In the open letter, 800 scholars of Dutch universities respond to the victory speech that was given by FvD party leader Thierry Baudet after the provincial council elections of last Tuesday, and to the ‘indoctrination hotline for schools and universities’ that FvD recently set up.

Conspiratorial atmosphere

“In his post-election speech last week, Tuesday, Baudet claimed that ‘our boreal world’ was being ‘destroyed’ and ‘undermined’ by ‘our universities, our journalists, and those who receive our arts-subsidies and design our buildings’”, wrote the scholars in their open letter. “Such statements are meant to conjure up a conspiratorial atmosphere in which academics, journalists, artists and architects are not only seen as suspect. They are deemed guilty of the ‘destruction’ of our society, and portrayed as the enemy of the people.”

Alternative history

About the party’s ‘indoctrination hotline’ they write: “Given the strong interest Baudet expresses in dismissing climate science and promoting history based on national pride, it is clear that this initiative is not genuinely interested in reducing bias in academic institutions. Rather, it is interested in selectively discounting knowledge that does not fit its political and ideological aims.” They also point to a recent study by KNAW, which concluded that there is no danger of self-censorship at universities because of a lack of diversity in political perspectives.

Populist right

Furthermore, they refer to the rise of the populist right elsewhere in the world: Bolsonaro, Trump, Orban and Erdogan. “We witness how watchlists of ‘suspect’ academics, public discrediting of scientific knowledge, and political attacks on institutional funding for education and research are used as methods to close down spaces for critical debate, further marginalize minorities and women, and consolidate the power of authoritarian parties.”

The scholars want to convey a clear message: “Our society will not tolerate any political infringement on the freedom to conduct critical academic research and education.”