Are we living in a “post-PC” world? For years Political Correctness has been blamed on stifling freedom of speech and preventing people from saying what they’re really thinking. However, with the political ascendancy of Donald Trump in the US (not to mention the success of populist, anti-immigrant politicians across Europe), is it really accurate to say people can’t speak plainly? If anything, today’s politicians seem to be competing to be as offensive as possible.

In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we have launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis is on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.

Today, we are looking at Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The Dutch have their own blond-coiffured, un-PC politician in the form of Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV). However, his brand of politics has never had much traction in the Dutch capital. Amsterdam, like many European capitals, has long been a stronghold for left-wing political parties. It is sometimes referred to jokingly as the “Republic of Amsterdam” due to it bucking the national trend of right-wing populism, and the far-right Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) has never bothered fielding candidates there.

Amsterdam is a diverse, vibrant global city. Like all big cities, it faces enormous challenges in terms of overcrowding, congestion, crime, affordable housing, access to schooling and childcare, and so on. However, some people do not like the city Amsterdam has become and feel like they cannot voice their discontent openly without being branded a racist. What is the best way to respond to this charge?

Curious to know more about free speech, political correctness and the debate over refugees? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Bernard, who thinks that anybody worried about refugees arriving in Europe is being labelled a “racist” by the media.

To get a response, we put Bernard’s comment to a Dutch journalist, Stéphane Alonso, who is the Foreign Affairs Editor for the popular newspaper NRC Handelsblad. What would he say to Bernard?

No, I don’t think so. Worries about refugees and more specifically about uncontrolled, chaotic migration towards Europe like in 2015 are treated very seriously in general. A lot of politicians, from all political colours, show a lot of understanding for the worries of citizens about certain trends and developments. In the Netherlands, a small and densely populated country, politicians ordered research on demographic trends for the coming decades, to see what policy and social implications these trends will have. So, there is a strong desire to take worries seriously and not simply label them as ‘racist’. At the same time the public debate about refugees and migration can quickly turn ugly and, yes, whenever this happens racism is never far away. There is a tendency, in some countries more than in others, to dehumanise refugees, which in my opinion is always worrying.

Next up, we had a comment sent in from a US reader (and Trump supporter) called Cheryl. She says that by the end of Barrack Obama’s presidency, she was genuinely worried about expressing her views in public. Then came the 2016 Election, and the rise of a candidate she saw as a brash, “totally un-PC guy” that she could tell “truly loves his country”. Unexpectedly, Trump won the election, and when she sees the media criticise him and his supporters because of their views and actions, she just likes him more.

To get a reaction, we put Cheryl’s comment to Casper Van der Heijden, Founding Director of the Sharing Perspectives Foundation, a Dutch NGO that works to “initiate, stimulate and facilitate international and intercultural dialogue and collaboration”. What would he say to Cheryl?

I’m not sure if her freedom of speech was under threat or whether that was her emotion. It seems that she really didn’t feel able to put her thoughts and opinions out when Obama was the President. She didn’t feel represented, probably. She didn’t feel part of the political establishment and felt left out because her opinions were different than, maybe, the progressive left or Obama. Now when somebody rises to power – Trump – that is less politically correct, there she really feels heard, feels represented and is part of that political system again. So I can imagine that, if then, people criticise Trump for not being politically correct, she recognises what she felt in the time of Obama. I think, in that sense, looking at that specifically, the fact Trump now creates representation at the political level for those who didn’t feel represented is very positive. It’s hard to judge Trump; it’s early in his presidency. I think we need to value somebody on more than just their words, but also their actions. We have to wait and see what comes out of it.

I think it’s hard to compare it to the Netherlands, in a way, because the political system in the Netherlands is so different, with a multiparty system and multiple parties that need to govern. What I do see is that in the early 2000s, we had a shift in the Netherlands away from politically correct debate. First with Pim Fortuyn rising in the polls. He was about to win the elections and then got killed by an extreme leftist. After that, we saw the rise of Geert Wilders, known to a lot of people, who is also very ‘politically incorrect,’ if you wish. He has a steady 10-to-15% of the Parliament vote over the past 10-15 years. It’s clear that he represents a certain part of the electorate that doesn’t feel represented. In his first election, I believe a large part of his voters were people that never voted before. So there is that element of represent that I think is fair. If we all try to continue to have these polished, politically correct debates, we’re excluding people we shouldn’t be excluding.

How would Dutch journalist Stephane Alonso respond to Cheryl’s comment?

Everybody has the right to express his or her views in public and the fact that Cheryl is worried about this is of course not a good thing. But freedom of expression to me is not the same as being politically incorrect. I would even argue that a certain amount of political correctness is necessary as it can serve as a vital lubricant in socially and culturally complex modern societies. It can actually help the freedom of expression and make sure that everybody, including minorities, have a voice in the discussion. The Dutch political debate lately has become very rough and rude, and I’m not sure if this is helping to solve real daily life problems. I would even argue that verbal roughness has led to a poorer debate and to worse policies, because politicians and citizens became afraid to express their views or started reacting themselves more aggressively to aggressive rhetoric.

Finally, we had a comment sent in from Alexandra saying that people who think they can’t argue their views on migration with others because of “political correctness” are also very likely people who are happy to be vulgar, racist, demeaning and offensive towards other people. She says it’s not about being politically correct, but rather about being a “decent human being”. In her words: “If you have some valid reasons and points that you can discuss and argue without downgrading another person’s value and their life’s value then you’re more than welcome to do so. If your only way of communicating is by doing the opposite of that then you are better doing everyone a favour and keep your opinions to yourself.”

How would Casper Van der Heijden respond?

I strongly disagree. I think it’s the opposite: I think it’s a very dangerous position. Alexandra argues that the only people that have a place in the debate are the people that adhere to ‘her’ rules of the game that are speaking her language. It’s only with those people that she wishes to engage in a debate and in a discussion. I think that’s dangerous because if we, by definition, by the way people express their feelings and emotions, exclude those feelings and emotions from the debate, we’re effectively silencing them. We’re ignoring these concerns. With that we only make them bigger.

I think it’s exactly the failure of reaching those people that aren’t able to express their emotions and feelings according to the ‘mainstream,’ or widely accepted means of speech, by ignoring, that you basically open up the political spectrum on either extreme sides to gain traction, to gain attention. I think that’s what we see happen. We fail to address these strong emotions that we might call ‘racist’, but that have a certain frustration underlying it that we’re not listening because we’re disregarding their means of debate. I think the only thing that we can for from people in a debate or discussion is that they also listen to you. But, with that, you have to make sure that you listen to them as well.

Do the media label people worried about refugees ‘racist’? Or are people using the excuse of standing up to “political correctness” to make their racist views public? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

MAGE CREDITS: (c) / BigStock – vchal
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The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


21 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    catherine benning

    Do the media label people worried about refugees ‘racist’?

    ‘The so called media’ is a total farce. Their reports are complete misinformation. It is very strange and alarming how widespread this is. You can sit and watch an event, listen to a speech in full, for example and when its finished 10 minutes later you have presenters on news channels telling you a completely different line to the one you just watched. Fake news is exactly what you get. The line or sentences changed, the interpretation shifted to way off the true message.

    Or, you get no news of events. No news of mass rape of our children by migrants in gangs and I mean no news of it at all in the UK. It is prolific and vastly shocking, yet, no news of it on TV or in the papers, unless they simply have to, as someone somewhere had the courage to open it up. Then it is a small article with some kind of naughty naughty, girls are not to be treated thus. Here is an example:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/19/twenty-men-grooming-gang-jailed-inhuman-abuse-victims-young/

    Yet, should you ask or expose more of this, as this is only a tiny bit of this practice being exposed, those who try to let us know what is being done to our children, because they are white, media cries racist. Now, here is the dilemma. Who is telling them to do that? Who is directing the real stories of what is going on and turning it into untruthful and extended political propaganda? What is the reason this is being done to our people? Why the betrayal of our children and their parents for another nationality and cultural breed of real haters? And most important of all, why are the citizens of European countries accepting this brazen attack on their lives? Why do they no longer want to protect their society from those who would not only sanction this behaviour but openly encourage it and promote the behaviour in the way they do?

    The murder rate in the UK had gone up in our country by 19% in one year. But, the fact that the killers are, by a large majority, from the developing world, or, children of those people, is not allowed to be voiced. Why is that? Why is violence toward host communities, denied, not discussed or addressed at all? why are this group of individuals not referred to as racists for doing these horrific crimes toward the white race? Why the hatred toward our people by those at the top?

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/20/london-now-dangerous-new-york-crime-stats-suggest/

    Who has allowed a malfunctioning government with all the appearance of the maniac to thrive. You should hear the unelected madmen we have to listen to on a daily basis and get extended air time, as they try and persuade people to adopt the unstable and unacceptable practices, usually kept in mental hospitals or jails, as normal daily life. Then call the people, haters or some other insane word, when they cannot convince us to accept that which is detrimental to our lives and families life?

    Here is another example:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orkxfA7_i3U

    The man who cannot back up a word he is saying in this clip is not, never has been, an elected politician of any kind. Yet, he is on TV and pushed in the newspapers daily as if he has the peoples backing. And he is a man who is totally delusional. Has been treated for mental illness, yet, is constantly used by those who want to convince the public of a non reality, in order to push their schemes relentlessly. He is the man who guided Tony Blair through his lies to the public during the lead up to the Iraq war. Alistair Campbell is the man who helped concoct the lying dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction. Ending with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens. Yet the evil movers and shakers, behind media outlets, pay him openly to sell this fantasy world he lives in. Openly mad, yet, pushed out as credible. How is this held up by these media presenters, with extraordinary big mouths and no basis for their support of him? Who is pulling their strings? And how?

    Next, add the farce of how we all love forking out millions to so called royals as they play the Kardashian game. We sit and we cringe in embarrassment at how ridiculous they look, whilst more lies are shoved at us daily. Media tells us we want it and love it. Even remove the homeless from the streets as they pass by, then hide the growing line of starving bypassed to give this ugly lot a kings ransom to keep them busy doing nothing but preen.

    They label people as racist if you reject any level of being exploited by tactics used to reduce us to bumbling idiots. And they love doing it. It gives them fodder for a writhing laugh at dinner.

    The question is, why do we allow it to continue, rather than reject it by not buying into it on any level? Don’t buy tickets for football matches if you don’t like the people in the game. Don’t pick up a newspaper if you don’t believe what they are selling. Don’t watch their TV show and be inundated with their lying adverts, if you know you are being sold a line. See how quick they stop labelling you when you take back your soul from their grasp.

  2. avatar
    Andrea

    Well the “media”, aka propaganda factory desn’t manage to distinguish beetween refugees and economic migrants… even this page.

    • avatar
      George

      “refugees” seek temporary shelter usually in nearby countries.
      Non of the migrants fall into the category “refugees” (as most of them come from all over Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan).

    • avatar
      Herb

      Did you saw yesterday media topics about refugees going to us border? Most of comments from us citizens harsh, no morals…. Now I’m thinking about native ppl who was there before usa was great, they need to be working hard to live with great americans…

  3. avatar
    Stef

    The media has become a total joke and extremely biased. No sane person believes their lies without a second thought. It’s sad that it has come to this, that independent freelance journalists are more credible than billion dollar funded agencies.

  4. avatar
    Michael

    A bizarrely specific and leading question.

  5. avatar
    Pedro

    < i have some reservations on wether Europe can handle this wave of migrants – reasonable doubts of reasonable people

    < Let ThEm dIe oN thE sEA – racist gibberish

    • avatar
      Magdalena

      How is it racist though when it is not referring to their appearance at all?

  6. avatar
    Róbert

    Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of speech with which I agree, it means all speech, even hate speech, except incitement to violence. An offensive speech is subjective, only violence is not.

    • avatar
      Sebastian

      if you are an *sshole online you will get treated as one and will be called out as such. Freedom of speech is the right’s favourite excuse to insult people as they please.

    • avatar
      Róbert

      Sebastian absolutely, that’s also freedom of speech. *ssholes can be offended too. It’s allowed. Silencing someone’s opinion because you choose to be offended by his words, is not. That means people will have quarrels? Yea, so what? It’s a small price to pay for progress, because progress always comes from a dialog of conflicting ideas. You could silence a great idea because it’s shocking in it’s novelty, and it might seem offensive at first. Yes, it could be really stupid too, but words are only words, not bullets.

  7. avatar
    Franz M

    If people are concerned is national budgets are effected or if integration is going to work, those are reasonable concerns.
    Saying you do not want as mutch migration because of socioeconomic reasons, can be a policy standpoint.

    It becomes racist, when the argument is brought forward in a hateful manner, and not wanting migration because of religion, skin colour etc. .
    If one makes up his mind about a single person because of religion or race, it is racist.
    I understand that thrre are integration challanges, but most often in the past there were no integration efforts such as language courses or further education what so ever. This has thankfully changed in recent years.

    First: I kbow there are a lot great and goid examples of integration and mosques which are working in the intrest of coming together in a liberal Europe. However, there are some bad examples as well, where islamist ideologies and the resistence of integration are preached and spread.
    One area where more can be done is the reducing of foreign influence in islamic communities by educating imams and religion techers for schools solely in Europe or selected partner universities outside of Europe and financing them solely through donations or taxes (depending on national practice for christian confessions).
    So it is made sure that evverywhere (because the spots were it is not yet the case are still troyblesome)
    the way Islam and the Quoran are preached and thought in Europe is a way that fits in in a free, democratic, European society.
    And finally I hope that we end up with a Euroislam which mey even spread its teachings into the Middle East.

  8. avatar
    Gustav

    I wouldn’t say the media does that, but there are other, political parties or movements, who does, and it’s cklickbait for the media.

  9. avatar
    Andrew

    This situation in that country is not the thing only money can handle, we should go and look for a better reason to have this country fixed.

  10. avatar

    Even if they were using it as an excuse free speech is king. Everyone is entitled to voice their opinion. Racists, feminists, gays, women/men/transgender and aliens. They will look uneducated for doing so in 2018, but it’s their right to do so. The same way leftards sound idiotic for wanting to flood our countries with illegal immigrants from the 3rd world, but it’s their right to do so.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Zé

      It is nobodies right to flood our countries with immigrants from any part of the world without our collective and majority permission. Free speech is the only way to cling on to democracy and they know it, Which is why it is being attacked as it is and relentlessly. Democracy does not suit those in power who are exploiting their position against us and free speech is the basis of any democracy.

      An example of exploitation of ‘free speech.’ A man gets onto a flight that is crowded with people. His seat, already booked prior to boarding, is a window seat. When he gets to his row a person is already settled in the end seat and he has to ask to be allowed through. She rudely refuses him access. He asks again and she again rudely refuses and makes no excuse. He gets verbally annoyed. The person blocking his advance has a daughter on same plane. She gets up and tells him her mother has no intention of moving to enable him to take his pre-booked seat. He pushes past and sits in his window seat anyway. The daughter becomes aggressive and he responds equally as aggressive. He now becomes verbally rude and calls the non mover nothing but an ugly —— ——-. A fellow traveller decides to film the incident, but not until the non mover has taken a, I am leaving this to my daughter position. Next, the photographer has sent the film to the news channels. Now why do they do that? They do that because the aggressive non mover is black and female and the person who wanted to access his booked seat, is white and male. So, free speech is denied the white man because he used the word black. No one asked why the black woman in the blocking seat did that to him. He was forced to apologies because the film did not show the black woman blocking his entry and telling him she had no intention of moving. No one asked why she did that. Or, if she did it because he was white. Would she have done that to a black person? He is a racist, but, not her. She is looking for compensation for her distress. He is simply humiliated and threatened for daring to speak up. Hence the notion you can manipulate the perception of the right to freedom of speech.

      Another politically correct cover up, presently and almost daily, on the air pushing into our psyche a lie. Many children have been sexually abused by Catholic priests who sold themselves to an organisation who go under the banner of Christian. Thereby having access to children easily, as they were sold to the public as belonging to a charitable and benevolent organisation. And how they did that was, to take the teachings of Christ, via the bible and profess their affiliation and observance to its teachings. The teachings and the organisation remained devout in its philosophy through the ages. It civilised whole swathes of the planet. But, parts of the teaching within that bible did not sit well with those who were not seen as healthy in it. So, they joined the organisation and declared allegiance to the doctrine and used it to get access to and sexually abuse the children of the people who joined and believed in it. Their rejection created the old adage of, if you can’t beat them join them.

      The sexual abuse was covered up by the organisation and they protected the men, and it was men as priests are not female, in order to allow them to continue to use peoples children as sexual fodder. Most of the children suffering under this horror were boys. Most of the abusers liked boys, girls were not considered such a delicacy. Yet, the attack we hear of and see, via the adults who were abused, are not asking why the organisation was filled with these abusers, They are condemning the Christian Church for being taken in by their own doctrine. To be tolerant, find the good in the sinner, turn the other cheek and so on. The quest is not to turn on the abuser, but to turn on the abused. As, the church and its teachings were abused. It was taken over and manipulated by these child offenders, in order to bring down their organisation, who they saw as having attacked there persuasion, relentlessly, throughout thousands of years via their doctrine.

      Now why would this be upheld by the present political body? Especially when other religions have likewise been taken over by these abusers in a similar way. The fault lies in the human being who is the offender and not in the teachings. Institutions of this ilk attract those who want power and the ability to abuse it. Man, therefore, should negate and remove from power those who want to use and abuse those who affiliate with such a body. In the case I have used, the abusers have taken the children of the followers in order to satiate their sexual deviance and destroy the belief in the organisation who promoted it. And it has been very successful in taking the heat off of those who carried out the despised acts in the first place. The professed claim is, it is not the abuser who is wrong to do this, its the church they belong to.They made them do it, by, asking for celibacy. Therefore, it is the Church that must be destroyed, not them.

      Again, if you take that one step further, it has taken away the freedom of speech. The accusers feel they cannot openly address their abusers as it is not allowed to do so. That would make the accuser a phobe of some kind. To point the finger at the criminal in this case means you hate the abusers pension. Which is no longer an acceptable way to attack offenders. They have fallen into special status. To call them to account is hate. And hate is a crime against humanity. In other words, a way to silence mans natural instinct to reject that which is not in his best interests.

      How many millions of people have been manipulated by the so called ‘human rights act’ which silences individual freedom of speech? Whilst at the same time, telling us, Freedom of Speech or Expression’ is a human right. Likewise the right to ‘Freedom of Association.’ We are persuaded these are our legal right as individuals, yet, we are forbidden to object to mass immigration or multiculturalism on the grounds it is ‘racist’ to do so. And racism is not a human right. Thereby forcing you to accept all that you find unacceptable in other cultures and their teachings or lifestyle, as to condemn it and reject it, is a crime against humanity. And we wonder why we feel we have been spun into an intolerable madness that is impossible to remove ourselves from.

  11. avatar
    Marc

    Immigration is eroding national culture

    • avatar
      jthk

      How many national culture remains in this global era? Culture is not static. It changes according to time.

  12. avatar
    Magdalena

    There is a general tendency to use the term racist when people want to force others to self-censor because they cannot be censored based on law on freedom of speech. So basically people call racist opinions that they disagree with.

    I haven’t really heard anyone being called racist because of their views on refugees. However, I really think whether the opinions are racist depends on what they are. And if they are based on people’s appearance then this needs to be challenged.

  13. avatar
    Marc Cheyne

    For fear of being branded racist, UK Police turned a blind eye against 1st and 2nd generation Muslim immigrants that groomed and raped thousands of vulnerable children and young women throughout the north of England.

    They are doing the same thing in London today, about immigrant gangs that a drug dealing and fatally stabbing young men almost every week.

    The EU’s policy of accepting millions of unskilled migrants from Africa and the Middle East is ruining Europe.

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