Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh’s murderer was today sentenced to life imprisonment. This is just as well: killing people for making films is a Bad Thing, irrespective of the films’ content (which is just as well for Michael Winner).
However, I’m somewhat fed up with all the sanctimonious humbug that gets talked about Mr Van Gogh. Even among the reasonably sensible press, and especially among more hawkish, anti-Muslim commentators, he gets referred to as “a critic of Islam” – as if he were someone akin to Irshad Manji, and as if he’d been killed for voicing unpleasant truths about the religion or for suggesting that the religion required reform.
I’m not normally a great fan of speaking ill of the dead, but this is absolute nonsense. Long before he attracted Muslim ire, he attracted hatred from feminists and Jewish groups for making books and films that deliberately offended women and Jews. His idea of a good joke was to say “I suspect that [Jewish] Ms Gans gets wet dreams about being fucked by Dr Mengele”.
Although he never stopped hating (or at least, baiting) the Jews, he’d diverted his attention towards the Muslims by the late 1990s, coming up with the witty and enchanting nickname “goatfuckers” to describe all followers of the religion, and writing a book based on roughly the same theme. The film which encouraged Mohammed Bouyeri to stab him involved desecrating the text of the Koran (in Muslims’ eyes) by writing Koranic verses on a naked woman’s body. That isn’t ‘being a critic of Islam’, that’s ‘trying to really annoy Muslims for a laugh’.
Mr Van Gogh’s ambition and goal in life was to offend and annoy everybody he could; there was no higher purpose to any of his actions. It’s still appalling that he was killed, and I’d fight to the death for anyone’s right to tell religious people they’re clowns (and to mock their symbols and icons). After all, all religions are silly cults that deserve ridicule, Islam as much as Christianity, Hinduism or Wicca. Nonetheless, to portray him as some kind of investigative journalist rather than a juvenile provocateur (if you’ve read my blog, you can probably insert an obligatory ‘takes one to know one’ gag here) is simply incorrect.
Like a petulant drunk who gets his head kicked in for spitting in the local crack dealer’s pint, Theo Van Gogh deserves to be remembered as an idiot who still shouldn’t have been murdered. He doesn’t deserve to be remembered as some kind of free-speech hero.