What Theo van Gogh really said

There’s a deserved attack here by Franco Alemán on a lousy article by Carmen Montón in La Vanguardia, the paper for people who like to think they know about Foreignistan. She says that “[Theo]Van Gogh had exceeded the most extreme limits of provocation known in civilised countries.” This is not the view of the man who most suffered from Van Gogh’s often frenzied verbal attacks.

Van Gogh was responsible for a 20-year hate campaign against fellow writer, Leon de Winter, which began when Van Gogh accused De Winter of using his Jewish background as a source of wealth, and took root definitively with a De Winter column entitled The Eternal Anti-Semite. There followed a 9½ years of legal proceedings, which Van Gogh won. Nevertheless, following Van Gogh’s murder De Winter wrote that “He was my arsehole, and he had the right to be an arsehole.” Here De Winter continues:

“Of course, it’s not good to keep on calling people “goat-fuckers”, but at the same time it’s also something that should be possible in an adult society. Obviously Van Gogh went very far, in my view too far, but OK, then you take him to court. And then you try to stop it with means that we have all, together agreed are legitimate. And when it gets to be too much, you can always turn away, shut your ears. That’s what I did for 20 years with Van Gogh. I came to a point where I didn’t want to read any more of what he wrote about me. Is that difficult? Yes it is, but you can live with it.”


Leon de Winter can to a certain degree imagine that the film Submission by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo van Gogh created the wrong impression on some people. On the other hand, the ability to film a pamphlet of this nature forms is “characteristic of the point in history which we have now reached.” De Winter says this means that “the holiest of holies” can be “touched on, analysed, ridiculed.” Nevertheless De Winter says he cannot understand what is so offensive about the film: “I didn’t seem over-the-top to me, I found Submission quite an innocent film. And nothing was ridiculed in the film. The form was highly traditional: a woman believer praying to God to relieve her from the misery in which she finds herself.”

If Montón lacks a basic understanding of what makes countries civilised, ex-Vanguardia director Lluís Foix in another Van Gogh-related piece today doesn’t even bother to get his basic facts correct:

On seeing that the young man of 26 was going to kill him, the victim uttered a few words. “Don’t do it, don’t do it, have mercy,” he said in desperation. The murderer hung [sic] a piece of paper on the corpse which said that “there will be no mercy for the evil. America, Europe and Holland will be destroyed.”

Er, no. The second part is an absurd and inaccurate reduction of the killer’s letter, but let’s concentrate on the first part. Van Gogh actually said, “Don’t do it, don’t do it.” He didn’t ask for mercy.

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