Schmoozing with criminals

POSTED: 10/8/12 2:25 PM

Willem Holleeder is what people these days call a BN – a well-known Dutchman (Bekende Nederlander). His most notorious achievements are the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken, extortion of real estate barons and (possible) involvement in liquidations in the criminal world.
Holleeder got out of jail in January after serving two-thirds of a 9-year sentence for extortion. One if his victims was Willem Endstra who was murdered after an argument with Holleeder. Earlier, in 1983, Holleeder started serving an 11-year sentence for the Heineken kidnapping.
All in all not what one would call a model-citizen.
But his notoriety somehow attracts people. The editor of the Nieuwe Revu magazine offered Holleeder a column, and now he has also been invited as a guest on the college tour TV-show. Not everybody is happy with this sudden schmoozing with one of the country’s best-known criminals, but that is probably exactly the reason why Nieuwe Revu and College Tour did what they did.
In the Volkskrant, columnist Nausicaa Marbe attacked both the Nieuwe Revu and College Tour. The only motives to invite Holleeder are sensationalism, viewer ratings and fame for producers, she wrote.
Marbe did not even have a problem with that, but she balked (for good reasons, we’d like to add) when the producer of College Tour claimed that his motives for inviting Holleeder were pure.
A criminal like Holleeder gets a platform, according to producer Carel Kuyl, because he has journalistic relevance.
Holleeder of course, comes across as a guy with a lot of dry humor – made in Amsterdam, in the Jordaan district in particular. That works for the producers of programs that want to attract as many viewers as possible. But Marbe wonders where the limits are.
Would a local TV-station in St. Maarten for instance ever make the two guys who are currently serving 30 years for the Regatta-murders the guest of honor in a St. Maarten Day broadcast? Would this newspaper ever offer a column to the 17-year- old who is now accused of being part of the gang that murder Michael and Thelma King?
The answers to these questions are clear to everyone: of course not.
So what is then the “journalistic relevance” of Willem Holleeder? Interesting question and for most of us the answer would be one word: none.
In the Netherlands there was recently some controversy over statement by State Secretary Fred Teeven (Security and Justice). The criticism was that a minister should not encourage citizens to behave like a criminal when they are face to face with a criminal. Teeven said in a reaction to a burglary whereby the burglar died that the occupational risks for burglars are significant and that one of the risks was death.
That was a step too far for many people, though Teeven seems to have a point. Holleeder knows it too, because Cor van Hout (his brother in law and one of the Heineken-kidnappers) was murdered by criminals at the orders of a gangster Holleeder was on close contact with.
But Teeven’s critics maintain that people have to keep their distance from crime (and criminals), show that they have a moral compass and foresee the consequences of bad actions. That’s all good and well, but, Marbe notes, The highly necessary distance that makes the difference between the jungle and civilization gets torpedoed by media that turn criminals like Holleeder into heroes.

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