Geert’s gone Wilders
Geert Wilders, self-described “freedom fighter” and hypothetical Palin-Gingrich lovechild of the Netherlands, has just declared war on Dutch art and culture, zapping the country’s cultural and performing arts with some hefty cuts that total about one-third of their annual government funding.
“Holland’s extreme politician” (according to his website), Wilders is founder and leader of the far-right “Freedom Party” (PVV). In June, the PVV ran on an anti-Islam, anti-European integration platform and won 24 seats (out of 150) in Parliament, making Wilders the most powerful opposition politician in the country.
Thanks to his party’s efforts, the VAT (value added tax) on ticket purchases for performing arts productions will triple, and Dutch arts and culture face drastic cuts in government support. Wilders is leaving more plebeian pursuits alone: tickets for football (soccer), the circus, and the movies all remain untouched for now, even though taxing these more popular entertainments would most likely rake in much more money for the government.
While Financial Times’ Stanley Pignal points out that the Dutch budget faces cuts across the board, some observers worry that Wilders has succeeded in unfairly singling out the arts as leftist hobbies that real people don’t enjoy. And while the state secretary for culture Halbe Zijlstra denies any overt “populist” motives behind the cuts, it appears that the PVV’s influence is growing in unexpected ways, far beyond its original agenda.