Dutch Member of Parliament Gideon van Meijeren is being prosecuted for encouraging farmers to rebel against a tyrannical government that is attempting to steal their land.
It is almost universally agreed that democracy must allow for civil disobedience. Citizens also have the right to use violence to defend themselves against a tyrannical government that is using unlawful force against the citizens it is supposed to serve. Professor Mattias Desmet explains this in more detail.
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In July 2021, Mr. van Meijeren made his first speech in the Dutch Parliament during which he confronted Prime Minister Mark Rutte about his connections with the World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab.
A year later, on 2 July 2022, Mr. van Meijeren spoke at a farmers’ protest in Tuil when farmers were demonstrating en masse against government plans to cut nitrogen emissions. According to NL Times, in his speech, Mr. van Meijeren “pointed out that it is permissible to violently resist the government if it were to expropriate farmers.” Van Meijeren told the gathered farmers that they’d never move the government to action with peaceful protests and by waving flags in the meadows, among other things.
NL Times goes on to say that on 13 November 2022 Mr. van Meijeren “speculated about overthrowing the government during an online interview.” The MP said he hoped for a revolutionary movement that would occupy parliament. Van Meijeren said he hoped this “velvet revolution” would be peaceful, although, according to him, past examples show that there are often casualties. “That is terrible, and let’s hope that we can prevent that and that everything remains peaceful. That is what I hope for in the end,” he said.
Last month, the Public Prosecution Service confirmed it would prosecute Mr. van Meijeren for two counts of sedition. “The suspect suggested that violence against the government was permitted and perhaps even necessary,” the Public Prosecution Service said about the two incidents last year.
Dutch politician Gideon van Meijeren recently encouraged Dutch farmers who were protesting their government’s agricultural policies, which threaten to destroy their professions. The Public Prosecution Service has now announced that it will prosecute van Meijeren for sedition. There are quite a few people who won’t lose sleep over this. To them, van Meijeren is an extreme right-wing anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist with a history of making racist statements. Since I myself am regularly tarred and feathered, I’m inclined to take a closer look at such matters. And I would ask everyone to do the same, even if you feel you have nothing in common with van Meijeren. After all, it could be your turn sooner than you think.
According to the Public Prosecution Service, the charges against Van Meijeren have arisen from two statements. The first came as van Meijeren was addressing the protesting farmers. He spoke of Article 41 of the penal code, which states that the use of violence is not punishable by law if it is necessary to protect your own or someone else’s body, honour, or property from an unlawful assault. He made the second statement during an interview, in which he stated that tyrannical regimes can be overthrown in a revolutionary uprising if the population addresses Parliament to demand the resignation of the government. Not insignificantly: Van Meijeren proceeded both times to explain that he was not calling for violence, but for peaceful, non-violent protest.
According to the prosecution, van Meijeren’s words could “give people ideas.” Well. There are hardly any words that cannot “give people ideas.” If you start banning words on that basis, soon no one will be allowed to speak at all. So, before we go down such a path, let’s ask a few questions and raise a few concerns.
First of all, I wonder: Is van Meijeren correct when he states that people are allowed to (violently) resist the government under certain circumstances? I suppose everyone agrees that the answer to that question is “yes.” Or not? A government that demands strict nonviolence from its citizens should at least be strictly nonviolent itself. I myself have always emphasised that any resistance to the government must be non-violent, but I do so primarily for pragmatic reasons. I know that any form of violence will inevitably turn against the person who uses it. From a purely ethical standpoint, however, I believe it is a citizen’s right to use violence against a government that is itself using unlawful force against its people. This is also correct from a legal perspective.
Second, do those in favour of van Meijeren’s prosecution believe that there is a right to civil disobedience? Since Henry Thoreau introduced this concept in 1849, it has been almost universally agreed upon that democracy must allow for it. Has this changed?
Third, for those who think that Gideon is wrong, and therefore that farmers have no right to resist, what about social phenomena such as Extinction Rebellion? These climate activists deface monuments and paintings in museums, block highways, storm airports, and so on. If you think that these “climate warriors” and other “social justice warriors” should not be criminally prosecuted and yet that Gideon van Meijeren should, is that not the same as saying that those who adhere to a politically correct ideology are allowed to do just about anything whereas those who adhere to an incorrect ideology may not?
Fourth, and related: what do the people who support the prosecution of van Meijeren think of, for example, French President Emmanuel Macron’s statements that: “We are going to make life hell for the unvaccinated”? We could list any number of statements by politicians that have been undoubtedly more seditious than van Meijeren’s and yet for which no public prosecutor ever saw fit to prosecute.
So, let’s be honest: The prosecution’s charge makes no sense. If Gideon van Meijeren is prosecuted for sedition, then anyone can be prosecuted for sedition. I hereby appeal to everyone who disagrees with Gideon van Meijeren and possibly sees him as a political opponent: Don’t let this happen. Speak out. Say that you do not want people to be treated this way, including those with whom you disagree.
That is the best thing that can come out of these chaotic times: A group of people united, not by having the same opinion, but by honouring each person’s right to his own voice. The mother lode of the Enlightenment tradition was not so much idealising rationality but valuing openness of mind and this fundamental right to one’s own opinion. I propose that we remain faithful to the Enlightenment in this respect, also with regard to people whose opinions we experience as contrary to ours, including those we even consider completely irrational.
About the Author
Mattias Desmet is recognised as the world’s leading expert on the theory of mass formation as it applies to the covid-19 pandemic. He is a professor of clinical psychology in the Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences at Ghent University, Belgium, and a practising psychoanalytic psychotherapist. He is well-known in academic circles for his research on fraud within academia.
He is the author of over one hundred peer-reviewed academic papers and is the author of the books ‘The Psychology of Totalitarianism’, ‘The Pursuit of Objectivity in Psychology’ and ‘Lacan’s Logic of Subjectivity: A Walk on the Graph of Desire’.
He publishes articles on a Substack page which you can subscribe to and follow HERE.
Featured image: Farmers on tractors block the A1 highway from the German border towards Hengelo, 29 June 2022. Source: NL Times. Inset: Dutch politician Gideon van Meijeren.
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