index
A debate about journalism in Amsterdam

by Marthijn Uittenbogaard


Last Thursday evening I attended a debate about the media. The debate was organized by Follow the Money (FTM). This organization - which started in 2010 - is formed by a group of very critical journalists (as they say themselves). Good independent journalism is very important in a democracy, they write on their website.

The debate took place in Amsterdam in a building located in the Vondelpark. The Vondelpark is a famous park in the center of Amsterdam. I and my partner came from east of The Netherlands. (We were a bit too late because the nearby parking garage was full and we had to find another parking spot in Amsterdam central: this is hell.) In our part of the country there are not many debates organized: it's always happening in the West of The Netherlands. So most of the public is from the West too. A lot of them from Amsterdam and I think from the upper class (follow the money; follow them maybe?). Is the mass media too close with the people holding power? That was the topic of today's debate. Of course they are I would say. Eric Smit from FTM was leading the debate. The people on the stage were Roxane van Iperen (writer, jurist), Pieter Klok (from newspaper De Volkskrant), Jeroen Smit (journalist) and Ewald Engelen (a famous and critical columnist writing in De Groene Amsterdammer, an independent magazine since 1877). A meeting without public would maybe be more logical with such a selection of people.

What did I learn that evening? Well, all Volkskrant journalists are against Zwarte Piet (blackface discussion). All Volkskrant journalists are in favor of free trade deals like TTIP and so on. I wonder if this is correct but Pieter Klok said so. If it's true then the Volkskrant is almost Stalinictic in their views. Everyone thinks the same, how is that possible? Many journalists did not think the election of Donald Trump would be possible. They blindly trusted the polls. The polls where Trump was only three percent or so behind Hillary Clinton! Knowing that there is usually an underscore in polling candidates that are very unpopular by most mass media. I thought it would be fifty fifty. But many journalists thought Hillary would win 'easily'. Well not easily but with a margin of two or three percent... If she would have won, then journalists would not write much about the angry people as if a difference of a few percent differ so much in what people think. I hate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. I also hate the Republican Party. Both are for decades now run by fascists. Multinationals pay and rule them. And scapegoats are needed in such a climate. Donald Trump is a lier, a fool, and he brings very scary Evangelicals to power, but who knows. An end of the road to fascism, which the Western World is walking for decades now, is maybe nearby. Or not and it will become even worse. If I was an American I would not vote for both Trump or Clinton.

But back to the debate. I also learned that the journalists writing about our politicians meet them three times a day. And that they are more friends or sort of colleagues than that they write critically about them. Newspaper NRC, before every national election held a special meeting intern. The journalists discussed which political party they would support and which not and what strategy they would come up with. I read this some years ago is a book about Pim Fortuyn, the politician who was murdered in 2002. NRC is not a journalistic medium, it's propaganda. The largest newspaper in The Netherlands is The Telegraaf. Like most newspapers they are losing many readers every year, due to the internet. The Telegraaf is also not a journalistic medium. They choose the side of the majority of the (angry) people and they feed their fears and anger. They do so by misleading the readers. By scapegoating people and opinions and by simply writing lies. Unkind and lying people feel at home here.

In the 1950's news media publicized very negatively about homosexuals. They came forward with 'experts' that said that you became a homosexual because of an absent father or a neurotic mother. All lies, not based on scientific research. They did usually not talk with homosexuals. No, those people were criminals, or they were sick people. In 2016 the mass media are doing the same with pedophiles. If they would have written the truth in 1950 about homosexuality then many people would have stopped buying the newspapers. Many advertisers would have stopped advertising in these newspapers. That's how journalism worked and still works today. It's Goebbels everywhere. In the 1950's famous artist Jules de Corte (pianist and singer) would perform at a gay meeting. His boss (KRO: catholic radio and television broadcasting company) found out and threatened him with losing his job if he did not withdraw. Author and journalist Anton Dautzenberg sympathized with the Martijn association and lost his job. This was not in the 1950's but in the 2010's. Exclusion. Isolation.

Ewald Engelen suggested that we need local newspapers because they are all disappearing or have disappeared in many cities already. He suggested that the state should finance this for one third. And one third by advertising money, and one third by the readers. I hope I write it down correctly. Jeroen Smit was also in favor of this plan. Or it was the other way around: it is his plan and Ewald Engelen agreed. Who is in favor of this plan they asked the public? Only a few people raised their arms. I heard someone in the audience say: state indoctrination. There was not a question asked: who is against this idea. So I could not raise my arm.

Half of the journalism in our country is financed by the state already. That's what I heard from one of the speakers. I suggest that if you really want to be a good journalist then write in your free time, alone or with a group of people, and start your own website. If Follow the Money is such a site I don't know. But journalism financed by the state or living from advertisers or the public who's buying, watching or listening to it, mostly is bad journalism. Ask old gay people what they read as 'truth' back then. Back then, when journalists also had debates and thought they were serving the truth...


28 November 2016