Victim identity via ISIS
Canaries, coalmines, decades of looking away. In the Netherlands, however, the Dutch are now met with the hard task of ignoring a screaming Pelican. The pelican in question is a propaganda video titled “VVD praat moordenaar goed” (VVD makes excuses for murderer), published by “DENK” (the Dutch Islamic party), set on “private” on youtube shortly after, but still available for viewing here https://vid.me/KSeJ Selcuk Ozturk, (ex-Labour MP, now one of the founders and core-members of DENK) pushes for a victim-narrative, employing blatant smearing and (deliberate) misinterpretation.
The video is shot in the House of Representatives. The issue being discussed is whether former Dutch military, anti-IS fighter Jitse Akse, (repeatedly smeared as “murderer” during Ozturk’s rants) should be condemned and persecuted. The video opens with Ozturk referring to the anti-IS fighter as someone who has:
“fought an armed battle, and is rightly being addressed by the public persecutors, what does the VVD think about this?”
He is answered by Ockje Tellegen (VVD) that the emotions Jitse Akse’s story calls up with people are to be considered, but that the official policy is to engage in military conflict via the Dutch armed forces. It is now up to the public prosecutor to deal with this dilemma. Ozturk first interprets this as:
“So you’re saying this person must be brought to justice, this person isn’t a hero, this person must be punished because, without the mandate of our army, he has been harming or murdering other people”.
Tellegen answers that, no, this is not what she said, and once again highlights the dilemma of the situation. Ozturk now interprets this as such:
“Is the VVD making excuses for a murderer? Someone who is murdering over there, we’ve heard sounds that there’s villages that are being bombed by certain groups, this person has joined in this, and you’re making excuses now for a murderer?”
Tellegen answers she has no intention to engage with this any further, as she has clearly stated her position (twice), already.
The emotional shock to most might be that Ozturk’s performance could be seen as pro-ISIS, or at least anti-anti-ISIS. This is certainly alarming, but it’s the use of this sentiment that should really shock us to our core. Ozturk does not use persuasive arguments. He blatantly asserts his interpretation of Akse as a “murderer” with little more than assertion. He appears to be unwilling or unable to understand Tellegen’s replies. This is not a performance to persuade MP’s or objective onlookers. If anything, it is a performance that seeks to appeal to the sentiment of its target audience.
This is reflected in a previous video by DENK, with the conspiracy-theory title “The Media does not want you to know this”. Here it is asserted that the Dutch-media spreads anti-Islam propaganda. Never mind that how Dutch media pushed the demonisation that led to Pim Fortuyn’s murder, or how “BN-ers” (Dutch people “famous” in the Netherlands) demonise Geert Wilders as a matter of principle. Never mind that the NOS (a Dutch BBC-like entity) reported Pegida banners, on which a swastika is thrown in a trashcan, as “Pegida banners with swastikas”. These concerns are irrelevant to their target audience.
Like the conspiracy video, Ozturk’s performance is meant to assert a false victim-narrative. A false sense of persecution. A narcissistic victim-complex. It helps to consider the relation between high self-esteem and violence, argued as far back as 1996, in The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem (R.F. Baumeister, J.M. Boden and L.Smart). Unrealistic high self-esteem meets a challenge. This is an opportunity to reassert the self-image through violence. Narcissistic ego-boost; on to the next confrontation. This is apparently still a surprise to people clinging to the 1969 notion that low self-esteem causes violence, but less fortunate people have seen the opposite in action for decades. Feed narcissistic anger and violence with a victim-narrative, and you can provide a group-identity for the most aggressive people. A group eager to enact “revenge” for the narcissistic boost that comes with reasserting domination.
It is worrying to see it in live-action, in the House of Representatives. It becomes the aforementioned screaming pelican when the identity of “oppressor”, used for the victim-narrative, is that of an anti-ISIS fighter. DENK, or at least Ozturk, appears to see a tactical opportunity in this. If he is right, the Dutch have precious little time to remember how to be brave. They better get to it, because Syria has shown us what capitulation entails.