May 26, 2023 at 5:40 PM Update: 7 hours ago
Deputy Prime Minister and D66 leader Sigrid Kaag has been a topic of conversation since she became visibly emotional on TV because her daughters are concerned about her safety. It is a broader story, says Kaag to NU.nl. “Anyone who looks slightly different from the old image has a harder time in the public eye.”
What do you think is going on in society that we have seen these threats from politicians for years?
“It’s a broader story. Hatred, harassment, threats and accusations are much more directed at women than at men.”
“It is also more aimed at people of color or people with a migration background. Although sometimes it is about a third generation, so you can’t even say that anymore. Anyone who looks slightly different from the old image has a harder time to endure in the public eye.”
“Social media also play a major role. This can create a distorted image. That is very worrying. The threats are very real.”
Are we now seeing a change in society in which people of ‘the old image’ find these changes difficult?
“I’m not a sociologist, so I don’t want to interpret big things like this. I do think that we live in a period in which major changes are taking place. People feel insecure about their future. A lot is coming at them. The grip on their lives gets a little lost.”
“The feeling of being adrift has a greater impact on some people. Then you channel your anger and your anger somewhere. Again, social media have a permanent role in this. Also through the algorithms and targeting. Fragments are repeated continuously. That arouses a certain image.
“Also look at the level of some political debates. Women are sometimes addressed in a certain way so often that it becomes normal.”
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“Well, just look at the social media accounts of certain politicians.”
Is there any herb for this? For example, should politicians set conditions for the algorithms?
“From the House and the cabinet, we look at which regulations can protect society. You can act in a normative way, without compromising the fundamental right to freedom of expression. They are also personal preferences: everything you are allowed to say, you must don’t always want to say.”
“As a society, we do discuss self-regulation together. You do that at home, at school or at the football club. You have to address each other about behavior. That may be very old-fashioned, but it works that way. I am of the live and let live generation I want that attitude to life. Your life is not my life, but I wish you everything.”
“Let’s be peaceful and stay within the law. Then we’ll go a long way. That sounds simple, but it’s often a lot of work.”
Are you hoping for self-cleaning ability?
“No hope. We have to work on it ourselves. Politicians have to set a good example. We also have to look at laws and regulations when it comes to doxing or hate and discrimination on social media.”
“You also have to look at what we are responsible for ourselves. It cannot be the case that we find that the calf has drowned and then fill in the well. Because we damage the rule of law and we damage democracy. That is the greater story. It can touch and affect us all.”
“I also fear that you will get self-censorship. I sometimes hear that people do not tweet because they fear the muck they will get over them.”
Do you ever think: leave that tweet alone?
“No, but I don’t tweet that much and I hardly ever read Twitter. Also out of self-protection.”
You may also think: I look the beast in the mouth.
“I do that too. I know what is being written. I don’t let myself be distracted from the task I have. I don’t let social media lead my life, because then you’re on the wrong path.”
Does it impact you as a politician? Is your work suffering?
After that fragment, it was also a lot about the doubt you have whether or not to continue. Is that doubt really there?
“Those are the headlines. I’d say, ‘Watch the whole program for yourself on Sunday.'”
“I have had a very working life and a top career. I was not made by Dutch politics. You also have to keep the door open to do other things. At the moment I am still Minister of Finance, First Deputy Prime Minister and party leader of D66. But I have never believed that one function is more sacred than others.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte often says that he likes his job so much. Do you have to like politics very much to make it to the highest office?
“I think you have to have a great sense of responsibility, be dutiful and have the conviction that you always try to do the right thing for the country. I have those three elements.”
What does it say about the political debate that this discussion only comes to the fore when you get emotional on TV?
“That says something nice about a lot of people in the Netherlands. It is heartwarming.”
“It might show that politicians are just people too. Mother, father, niece or nephew. I didn’t see that fragment coming and I didn’t expect my own reaction either.”
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