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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How to Fight Bias in the Media

Dutch conservative takes his revenge on Liberal media.

When conservative columnist Joshua Livestro was confronted with censorship at the Dutch public broadcasting corporation, he didn’t get mad – he got even.

When I was invited to appear as a right-wing columnist on Dutch public broadcasting corporation NPS’ main Sunday politics show Buitenhof my friends had warned me that it was a recipe for disaster.

By the end of the season, I had all the evidence I needed. So when after my final column I was told that the editors had decided that “unfortunately” my efforts would no longer be required next season, I sprang into action.

I phoned my editor at Holland’s largest circulation newspaper, the solidly conservative De Telegraaf (I write the foreign affairs column there). Within a matter of minutes, we hatched a two-part plan.

Stage one was a hard-hitting column combined with front-page splash in which I revealed the censorship and political bias with which I’d been confronted during my time at the program. With their response inevitably focusing on my not meeting their exacting standards (what else could they say? They were hardly going to admit to being biased), I was then going to use phase two to leak minutes of editorial board meetings and e-mails from individual editors which refuted that claim.

The minutes were always brief, but what little they did mention was invariably favorable. One column was called ‘funny’, another ‘good’, a third ‘nice and short, forceful’. E-mails from individual editors were equally supportive. “Nice column! I completely agree!”, editor Barbara Coolen wrote about one of them. “Good analysis, good subject,” was Van Friesland’s comment on another one.

By the time these quotes – as well as the censored columns, which I offered to a newly founded Dutch conservative magazine called Opinio ( – had made their way through the Dutch blogosphere, it was “game over” for Buitenhof. What started with a minor problem – getting rid of an unwanted columnist whose views just didn’t fit in with the cozy progressive consensus – ended in a week from hell: Members of Parliament asking questions about censorship in public broadcasting, newspaper editorials and columnists rounding on the Buitenhof editors, inboxes filling up with e-mails from members of the public complaining about the misappropriation of their tax money, and the management of NPS and its sister station NOS being forced publicly to defend themselves against charges of bias.

So, you ask, at the end of all this, do I feel good about what I’ve done? Good? I feel great! And would I do it all again exactly the same way I’ve done it now?

You bet I would.

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