If there is something I can’t stand, it is when people visit Amsterdam for the sole reason of getting high and visiting the red light district. Or even worse, when people don’t want to visit Amsterdam, or The Netherlands in general, because they believe that all it has to offer is weed and prostitutes. This might seem like an odd thing to be overly annoyed about, but The Netherlands has a dear place in my heart. I hold Dutch citizenship, and spent the first seven years of my life living there, and I thus know what an amazing country it is. Something that annoys me even more than this however is when people judge Dutch policies on things such as weed and prostitution for being too relaxed to ever work. I only really came to the realization that The Netherlands gets judged for its “liberal attitude” when I went to university. In one of my first lectures, we watched a segment by Fox News as an example of bad journalism (that in itself is a whole other blog post). This particular segment was from The O’Reilly Factor, and in simple terms, it paints a horrible picture of Amsterdam. It criticizes Dutch “liberal” policies and conveys the message that it is not working at all. I realize that my response to this video is several years late, but I equally belief that I need to get my feelings on the topic off my chest. I could rant forever about the absolute ridiculousness of this “news” segment (I personally don’t believe this can even be called news), but I will let you watch and judge it yourself:
When we were watching this during the lecture, I felt like bursting out in laughter. Why? Because I genuinely thought it was a comedy skit for a moment. Saying that the Dutch are “naïve”, that it is a “disaster” over in Amsterdam, that it has “run amok”. That our policies of so called “social tolerance, free love, free drugs” has “clearly backfired”, and that as a result of this, Amsterdam is now a “cesspool of corruption” and “crime”. I could not take any of it seriously. I know that I might be biased, being a Dutch citizen, but I genuinely believe that Dutch policies on subjects such as weed and prostitution are some of the best in the world. I understand that everyone, unfortunately including Bill O’Reilly, is free to have his or her own opinions and beliefs; however, I felt the need to point out the absurdity of this segment. Luckily, someone beat me to it, and produced a nice video responding to O’Reilly’s claims:
The statistics at the end of this video paint a much more accurate picture; Dutch policies work. I realize that at this point, some people will point out that recently, the law regarding weed has changed in The Netherlands. So this means that Dutch “liberal” policies don’t work, right? No. Unfortunately, there has been an increasing trend of tourists only coming to The Netherlands to take advantage of the relaxed Dutch weed law. Recent changes in the law have been made to target this issue. I personally agree with these changes. As I said at the start, it bothers me when people only want to visit The Netherlands for sex and drugs, and thus I hope that this law will substitute such tourists with ones that come to visit to see the many other things that The Netherlands has to offer. The original policies on weed and prostitution, among others, were made to benefit Dutch citizens, not tourists.
Once I had seen the response video to Bill O’Reilly, I thought that that was that. There was a video out there setting the record straight, and it was time to move on. It however only got better. O’Reilly decided to respond to the video, and only made more of a fool of himself doing so:
In this response, the two women also in the segment actually try and talk some sense in regards to the statistics. Unfortunately, O’Reilly doesn’t really let them get a word in, probably because he realizes that it will expose the reality of the situation and shatter the fake image he has created of Amsterdam. I would also like to thank O’Reilly for saying that the statistics provided in the response video are not accurate due to the smaller size of The Netherlands, because now surely no one can take this guy seriously.
Another response video was then made by the same creator of the first one, but I will leave you to visit his channel to check out that video, as well as his other great work on this whole topic.
To conclude, I would just like to make clear that I am not saying that Amsterdam is an amazing and completely safe place. Yes, there is crime and other issues, as are present in every capital city. I do however belief that Dutch policies and the general liberal standpoint of the Dutch pays off. The Netherlands is a great country, bursting with culture, history, and acceptance, and I would recommend it to any tourist.