It has been difficult classifying assassinated Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn. He did not lend himself to easy political characterization. His platform, as Tunku Varadarajan writes in the Wall Street Journal, was “à la carte.”
Economically, he leaned libertarian. Culturally, Fortuyn defended the extremes of liberal Dutch society. He ran on a populist message of Dutch sovereignty and European Union accountability. But what caused him to be tarnished with the label “racist” was his conservative view that the large influx of Muslim immigration to the Netherlands, if unassimilated, would alter tolerant Holland.
Most cannot help but note the irony. The flamboyantly gay Fortuyn foresaw an Islamified Holland forced to surrender its libertine laws for Sharia. Melanie Phillips in the London Spectator observed that Fortuyn embodied the contradictions of the West.
In the week after his death, many rushed to claim Fortuyn as one of their own, or at least a welcome ally. He was remembered as a charismatic gadfly who drew support from many quarters and was prepared to inject some honesty into Dutch political debate.
Yet it was neither his stance against Muslim immigration, nor his opinion on tax cuts, that got him killed. It was his position on fur.
The radical animal rights activist, Volkert van der Graaf, reportedly assassinated Fortuyn because he wanted to lift a ban on fur farming.
On the surface, the motive suffices. Van der Graaf was an extremist. A super-vegan, he did not eat honey. Described as humorless, scruffy and scrawny, van der Graaf lived on welfare in the town in Harderwijk with his wife and infant child. He dedicated his life to causing problems for local farmers.
The organization he helped found in 1994, Verenging Milieu Offensief (VMO), had initiated over 2,000 lawsuits against the expansion of animal farming.
Van der Graaf’s fanaticism led him to patrol pig pens and condemn cattle-raising practices. “I thought he was a real fundamentalist. I wanted nothing to do with him,” said pig farmer Wien van der Brink.
When Peter Olofson tried to switch from raising ducks to cattle farming, van der Graaf, who was intimately familiar with the details of environmental codes, pursued him with legal action for two years. “He was like a dog. He never let go,” recounted Olofson.
In addition to being tenacious, he may also have been a serial murderer. Police suspect van der Graaf may have been responsible for killing a local environmental official in 1996, who worked too closely with farmers.
But why assassinate Fortuyn? He had an undeveloped environmental platform. He neither courted nor pandered to environmentalists. “The whole environmental policy in the Netherlands has no substance anymore. And I’m sick to death of your environmental movement,” Fortuyn told Milieu Defensie (Environmental Defense) during his campaign.
VMO was quick to condemn the killing. Greenpeace and a host of other environmental organizations rushed to express shock and dismay, while pointing out that van der Graaf was a fanatic who acted alone.
Do the eco-extremists protest too much? Dutch dailies, Reformatisch Dagblad and De Telegraf both report that, if elected, Fortuyn would have reformed the left-wing “Action Network,” which had funded VMO’s activities. Reports De Telegraf: “The whole Action Network was in a panic when it was predicted that Fortuyn would win big. They were afraid he’d clean up the network.”
Through 1998, VMO received $125,000 from the National Postcode Lottery, which was doled out by Foundation Doen (Do/Act Foundation). However, the founders of the National Lottery were also members of Action Network. Together with Novib, a foreign aid organization, they established Foundation Doen. The money, National Lottery assured, “was to give a share of the profit to organizations that help nature and the environment.”
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