Warning! You are a potential victim of this blog

The Belgian bloggers are quite upset, the emotions are stirred. The Controversion seems to be everywhere. It's war claims Houbi.
The following badge has been created by Adhese and spread (as well as other warning variations) while Houbi got creative with old war posters.




So what is it about? The Belgian minister for Defense, Pieter De Crem, was in New York with a delegation last week to meet with UN representatives. But the UN was gathering in Geneva so his appointments got cancelled. Apparently the group visited a bar , they were (quite?) drunk and openly talked about being aware of the cancelled meetings but deciding to go to NY anyway as some of the delegation had never visited the city and they didn't feel like cancelling.

The Belgian girl working in that bar was quite upset about their waste of Belgian tax money and posted about it on her blog. It must have been picked up I suppose, but 4 days later she's fired on the spot by her boss who would have received a phone call from th Belgian political delegation, which she mentions again.

In the mean time the story truly gets picked up by the Belgian media and Mr De Crem gets questions about his NY trip in the Belgian parliament. After first denying, then admitting the phone call, he all of a sudden claims the following in the house of representatives:

I want to take this opportunity and use this non-event to signal a dangerous phenomenon in our society. We live in a time where everybody is free to publish whatever he or she wants on blogs at will without taking any responsibility. This exceeds mud-slinging. Together with you, other Parliament members and the government I find that it’s nearly impossible to defend yourself against this. Everyone of you is a potential victim. I would like to ask you to take a moment and think about this.

Dangerous phenomenon? Without any responsibility? Everyone a potential victim?

Ok if he wants us to take a moment to think about it, then I will. Not because my opinion and post here is going to bring any added value in the controversy. Everyone else has already given all valid remarks. I want to post my reaction, simply because I am free to publish my opinion indeed. Whether Mr De Crem likes it or not, it is my right to express my opinion via any media, my blog included. If I want to write a long post why I see him as a representative of a group of sour uptight politicians that love to criticise any opponent's action but react very childish to any criticism they receive themselves. Why not? It might be subjective and opiniated, but I could publish that.

Let's nuance a little: Pieter De Crem gained his nickname "Crembo" within 2 weeks of being in function. He's not quite known for nuanced opinions and eufimisms. Isn't he the one who associates some of his political opponents in the family of "Osama Bin Laden and those who rape and cut off the ears of children"? So his strong remarks towards bloggers shouldn't surprise us.

Nevertheless he's the one who writes on his webpage as a welcome message.
Getting in touch with you has always been at the heart of my political engagement. Essentially, politics is a dialogue with the citizen. This conversation between you and me can be held in many ways. The internet helps close the gap between the citizen and the politician, it helps to close the gap between reality and policy as much as possible

Whaaahaaaa, internet helps to close the gap between the citizens and the politician, between reality and policy....but beware of the bloggers as they are a very dangerous species. yeah right, talk about empty words.

Look, let me be clear: I don't think the girl working in that bar should have blogged about her employer's customers. That's not really done. She claims she knew it was a risk (on a comment on the Facebook group that has been launched to fight her firing) but that she was too upset about the "vacation trip" that she thought it was her duty. Hmm tough call. I don't think I would have done it.

Nobody cares at all either whether De Crem and his delegation was drunk or not. So what. Belgians don't care, on the contrary. We keep electing ministers that are known to appear drunk in public and who's appearances are huge Youtube hits.
Was this an unnecessary trip to NY at the expense of the tax payers....that's something the parliament needs to watch, judge and control. And I would expect that this case would be easily verifiable.

So as a matter of fact this could really have been a non-event.
But if it was a non-event...why did the delegation bother to make the phone call to the bar and then deny it first? Why did they simply not ignore it and let it blow over?
Either the UN meetings were cancelled before they left and then he has to clarify himself in the parliament (and if he thinks his reputation has been harmed by the blog, there are legal steps that can be taken)....or they were not and then it's the blogster and the opposition in the parliament making a fool of himself.

But all of that should not touch the freedom of speech at all. Everyone can have an opinion and express it via any means. If one commits harm to one's reputation, there's legal measures to protect you from that. So it is wrong that you can't defend yourself, it's wrong that bloggers do not need to take responsibility (as does anyone who publishes / spreads news via other media!).

I can only conclude that Mr De Crem does not want to bridge the gap between the citizen and the politician even though he got elected by grace of the citizens. He is paranoia for the citizen's criticism and does not value it. He's a victim and we are dangerous!
If that's his attitude, he maybe should not have chosen a political career. Check this out, Mr De Crem.

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