Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fund gives murderer financial grant to sue journalists for libel

This story is rich in little ironies, but probably only of interest to journalists.

A while back, a Dutch tycoon got mad about how he had been portrayed in the media. So mad that he set up a EUR1 million fund for the express purpose of donating money to people who want to sue newspapers (etc.) for libel.

Call it an unusual take on philanthropy and standing up for the little guy. I suppose one understands where he was coming from.

The twist: it emerged today that the fund he established gave money to a questionable figure. Namely, Volkert van der Graaf, the animal rights activist convicted of murdering Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. Van der Graaf wanted to sue De Telegraaf (Dutch) for besmirching his good name.

What good name does a convicted murderer have to protect, you ask?

Well, suffice it to say that he won his libel case.
Before Volkert van der Graaf began murdering politicians, he was a skilled litigator (though not a lawyer).

De Telegraaf had suggested in a story that there might be a link between Van der Graaf and an unsolved murder, that of an opponent of the animal rights movement.

But the court found there wasn't sufficient evidence to back the claim.

Bad Telegraaf!

In any case, Hans Melchers, the tycoon who established the 'Sue A Journalist Fund' is now pissed off that his money is being spent in this way. Unfortunately it appears there's not a lot he can do about it _ he made it an independent fund.

The fund's managers have decided to change its name from "The Hans Melchers Fund" to something stupid (the Jotumfunds), because it really wouldn't be ethical to leave Melchers' name on a fund he established but no longer endorses.

De Telegraaf is painting this as a media war: it says leftist journalists have taken over the fund's board. And they are now giving money to a leftist in order that he sue De Telegraaf, a conservative paper.

I'm not sure if it's that simple, but the whole fracas amuses me enormously.


Just in case anybody is interested, here's the report on the incident that pissed Melchers off in the first place.

I don't think his foundation can sue me for pointing out that the unusual nature of the kidnappers' demand _ for a ransom in cocaine _ was what led the media to libel Melchers. It was easy for the press to make the _ libellous _ slip that this meant the kidnappers had some reason to think Melchers might be able to provide a ransom in cocaine.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hello Dalai

I'm not the world's most spiritual guy, but in this case the Lama took the words right out of my mouth:

In other words, Us is Them.

See also: Axioms

The Lama's visit provided the world with another stunning example of Dutch diplomacy: allow the Lama to come, but don't let the prime minister meet with him. But do let the foreign minister meet with him.

*Eyes glaze over*

What's the strategy here? As far as I can see, the intention is to sow confusion about the Dutch position. Because it's a) complicated and b) just the Dutch, no one will pay much attention.

The Chinese will see the Netherlands as a 'borderline' case and the Dutch won't be first in line for economic retaliation. Dutch western allies, to the extent they notice, will regard this as a bit of a weasel move. But how mad can they be? The government did let the Lama meet the foreign minister and after all, it's just the Dutch.

It reminds me a lot of the Dutch position on Iraq: support the war politically but not militarily.

I can just see Osama bin Laden at the meeting where al-Qaida is planning future attacks and going down the list of "coalition of the willing" members.

"The Dutch, I don't quite get this. Were they for the war or against it?" he asks his Western Europe attache.

"Well, it was complicated sir. You see..."

OBL: "Give me the exective summary, curse you!"

"They're not a top priority, sir."


Mission accomplished: the Netherlands stays in Washington's good graces but doesn't make itself more of a terrorist target.

This strategy is kind of like not taking vaccination shots: good for the individual (Holland) but bad for the herd (the rest of the West).

Do I have a personal opinion about Balkenende not meeting the Dalai Lama? Well, I think B. should spell out the exact reason why not. Who knows, it could be...enlightening?