The Utility of Uproar
09 november 2023 | Thierry Baudet
Ever since Forum for Democracy was founded, the party has regularly been "brought into disrepute", as they say. There is "commotion" - great outrage in media and politics over a statement, a text message or an interlocutor.
Over the years, there have been many who have supported me and the party on all sorts of positions - but who have had difficulty with this "commotion". They felt that these were "side issues", and that it distracted us from our "political work". That, in short, we should focus on the widely accepted, centre-right hobbyhorses and otherwise stay within the range of what was acceptable. That is how we could operate most effectively. Become socially acceptable. Able to appeal to a wide audience.
I disagree with this view. That is why I do not shy away from causing "commotion". That is why I defy these media storms time and again and have even been willing to let splits arise within the party.
But I have never really explained my reasoning for this. I have never explained why I see the things that cause "uproar" precisely not as side issues but as the essence of what we must do.
What do we gain?
I can well imagine that this feels counterintuitive to many. They might even get angry with me about this recurring "commotion". After all, as a political party, why would you want to be constantly embroiled in all sorts of scandals? Why those philosophical questions all the time? Why those provocative tweets? What do you stand to gain from that?
The key lies in the effect intended by scandals - which are created and hugely whipped up by the establishment. The establishment always makes something into a “scandal”; they determine when a word or a joke or an encounter is something very suspicious or dangerous. It is by no means always possible to predict exactly when this will happen, how something small suddenly becomes big, or why something big remains remarkably small. But íf it happens, it is always for a reason, with a purpose: to declare a point of view or an opinion out of order, to demarcate the acceptable discussion space. In order ultimately - and this is the core - to delimit the boundary conditions of the debate in such a way that the establishment always wins.
So, the things we politically oppose - such as mass immigration, climate policy, European unification, coronavirus rules - are "protected", so to speak, by the frames that the establishment puts on opponents - frames which are a translation of a deliberately created and maintained taboo.
I will give some examples of frames and taboos that I have identified and - hopefully – broken, to some extent, in my life.
First: the taboo on "nationalism". In my youth, it was simply accepted that this view would lead to war. The socially acceptable right-wing position was that nationalism was indeed dangerous, but that there might be practical or temporal obstacles to European unification. Anyone who was given the frame of "scary nationalist" or “xenophobe” was done for. As a result, no one dared to defend the nation state outright and so European unification went ahead without much opposition.
I tried to break that taboo by showing (with enormous anger and uproar as a result) in The Significance of Borders that nationalism can actually lead to peace, and imperialism and unification can lead to war. I defied the frame ("scary nationalist!") and unmasked the underlying taboo.
As a result, the argumentative space to oppose the EU has been radically expanded. Our opponents, the proponents of unification, have effectively come up empty-handed. Their whole "argument", so to speak, was the taboo on nationalism. Whoever breaks that taboo, wins the argument.
I came across something very similar in the climate debate. "CO2 leads to climate change and must be reduced" - that was the position of the "acceptable right". They simply went along with the narrative about "pollution", about "clean energy" and "sustainability" - with adding nuclear power to the energy mix being the maximum possible political outcome. Meanwhile they remain powerless against the Green story in itself, against the international climate agreements, the Climate Act, the Kyoto protocol: and finally, against the religion of sustainability as such.
Again, I initially received the ire of the whole country (and a large section of FVD's initial supporters) when I said: we are going to break the "CO2 is dangerous" frame! There ís no accelerated warming, if you look at the phenomenon over a longer time frame. And CO2 actually leads to the greening of the planet. There is no imminent shortage of oil and gas - because the fossil fuels may not even be fossil at all and will be available for thousands of years anyway.
Again: an enormous taboo. Something unthinkable. And pretty much no one around me dared to touch it. Everyone shouted: stay away from that, focus only on immigration and the EU, or if necessary, only on the costs of the climate plans, not on the underlying philosophy, it leads to commotion, people do not understand it, it is unnecessary!
Nevertheless, I did it, and subsequently we gained enormous leeway to step outside the framework set by the opponent. As a result, the establishment is now effectively without a story on this subject as well. Because their weapon, the taboo on "scarcity", "pollution" and the frame of "you are not sustainable, you are destroying the planet", has been defused.
The Covid taboo
Something similar played out with Covid. Here, the frame was that of "crazy conspiracy theorists", and the taboo was "flu". Criticising the absurd press conferences with sign language interpreters, as if we were dealing with a nuclear disaster or a dyke breach, led to a kind of national hate orgy. And - most importantly - it was strictly forbidden to equate Covid with the flu - which then made it impossible to counter the government's factually incorrect frame of a “pandemic”, with a more factually correct counterframe of a “severe flu wave”, which, after all, is what Covid was.
So again, we went through the necessary commotion, broke the frame and unmasked the taboo in order to fight the battle. Had we not done so, we would never have been able to organise an effective opposition to the Covid measures. Instead, we would have continued to do what detractors, among others, wanted us to do: criticise the measures for inconsistency, but say nothing about the mortality of Covid, the risks or the unnecessity of vaccinations, or the hysterical nature of the “crisis”.
More establishment taboos
But these three taboos are far from all. Because our adversary (the left-liberal bloc that holds power in our country, has access to some 110 out of 150 seats in Parliament, has the support of media, academia, the civil service, and multinationals) utilises many more taboos or semi-unassailable claims to push through its own agenda.
One of these - not to be missed - is World War II, which has been used for decades to promote mass immigration and multiculturalism, and stifle any and all criticism. Until we refute that, we will never be able to effectively protect our people and our identity. Because they will always start shouting things like, "Oh, do you want the trains to the East to start running again...!?"
And there are many more combinations. Take the anti-Russia propaganda, deployed to propagate European unification, push the climate agenda - for Russian gas must not be allowed - and maintain the US geopolitical upper hand vis-à-vis Europe. For as long as contacts with Russia are out of the question, the natural European "bridging function" between the Atlantic world and Eurasia cannot be established, and we will remain totally dependent on the big brother in DC. Here, the frame by which people are cancelled is "Putin fanboy". For fear of having that label stuck on them, the establishment hopes that no one will dare to speak even somewhat sympathetically about Russia and that the desired political direction can continue uninterrupted.
“Misogyny” is another one of these frames, meant to protect the taboo on the downsides of feminism. Anyone who talks about the differences between men and women, the challenges of working and raising children, the importance of marriage, the beauty of Yin and Yang, gender roles, etc. - is called out as a "sexist". Outcry. Fear. They demand you distance yourself - and the discussion is closed.
So on and so forth. Every frame that causes uproar protects a taboo. A taboo that in turn supports a key ideological position of the establishment.
As long as we remain afraid of all these frames, the underlying taboos remain untouched and we fight with one arm tied to our back. This way we will always remain on the defensive. And so we never win.
That is why it is absolutely essential to continue to refute the frames one by one, and break the taboos piece by piece. That is why it is inevitable that FVD will remain "controversial" in the eyes of the establishment, and therefore does not need to become "socially acceptable". The controversy stretches the available space for the debate. It provides breathing room. Not only for ourselves, but for everyone who feels oppressed by the ever-shrinking framework of discussion put on us by the establishment. In this way, we are effectively a liberation movement. We throw off the yoke of established power every time.
And for the record, in our own eyes we are not "controversial" at all, but extremely moderate, reasonable, calm and worthy of governance - but because we challenge the moral order, we are not seen that way.
That means our work is tough - much tougher than just being "reasonably right-wing" within the set margins - and it requires people with very strong minds. With courage, even heroism. It also requires great intelligence, because you have to look "behind the curtain" every time. When a frame is employed, the normal human reaction is to look away. To say: oh, oops, sorry! But we have to look every time anyway. To enter the forbidden space. Opening the door, showing that there is no monster hiding underneath the bed. And never to say "sorry". Never! Because then we acknowledge the moral power of those who have laid the frame upon us. Then they win.
That is why I keep entering the fray. That's why FVD is "always embroiled in something". That is why it is often not "fun", not "pleasant": exactly that is our assignment. Our job. Only then do we do something that has any meaning. FVD shall be uproar - or shall not be. Enjoy the ride.