Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Caught? Not Quite…

Free Geert banner

The Dutch television network VARA, founded in 1925 as Vereeniging van Arbeiders Radio Amateurs (Association of Workers’ Radio Amateurs), is an unabashedly socialist outfit, part of the Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO, Netherlands Public Broadcasting), the taxpayer-funded state broadcasting system. One of the most popular evening features on VARA is the left-wing “Pauw & Witteman”, a news/discussion program.

Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan reported on Saturday about the extraordinary events that occurred on Friday night’s edition of Pauw & Witteman. Bertus Hendriks was one of the witnesses in the Geert Wilders trial, and while on the stand that afternoon he had contradicted another witness, Prof. Hans Jansen. During the discussion in the VARA studio, Mr. Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszkowicz called in to the program and asked to have a word about what Mr. Hendriks had just said. Mr. Moszkowicz’s exchange with the presenters caused a sensation in the Dutch media.

Pauw & Witteman

Late last night H. Numan and I exchanged several emails about the whole affair. Something about the scenario on Pauw & Witteman didn’t sit right with our Dutch correspondent, and he had this to say about it.

That “spontaneous” phone call from Mr. Moszkowicz was too good to be true.

Watch that clip carefully. And observe: Mr. Jeroen Pauw announces that Mr. Bram Moszkowicz has called ‘unexpectedly’. Possibly. The presenter handles this without interruption. Commendable. Nobody is surprised. No one finds this strange. Yet this is the first time a lawyer in the middle of a trial has ever called directly into a live TV show. Not even Hendriks bats an eyelid.

Moszkowicz and Hendriks

When Mr. Moszkowicz begins and more or less reiterates that Bertus Hendriks was accused of perjury, Hendriks remains unperturbed, even amused. This is a man who has nerves of steel. Suddenly, completely unexpectedly, you call your tormentor. In the middle of the show, when you never expected it — or so it would seem. And you don’t just keep a straight face; you can even laugh.

Tip: Never play poker with Bertus Hendriks. You can’t win.

At 2 minutes 30 seconds, the trap is laid. Witteman asks about the interview in which Prof. Jansen makes a statement. The clip is then shown, about thirty seconds later. The clip takes about 28 seconds. Only the one relevant excerpt is shown. Nothing more, nothing less.

The presenter asks Mr. Bram what his opinion is about the clip being shown at that moment. He refers to what Hans Jansen said, and asks “Isn’t that perjury too?”

This was too smooth and too good to be spontaneous.

It cannot be done in a live TV program. It takes time to answer the perfect question, but it takes far more time to find the right interview and show only the relevant part. You cannot do that in mere seconds. Not without some minor mistakes, glitches, things you do because you have to hurry getting it on the air.

This is far too smooth. It seems to me it wasn’t really “live” after all, but well prepared beforehand.

What do you think, or am I getting paranoid?

I told H. Numan that he was probably right. “But why would Pauw and Witteman help Moszkowicz out? What’s in it for them?”

He replied:
I don’t know. That is why I find it so strange. They have nothing to gain and a lot to lose. It might be an orchestrated effort to make the process become impossible.

The real intent was to cut Wilders off at the knees. That was the whole idea. But Wilders turned it around, with the help of his lawyer. Now “three pairs of legs”, as Geen Stijl calls them, the previous three judges, have been replaced. Another set of three pairs of legs barely made it out alive Monday afternoon.

It is almost inevitable that sooner or later they will be replaced by set number three. One magistrate is permanently damaged: Mr. Tom Schalken will in all likelihood resign his professorate and court position once this charade is over and he can quietly disappear.

How many more powerful men are waiting to be eaten by the Great White Shark? Not that many, I assume.

The idea of killing Wilders politically failed. Now the powers that be are mounting a damage control action. That is the best I can think of.

I said, “Maybe that’s it — maybe they wanted to help Schalken gently off the public stage without actually dragging him away. He had perhaps become a liability…?”

H. Numan:

He certainly has, hasn’t he? He could have been a hero if it had worked. But since it hasn’t…

Look at Napoleon at Borodino. His idea was to follow up and destroy the Russian army. Had that happened, it would have been the masterstroke that destroyed the entire army. But it didn’t work out that way. Now everybody knows Napoleon was a dimwit simply trying to do the impossible.

Bodissey: “And what about Hendriks? Are they doing the same thing to him?”

H. Numan:

I have no idea. But both Schalken and Hendriks are nothing but small change. You reward them when appropriate and get rid of them when worn out. Seems to me both are worn out now.

Later on, after I went to bed, he dug deeper into the matter and wrote back with his analysis of what actually happened.

The real story had nothing to do with Hendriks, but with Mr. Wilders’ resourceful lawyer, who had been so devastating to the prosecution’s case up until that point:

It was a set-up. Prearranged to lure Moszkowicz in a trap.

Obviously the public does not know that we are watching a trap. But Pauw and Witteman do. They are indeed themselves part of that trap. The direct attack is the question about whether Jansen’s statement did not also constitute perjury. You can then hear that Moszkowicz has some difficulty finding a good answer.

Witteman repeats the question, but with slightly different words. Instead of repeating the question exactly, he paraphrases the words. The interview was intended to make Jansen say something. The trick is linguistic: Mr. Jansen did you feel threatened or intimidated? “No, I didn’t feel intimidated”

Prof. Hans Jansen on Pauw & Witteman

When they broadcast it, the glossed that over; nobody really recalls the exact wording anyway. So it became: Mr. Jansen have you been intimidated? That makes his answer (to the “feel” question) very different.

So I was right, it was a set-up. But it backfired.

Moszkowicz wasn’t ready for this, and he got into a bit of trouble. However, he knows how to pull off a proper save, and turned it around — but that’s because he’s tops in his field.

The whole thing was too good to be true. You cannot possibly prepare a clip like this within thirty seconds of broadcast time.

There was a very conscious decision to manipulate. The reactions of the presenters were too perfect. There were no gaps. Nobody showed the least surprise. This was a very nice trap — only it never snapped shut. The victim managed to save himself.

For a more detailed account of these events, see H. Numan’s piece at Het Vrije Volk (in Dutch).


Hesperado said...

"Yet this is the first time a lawyer in the middle of a trial has ever called directly into a live TV show."

That might be sort of like if Johnnie Cochran (or would it be Marcia Clark? I'm too confused by the description of this Dutch event to figure it out) had called in live to the Oprah show while the O.J. trial was ongoing. In the U.S.A., I suspect this would be illegal and/or grounds on which to either disbar Cochran, or charge him with a crime, or both. I also suspect it would force the judge to rule the current trial as a "mistrial" -- which means everything has to stop and a new trial convened starting from the beginning all over again.

Zenster said...

Hesperado: I'm too confused by the description of this Dutch event to figure it out

I, also, reluctantly admit that the account provided is clear as mud.

An annotated and footnoted Legal Libretto™ is needed.

Dymphna said...

Hmmm...perhaps the Dutch find it just as confusing.

It's more interesting than that OJ trial ever was, though. That one has remained creepy. The creep factor never went down over time.

1389 said...

I'm pretty baffled too.

I am not a lawyer myself, but I do know that, in the US, lawyers and judges may not discuss current cases outside the courtroom. A lawyer can call into a live TV show to express political opinions or to discuss various other matters, but NOT to talk or to answer questions about an ongoing case! Lawyers and their secretarial and paralegal staff are also prohibited from divulging information they receive from their clients, whether before, during, or after the trial.

Perhaps a Dutch reader can let us know what the standards are in the Netherlands.

Baron Bodissey said...

OK, everybody, let me explain…

You have to have been following H. Numan’s trial reports to get the hang of this stuff.

This isn’t about legal standards, or ethics, or judicial rules. The point of this post is that a (state) TV station set a trap for Bram Moszcowicz. They attempted to put him into a corner that he couldn’t get out of. They failed — he handled it, and came out on top. See last Saturday’s post for more on that part.

The left-wing establishment couldn’t bring Wilders down in court, so they tried to bring him down on TV instead, using his lawyer. But they botched it, and now they’ve got their arms deeper than ever into the Geert tar baby.

Hesperado said...


Legal standards,ethics or judicial rules weren't what baffled me. I can't figure out who Bram Moszcowicz is or who any of the other players (other than Geert Wilders, of course) are sufficiently to figure out what the details (among which is "setting a trap for Bram Moszcowicz") of what happened mean, other than something about a Dutch version of a judge or periwigged solicitor who is half judge half lawyer saying something at a cocktail party to try to persuade someone of something which is either good or bad for us ...

Sorry; I suppose if I had more time I would re-read these descriptions (there were at least two previous article about this here as I recall) about 5 times to unravel the details.

Blogger said...

I'm glad I wasn't the only one who was confused! Perhaps it would be less confusing if the authors put a list of players and roles and whose sides they are on before the description, ie;

The Goodies:
Geert Wilders - The accused
Bram Moszcowicz - Geert's lawyer
Hans Janson - Witness

The Baddies:
xxxx -

etc. That would be less confusing for us poor folk with short term memory loss! :-)

Baron Bodissey said...

Hesperado, Blogger --

Your confusion is understandable. The only help I know of is to keep an eye on the story as it unfolds.

Because I've been following it closely since day one, it's not at all confusing to me. In addition, having to edit all these translations helps fix the details in my mind.

It's a pity that Sagunto is no longer around to supply local color!

I'll do a quick synopsis:

Geert Wilders is in the middle of his second trial for "incitement of religious hatred" or some such charge -- can't remember the exact wording. His lawyer is a very brilliant man named Bram Moszcovicz.

The first trial ended when one of the witnesses, Prof. Hans Jansen, revealed in testimony elicited by Mr. Moszcovicz that one of panel judges, Tom Schalken, had attempted to influence him (Jansen) just before the trial. This was a bombshell of a revelation, and forced the court to declare a mistrial. Despite the opposition of OPM (state prosecutors) Wilders was scheduled for retrial by the court, which is what is happening now.

This time Mr. Moszcowicz has very shrewdly diverted testimony to focus on last year's attempt to influence Prof. Jansen.

The influencing was allegedly done by Schalken (prosecutor/judge) at a dinner party at the home of Bertus Hendriks, a member of the leftist establishment. All three men -- Hendriks, Schalken, and Jansen -- have testified in court during the last week or so.

Hendriks' testimony contradicted not only Prof. Jansen's, but Schalken's as well. There was brief talk of Hendriks' being charged with perjury.

Moszcowicz was so successful in his questioning that the courtroom battle has been going in his favor and against the lefties who are determined to destroy Wilders. As a result, they laid a trap for Moszcowicz on the TV program Pauw & Witteman -- a venue controlled by lefties on a leftist TV outlet -- with the help of the lefty political establishment.

The idea was to catch Moszcowicz in a trap by manipulating a video clip of Prof. Jansen, makingg him seem to say that there was no attempt to influence him (when he was really saying that he didn't "feel influenced", which was quite different).

The trap failed, and now Hendriks and Schalken look even worse than they did before.

That's it in a nutshell. You can read the details in this post and the earlier one.

Hesperado said...

Thanks Baron, that helps to clarify a great deal.

Three nagging questions remain for me:

1) What was it that Prof. Jansen was originally supposed to have "witnessed"? What was he called (in the first trial) as a witness for, exactly?

2) About the Moszcowicz trap: "a trap by manipulating a video clip of Prof. Jansen, making him seem to say that there was no attempt to influence him (when he was really saying that he didn't "feel influenced", which was quite different)."

Certainly, Jansen feeling like he was not influenced by Schalken is not proof that Schalken was not trying to influence Jansen -- but, other than Jansen, what other evidence exists that Schalken was trying to influence Jansen? If the only evidence is Jansen, then his apparently ambiguous perception about it seems reasonably relevant to consider.

3)"they laid a trap for Moszcowicz"

Of course, they didn't force Moszcowicz to call into the show. What is being hypothesized is that Pauw & Witteman (at the dastardly behest of even higher and more dastardly Leftists? -- if Pauw & Witteman are such purist Leftists themselves, did they really need to have their strings pulled?), before the show aired, contacted Moszcowicz and invited him to call under some pretext of allowing him to "tell his side of the story" -- in the meantime, preparing that special video clip to show at the right moment of the "trap". Two possible problems with this:

a) in this 21st century digital age, it's pretty easy to deploy a video clip and popular TV shows with big budgets have plenty of staff with ear-pieces at the ready manning a bank of controls ready at a moment's notice to do things like this, and the staff probably already knew about that clip long before the show went on air and was itching to use it at the right moment anyway: It's like a chatter having a debate with a Muslim and that chatter already has a crucial Bukhari hadith in his "Favorites" ready to access at a mouse-click, and serendipitously, the Muslim makes a claim that can be destroyed with that hadith, which can be deployed in seconds. Furthermore, this Pauw & Witteman show doesn't sound like those live TV shows from the era of the 1950s where on-air mistakes were rather frequent and sometimes comical, and where thus there was a regular sense that the moderators/performers were often flying by the seat of their pants, technically speaking.

b) More importantly, the only way for this hypothesis to make sense would be if, as I said above, Moszcowicz had been contacted beforehand and invited to call in -- which would be the only way Pauw & Witteman would be able to have the time supposedly necessary (on their antiquated black-and-white Edward R. Murrow or Steve Allen live TV show) for them to get that video-clip ready at the right moment. The problem with this? It can easily be verified or refuted simply by asking Moszcowicz if he had called the show spontaneously without warning, or whether he had been invited to call beforehand. Moszcowicz strikes me as a man who would unhesitatingly answer that question with the truth, even if he thought the truth might undermine this notion of a "trap" laid for him.

Baron Bodissey said...

Hesperado --

I can't answer all of your questions, just some of them. I'm not clear on all the nuances myself.

Prof. Jansen was called as an expert witness by Wilders. He is one of the foremost Arabists in the world, and was asked to testify whether what Wilders had said (and for which he was charged) was true.

The prosecution knew very well how devastating Jansen's testimony could be, so they had Hendriks invite him to a dinner ahead of time, just to have a nice little chat.

There are other witnesses from the dinner party, some of whom (Hendriks, the host, being the main exception) corroborate Prof. Jansen's account. Hendriks contradicted Schalken (the alleged "influencer"), so his credibility is somewhat damaged at the moment.

The question is really one of interpretation. If you believe the establishment figures, this was just "table talk" about the sensational case which was to
go to trial in a few days.

However, since the guests just happened to include the prosecutor and one of the defense witnesses, the assertion that nothing unseemly was going on seems ludicrous on the face of it.

In the USA, of course, there would have been a major scandal as a result of such behavior -- prosecution, disbarment, and so on -- and Wilders would never have been retried. But this is the Netherlands, and it is a very political trial, with the entire weight of the political establishment being thrown against one man, who happens to be the most popular politician in the country.

I've been assuming that Pauw & Witteman got in touch with Moszkowicz somehow and invited him to call in, but I don't know that for sure.

Can't tell you any more than that. Let's hope that H. Numan weighs in with more information.

Lawrence said...

The fact this is a "staged" trial for political purposes.

And the issue at hand is in context of a "stagged" (and widely acknowledged to be biased) television program...


The likelihood this is a simple coincidence are indeed astronomical.