I only now have become aware (thanks to Twitter) of Hans Moll‘s book (2011) on Holland’s most presitigious paper (only in Dutch alas) and Bruce Bawer’s review of it for Frontpage in English. Here I reproduce Bawer’s with comments.
The Low Countries at their lowest:
A Dutch journalist exposes the systematic left-wing slant of his country’s most respected newspaper
Bruce Bawer, Frontpage, December 1, 2011
NRC Handelsblad is arguably the most respected newspaper in the Netherlands. Hans Moll was for many an editor there. He is not an editor there any more. In his new book, Verzwijgen als of het gedrunkt staat, of Hoe de nuance verdween: NRC Handelsblad over Israël, de Islam en het integratiedebat (How the Nuance Vanished: NRC Handelsblad on Israel, Islam, and the Integration Debate), Moll provides a very valuable document of our time: an insider look at the kind of day-to-day reportorial and editorial decision-making, in matters big and small, that leads a newspaper to convey a less than objective view of the world.
Not just “less than objective” – PoMo-PoCo’s insist that’s that’s not possible anyway – but a self-defeating view of the world, utterly disorienting for those who are the target of Jihadi Caliphaters. The important point here is the link between the way the media portray “reality” – or, in their terms, bear witness to their time – in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors, and the way the portray Islam, both in the Middle East and at home. a
In other words, disoriented about Israel’s conflict has a direct link to disorientated about Muslim (im)migrants in the democracies these journalist allegedly inform. Mistaking the players in one place, means mistaking them at home, where one can less afford being wrong about an enemy. For an excellent discussion of how the Netherlands went from a paragon of democracy to a besieged nation in the course of the aughts (’00s) read Abigail Esman Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (2010). Bruce Bawer has at least two books dealing with this issue: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within (2006) and Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (2009).
Moll’s accounts of his professional experiences do not necessarily apply only to his own former employer. Like many other “newspapers of record” across Europe and in the U.S., NRC Handelsblad leans to the left, and the stories Moll tells about his newspaper provide insight into the mentality of journalists and editors at elite dailies ranging from The New York Times to The Guardian to Le Monde.
In the wake of the media debacle of the 2016 elections, one former NYT editor, Michael Cieply, offered some thoughts on how “narrative driven” much of their coverage (not published by the NYT). In a sense the media has long been a vehicle for redemptive action, and in its role as critic, it plays a crucial role in making democracy work. But now, we have journalists as a pack, seized with a consensus that held: a) Israelis do terrible things which we cover in intense detail; and b) Muslims rarely do terrible things, which we dramatically undercover.
Moll began as a freelance editor, and then a full-time editor, for NRC’s book section. Back then, in the late 1980s, he was proud to work for NRC, which he considered the summit of Dutch journalism. The newspaper once called itself “a whetstone for the spirit “ and prided itself on its objectivity and nuance. But no more. Its coverage, especially of Islam-related issues and of the Middle East conflict, has been increasingly one-sided. It is now distinctly pro-Hamas and anti-Israel. “If you’re seeking news about the misconduct of young Moroccan men,” laments Moll, “you must read something other than the NRC Handelsblad.”
This double misrepresentation maps directly on the PoMo-PoCo’s “intersectional assault on privilege.” But it also, and I’d argue more importantly, maps directly on proleptic dhimmitude: the leaders of the Dhimmi community show their loyalty by attacking Triumphalist Muslim enemies and throttling criticism of Muslims.
In the offices of NRC’s book-review section, Moll tells us, there is a bookcase crowded with recently published titles. Most of them are books that reviewers aren’t interested in writing about, and that therefore can be taken home by anyone who wants them. After 9/11 and the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh, Moll grew increasingly interested in Islam in the West – and discovered many works on the topic in that bookcase full of discards. He found some of them “very interesting.” But why, he wondered, weren’t these books by people like Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Sam Harris, Roger Scruton, and Paul Berman not being reviewed? The answer soon became clear enough. These authors, according to his colleagues, were “neocons” – and, therefore, untouchables. When a fellow NRC reporter saw Moll with a copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book My Freedom, he clicked his heels Nazi-style and, rendering the title in German, said, “Good book, huh – Mein Freiheit!”
I asked a colleague if I could borrow her copy of Hungtington’s Clash of Civilizations, and she replied, “I would never have that book on my shelf.” Virtue-signaling: I would never take such belligerent, tribal, thinking seriously.
It is precisely this attitude that meant that a decade after an earlier group had written about the threat that triumphalist Muslims posed to Europe – Bat-Ye’or, Melanie Phillips, Bruce Bawer, Mark Steyn – their work was so marginalized that Merkel, without any clue as to what she was doing, let over a million Muslims, mostly men, into Germany in one year.
At the other end of the NRC spectrum from “neocon” Nazis like Hirsi Ali are people like John Esposito, who was interviewed for NRC by its Middle East editor, Carolien Roelants, when his book Who Speaks for Islam? came out. Roelants identified Esposito in her piece as a professor of international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University; what she omitted to mention was that he runs Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center, named for and funded by a member of the Saudi royal family. Moll notes that some might call Esposito a “’bought” professor; but Roelants appeared to be at pains to stress his supposed “neutrality.” As Moll points out, Esposito’s sanguine message about the future of Islam in the West is hard to reconcile with – among much else – 2009 survey results showing that one-third of British Muslim students consider it legitimate to kill in the name of Islam and that forty percent support sharia law in the U.K. But such information, Moll observes, has yet to be make it into in the NRC.
Again, the progressives think they’re being magnanimous, generous in the appraisal of Muslims, optimistic for a multi-cultural future even as they welcome and validate Muslims who work, “non-violently” of course, for the Caliphate. This behavior does not further progressive values of tolerance and multi-culturalism, it furthers the Caliphaters’ cogwar strategy. It is not “generous,” certainly not to the current inhabitors of a tolerant civic polity, but it is proleptic dhimmi behavior: mainstream apologists for Islam marginalize critics of Islam.
Then there’s Israel. When a new synagogue opened in Amsterdam last year, Israeli Ambassador Harry Kney-Tal gave a speech in which he mentioned Israel’s shabby treatment by the media. He had sent a letter to the NRC about an article in which Israel’s founding was recounted entirely from a Palestinian perspective. Nowhere in the article, complained Kney-Tal, was there “even the slightest reference to the fact that the newborn Israel in 1948 was dealing with a war of extermination.” NRC never ran the letter.
The narrative “frame” that NRC operated from, the Israeli-Goliath vs the Palestinian-David does not favor such details. Too many of them and people in Holland might say to themselves, “maybe the reason Hamas hates Israel is because they are free infidels (like us), and maybe what Israel does, she does to defend herself against a Jihad that also targets us. For proleptic dhimmi leaders, such thoughts are taboo.
Nor does one ever read on the front page of NRC about “Palestinian dignitaries, politicians and imams calling for the destruction of Israel.” While Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports almost daily online about anti-Semitic and anti-Israel “TV broadcasts, radio speeches, textbooks, plays, sermons and historical treatises” in the Palestinian territories – which teach “that theProtocols of the Elders of Zion are authentic,” that “Israel spreads AIDS,” that “Jews are intrinsically bad,” that “Israel has no right to exist,” that “the Holocaust was an exaggeration,” that “terrorist attacks against women and children are warranted,” and that “children may commit terrorist attacks” – such news is not fit to print on the front page of NRC.
It does not fit the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim narrative, which the Western mainstream news media (WMSNM) has also adopted. Why? From underdogma? from fear? Certainly not based on the abundant evidence they won’t pass on to their readers: too “right-wing” for their narrative.
Yet while it deep-sixes Muslim Jew-hatred, NRC eagerly declares Geert Wilders to be a hater of foreigners and attributes to Israeli parliamentarian Aryeh Eldad the view (which he has never expressed) that Muslims are not human.
In other words, a ready supplier of accusations against critics of Islam and quick denier of accusations against Muslims. The imbalance – shriek about Israeli or “right-wing” European violations of progressive principles, fall silent on Muslim violations – closely follows the proleptic dhimmi pattern whose standing motto is “don’t piss them off.”
Nor does NRC say anything “about the background of the Israeli blockade [of Gaza]” – namely, that it was necessitated by attacks on Israeli targets by Hamas, a group committed to the destruction of the Jewish state. When NRC refers to Israeli figures, moreover, its way of identifying them almost invariably gives away the paper’s slant. In 2009 Moll read in NRC about an Israeli writer who, as he discovered through a quick Wikipedia search, described himself as “left-wing”; but NRC described him simply as “the writer Yossi Melman.” By contrast, when the same reporter, in the same column, mentioned Caroline Glick, he called her – absurdly, in both Moll’s view and mine – “the ultra-conservative columnist for the Jerusalem Post.”
This use of “right-left” terminology is a major dimension of the way that the proleptic dhimmi information professionals have side-lined the critics of Islam and Muslims and mainstreamed their defenders. So Bibi is hard-right, while the far more violently authoritarian Abbas is moderate; the Jerusalem Post is right-wing while Ha-Aretz is “left of center.”
In NRC one can see Hamas and Hezbollah described not as terrorist groups but as “movements”; a 2009 NRC review of two books about Hamas contains no reference whatsoever to its anti-Semitism. And what of the notorious case of Mohammed al-Dura, in which France 2’s report on a Palestinian boy’s murder by the IDF was later shown by journalist Philippe Karsenty to be a hoax? NRC chose to ignore the evidence and stand by France 2’s story.
That last case mentioned (but actually at the font of this wave of lethal, own-goal journalism), represents the most tragic failure of the WMSNM to filter out Palestinian war-propaganda, and instead, newswash it. They ended globalizing a nasty and dishonest piece of propaganda – an icon of hatred – which played a key role in the Jihadi awakening among Muslims the world over – and especially in the West.
Moll also writes about the now-infamous commentary, published in NRC on May 6, 2002, in which editor-in-chief Folkert Jensma viciously misrepresented Pim Fortuyn, then the leading candidate for prime minister of the Netherlands, as a racist, xenophobic threat to the Netherlands’ open society. That very day, Fortuyn was murdered in cold blood. Jensma did not learn his lesson. On October 2, 2010, he warned against “strong speakers” who preach discrimination. He mentioned no names, but he was clearly referring to Wilders.
It might be worth noting that this particular clash occurs in the wake of the most astonishing wave of lethal journalism in the Middle East, the pack-journalist reporting of the “Jenin Massacre.” Notice how, without hesitation, journalists and editors will attack fellow Westerners, with no concern for the anger they might thereby incite against them, all in the cause of not inciting hatred of Muslims.
For Moll, the current philosophy of NRC is summed up in a single in statement by Jensma: “It is the pride of the Netherlands that we believe one culture is not superior over the other.” On the contrary, insists Moll, it is the pride of the Netherlands that it possesses a “humanistic culture” that is indeed “better than those found in patriarchal, Islamic cultures where violence against women, Jews, and apostates is glorified.”
The great paradox: we are the best multi-culturalists, so we must take in Muslims indiscriminately, even though they wish to destroy our tolerant, multiculturalism. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once noted, “the constitution (or democracy) is not a suicide pact.” The only explanation for such remarkably self-destructive behavior is a combination of narcissistic virtue signaling – “look at me, I’m sooooo good!” and dhimmi behavior – even if it means commiting suicide, I’ll do nothing to upset Muslims.
One story in this book is especially unsettling. Less than an hour after the slaughter of Theo van Gogh, Moll, was standing at the crime scene surrounded by horrified passersby. Next to him, a teenage girl of Mediterranean origin said with a laugh that van Gogh should not have insulted God. Moll decided not to quote her waords in the article he wrote that day – perhaps, after all, she was just an isolated fool whose insensitive remark was not representative of anything. Yet within twenty-four hours after the murder it was clear that Bouyeri enjoyed widespread support among Dutch Muslims. Moll was reminded of 9/11, after which Dutch Muslims also celebrated in the streets. But “only a small proportion of these reactions make it into the newspaper….Nobody dares to suggest that there is broad support for such views.”
Similar behavior from French journalists who did not – to a man and woman – report from the demonstration against Israel for killing al Durah, that, for the first time since the Nazis, the cry of “death to Jews” was heard in a European capital.
Such, more or less, is the editorial culture not only at NRC but also at many an elite left-leaning newspaper in the Western world today. This is why Hans Moll’s book is so important. If only some conscientious soul would quit the Times or the Guardian and give us an earful between hard covers, just as Moll has done!
As noted above, Michael Cieply wrote a brief piece in Deadline Hollywood about his experience working as an editor for the NYT, and discussed the remarkable degree to which the Gray Lady was “narrative-driven.” Among those hegemonic narratives to which both evidence and testimony must conform in order to become fit-to-print, is the tale of the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian David. For that, the best revealing memoir on serving in the WMSNM is Matti Friedman’s trilogy that came out after yet another lethal journalism orgy in the Summer of 2014:
A Former AP Correspondent Explains How and Why His Colleagues Get Israel So Wrong Tablet Magazine, August 26, 2014
What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel, The Atlantic, November 30, 2014.
The ideological roots of media bias against Israel, Fathom Magazine, Winter 2015 (in which he coins the expression “cult of the occupation”).
Memoirs by defectors from these institutions, if properly attended to, could go a long way toward demystifying the aura of authority and objectivity that, alas, so many of them still enjoy in so many quarters – and might actually immunize many otherwise intelligent and sensible people to their insidious propaganda.
Amen to that.