Dear Neighbors to the North, Our new government was forged - to Belgian standards - fairly quickly and easily, but some new members of the government will not easily forget the commotion of the first days. This also holds true for Theo Francken of the Flemish-Nationalist N-VA, who became the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration.
Coincidentally or not, moments after the Michel I government was sworn in, several old emails sent out by Mr Francken surfaced. In those emails, he admitted having attended radical meetings in 2007 and 2008, in which “the end of Belgium” was on the agenda. Anyone who would leak anything on these meetings “would get the bullet or a night in a room with Christian Dutoit.” Mr Dutoit is the editor of the left-wing Flemish-national monthly “Meervoud,” and is described in the Walloon newspaper as a “notorious Flemish homosexual.”
Christian Dutoit informed the press that he is fine with people knowing he is gay. Dutoit in a response to Belgian press agency Belga: “I am married and have been in a relationship for twenty years, but I am not a ‘notorious homosexual.’ I am not an activist, and regret the publicity on this. I do not know Theo Francken well, but somewhat, and I can assure you that he is not homophobic.”
The wording “notorious homosexual” caught my attention. In the dictionary Van Dale, notorious is defines as: “general knowledge, evident, clearly” (derived from the French “notoire”). The second meaning is “disreputable” as in “disreputable elements of our society.”
The reporter’s use of the word “notorious” in a Walloon newspaper is not objective. The reporter is clearly showing his or her resentment of gays, the N-VA’s Secretary of State, or the N-VA tout court. If the reporter wants to say that it’s a public secret that Mr Dutoit is gay, he or she could make use of various other adjectives to his disposal that mean the same thing in Molière’s language. There is no lack of adjectives and synonyms covering this. The French word “notorious” is full of negativity, disgust and contempt. There is very little that is positive about this word.
Those in Belgium who master both Dutch and French, like me, and read the press from both sides of the language border, will quickly notice that the use of language in the south has changed since the last general elections in May, in which the N-VA had a monster score. There is only one French-speaking party in the current administration, the liberal MR, also the party of the Prime Minister Charles Michel. And the Walloons, and the Walloon press, do not like it one bit.
“Notoire” may be an example I use here, but the language of Molière is rich and has many adjectives that mean the same. It has ample choice of words to say what you mean. Those typical French adjectives always have a series of positive or negative connotations that are only understood by the Walloons (and the French, of course) and experienced Romanists. The Walloon reporters also know them, and by using them, they ignore their objectivity and subtly show distaste for a Flemish politician, a political party or body of thought.
It doesn’t stop there. Increasingly, I notice that the Walloon press does not fully report certain events in Flanders (incidents, statements, etc.), and brings them incorrectly to deliberately “pit the Walloons against the people of Flanders.” They sometimes forget to mention significant details or facts to manipulate the Walloon conception.
This kind of disinformation will only increase. It is the new weapon of Walloon political parties to put Flemish political parties in a bad light via the newspapers (which are more or less politically colored). Fortunately, it is not a military war, but it is war of words. Or how Belgium will never be one country. Has it ever been a united country? I don’t think so.