Fornication in the Gooi? At first I was not completely surprised, until the suspicion arose that there was more going on than a gossip journalist may come up with: punishable fornication.
That explains why RTL has one of its most successful programs, the talent show The Voice of Holland, is no longer broadcasting for the time being and sponsors have also withdrawn. The reason is a program that has yet to be broadcast on Thursday: BOOS from BNNVARA. Wouldn’t it have been better for them to keep the contents of their program a secret for a while, with a view to the consequences for those involved by name and by name? A naive question for a world in which viewing figures are all-important.
I think all those talent shows are a terrible kind of sentimental kitsch television, so I won’t mourn the disappearance of The Voice. But more important is the question of whether this is a typical case of ‘trial by media’. Are reputations being damaged here before it is even certain whether a criminal case will follow?
That is already the case with Ali B.. He has been reported to the Public Prosecution Service for sexually transgressive behavior during the said TV program. Ali vehemently denies. “I am taken by surprise by this,” he said to The Telegraph. “No name has been given, nothing concrete. I can’t defend myself against that. Let alone in the media. But the damage has been done.”
However difficult it may be to prevent such disclosure in the cases of well-known persons, it remains extremely painful. I immediately thought of a recent case that you don’t hear much about: Andrew Cuomo, the former governor of New York. A wave of allegations of sexual misconduct, from no fewer than twelve women, washed over him, but the Justice Department decided not to prosecute him. The allegations were believed to be credible, but the evidence was not convincing enough. When that became known, Cuomo had already resigned as governor.
A case like this only has victims. Not only Cuomo, who had to resign without a criminal case against him, but also the women who had experienced his behavior as sexual abuse. Perhaps it is a good thing that he has resigned, but the sense of justice continues to gnaw here.
Perhaps Ali B. faces the same as Cuomo: sentenced without a sentence. It is different with Jeroen Rietbergen, the band leader of The Voice and husband of Linda de Mol. He has not been charged, but he has nevertheless admitted that his conduct was “completely wrong”: he had indeed had sexual contacts with some of the women involved in the program. He had seen those contacts as ‘reciprocal and equal’, but realized some time ago that it was not his perception that was relevant, but that of the women.
I suspect his statement was drafted with some help from lawyers specialized in the matter, yet such overtly expressed guilt is scarce in the relatively young history of #MeToo.
And now? According to De Telegraaf, “a cesspool” of revelations will open around The Voice. The wish is undoubtedly the father of this suspicion, but the main question is who will be happier than the tabloid press.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of January 17, 2022