How The Left Scapegoated Me As Whistleblower Of Woke Extremism At The University of Amsterdam

With my opinion piece in university newspaper Folia published on Jan. 18, I appear to have stirred up a real storm at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and beyond. In the piece, I come out of the closet as a whistleblower at the UvA because, in my view, academic freedom in our social sciences departments is on the verge of collapse due to politically correct, “woke” thinking. This time the criticism of woke did not come from the conservative-right, but from within: I have been a left-progressive all my life, and criticized woke from that position as well. This then degenerated into a national media storm, where the battle for truth and framing was played rock hard. In this blog, I would like to reconstruct how I was scapegoated in this power struggle. In the mainstream press, a malicious frame about me drew the longest straw: I was said to be a derailed scientist who colluded with far-right ideology to demolish an innocent left-wing stronghold.

Tale of contents of this blog:

1. Publication of the opinion article
2. The Left opens the attack
3. Response from the UvA
4. The “wappie” frame
5. My defense on Twitter and in alternative media
6. Lifebuoys from the Right
7. Attacks in the mainstream media
8. Conclusion: the scapegoat of the Left
9. Update

1. Publication of the opinion article

In my opinion piece on the Folia site (read translation here), I describe three topics about which I notice that I can no longer express myself freely at the UvA without it leading to all kinds of violent forms of exclusion and stigmatization (“canceling”). I explain how my criticism of the ‘non-binary gender’ phenomenon, of Islam’s role in homophobic violence, and of national Dutch Covid-19 measures (including the forced roll-out of mass mRNA vaccination) have led to the undermining of my work as a scientist.

In my view, academic freedom is now so seriously under pressure at social sciences at the UvA, and conversation about it internally has now become so impossible, that back in November 2022 I decided to use the official whistleblower procedure protected by national legislation. I then submitted to the Executive Board a 30-page report detailing severe institutional failures at social sciences.

In that report, I defended my thesis: the UvA’s diversity policy is putting increasing pressure on academic freedom. I described and substantiated that the situation is now so serious as to violate Article 13 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In that report, I also outlined how the severe institutional failures that I believe are behind the woke derailments play out in practice.

In this report, as well as in all the conversations I have had with the UvA board and management on this subject, I have always emphasized that I am a strong supporter of diversity policies, and that the UvA should also be proud that they have been willing to put the policy project in place in such a comprehensive way. In fact, I have been a Diversity & Inclusion entrepreneur since 2016, and an activist for the LGBTI and black movement for over 20 years. Moreover, I am one of the founders and long-time president of UvA Pride, the UvA’s LGBTI network. This is precisely why I know how important it is to protect diversity policies from derailments, such as decency police, curtailment of free speech and suppression of pluralistic debate.

A few days before the publication of the opinion piece, I received confirmation from the Executive Board both by email and in a conversation that an independent investigation would begin in response to my whistleblower report. Whistleblowers of abuses within organizations are protected from suspension and dismissal during the course of such an investigation by the Dutch “House of Whistleblowers Act”. And that was no unnecessary luxury for me, because I had now become so isolated within the UvA due to my “controversial” substantive views, and with so many enemies who saw evidence of discrimination and social insecurity in my work as an academic and my fight against political correctness, that my dismissal seemed almost inevitable.

The opinion piece went viral on Twitter later that day, and a day later the discussion continued to swell. I was invited that day to the radio program Dit is de dag on the Dutch national radio channel, NPO Radio 1. My conversation with host Thijs van de Brink (a famous conservative Radio and TV host in The Netherlands) began at a quarter to seven, just when half of the Netherlands was stuck in traffic jams on their way home due to snowfall. This is why even more people than usual listened to the radio at that moment.

2. The Left opens the attack

After the radio interview, the bomb really burst open. When I arrived back home an hour after the broadcast and opened my mailbox, it was flooded with messages of support. Colleagues from universities and colleges from all over the country, and many other Dutch people reported in my mail to give me heartfelt support. I found it heartwarming, and a great reassurance that so many Dutch people are vigilant, and aware of the great danger of wokism. The emails of support and backing continue to pour in to this day.

In the days following my radio performance, it turns out that my role as a whistleblower also has a nasty dark side. Many people within the UvA, and in fact many people within the Established Left, appear to have absolutely no interest at all in my warning message about the danger of wokism. To the contrary: they are hostile to it. I experienced the reaction of the UvA and the national left-wing establishment as very painful: as if a very powerful machine was put to work to frame me as suspicious and to make me a scapegoat, based on the motto: “if we disqualify him as a person, we don’t have to listen to his message”.

It started with attacks by Sylvana Simons and Tim Hofman on Twitter. These two famous Dutch left-wing advocates for a more just society are always on the front lines when there is an abuse of power, but now that their own ideology is aggressively turning against me, they are suddenly on the side of power. Sylvana Simons (political leader of the far-left party BIJ1) tweets that she can “only laugh” at my opinion article in Folia, and discards me as someone who desperately clings to times when minorities still “put up with too much”.

Tim Hofman picks out another common fallacy the Left uses against me: I am said to be in an exaggerated victim role, and I falsely claim I am being mangled as a critic on woke at the UvA. This cannot be true, according to him, because I am given a stage at the radio and the university newspaper, am I not? He tries to portray me not as vulnerable whistleblower, but as a privileged person with a powerful platform who is begging for attention by unfairly playing victim. But he looks away from the fact that I have for some time been on the verge of dismissal at the UvA after a prolonged witch hunt against me because of my ideas, that I have become totally isolated in my institution because of my work, and that my step to the media as a whistleblower took a lot of courage.

3. Response from the UvA

Immediately after my radio interview, the UvA distances itself from my science-based critique of non-binary gender with an appeal to its diversity policy. Michaela Hordijk, the director of ISW (the Interdisciplinary Social Science bachelor’s program at the UvA), circulates a message saying that “the program – faculty, management and support team – emphatically distances itself from Mr. Buijs’ judgments and hurtful expressions about non-binary people.” The students who feel hurt are given protection, and my scholarly work is condemned. That message first circulates among all my colleagues and students, and also appears in national Dutch newspaper Het Parool later that day.

Threatening and defamatory messages are also being circulated at the university, initiated by the Dean of the faculty and the UvA’s Central Diversity Officer, who both opt for personal attacks and turning students and faculty against me (see heading 5 in the Twitter thread about UvA’s violations of whistleblower laws).

And that has an effect. Colleagues with whom I collaborate on publications and who support me suddenly stop answering the phone. Moreover, ISW student Raisa Mulder (herself non-binary) posts a “Trigger Warning” about me on Instagram in response to my Folia piece. Mulder and her supporters call for my suspension. They also call for the university newspaper to remove my opinion article from their website. Moreover, they demand apologies from the central board of UvA towards non-binary people. Their viral poster also notes that I am accused of “homophobia” and “transphobia”. The fact that I have dedicated my entire life to the struggle for LGBTI emancipation and am an outspoken advocate and champion of it has apparently escaped these students.

Raisa Mulder is also invited by the same national radio channel a few days later, and gets a podium there to spread even more slander about me. This student (to whom I have never taught) accuses me on the radio of hindering the academic debate about non-binary at the UvA, while in reality I have long been the only one who wanted to have this debate. But I simply do not get the chance to initiate it, because I would then be accused of discrimination because of my critique of the concept. Mulder claims on the radio to be a supporter of debate at the UvA, but in reality calls for my suspension. In the interview, Mulder gets away with this reversal of reality.

A few days later follows an opinion article in the university newspaper Folia by the UvA’s Central Diversity Officer: Machiel Keestra. He too takes a stand against me. He too opts not for arguments but for a personal attack: he takes sentences from blogs out of context and shifts attention from the content to the form of my statements. Keestra makes a “tone reproach” of me in his piece; this is an ad hominem fallacy. He says that I would disqualify myself in the debate by my tone and style. But the reality is that at the UvA the position that non-binary gender is a dangerous form of left-wing radical thought simply cannot be taken without being canceled, no matter how you formulate or substantiate it.

Slowly, this created the image of me as if I were a Dutch Jordan Peterson or Andrew Tate. Of course, these persons are demonized by the Dutch Left as people who maliciously attack the liberal order by stirring up the populist underbelly of society. Suddenly, I was seen as just that. And that was just the beginning of the unprecedented slander I’ve had thrown at me: by now, even the “fact checkers” on social media were ready to keelhaul me.

4. The wappie-frame

Through my blogs and my social media history, my critics find out that I engage in many topics they associate with “wappie” (maybe best translated by “weirdo”), which is the word used by the Dutch established liberal press and political parties to disqualify anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, voters for parties of the New Right, et cetera. In an attempt to disqualify me, my enemies in the now heated public debate started to frame me as a “wappie”.

For example, from my expertise in Science & Technology Studies (STS), I am critical of the totalitarian and neoliberal surveillance agenda behind Covid-19 policy measures and mRNA vaccination. I also have long opposed the stigmatization of conspiracy movements, and I once argued in a blog post that even David Icke’s seemingly absurd “Reptilian” theory is not so crazy if you look at it from a Jungian perspective. Moreover, I have an interest in astrology and alchemy, and feel that some controversial activists groups and political parties do not get enough credit for all they have done right in their opposition to the increasingly authoritarian Covid-19 policy measures in The Netherlands.

When I saw the framing emerge to portray me as “wappie”, I was not impressed, because I have nothing to hide and am not ashamed of my views and beliefs. On the contrary, my blogs and social media posts with my reflections and analysis on anything and everything are my great pride. Moreover, as an expert on the ideas of the pioneering French philosopher Bruno Latour, I am better versed in the latest views on science and technology than most of my critics, so I am perfectly capable of parrying attacks on my scientific work, expertise and integrity. I therefore decide to take the flight forward and give a comprehensive introduction to my views on science and spirituality on Twitter myself.

Of course, there is no place for these kinds of nuanced views in today’s polarized media. Although my views and the blogs I have written about them on Twitter generally generate fascination, wonder and compliments, my detractors use these findings to complete my character assassination. I am unfairly dismissed as anti-science, anti-vax and far-right. According to them, definitive proof has been provided that I am an out-of-touch lunatic who has no place at a university.

The intolerance for personal spiritual beliefs appears to be enormous in Dutch secular culture, and the willingness to empathize with other views and perspectives than those represented by “the mainstream” is very low. In the debate, my enemies lump togeher the topics I write about on my personal blog with my scientific work. This creates an image of me as someone who cannot separate the personal from the professional, and who is abusing my lecturing position at the university to teach about tarot, UFOs and conspiracy theories.

Soon, journalists on Twitter were also bombarded by a large group of trolls with tweets urging them not to give someone like me a stage. That way they would contribute to the spread of “fake news,” “extreme right-wing hatred” and “conspiracy theories”. At this point, someone who does not follow the storm about me in great detail can easily get the image from a distance that an extremist monster has emerged at the UvA, who is inspired by David Icke, Andrew Tate and Jordan Peterson, and who is demolishing the social science instute with abject ideas.

5. My defense on Twitter and in alternative media

Meanwhile, for my growing following on Twitter, I am trying to salvage what can be salvaged by rebutting all the character assassination as best I can. I am trying to shift the focus from all the attacks on my person, to the substance of what I stand for: academic freedom at UvA.

The first thing I am trying to do is get rid of a persistent image that is put down of me as if I have lost myself. That due to mental health problems I am no longer myself. That in recent years I have allowed myself to be stirred up by populist sentiments in society. And that I have thus also become an opponent of non-binary gender. In a thread I try to explain that this is not true, and that my criticism of non-binary comes from thorough and interdisciplinary scientific research on “androgyny”, on which I have been working for three years.

I also participate here and there in discussions that have sprung up on my timeline. These have long since ceased to be just about woke and gender. They are about vaccinations, conspiracy theories, climate change, the authority of science, the sense and nonsense of the difference between Left and Right, whether or not the World Economic Forum can be trusted, the sense and nonsense of things like astrology and tarot, and so on. I love these kinds of discussions, and especially see a large group of people having open and free discussions. But at the same time, of course, the Law of Twitter always applies: a small group of radical screamers making the loudest personal attacks still gets the most attention.

In addition, I am trying to make the point that, in my view, the problems with woke at the UvA are not just limited to the stifling norms I mentioned in the first opinion article, but that there is a large institutional machine behind it that, in my view, is derailing. All the while I keep my internal UvA whisleblower report confidential because that is, of course, the correct attitude, but incidents that have already been previously reported in the media can, of course, be given attention. For example, I am again giving attention to the curious dismissal of UvA professor of anthropology Niko Besnier just a few months ago, whose departure should be reconsidered in my view, as the accusations of “improper social behavior” against him were made without due process.

I am also informing my following via Twitter of the way the UvA has dealt with me since my whistleblower report. In my opinion, things have happened there that absolutely should not have happened, and even violate national whistleblower laws.

Finally, I also take my opportunity to appear on alternative online media platforms, where there is ample space to tell my story with nuance and depth. At the popular Dutch Youtube show De Nieuwe Wereld (The New World), for example, I engage in conversation with Durk Kooistra, where we talk for more than an hour about the situation at the UvA and the context in which we need to understand it: institutional problems at universities worldwide, and the encroaching high-tech surveillance capitalism.

The next day, the team from Follow The Science joins me at the UvA, a platform set up by Prof. Michaéla Schippers of Erasmus University. This platform closely follows the latest developments in science through conversations with high-profile guests. The excellent interviewer Rico Brouwer conducts the conversation with me in English, which allows me to also reach my many non-Dutch-speaking colleagues at the UvA, and of course in the international academic community.

The response to both interviews has been very positive. I am getting support and backing from all sides. Colleagues from universities and colleges continue to reach out to me, from home and abroad. There appear to be concerns around the world about the state of academic freedom. My interview with Follow The Science even reaches Jordan Peterson, who shares it on his Twitter.

Through my Twitter, meanwhile, I continue to make occasional appeals to the UvA community to speak out if they identify with my concerns. And I try to inspire colleagues across the country who offer their help to start the debate on academic freedom in their organizations as well.

6. Lifebuoys from the Right

Meanwhile, the attacks from the Left on me continue unabated. However, more and more help is coming from the Right. The first to come to my side is Paul Cliteur, Emeritus Professor of Law at Leiden University who is affiliated with Forum voor Democratie (FVD), the most controversial political party of the Dutch New Right. Not only is Cliteur visiting me at the University of Amsterdam to give me a heart to heart, but he is also writing a wonderful opinion piece about my situation for the Daily Standard.

To my surprise, the support from the Right does not stop there. Thierry Baudet (the leader of FVD) also calls me to give me a shot in the arm. In addition, Harm Beertema (PVV) and Ralf Dekker (FVD) submitted razor-sharp parliamentary questions to the Dutch government about my precarious situation as a whistleblower at the UvA. The PVV even invites me to visit the Dutch parliament. And conservative Dutch TV personality Johan Derksen expresses his support for me in the latest tail end of his daily TV show.

On Twitter, I share my bewilderment that where the Left lets me down, there are all kinds of right-wingers ready to help and support me, whom I have always fought from my left-wing activism.

I parry the scorn I receive from the Left when I subsequently accept these life preservers from the Right by saying that I, too, must survive, and that they should look at their own silence about serious radicalization in their own ranks before they condemn me and others from the New Right.

7. Attacks in the mainstream media

Meanwhile, I am beginning to notice that the discussion that is now raging lively on social media and through all sorts of other channels is not penetrating well on the major national media platforms. There are some major media platforms that are reaching out to me and talking to me, but this does not result in concrete invitations to programs and articles in newspapers. However, more and more pieces from my critics are appearing in the media.

For example, UvA colleague Jaap Kooijman quickly writes a response for OneWorld, denying and downplaying the danger of woke. Historian Han van der Horst lashes out at me on by downplaying my scientific integrity and expertise. In the Volkskrant Emma Curvers writes a vicious piece, in which she unjustly accuses me of unsubtle criticism of woke (while I have always indicated that I only oppose the excesses and that I have learned a lot from woke culture), and in which she associates me with right-wing extremist politics.

Two other vicious pieces appear in Het Parool, which previously gave extensive coverage to the UvA’s accusations that I am disrespectful to non-binary students (without asking for rebuttal from me). In an opinion piece, the editor-in-chief of the Gay Newspaper, Rick van der Made, dismisses me as someone who is unnecessarily harsh and hurtful toward non-binary individuals. He thinks that all gender identities that are invented should just be accepted, and that science should not interfere. Columnist Lale  Gül then once again reverts to the wappie frame to dismiss me as a pseudoscientist who does not deserve a position at the UvA, and lashes out at me in harsh and downright slanderous language.

Even on the media stage, the right finally comes to free me from my isolation. The right-wing press gives me a fair chance to offer a rebuttal to all the vehement scapegoating, character assassination and vilification. For example, SBS6, GeenStijl and Ongehoord Nederland proactively reach out to me, and De Telegraaf publishes an interview with me under the title: “UvA sociologist drops bomb with woke critique: ‘I am being scapegoated'”.

8. Conclusion: the scapegoat of the Left

Almost two weeks after the opinion piece was published, a pattern is beginning to emerge: the Established Left puts me away as a scapegoat, and the New Right, on the contrary, stands up for me and actively reaches out to me.

I have experienced the past week and a half as very intense. To be so scapegoated by your own group is an incredibly nasty feeling, and has often made me feel anxious, angry and sad. On the other hand, I also see it as a stroke of luck that it now happened “out in the open”: what has happened to me in the past few weeks on the Dutch national stage, has been happening to me within the walls of the UvA for much longer. The advantage is that now the whole of the Netherlands could watch how cancel culture works.

The support of the right has confused me. It makes me feel unreal, that I am now being protected by the right: parties and individuals I have always fought for as a left-wing activist. Yet I feel inside that I can accept this help without shame or guilt. This does not mean that I have now suddenly become right-wing, or am “colluding with the right,” as the furious left tries to frame it. But I have felt genuine commitment to my cause from them.

The world is not so simple that the Left is good, and the Right is bad. This became very clear again during the corona pandemic. It has been the right-wing parties that have bravely resisted the authoritarian and totalitarian winds blowing through the Netherlands in recent times. And it is the left-wing parties, on the contrary, that uncritically went along with it. This does not mean that I have now become right-wing, or that I will ever become so. Of course it doesn’t. This world is and will remain thoroughly neoliberal, and the only correct response to it can in my view be given by the Left.

On the other hand, I must also note that the Left has now abandoned me. I find the accusations against me for reaching for life preservers from the right downright hypocritical. If leftists would like to see it otherwise, they will have to look at themselves first. Why is the Left’s capacity and willingness to look at itself, and investigate its own dark side and extremism, so incredibly low? Until that changes, its own aggression will be projected onto whistleblowers like me in the form of scapegoating dynamics. How that feels is excellently expressed in the picture below.

I feel more motivated than ever by all that has happened to at least permanently stop putting people and organizations into “good” and “bad” camps myself, and in general to stop putting everything and everyone away a priori as good or bad. It is precisely this kind of unsubtle morality that has derailed woke culture.

It is clear that I have been thrown out of my old nest, and that I no longer have supporters there, at least at this time. It is also clear that my leftist ideals are not safe with the people who stood around me when I sought protection as a whistleblower in distress. I want to explore in the near future whether it might be possible to bring the two worlds together.

It has struck me for some time that awareness in right-wing and alternative networks about the worrisome advance of the neoliberal surveillance state is a lot greater than among left-wing intellectual networks. See, for example, Sietske Bergsma’s excellent video column at Blckbx, which dissects the danger of woke with impressive precision and puts it in a broader context.

At the same time, in these kinds of networks I often quickly notice an unsubtle aversion to anything to do with woke and diversity policies. I would like to try in the coming period to raise awareness about the wonderful and necessary sides of diversity thinking in those circles, and to remove the fear that all expressions of woke lead to a top-down authoritarian decency police.

Finally, what strikes me is how many people today no longer think in right or left at all. I have received a lot of support over the past two weeks from people who used to be always on the Left, but now can no longer identify with the politics of the established parties. And don’t blame them, because of how much the Established Left has been fiddling. A lot of former leftists have thrown the labels Left and Right overboard as a result, and now want to connect with each other across all party colors to make a fist together against the totalitarian winds that are blowing.

As long as neoliberalism exists, I will not abandon my leftist identity. I believe in the dualism between Left and Right, just as I believe in the dualism between man and woman. The problem with politics today is not that we distinguish between Left and Right, but that all of established politics from Left to Right has allowed itself to be corrupted by neoliberalism. I am and remain a leftist, and I want to finally make the Left truly Left again. The Left of the past, when it was really about making the lives of ordinary people – including minority groups – better in a struggle against the capitalist elite.

As a follower of astrology, I say: the Age of Aquarius has begun, we will have to bridge oppositions in all sorts of unusual ways. If we want to defeat corrupt and authoritarian neoliberalism, we will have to stop letting ourselves be played apart as a people. We will have to radically connect with each other across vast differences, from “wappie” to “wokie”.

I will face anyone who has come to stand around me as a whistleblower with an open mind, regardless of political affiliation. No matter how hard the confrontations will sometimes be and how unbridgeable the contradictions will feel, wokism has taught me that anything is better than “canceling”.

9. Update

On Friday Feb. 3, the University of Amsterdam officially announced that as a response to my whistleblower report, it has appointed an independent research committee with three external professors from other Dutch universities. They will study the validity of, and the claims in my whistleblower report. In this report, I state that “wokeness is an acute and fundamental danger to academic freedom at UvA’s social sciences, and to the quality and independence of our education and research programs”. Results are expected before the summer of 2023.

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