Amsterdam, 'the cesspool', strikes back at O'Reilly

By Ernst-Jan Pfauth

A 25-year-old film student from Amsterdam has taken on Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly over his misrepresentation of the Dutch capital.

It is a much-belated response, but 25-year-old Robert Nieuwenhuijs' July 27 video reply to Fox News' description of Amsterdam as a "cesspool of corruption" has nevertheless become a hit on the video-sharing website YouTube.

"Amsterdam is a cesspool of corruption. Everything is out of control, it’s anarchy", a sidekick of Fox News conservative anchor Bill O'Reilly said during a broadcast in December 2008.

The O'Reilly Factor wanted to prove the point that the liberal drug policy of the Netherlands had backfired, since the Dutch government was planning to tighten the rules governing soft drugs use. "The Netherlands are becoming more conservative", said O'Reilly.

By showing smudgy images of Amsterdam's red light district over negative commentary - "It's a moral disaster" -, O'Reilly wanted to make his viewers believe that Amsterdam has turned into a modern equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah.

25-year-old film academy graduate Robert Nieuwenhuijs from Amsterdam recently saw the show on YouTube and felt affronted by O'Reilly's Amsterdam-bashing. He decided to post a video reply on YouTube, calling it 'The truth about Amsterdam'. He looked up numbers about drugs use from American and Dutch national surveys and made some striking comparisons.

For instance, the percentage of the population that has ever used cannabis is almost twice as high in the United States (40.3 percent) as in the Netherlands (22.6 percent). The number of drug-related deaths per million inhabitants in the Netherlands is 2.4, whereas the American figure stands at 38.

Nieuwenhuijs did copy one technique from O'Reilly: he interlaced his facts and figures with his own suggestive images of Amsterdam. Like a father and child cycling through the city, or people waving to passers-by on the city's canals. Nieuwenhuijs' point: With that, contrary to O'Reilly's depiction, Amsterdam is a pretty comfortable place to live. "Come and see for yourself", he asks O'Reilly in the last seconds of his movie.

Nieuwenhuijs' video reply has been reposted on some of America's biggest blogs this week "O'Reilly Factor versus reality", wrote Mark Frauenfelder from BoingBoing. The libertarian blogger Andrew Sullivan (Daily Dish) commented: "The issue O'Reilly has with Holland is that, compared with the US in many respects, it values individual liberty."

So far, 1,133 YouTube-users made the effort of posting a reply to Nieuwenhuijs' video.

Video 1: The original O'Reilly broadcast

Video 2: Robert Nieuwenhuijs' video reply

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