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Rutte and Bosma don't do vision or substance and bend culture debate to their will

Culture debate 2013: Rutte and PVV shake hands. It was about Caro Emerald. About Zwarte Piet. And the classic: subsidy on opera tickets. And briefly about carnival. And it made all the news. Geenstijl. Radio 1,2,3 and 4. What else was the debate about? Um... no idea.

How grinning Arno Rutte, also VVD, must have started today's culture debate. His predecessor as culture spokesman Bart de Liefde was similarly cheerful. After all, on behalf of the VVD, he could not only defend the policy implemented by Zijlstra and instigated by coalition partner PVV, but in many a debate he could go a step further.

The consequences of that policy are well known. Many a company or institution is still licking its wounds, trying to build something new on the smoking rubble - or simply no longer exists.

With Rutte II, the tone of the culture debate changed, to the relief of many. Jet Bussemaker even chose not to appoint a state secretary for culture, but to act as culture minister. With a curious letter recently, in which quality seemed to be subordinated and everything seems to revolve around reach, own income and past performance.

That letter would come up in today's culture debate.


Because because of a masterstroke by the VVD, a question about subsidising travel expenses used by a world star like Caro Emerald, it was soon only about that. Selling almost one and a half million CDs and then getting 5,000 euros? How is this possible?

Of course Bussemaker had an explanation, of course Rutte completely ignored the hundreds of millions the state earns annually from what the VVD calls 'pop music', which includes everything from folk to dance and metal to jazz. Except dixieland. And ahead Metallica.

Yes, those two phrases are a bit lame.

But that is exactly what the culture debate soon became, partly thanks to, there she is again, former partner PVV, which wanted to use the culture debate mainly to react angrily to the whole Black Pete discussion. With the saddest low point being a furious Bosma, in which a rather large gruff negro had descended: "The PvdA has unleashed a war against Black Pete, it has to end sometime.".

Bosma had wanted to say 'holy war', but swallowed it just before he did come out with threatening language. If the PVV gains the majority, the 'left-wing church' will notice.

And the rest of the Netherlands, we think.

Anyway, the debate quickly turned to side issues, the discussion turned briefly towards brass bands, thanks to Mona Keijzer, who unintentionally but yet again dismissed everything outside the Randstad as peasants, and Rutte was able to make a point by saying that all subsidies on pop music should be abolished - while VVD aldermen all over the Netherlands are campaigning for pop venues that have just been built or are yet to be built, but I guess that's because they have the necessary building connections.

And earlier he pulled off a classic. When you really have no vision of cultural policy at all, you start talking about opera tickets. After all, that's safe. A fairly small audience, but not too small either, but known intellectually.



Basically everything any VVD voter would want to be.

And so you call for opera to be market-based, and therefore 192 euros per ticket on top.

That this figure makes no sense, because at most it is based on the figures of De Nederlandse Opera, but even then the figure is not correct, you obviously don't tell. And nobody asks you about it.

You have achieved your goal. It's about subsidising rich artists and subsidising opera tickets for the rich.

So who needs content or vision?

But you will just be rebuilding something on the ruins of Rutte I. Thanks to a populist trick, once unworthy of the VVD but now included in the training of every MP, that thirty, forty or, in exceptional cases, eighty per cent of what was once your budget is now also suspect.

Henri Drost

Henri Drost (1970) studied Dutch and American Studies in Utrecht. Sold CDs and books for years, then became a communications consultant. Writes for among others GPD magazines, Metro, LOS!, De Roskam, 8weekly, Mania, hetiskoers and Cultureel Persbureau/De Dodo about everything, but if possible about music (theatre) and sports. Other specialisms: figures, the United States and healthcare. Listens to Waits and Webern, Wagner and Dylan and pretty much everything in between.View Author posts

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