Undercover journalist infiltrates Freedom Party
Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party is like a fortress, it has no members and avoids the ‘left-wing’ Dutch press. Journalist Karin Geurtsen went undercover as an intern to find out what the party is really like. So what did she achieve, other than the anger of Geert Wilders?
On Twitter, Geert Wilders said "the left-wing media had sunk to new depths." But the HP/De Tijd magazine intern insists she infiltrated the party as a service to potential Freedom Party voters who want to know more, and not in an attempt to give the anti-Wilders camp more ammunition against him.
Wilders in charge
Geurtsen does, however, confirm the image everybody has that the Freedom Party revolves around just one person, its blond-haired leader.
"I very much had the idea that he held the reins. Everything had to be run past him and was discussed with him first. Of course, MPs have control over their own areas of policy, but I heard that in parliamentary faction meetings Wilders is in charge. In the end, it is him that decides."
Nevertheless, that does not lead to internal tension according to Geurtsen. And otherwise the Freedom Party is a normal party like any other: speeches are written, incoming questions are answered, and outings are organised where everyone lets their hair down. "Really nice, normal people work there," she says.
Geurtsen had more of a problem with the way the Freedom Party approached the media. The advice she was given was to keep the message simple when she wrote texts during the four-month internship. She was told to use one-liners to get into the papers: Islam is bad, the government is bad and the Freedom Party is good.
"The main thing they want is to be efficient, 'as long as they reach as many people as possible’ instead of 'as long as they highlight our views as clearly as possible’."
It is this stance, says Geurtsen, that gives people the idea that the Freedom Party is a 'wild' and dangerous party. Wrongly.
"I think it is all about shouting really loudly and always exaggerating just to get media attention.
While the people in the party probably don’t really think things are that bad."
It is obvious that the Freedom Party will close the door in her face in the future, thinks Ms Geurtsen.
"I have already been kind of boycotted."
Nevertheless, the lesson she has learned from the experience is mainly this one: that people should judge for themselves. Instead of allowing their judgement to be determined by one-liners or by negative stories in the media.
Perro de Jong