Aggression spilling into MP's private lives; Some choosing to hold opinions back
Parliamentarians increasingly notice political polarization spilling into their private lives, facing threats and harassment at home or in public spaces like the supermarket. Some MPs, therefore, hold back and don’t always express their opinions, NOS reports after surveying members of the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament.
The broadcaster asked MPs to fill out a questionnaire about threats, harassment, and polarization and interviewed those who did. Of the 150 MPs, 51 completed the questionnaire. “The results say something about how this group perceives work but not necessarily about those who did not complete the questionnaire,” the broadcaster wrote.
One MP called threats and online verbal abuse “a daily phenomenon.” Another said they were “pissed off” because even their daughter was threatened. Another said they “increasingly avoid public spaces” due to occasional intimidating encounters in places like the supermarket.
Nearly a quarter of respondents said they sometimes keep their opinions to themselves because of potential threats or harassment. One MP said she noticed that she no longer posts some views on social media and definitely thinks twice before taking on far-right FvD in a debate. According to NOS, multiple MPs called the FvD the biggest catalyst for online threats.
A massive 71 percent of the responding MPs said they increasingly noticed the consequences of polarization in their private lives. 61 percent reported being threatened, intimidated, or otherwise harassed. Seven MPs said their loved ones are also receiving threats because of their work as MPs.
The parliamentarians cite “social media” as the primary source of threats and intimidation. MPs are bombarded with negativity, including death threats, all day long, an experienced MP told NOS. Female parliamentarians noted that they regularly notice sexist language in the harassment aimed at them.
The MPs also said that the political debate is polarized. One MP explained that parties no longer simply disagree but immediately portray the other as a danger. The suspicion runs so deep that it’s sometimes challenging to converse with the person next to you because you belong to a certain party and they don’t trust you, another MP said.
Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius of Justice and Security told NOS that it is worrying that politicians feel increasingly unsafe due to harassment and threats. She stressed that there is a clear boundary and that the police and Public Prosecution Service always act firmly against threats and harassment. “It must not become normal that representatives or administrator can no longer do their work freely and safely.”
Tweede Kamer president Vera Bergkamp responded on Twitter: “Awful. This should never become normal. Representatives of the people must be able to do their work in freedom and safety. Unfortunately, due to threats and intimidation, we were already forced to invest more in our team that assists MPs with security matters.”