The Netherlands: hate campaign against author

The gay Dutch author Pim Lammers has withdrawn as the writer of the Children’s Book Week Poem 2023 after receiving numerous death threats. Citing a story Lammers wrote in 2015 about a relationship between a teenage boy and his trainer, the Christian group Gezin in Gevaar [Family in Danger] branded him a "paedophile author" in a petition. Prime Minister Mark Rutte has condemned the threats on Twitter.

De Standaard (BE) /

Empathy is not sympathy

Belgian author Yannick Dangre defends Lammers in De Standaard:

“A writer’s natural enemies completely ignore what he or she is trying to do, namely to stimulate human empathy. In literature, all points of view may and must be made empathetic, including those of criminals, paedophiles, the unfaithful spouse. ... The problem is that in our morally obsessed society such empathy is immediately seen as sympathy. This is a capital error in thinking. Take the example of someone who cheats on their partner: just because you allow the reader to empathise with someone who is cheating on their other half doesn’t mean you approve of it. ... Sadly, today one may only have empathy with the victim.”

Yannick Dangre
NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

The outraged can’t distinguish between fiction and reality

Many people don’t read novels anymore and therefore don’t understand them, NRC Handelsblad complains:

“The groups that back the death threats — which are now also being directed at authors who support Lammers — continue to exploit the polarisation. ... The questions posed by [right-wing populist] Wybren van Haga in parliament reveal a politician who is afraid of what the imagination is capable of. ... Perhaps someone in Wybren van Haga’s entourage could take the time to teach him what a novel is — and that there is no one-to-one correspondence between literature and reality.”