That’s at least according to “Devil’s Advocate” (Advocaat van de Duivel), a television program on the Dutch state network Nederland 2, on which every week “lawyer Gerard Spong defends a prominent personality about whom public opinion has an outspoken position,” according to its description on Nederland 2. We’re informed of this vital and earth-shaking development, not from a Dutch newspaper, but from journalists across the border writing for the German daily Die Welt (TV court declares Osaba bin Laden innocent; I tried but could not find any report on this in the on-line Dutch press).
Yes, this program is a sort of “people’s court” in which Spong – in his day-job a prominent Amsterdam defense attorney who charges up to €450 an hour – defends the notorious before a “citizen’s jury” and a larger studio audience, who are each then polled to see what effect his arguments have had on them. (Check it out: you can watch the entire latest program from this webpage, just click on the bekijk uitzending link, but of course it’s in Dutch with no sub-titles.) And in this particular episode that “citizen’s jury” ruled as “unproven” both the propositions that Bin Laden was the planner/director of the September 11 attacks and even that he was the founder/leader of al-Qaeda. Instead, both the jury and the studio audience ruled that those attacks on New York and Washington were most likely “a fiction propounded by Western politicians.” Still, Spong did try to push things a bit too far – maybe that’s just the professional instinct of any good defense lawyer – by also advancing the proposition that Bin Laden was a mere “freedom-fighter at war against the West”; the jury concluded instead that he is indeed “a terrorist who misuses Islam for personal ambitions to power.”
That Die Welt article holds tightly to the prescribed journalistic objectivity, simply passing on to readers the fact that this TV program occurred and the details as to what the “citizen’s jury” decided, without any additional editorial comment. In that same vox populi, vox dei spirit, it also displays in a prominent spot at its head a simple Yes/No on-line poll question: “Is al-Qaeda still a danger for the West?”