value and its aid in perpetuating a narrative of growing racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.

Nothing illustrates better how a media which portrays itself as representing and reflecting popular opinion is in fact trying to shape it. More to the point, it illustrates the degree to which it is projecting onto people a narrative which is in fact cooked up by, and of benefit to the powers that be.

Wilders‘ Freedom Party

But first, let‘s look at the Dutch election.

The media in this country in the run-up to polling day had commented more on this Dutch election than any previous one, and for the most part it was just commentary: there seemed to be little actual analysis or reporting, the details of European countries‘ actual politics long considered to be of no interest to Britons.

Why so much interest in an election in a perennially stable nation of just 15 million people?

The headlines told you. Dutch and European politics was about to be upset by the electoral breakthrough of Gert Wilders‘ far right Freedom Party.

This would just be proof of a swing towards the right, and towards xenophobia, by voters across the the Western world, a swing already apparently seen in the vote for Brexit and Trumps’s victory in the United States.

The fact that Wilders‘ party has been around for a decade and a half and that this was the third election he had fought was quietly ignored.

Success for the far left

Despite the hoopla the breakthrough didn’t happen.

The pundits had predicted that his party might come first, beating the party of the current prime minister’s centre right VVD party into second place.

In fact, the Freedom Party took second place, winning an extra five seats and taking their tally to 20 seats in the 150 seat lower house, some 13 seats behind the VVD, which lost nine.

This put Wilders’ party only one seat ahead of the Christian Democrats and liberal D66 party, both of whom lost 9 seats.

The real stories of the night were on the left.

The Dutch Labour Party, the PvdA, until the election the junior partner in a coalition government with the centre right, saw its vote collapse. Its voters defected in droves, reducing its number of seats from 38 to 9. Its the sort of defeat previously suffered by Irish and Greek social democratic parties.

The PvdA is, or was, a rather more significant and long standing institution in Dutch society than either of those other two unfortunates.

The big victor of the night was the Green Left, formed out of a merger of various left parties in 1989. Under its charismatic 30-year-old leader Jesse Klaver it jumped from four to fourteen seats. Hailed as the the “Jessiah” by some, the son of a Moroccan father and a mother of Indonesian descent (Indonesia, it might be remembered, was a Dutch colony),he represents the antithesis to the white, ethnically pure Netherlands that Geert Wilders would want.

The Green left will be level pegging with the radical-left Socialist Party (with its origins in Maoism), which also won 14 seats. Together the two left parties will have a fifth of seats in parliament, rather more than the Wilders’ and almost as many the VVD.

Clearly he outcome does not follow the media narrative. The centre right vote held up, the far right, already an established presence, failed to break through, whilst on the left the social democrats vote collapsed to the benefit of the radical left.

Establishment narratives

If there had been a far right victory you could guarantee that the media would be full of it. The country would be crawling with foreign reporters asking far right voters why they had voted for Wilders and would broadcast the expected answers.

I doubt that they are now out asking Green/Left voters that question. No, the media bandwagon is moving onto France.

And there is another story, the story of how the establishment and the media work together to shape events to fit their narrative.

So much of the news media constantly talk about immigration and its supposed effects, and much of it nonsense. Being constantly told that immigration is the most important issue facing the country, they will say that immigration is the most important issue the country is facing when asked, even if they themselves will vote on other issues. The media reports, however, that concern about immigration is ever rising… and so the circle is complete.

Likewise, the establishment has wanted to depict anger at the current established order as anger at migration, the ‘growing’ influence of Islam or multiculturalism and a general shift to the right in popular attitudes.

So Trump gets fewer votes than Clinton on a low turn out, and this is interpreted as America shifting to the right.

Millions of mostly working class Britons vote for Brexit, for a wide variety of reasons. Yet this is reported as being solely about immigration.

Politicians then use this to justify ever more right wing and bigoted rhetoric and policies. Is it not their role to represent the views of the people? Or is it the media’s portrayal of people they are reflecting, a media whose coverage is biased towards a narrative created by politicians in the first place.

Whilst we fight against the rising manifestation of racism increasingly coming from the state, the media, the political classes and the powers that be in general, we must recognise it as being an attempt to create such bigotry, not a response to it. The media narrative spun out from such fear of migration is only set to increase, probably rising to a crescendo as France goes to the polls later this spring. We must resist their narrative.

Alastair Stephens

Alastair Stephens has been a socialist his whole adult life and has been active in Unison and the TGWU. He studied Russian at Portsmouth, Middle East Politics at SOAS and writes regularly for the Counterfire website.

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