Hiddema: the 'civilized' nationalist?

11 minutes to read
Laura Thomas

In the perception of many journalists and citizens, Baudet and Hiddema are conservatives but not really radical or extreme right politicians. But is that perception correct or do we encounter a radical ideology underneath their civilized image?

Hiddema, the best dressed, renowned criminal lawyer

“Now I like to give the stage to the number two of our list, renowned criminal lawyer, for years the best dressed man in the Netherlands. He will join us in the House of Representatives to bring order to justice. We are very excited to work with him, Theo Hiddema” with these words Baudet introduces Hiddema at the party congress of 2017. 

With these words,e Baudet co-constructs Hiddema’s image. Image is the description of ‘the portrait of identity fashioned out of cumulating patterns of congruence across all manner of indexical signs’ (Maly, 2016: 269). Hiddema is known for being well-dressed. He always wears a suit with a tie and pochet, and when he wears glasses he most often puts his glasses on the tip of his nose. You will not see laugh with his mouth wide open, instead his laugh is a smile with a closed mouth. His gaze is straight and sometimes rigid and his overall attitude is elitist and static, which is strengthened by his carefully trimmed moustache. 

Hiddema and Baudet are seen as dandies: nicely dressed men, intellectuals even. In the PowNews video De Baard their dandy attitude is visible. Baudet created a beard challenge: having men growo ut their beards until a new cabinet was formed in the Netherlands. In the video, the challenge is over and Baudet, accompanied by Hiddema, went to the barber for a shave. During the video, Hiddema's statements are fitting for a well-groomed man: “You can see all those beetles fleeing. (...) Can you cut those nose hairs, I can see them from over here.” (Hiddema) Whilst in the barber shop, Hiddema is smoking, even though it is is forbidden by law to smoke inside. In one hand he holds a cigarette, while the other is in his pocket. His gait is nonchalant on the one hand, and elegant and dominant on the other hand.

Hiddema's philosophies can be considered those of a 19th century modernist.

Hiddema is known for his manner of speech. When you analyse his voice, it is slightly nasal and monotonous, but with his feeling for giving accents in a sentence and carefully choosing his words, he became famous as a speaker in court and in the media. He is understood as good communicator: “Hiddema is a great consumer of text […] his oratorical ability has made him a phenomenon in the courtroom, a welcome guest in the media and a society figure. (De Jong, 2014).

Baudet and the media are using these indexical signs to portray Hiddema as a successful, rational and civilized man. The style Hiddema is using is a rhetorical kind of speech, in line with him being a lawyer and cultivating that image. His career as a lawyer has been very successful indeed and it still has a tremendous influence on how he is perceived. The media depict Hiddema as an intellectual, which is exactly what Hiddema wants, since Baudet and himself are both profiling themselves as successful intellectuals. This profiling is visible through the way they reply to their critics. They speak from a 'superior' intellectual position, framing journalists and media as 'low' quality papers: “That’s a nice piece of lazy, lame journalism of the highest level and very worthy of the Volkskrant I can tell you. In order to frame Baudet in the right way, they also committed character murder on Willem van Hanegem.” (Hiddema)

By giving such a reply he puts himself above the journalist, which strengthens his elitist attitude. Hiddema knows what issues he can address, since he can win the debate on rhetorics alone. The issues Hiddema addresses in the political field are most often regarded to crime, law and justice and immigration. These issues can be related to his successful law career, and by addressing these issues he builds his message of a lawyer who knows what he is talking about. 

Image, style and issue create the message. This message ‘is about is about mobilizing all semiotic means to persuade the audience that you are the one that will answer their needs’ (Maly, unknown). Hiddema's performance is that of a civilized, well-educated, man and he addresses issues to do with law and justice, since he is most knowledgable in those areas. Therefore, he creates a trustworthy, well-educated, and experienced message. Because of his well-defined rhetorical way of speech and civilized appearance, Hiddema's blunt statements don't seem that harsh and radical. His image is well-defined and influences his message. In order to understand the message, it is important to look further into the discourse of the political party.

Style vs discourse

What we've learned so far is that the image cannot be disconnected from the message; therefore we need to explore the discourse of the political party FvD, since their image has an impact on understanding the discourse they use.

The FvD wants to promote Dutch culture and history by educating citizens in schools and by using mass media. The nation and its national culture need to be revived and revalued, because Over the past decades, attempts have been made to alienate the Dutch from their history and separate them from their culture. This should not only stop, it should be reversed. (Forum voor Democratie, n.d.). The globalist or the so-called party-kartel with its kosmopolitan dreams and their oikophobia have deconstructed that Dutch culture, according to FvD.

True Dutch culture is seen as being in a state of decline, and therefore urgent action is needed. This decline, according to Baudet and Hiddema, is, amongst other things, the result of migration: Due to the arrival of large groups of (Islamic) immigrants, a number ofcore values of our society has come under pressure. The party kartel has ignored this problem for the past thirty years - letting it go completely out of hand and allowing entire populations to become alienated from one another.(Forum voor Democratie, n.d.)

Not only does the party define their stance on immigration and remigration issues through the discourse they use when discussing problems regarding immigration, but they also define what they see as a 'healthy nation'. According to FvD, the Dutch people should decide who stays and who is not welcome, based on their cultural background, e.g. certain cultural backgrounds cannot fit in with Dutch society and culture: “Asylum policy based on the Australian model: The Netherlands decides for itself who is being cared for here. Immigrants with extreme political ideas that are not in line with our Western civilization should be immediately deported to their country of origin.” (Forum voor Democratie, n.d.). In principle,  all religions are welcome, but in practice, Islam is defined as undermining or incompatible with Dutch values. Islam, or the so-called Islamization isseen as the origin of the problems with immigration in FvD's discourse. 

By making Dutch culture superior to others, FvD's discourse undermines the equal treatment of religions and the separation between church and state, and thus undermines the fundaments of the Enlightenment tradition. This cultural policy can be distinguished as ‘a classical anti-Enlightenment concept of the nation as an organic ethnic community that connects all its member through the Dutch language and other classic ethno-cultural characteristics’ (Maly, 2016: 273) 

Integration between the sheets

This anti-Enlightenment ideology also becomes obvious when Hiddema and Baudet talk about the ideal type of integration and the survival of the nation. Baudet's comments on the 'homeopathic dilution of Duthc culture' caused a huge media storm. Most people think that Baudet and Hiddema share the same opinions. However, Hiddema suggests to have a different opinion on matters such as racism and sexism:“(..) I don’t have to follow the party leader blindly” (PowNews, 2017)But then he goes further by saying that: “The best integration is through racial blend. When all the Moroccans mix with Dutch females there is no problem. Then we do not need integration committees and experts. Integration under the covers.” (PowNews, 2017).

When we analyze this statement, we see that Hiddema and Baudet are in fact saying the same thing. Dutch culture is under threat and in order to save it, we need to think about the reproduction of that culture. In the above quote, we see that Hiddema uses an ethno-cultural definition of national culture. The way he sees it, culture is deeply embedded in people'sethnic backgrounds; that why he pleads for racial blending, in order to in order to save Dutch culture. Dutch culture can be saved if Moroccans marry real Dutch people and reproduce Dutch Culture.

The question then becomes: can this statement be seen as an act of racism and sexism? According to Hiddema, his statement doesn’t contain racism and sexism since he claims: “I have advocated the sexual mixing. Is that racist? I do not think so. On the contrary”. What we see here, is that he limits 'racism' to exclusion on the basis of 'biological' criteria and as such frames himself as not being racist. However, he still advocates that Dutch culture is the only acceptable culture and identity and that Moroccans are only welcome if they become real Dutch people.

In that sense, we see how his radical ethno-cultural nationalism also constructs a type of cultural racism ‘Racism was created historically and became interdependent with the ideology of nationalism […] racism and nationalism arose together, are often articulated together and have an influence on each other (Miles, 1989: 9). By claiming Moroccans need to mix with Dutch females, Hiddema promotes ethno-cultural nationalism, which constitutes a variant of racism that sees Dutch culture in the Netherlands as more important than Moroccan culture. Moreover, Hiddema frames 'Islam' as a fixed and unchangeable culture:

This idea of racial blend is racism since it depicts Islamization as a problem and want to solve the problem by trying to create superior inhabitants.  Although, Hiddema does not believe his idea of racial blend will work since he says:  “There's one category of people that won't be liberated (bevrijen), which is the Islam. They won't be liberated, they focus on beliefs.” (Back, 2017)

The idea of racial blending, and his essentialist definition of the 'islamic other' doesn’t just show the radical nationalist perspective of Hiddema, but also refers to his conservative points of view as being Anti-Enlightenment ones. This comes to the fore most clearly in the ideas of racial blending, which are typical for 19th century modernist thinking. When we scratch the surface, we see that hidden under a message full of charismatic rhetoric, dandyism and elitist attitude, we encounter an old radical ideology.


A civilized, well-educated anti-Enlightenment nationalist

Up until today, we see that most mainstream media reproduce the message of Hiddema and Baudet as them being civilized, conservative nationalists. Most journalists and intellectuals don't focus on their radical ideology. Hiddema and Baudet are treated as intellectuals, as popular politicians and as the decent alternative to Wilders. If they make explicit radical claims, these claims are understood as an exception, as irony or as miscommunications, but rarely as indexes of their ideology. 

When Hiddema talked about 'negro's' this was framed as 'unwelcome": “Of course that is completely correct, but that does not mean that it is normal to use the word" negro ". I understand that this term is popular again in certain circles, non-politically correct circles, but you can go too far in that. Hiddema is undoubtedly no racist, but "negro" is really outdated today.” (van der Galien, 2017). In many instances, they fail to detect the radical anti-Enlightenment discourse of these dandies. However, when you analyse his discourse, Hiddema can be seen as a conservative nationalist. The radical nature of Hiddema's and the FvD's nationalism can be most clearly seen in their controversial ideas regarding the homeopathic dilution'' of Dutch culture or the ethno-cultural blend. 

Hiddema's philosophies can be considered those of a 19th century modernist. His radical thoughts regarding nationalism and Anti-Enlightenment thinking make him a racist and a sexist, but because he uses his image so well, his discourse is not immediately recognised as that of a populist. This means that Hiddema isn't portrayed as one by the media, although he still plays with the voice of the public and puts himself above them.



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