Tumult pays off in politics. You don’t have to tell the populists in the House of Representatives that. Provocations in the form of innuendo and insults – apparently improvised, but well prepared – are the order of the day. Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet were able to score again at the start of the General Political Reflections.
Wilders experiences being on that first day finest hour of the political year. This is what he does it for. In front of a large audience, at home and in a packed House of Representatives, he can serve out his latest, insulting word finds while being childishly cheered by his adjutants from their benches.
At the time, he devised ‘Company poodle’ for Job Cohen (PvdA). Jan Paternotte (D66) gave Wilders a verbal taste of his own medicine by calling him “Putin’s company poodle”. This touched a sensitive nerve, because Wilders does not like to be reminded of his sympathy for Putin. He now even took a step that was unique to him: when asked, he reluctantly admitted that he had misjudged the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea.
Wilders had coined a new word for another D66 member, Rob Jetten: “Climate psychopath.” He must have pondered this for a long time. Wasn’t ‘climate potentate’ more suitable? After all, you made it clear that it was about a powerful person. “Our voters don’t know that word,” Dion Graus, his favorite follower, will have argued. Then it became “climate psychopath,” that also rhymed and it was possibly even more insulting.
Looking for a new insult, Baudet came across the insinuation that Minister Kaag had been recruited by a secret service during her British studies. As usual, he needed an inimitable sentence, which once again included his famed “globalist elites.” He made a rushed, agitated impression, you would almost think that not his wife, but he himself had to give birth.
Wasn’t it too much (dis)honor for him when the entire cabinet walked away? Didn’t that put him in the victim role of the dissident rebellious spirit that is being deprived of the floor? Of course he later denied that he had meant that Kaag was (was?) a spy: „I am not saying that. It’s just nice to know where she studied.” And of course Baudet was supported in this by Wilders: “He did not say that she was a spy.” Hypocrisy is also part of the populist’s profession.
In this way Wilders and Baudet got what they wanted again: fuss and noise. You see the Chamber struggling with that phenomenon. Most parties were silent while Wilders continued chatting, but Paternotte, Segers, Azarkan and Hermans again doubled his speaking time with their heckling. A dead quiet, uninterested listening room, from which someone regularly leaves for the toilet, would be a less inspiring backdrop for Wilders. It would also force him to be shorter in fabric.
Humor and phlegm can also be adequate weapons in the fight against populist malice. During Baudet’s insinuations, Kaag left with sails raised, prompted by understandable indignation, but perhaps, pointing to herself, she should have called out to him: “Here she is, Mata Hari!”
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of September 23, 2022