An column in activist webzine Ravage which intended to ‘take the piss out of’ anti-racism activist René Danen was interpreted as a threat against right-wing politician Geert Wilders, who brought a charge against Ravage. Yesterday, Ravage editor Alex van Veen was interviewed by the police. However, Wilders now says the charge against Ravage may have been a mistake.
Danen has accused Wilders of racism and has campaigned for the politician to be prosecuted. Two months ago, Ravage published a fake diary by ‘René D.’, in which Danen would have said that Wilders should be beheaded. Apparently, some readers did not understand that the article was fake, resulting in threats against Danen. Van Veen, who has written the article, added a paragraph emphasising that Danen was not the real author and rejecting the threats.
Among the people who thought the article was serious was Wilders, or perhaps someone among his staff. Wilders brought a charge against Ravage. Last week, web master Roeben Swart spent a night in a police cell, and yesterday Van Veen was interviewed by the police.
In today’s de Pers, Wilders comments: “I have seen the column without its context. I thought René Danen had really threatened me, so I reported him to the police. However, things seem to be different. If something is a parody, then that’s something I understand. Of course, it’s not my intention to create a second Nekschot case [an anti-Islam cartoonist who also had to spend a night in jail]. I’ll take another good look at it and then I may drop the charge”.
Van Veen’s experience suggests that the Amsterdam police have not prepared the case very thoroughly. He says that he was interviewed by a policeman who did not know the Ravage website and who had a print-out of the controversial article in a folder in front of him, but had not read it. Initially, the police would have thought that Ravage was a weblog kept by just one person.
The Danen pastiche did attract a lot of attention to Ravage. Websites such as GeenStijl and het Vrije Volk linked to the site, boosting visits from 1,000 to 8,000 per day, resulting in a bill from the provider because the site exceeded the data limit. According to Van Veen, the new visitors played a role in the controversy. “Normally, the website is visited by a small group of people who get it when an article is satirical, but some of the new visitors apparently didn’t”.
Van Veen says that the affair is ‘shitty’ for Swart. He says Swart showed up for an appointment at the Meer en Vaart police station at about 1 pm last Wednesday, but was not interviewed until 7 pm. By then, the policeman who was to confiscate his computer was not in anymore, so he had to spend the night in jail, kept awake by noisy youth. Subsequently, his computer was taken away from him for days.
Apart from what happened to Swart, Van Veen says he is not sorry about his Danen impersonation. “I wanted to take the piss out of him and I succeeded”.
Some say the animosity between Danen and Van Veen originates in 2004. After the murder of Theo van Gogh, Van Veen wrote an article in which he accused the left of being uncritical of Muslim fundamentalism. Danen in turn accused Ravage of right-wing populism and called for a boycott of the magazine. Van Veen responded with a column in which he called Danen an orang utan, among other things.
However, Van Veen says that the animosity started earlier, as a result of his coverage of Danen’s organisation Nederland Bekent Kleur. Van Veen criticised NBK for working with political parties and trade unions.
Danen declined to comment, arguing that he is not a party to the conflict between Wilders and Ravage. In a general sense, he does say that he is against threats, including those expressed under a false name. “There’s nothing funny about that”.
Image: library picture of the editorial office of Ravage (photo Ravage)