Youtuber Flavio Pasquino thinks himself a conspiracy thinker. That is, he thinks the government has a hidden agenda in the coronacrisis. It is not public health that is central, but the interests of the pharmaceutical industry. And the crisis is meant to push climate measures through, Pasquino thinks.
He therefore makes videos in which he interviews people, ranging from critics of government policy to conspiracy thinkers. One of them was Kees Faasse, an anti-vaccination activist who does not believe in the danger of the coronavirus. He thinks that the Netherlands has become a police state.
Because of that interview in May, Pasquino was called last week by a district agent from the East Netherlands, who had already contacted Faasse. Pasquino: “It was a pleasant conversation, but I did wonder what they wanted to talk to me on.”
Does Pasquino look familiar to you? In September he was seen at Nieuwsuur, about how an alternative view of corona at home can lead to quarrel:
According to Pasquino, the officer said he was a key figure in the movement who critically thinks about coronation policy and has a large constituency. Pasquino: “I had 5,000 followers on YouTube. But this has tripled.”
The youtuber posted a video about the police contact on his channel. After contacting the district agent from the East Netherlands, he was also visited by the local district agent in his hometown of Edam. Pasquino didnt find him at home. Later they had a phone call. The conversation was recorded by Pasquino and put online.
“Thinking differently is not a criminal offence.”
Police say the incident is far more innocent than Pasquino suspects. “Corps are trying to establish contact and connect to identify tensions early,” says Suzanne van de Graaf on behalf of the police. “This theme brings social displeasure. You can compare it to a cop who addresses young people at a neighborhood center. That doesnt mean theyve done anything wrong.”
According to Van de Graaf, there is no national policy to send agents to people who are critical of government or conspiracy thinkers: “Thinking otherwise is not a criminal offence.” In her opinion, the police do not use a definition of different thinking or conspiracy.
However, that is not the impression the district agent gives in the conversation, says Pasquino, witnessing some statements she makes. Pasquino asks the local agent what her definition of a conspiracy thinker is: “Someone like a Mr. Faasse, who does completely opposite and thinks as what the government expects,” says the agent.
“ With that definition, a lot of people can expect a visit from the district agent,” says Pasquino.
In the video, the agent explains her motivation: “What we always worry about is whether someone is going to show behavior that could harm others.” And: “We want to avoid an attack, in the worst case, and we think afterwards: this is where it started.”
But the agent also says to contact us for any concerns about Pasquinos own safety: “People may also turn against you. If there are threats to your address, I want you to know where to find us.”
Pasquino: “The officer said he wanted to take care of worries, but what if I were to radicalise, I wouldnt say so in a conversation like that? It seemed intimidating to me. Apparently, I have to watch my count because of what I find.”
“Content does not matter”
That contradicts police spokesman Van de Graaf. “The content of the video does not matter. A district agent makes his own professional assessment or who should have a conversation with someone.”
Pasquino: “The agents who contacted said they should do so on the initiative of the Staff of Large Scale and Special Action (SGBO) in the East of the Netherlands.” An SGBO is a team that forms the police when there is a crisis. Now around corona, but also around the peasant demonstrations.
Also watch this video VanCCEit on 3 about why conspiracy thinking during the coronacrisis seems to have increased:
The police East Netherlands confirm that their SGBO initiated the contact. Through Kees Faasse they asked if they could contact Pasquino. Pasquino agreed to that, he says, because he wanted to know why they were contacting. The fact that a local agent in Edam also contacted him, is because she is the local cop, says a spokesperson for the East Netherlands police: “Local agents are the ears and eyes of the police.”
Pasquino says he understands that the police are alert to whether certain ideas about the coronacrisis may lead to disruption of public order. “But I never called for that at all, and I will not. I do not believe at all that demonstrating on the Malieveld makes sense or thatthe lawsuits that Willem Engel conducts bring something. Ill just post interviews and Ill keep doing that.”