Update March 2nd: You can watch the whole event yourselves on Youtube, go to Jihad Watch here and then follow links to Atlas Shrugs for more on this historic evening.
Ann and I had a great treat last night. We went into Washington along with my husband to hear Geert Wilders speak and joined hundreds of fans of free speech in cheering him for his courage and conviction in standing up for western civilization. The event was at the same site as CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) but not of CPAC, as the organizers of that event show remarkably little interest in jihad and matters of free speech that involve Islam. It was sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch, and Dr. Andrew Bostom.
We’ve seen Wilders on TV and on the Internet, but we wanted to see him in person. And it was worth the long drive and the parking hassles. He is very elegant and very tall, and imposing in a soft-spoken and genial, even sweet, way. It is awful to realize that he is under a double threat — death threats from jihadist Muslims, and an upcoming prosecution for hate speech from his own Dutch government. He lives under constant guard. How he can be so calm under those conditions is a mystery; I noticed the same thing about Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Wilders’s main message was that western civilization is better than other ways of life and we need to defend it. But not only are Europeans not defending their own culture, but they define as hate speech attempts to contrast it favorably with, say, Islamic culture. He quoted Ronald Reagan’s speech at the British Parliament in 1982, where he spoke of communism as the evil empire and said it’s important not to avoid threats but to face up to them (I’m writing this from memory; the words are not exact).
I’ve read a number of accounts saying that Wilders wants to ban the Koran, and pointing out the inconsistency of this with his stated support of free speech. Even conservatives fall for this. I knew they were idiots, and of course Wilders made it clear that he is simply pointing out that under the Netherlands’ hate speech laws (or are they EU laws? I’m not sure), if Mein Kampf can be banned then the Koran should be banned too. He is completely opposed to all hate speech laws, and wants for the whole world the kind of protections for speech that we enjoy under our First Amendment. (At least we enjoy them as of today; who knows what is coming down the pike?)
Wilders referred to his exclusion from the U.K. and said he was thankful for our immigration officials. He said he feels at home in the United States.
Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs spoke of how Wilders’s cause is also our cause; her account of the event is here, with a picture of the crowd. Also Robert Spencer and Dr. Andrew Bostom had good things to say. And Fitna was shown — Wilders’s short film that got him into all this trouble in the first place. For some reason I had never watched it in its 16-minute entirety; it’s quite stunning and if you haven’t seen it I recommend you click on the link.
The room was jam-packed and apparently many were turned away. Security was supposed to be tight and we saw some people being wanded, but somehow we were just waved in. Maybe it’s obvious how wholesome and innocent Ann and I and my husband are. There were a lot of young people in the audience, CPAC attendees most likely, and they were very responsive to Wilders’s speech, cheering and booing loudly at every appropriate moment. (Jay Nordlinger has noted that hissing is a leftist thing (last item, here,) and I’m glad to say there wasn’t a hiss to be heard, only hearty boos at, for instance, Wilders’s mention of the U.K. government refusing him admittance.)
Robert Spencer has an account of Wilders’s appearance before the National Press Club earlier yesterday. Our previous posts on Wilders are here. And an interesting article about Wilders’s place in the political world is here. The authors seem to be far to the left and misrepresent him in many respects, especially in calling him tied to the “far right” and misinterpreting his call to ban the Koran, but provide a lot of information so I’m putting in the link. I think they believe it quite damning to associate him with “neo-conservatives.”
Last, here is a link to the Geert Wilders Defense Fund. Wilders’s court case in the Netherland will cost him big bucks. If he loses he will go to prison. I can hardly think of a worthier cause to support. Think of it this way: Every dollar you give is a vote for western civilization.
Update: More accounts at Atlas Shrugs from people who attended.