A minor war has broken out in the conservative blogosphere, and it smells suspicious. I don't have a smidgen of proof for what I suspect, but here's the story.
Brussels Journal, edited by Paul Belien and others, reads like a solid, sensible conservative website, one of the best in Europe. It has a lot of smart people who don't go along with the PC Commissars in the capital of the new EU, Brussels. They make a very good case for being skeptical about the ruling class over there. Brussels Journal has never seemed out of line to me. Editor Paul Belien is a defender of the "Counter-jihad" movement in Belgium, which has been subjected to police beatings when they attempted to conduct a peaceful demonstration. Belien is warning that the Left in Europe is using immigrant Islamic votes to expand its power dramatically, leading to a Left-Islamist alliance that he believes will control Europe in the coming years. Sounds familiar? A Democrat amnesty for 12 million illegals, anyone? All that seems important and credible enough. But now Charles Johnson, of Little Green Footballs fame, has gotten into a fight with Paul Belien. Forgetting the who-said-what-when minutiae, the question raised by Charles is whether Paul Belien is defending people who are tainted with racist or totalitarian ideas. In particular, the question is whether Paul Belien is too close to the Vlaams Belang party, which is accused of having racist or neo-Nazi associations. LGF is a very good site, and Charles Johnson is understandably passionate about keeping his reputation spotless.
So now we get into a classical hall of mirrors, of claim and counter-claim, and maybe even spy and counter-spy. Because it's a good guess that the overheated Belgian political scene is full of mudslinging, disinformation, planted stories, and psyops.
The biggest single question is whether the conservative blogosphere can be blown apart with mutual accusations about smelly associations. That could destroy the blogs as a credible source of information in the coming US election. So this type of malignancy could spread, if we are not careful. If Brussels Journal is going to be discredited, so could all the other major blogs.
Here is a case in point. Wikipedia states that:
"According to Brussels Journal it is a nonpartisan publication. However, Belgian media often link it to Vlaams Belang since Belien's wife, Alexandra Colen, is a parliament member for the party and Belien receives a salary from them. But Belien himself has been at odds with Vlaams Belang at times, criticizing the party for its populism. There are other writers on Brussels Journal, both Belgian and non-Belgian, who have no affiliation to the party and who express other opinions."
Is that messy enough for you? There are some facts in that paragraph, and three unsourced allegations. One checkable fact is that Belien's wife is a member of the Belgian Parliament for the Vlaams Belang. It would be nice to hear from her, to understand her political associations. But maybe Paul Belien should be judged by his own words, not his wife's associates.
It's a good guess that the Vlaams Belang party has been infiltrated for a long time by government agents. That adds another layer.
Belgium has long been a hotbed of secessionism. The French-speaking Belgians bear deep grudges against the Flemish, and vice versa. It's pretty bad, much like the American South right after the Civil War.
So in Belgium today, the French-speaking population controls the power centers, while the Flamands work harder, are more productive, and have larger numbers. That doesn't make the Flemish happy. They are constantly wondering whether to secede from the Walloons.
It is vital therefore, as a matter of survival, for the Walloons to keep the Flemish out of power. Splitting the Flemish vote is crucial, and one way to do that is to tar the most radical Flemish political party. It is not beyond the ethics of a power elite to smear opponents with the worst political sin in sight, i.e., association with racists and neo-Nazis.
Europe is still traumatized by its Nazi past, and the Nazis were not limited to Germany. They had sympathizers in every European country.
So it's not impossible that the governing elites are sending agents provocateurs into the ranks of the Flemish Interest party, to parade around in Nazi drag and make nice with White Power sleazoids in the US.
That's how J. Edgar Hoover hoovered up the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights era. He infiltrated the Klan until every other guy in white sheets was an FBI plant. But it's easy to slip from being an undercover cop into actually provoking acts of racist violence. That's how undercover agents might prove they are doing their jobs.
There's a reason why "agent provocateur" is a French expression. It's an old political trick in Europe. The US has also used them, hopefully (but not always) only in legally defined national security cases. Provoking crimes is illegal for undercover cops under American law, and it should be.
In Europe there is much greater fear about neo-Nazis, for understandable reasons. Americans, if they think about them at all, tend to see them as clowns and weirdos, but the Germans see a potential SS goose-stepping into power. You can bet that the German government infiltrates their neo-Nazis.
So is the Vlaams Belang a white racist outfit? Here is their website, along with its political manifesto. Here is part of it.
"The Vlaams Belang is a party of Flemish patriots. ... It is an instrument for the advancement of the national and cultural identity of Flanders. Through its political initiatives the Vlaams Belang aims to ensure that the organisation and government of the state are (co-) determined by the need to preserve the cultural identity and the national interests of the Flemish people. The state is but a structure. In accordance with the principle of self-determination the state exists to serve the people. The state should serve the people, not the other way round."
"In an Anglosaxon context the term 'conservative' would be used, as opposed to 'liberal'. Indeed, we recognise man as a free agent, with all his human qualities and flaws, and we reject ideologies that presuppose the 'makeability' of mankind and that advocate social engineering. Tradition, virtues and morality, as these have grown through time, must be respected and are constitutive elements of the society of the future."
This stuff could come out of the GOP platform.
So whom do you believe? The trouble is that anywhere you look in Europe you can find smelly associations. The French themselves were by no means clean of Nazi associations sixty years ago, just as famous French intellectuals like Sartre were proud to be associated with good old mass-murdering Stalin and Mao. Socialist President Francois Mitterand started his political career as a fascist. The whole European governing class has a very bad case of the guilts, and a lot of them deserve it.
The French-speaking elite in Belgium probably believes that they are the only ones standing between civilization and a Nazi revival. That is a common belief in all the European elites. It is one of the major arguments for the European Union, which is hardly an model of democratic governance. The elected members of the EU don't govern, and the governing elites are not elected. The sneering elites tend to look upon ordinary people as racists. In fact the inconvenient truth is that the Nazis recruited very successfully from the elites themselves.
So it's a snake pit. Without knowing any specifics, I'm willing to bet that Vlaams Belang is penetrated by government agents. Whether they take the next step and act as agents provocateurs is an interesting question --- but here is a photo (scroll down) of a young woman posing in Nazi costume at a rally in Sweden* ten years ago. Is she a neo-Nazi? Sure looks like it. But how grossly stupid do you have to be to parade in full fascist drag for the cameras when your political party is trying to gain more public trust to win the next election?
I visited Belgium several years ago, and just happened to see a TV news program featuring some spokesfolks for Vlaams Belang. They looked like extras from the Star Wars bar scene; if they ever lost their jobs in Belgium they could go straight to Central Casting. There's always a need in show business for bad guys who really look like bad guys. It was amazing. I can't imagine a real political party parading those people on TV. Imagine if the Republican Party of Mississippi had spokespeople straight out of Deliverance? Would they be for real?
In Europe the electronic media tend to be government-owned, like the BBC (and we know how fairminded they are). European governments in their turn are mostly owned by parties of the Left. We know that those people are not afraid to use dirty tricks to stay in power. London's socialist mayor does not mind appealing to blatant antisemitism to get Pakistani votes. Jacques Chirac stands legally accused today for using dirty tricks against the new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. The BBC has admitted to smuggling in its own undercover "journalists" to sniff out racism at a Conservative Party meeting. Nice people.
The government-owned media in the EU are constantly looking for racism on the Right, when in fact their own record is very bad. Even the British Tories are constantly trying to duck the charge of racism, even though they led the fight against Hitler. That's the power of selective memory.
The conservative blogosphere is not immune to disinformation ops. If the American Left can't knock out conservative talk radio with the Fairness Doctrine, they have enough billionaires who are happy to sponsor dirty tricks to split the conservative movement. "Black PR" is quite likely to happen during the coming election. Keep an eye out for it.
It is therefore at least possible that Charles Johnson has been taken in by disinformation. It's easy to fall for suspicious information on the web. I would guess that Paul Belien and the writers for Brussels Journal are really decent people. They are constantly smeared by the Belgian Left, which is practically a proof of their personal probity. But they have some unfinished business.
There is a reasonable answer to this mess, which is to ask that Ceasar's wife be above suspicion. After American Labor was penetrated by Communist agents in the 1930s and 40s, the AFL-CIO expelled unions that didn't clean up their act. That was an act of public clarification --- it engendered real trust in pro-American union leaders like George Meany and Ronald Reagan, who began his political career as president of the Screen Actors Guild.
One reason why the American Left is in such bad shape today is that they no longer bother to clean out their totalitarians. Conservatives are doing well today in part because William Buckley and others drew a sharp line against racists decades ago. Conservatives today are delighted to see Clarence Thomas and Bobby Jindal achieving high office, not just because they are good people, but also because their success declares to the world who we really are.
So it may be sensible to ask conservatives elsewhere to prove their good intentions, just as we need to demand that the Democrats throw out their totalitarians. Maybe Paul Belien should clarify his position on these issues. Vlaams Belang should clean up its public image, and explicitly denounce suspicious characters. The political benefits of doing that are clear. It is also the right and proper thing to do. * Thanks to an alert reader for correcting the location.