Welcome to the 21st Century, Defense Minister

Robin Waulters has an excellent post over at TechCrunch this morning about the troubles of Belgian Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem, who ran into a blogger at a Belgian pub in New York on Monday. De Crem and several aides came to New York, even though the U.N. conference for which the trip was planned had been cancelled. He ended up getting completely soused at the pub.

Following his visit, bartender Nathalie Lubbe Bakker blogged about their visit (in Dutch), talking about how disgusted she was of how drunk De Crem was and how embarrased she was about his behavior. Worst part, she wrote, was the fact that one of the politician’s advisors admitted to her that the meetings they were there for on taxpayer’s money were in fact cancelled because the UN was meeting in Geneva (which is about 330 miles from Brussels). He reportedly told her they had decided to come to NY anyway despite being aware of the cancellation because the policital situation here was ‘calm’ and that he’d ‘never visited the city anyway’.

Somebody from De Crem’s office called the pub later and Bakker was fired, which didn’t go over very well with the Belgian blogosphere (and it shouldn’t go over very well here, either). De Crem then made a complete ass of himself in Parliament by playing the victim.

I want to take this opportunity and use this non-event to signal a dangerous phenomenon in our society. We live in a time where everybody is free to publish whatever he or she wants on blogs at will without taking any responsibility. This exceeds mud-slinging. Together with you, other Parliament members and the government I find that it’s nearly impossible to defend yourself against this. Everyone of you is a potential victim. I would like to ask you to take a moment and think about this.

The only thing De Crem is a victim of is his own arrogance. The guy got caught on a taxpayer-funded folly to New York, and that’s what he’s really angry about. “Without taking any responsibility?” How so? Bakker is the one who got fired, another martyr in the war of everyday people against the institutions of power. And I would argue that this is the role of the press, the institution of which wasn’t present at the time. Had someone with an official press card been there, I suspect the outcome would’ve been the same.

Except the reporter wouldn’t have gotten fired.

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