Today in Amsterdam, a far-right Dutch politician named Geert Wilders was acquitted on charges of hate speech following a lengthy trial examining his statements comparing the Koran and Mein Kampf and calls to end Muslim immigration. For the most part, Wilders is an obscure figure in the U.S. (despite brief exposure joining Newt Gingrich to protest the so-called Ground Zero Mosque), but in the dark corners of the right-wing blogosphere, the man is an absolute hero.
"Victory!" shouted the right-wing blog Weasel Zippers, as news of the acquittal came streaming in. "They must have known how history would view them if Wilders had been found guilty: as troglodytes who ushered in the return of the Dark Ages," wrote anti-Islam firebrand Pamela Geller at Big Government. "Hallelujah!" cheered Zilla of the Resistance. The Jihad Watch blog called it a "great victory for decency and sanity." Over at The American Thinker, Rick Moran noted that Muslim groups were outraged, taking the issue to United Nations Human Rights Committee where "no doubt they will get a sympathetic hearing." Over at the National Review, Mark Steyn gave a somewhat more nuanced reaction to the ruling but applauded Wilders regardless. "Very few Europeans would have had the stomach to go through what Wilders did--and the British Government's refusal to permit a Dutch Member of Parliament to land at Heathrow testifies to how easily the craven squishes of the broader political culture fall into line."
Opposing the prosecution of Wilders isn't an unusual American position, where free speech is more tightly protected than in parts of Europe. But the transparent championing of the man, whose screeds on banning the Koran and insistence that "a moderate Islam does not exist," is a little more interesting, particularly when compared with the reaction on the other end of the political spectrum.
Following the verdict, the lefty blogosphere largely ignored the whole issue, save for Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs who provided some pushback to Wilders's more gleeful supporters:
As I’ve said from the beginning of Wilders’ trial, it’s wrong to prosecute anyone for free expression, no matter how hateful and deranged that expression is.
But it’s sadly ironic that Wilders was acquitted of exactly the same kind of persecution he wants to impose on all Muslims; he often calls for the Koran to be banned, advocates that Islam should not be considered a religion at all, and explicitly advocates that Muslims be stripped of the rights of free speech and free religion.
This is the correct judgment by the Netherlands court, but Geert Wilders is no hero of free speech — he’s a slimy hate-monger, just like the American bloggers who worship him.