Belgian blogger fired in NY after criticizing Minister of Defense

de-cremAfter you’ve finished reading this post, you might want to read this one as well.

Belgian student got fired from NY bar after publicly criticizing the Belgian Minister of Defense and his delegation.

That’s the story in a nutshell.

Addendum (14:18 p.m.): as far as I know, there is no proof of a causal link between Ms Lubbe Bakker getting fired and her blogging about the behaviour of our Minister of Defense, only an indication.

Nathalie Lubbe Bakker was working at a bar in NY when on an evening, just a week ago, Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem stumbled in, apparently “completely wasted” singing burleske versions of flemmish folk songs.

We’re all people so that’s just a pity our prime minister decided to blow off some steam in that way.

Worse for De Crem and his delegation was a remark made by one of the diplomats Vincent Mertens de Wilmars. When asked by Lubbe Bakker what they were doing in NY, he replied that there was pretty much nothing to do since all their meetings with the UN got cancelled. The UN delegates were in Geneva something the Belgian delegations apparantly was aware of.

“Why did you come then after all?”, Lubbe Bakker asked.

“Well we knew they were gone, but in Brussels everything’s so quiet for the moment, nothing happens there so we could just as well go to NY. I’ve never been here before you know.”

Basically, that’s what Lubbe Bakker saw and heard that particular evening and that’s also how she described it on her blog (it’s in Dutch).

Four days later, she gets fired. Lubbe Bakker writes that a “well-informed source” told her that the spokesman of De Crem had called her boss at the B Café prior to her dismissal.

Of course saying that Lubbe Bakker got fired because of that call is hard to prove.

But if things happend this way, then this is – I think – a precedent in Belgian history.

Nonetheless, on his own website Pieter De Crem writes:

“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.”

Old-fashioned Hardliner

Pieter De Crem scares me.

He is on a mission to have an entry in our history books, not in the interest of our country but out of shear personal ambition.

Over the last four years he fiercely attacked the former Minister of Defense for abusing the army for private matters and for getting us involved into the war in Irak simply because we offered the US Army access to our railway network and our harbours.

As he became Minister of Defense himself, De Crem didn’t hesitate to send tanks to his home town to figure in a local parade, nor did he hesitate to go on a world wide meet-and-greet and to send our troops to some of the world’s most dangerous warezones in order to fight, not in order to rebuild and support.

No freedom of speech under my rule

But more important than De Crem himself is the way he and his staff think they can rule the world.

They completely ignore the freedom of speech.

They didn’t even have the guts to send Ms Lubbe Bakker a personal reply to explain what happened, perhaps to correct what was wrong.

They went straight for the kill, sent in the troops and complained to Ms Lubbe Bakker’s boss about something she does in her spare time, which is blogging about her experience in this world.

That is abuse of power.

That – besides from being completely wasted – is inappropriate behaviour.

Coming from a Minister of Defense, that scares me.

Addendum (14.18 p.m.) That is to say: if what Nathalie Lubbe Bakker writes, holds true. Because suppose it isn’t, then this whole idea of me ranting about these people abusing their power should actually scare you. From a blogger’s perspective, that would be inappropriate blogging behaviour.

Personal blogs are no newspapers

Blogs are no newspapers. They are opinions.

And unlike a minister’s opinion personal blogs spread opinions through peers. They don’t force opinions down your throat.

If you want to interact with a personal blogger like Ms Lubbe Bakker, have the courage to face her, have the decency to tell your version of the facts.

Ms Lubbe Bakker’s boss is to blame as well (again, only if the assumption that De Crem’s spokesman complained to him holds true).

Why didn’t he talk to her about this? Why didn’t he ask her why and how? Because he was afraid she’d get the word out that De Crem’s spokesman put him under pressure to get her fired?

Now the word is out.

And it’s definitely not in favour of Mr De Crem and his entourage.

So far De Crem has done everything but closing the gap between him and Ms Lubbe Bakker. He has done everything but adapt his policy and his behaviour to reality.

All the world’s a stage

So Mr De Crem, if you or your entourage read this, feel free to comment.

Feel free to disagree. The stage is yours as it is mine.

Well, that is to say, last time I checked it still was.

Dear readers, If you want to support Nathalie Lubbe Bakker, feel free to do so.

If you want to get in touch with our Minister of Defense (something he says he likes very much), please do so as well.

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12 thoughts on “Belgian blogger fired in NY after criticizing Minister of Defense

  1. gyncGromync says:

    I highly enjoyed reading this article, keep on writing such interesting articles.

  2. Hi Olivier,

    Great to have you here.

    Glad you’ve added yet another side to this story. It’s interesting to see how one story which – at first – seems pretty straight forward unravells into a whole bunch of stories.

    Have you noticed how every story actually leads to a (sometimes slightly) different judgement? It makes me wonder: how important is it for a blogger to judge?

    Should we just lay out the facts, tell our story and stick to “the rest is silence”, meaning: it’s up to you to judge whether I was right or wrong? And when is it wise to do so and when isn’t it?

    PS: Check out Olivier’s blog because it’s definitely worth a read (http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com/).

  3. Yeah, that sucks.

    On the one hand, De Crem might be far from perfect. (What? A self-indulgent politician suffering from delusions of grandeur? No way!)

    But on the other hand, I can’t completely blame the bar’s manager or owner for firing Ms. Bakker once one of his/her patrons complained about their words and actions being plastered all over the internet. Especially a public figure.

    Now don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating De Crem’s alleged behavior in this matter, and I can’t say that a formal (or informal) letter from a foreign delegate alone would warrant my firing of an employee. But you know, when you work for a company – whether it’s a Fortune 50 or a strip joint in Odessa, TX – there’s kind of an unwritten rule about sharing what your customers say and do with the public at large.

    Had Ms. Bakker been a customer and not an employee, then okay, her blog posts would be a free-for-all. But because she works at the bar, the context is a bit different. It just wasn’t very professional of her to have posted that piece about De Crem, no matter how offensive his behavior may have been in her presence.

    This isn’t so much about free speech as it is about professionalism.

    Did Ms. Bakker’s blog post warrant her being fired? That isn’t my call. At the very least, her boss should have given her a solid ass chewing and a clear warning: No blogging about customers. Seems fair enough. The firing, well… different management styles for different people, I guess. Maybe there was more to it than the post. Who knows.

    Hey, at least she’s probably getting pretty decent traffic over this, right?

  4. thyme says:

    It’s about the truth. If this blogger was slandering, there should be some punishment but taking away our freedom of speech is not it. And if the blogger was speaking the truth, and it does look like it, then what does your minister de Crem look like other than a school example of corruption?

    From De Morgen

    “Onaanvaardbaar”
    PS-Kamerlid en voorganger van De Crem, André Flahaut, verwonderde zich over het uitgebreide bezoek dat kadert in een nota die nog niet is goedgekeurd door de regering en de contacten met Amerikaanse politci die binnen enkele weken niet meer in functie zijn. Volgens Flahaut is het onaanvaardbaar indien de vrouw is ontslagen na een interventie vanuit België.

    Geerts verweet De Crem zich nu te gedragen als slachtoffer, terwijl de vrouw haar werk kwijt is en het echte slachtoffer is. Het gebeurde bewijst voor de sp.a’er ook dat de Vlaamse christendemocraat een serieus probleem heeft met kritiek. “Betreurenswaardig”, luidde het.

    Een gelijkaardig geluid viel te horen bij Wouter De Vriendt. “Dat er effectief contact is geweest, is nieuw”, poneerde hij. Het groene Kamerlid wees er ook nog op dat hij al een week de agenda van het werkbezoek heeft gevraagd, maar nog altijd niets heeft ontvangen. (mvl/belga/mvdb)
    27/11/08 18u23

  5. Jan says:

    Answers:
    1) maybe not too wise, but not forbidden either.
    2) No, but since he cannot say anything to her to make it all better, he finds no other way to deal with his frustration. In fact he’s proving her point.
    3) Who still doubts this? I don’t.
    4) Because he’s the boss, he acts as he pleases. Asking how she feels about it is for shrinks.
    5) Because there was no pint calling, she was abviously telling it as it is..
    6) Because he’s a stupid ass. As an adviser for De Crem, what do you expect?
    More questions, anyone?🙂

  6. Hannes says:

    @Claudia

    Couldn’t agree more.

    What’s stricking is that no one seems to see that there are so many different issues at stake here besides the discussion about freedom of speech.

    1) Should Nathalie have blogged about Pieter De Crem getting drunk in NY?

    2) Should a minister call upon somebody’s boss to get him / her fired after bad publicity?

    3) Did somebody actually call her boss? Who was it and what did they say?

    4) Why didn’t Nathalie’s boss confront her with what she did and ask her how she felt about it?

    5) Why didn’t call De Crem’s spokesman to Nathalie? Or why didn’t the minister talk to Nathalie in person?

    6) Why did the adviser of De Crem say that they were in NY just for fun?

    And so on and so on …

  7. IXtreme says:

    Maybe the spokesman threatened the Boss of B-Café…That’s why she got fired right away…
    Nonetheless, Inappropriate !!

  8. Claudia says:

    Although I think De Crem is a creep, this issue has nothing to do with freedom of speech. She was able to say whatever she wanted. Freedom of speech does not mean there are no consequences to what you say.
    If it was my business and my employees hurt its reputation with my customers, I would consider firing them too.

  9. […] recente gebeurtenissen [sigridschrijft.be] wordt er door sommige commentatoren hard [mafiablog.net] gezwaaid [ledeberg.wordpress.com] met het concept vrije […]

  10. […] On spreading ideas ← Belgian blogger fired in NY after criticizing Minister of Defense […]

  11. […] Flemish folk songs. Nathalie claims to have heard a rather interesting conversation. This is how ‘Superbly human’ (my source for this story) summarizes it this way: “Worse for De Crem and his delegation was a […]

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