Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Ill-Fitting Labels

More on the late Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn's mis-categorization in the press from Charles Paul Freund:

"Pim Fortuyn, the assassinated Dutch politician who was highly critical of Muslim immigration, is being universally described in the major media as 'right wing,' 'far right wing,' 'extreme right wing,' etc. Most accounts lump him and his political movement, which was expected to do well in the national elections scheduled for next week, with various anti-immigrant movements elsewhere in Europe. The New York Times, for example, wrote on its front page Tuesday that Fortuyn 'carried the same strong anti-immigrant message that has helped propel a resurgent far right to political triumphs in Austria, Denmark, Belgium, and, through Jean-Marie Le Pen, France.'

"This is a pretty lazy way to tell Fortuyn's story, and fails entirely to take into account his own rhetoric. It illustrates how the process of straining political events through the standard journalistic narrative templates - especially the right-vs.-left narrative -- can simplify a story so greatly that it emerges as a different story, perhaps even the wrong story."


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