Once upon a time, satire was a commentary on life, but nowadays it seems as if life is a commentary on satire. How else are we to describe the decision of the Dutch court to allow the Brotherly Love, Freedom, and Diversity Party to contest the next elections?

The party was formed by pedophiles, and its political program consists of lowering the age of consent to sexual intercourse from 16 to 12, the legalization of the possession of child pornography and of sexual intercourse with animals (provided, of course, that they are not ill-treated and do not suffer as a result), as well as legal license to broadcast pornography during the day and violent pornography at night. It wants also to remove the taboo on pedophilia—a taboo that party spokesmen claim has strengthened since the conviction of Marc Dutroux in Belgium, who kidnapped six girls for sexual purposes and starved and tortured four of them to death. Perhaps he wouldn’t have felt obliged to kill them, the party contends, if pedophilia had not had such a bad name in the first place.

The problem with the court’s ruling is not that it is likely to bring the Brotherly Love Party to power. The party is most unlikely to receive the 5 percent of the votes that it needs to attain parliamentary representation. Nor is it likely to encourage many of the Dutch to change their sexual practices, though it might in the long run encourage experimentation precisely because of the breaking of the taboo.

But the ruling opens even wider the dangerous gulf between the pays légal and the pays réel. According to a survey, 82 percent of the Dutch population want the party outlawed, and this huge majority cannot consist entirely of straitlaced Calvinists. It is not as if Dutch society were illiberal and offered no opportunity whatever for the expression of sexual difference, or as if it prescribed an inflexible sexual code. But even the liberal Dutch obviously feel that society has to draw a line somewhere.

Courts do not exist merely to codify the prejudices of the population, of course, however strong they might be. Yet when court rulings are too radically disconnected from the moral sensibility of the population, the law itself comes into disrepute and loses the legitimacy that is nine tenths of its power. There is then a risk of a breakdown of law and order, and of a violent political backlash. It is not surprising that one of the leaders of the Brotherly Love Party recently had to flee a trailer park where he was staying.

There is another nagging worry about the ruling in Holland’s present circumstances. If society cannot protect itself from the activities of a handful of pedophiles whose ability to threaten it with violence is minimal, how will it protect itself (and on what basis) against the activities of the far more numerous, determined, and dangerous Islamists? Will this ruling be seen in times to come as but a sentence in the long Dutch suicide note?


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