Bill O’Reilly’s December 2008 report on the city of Amsterdam is well known online as an embarrassment of ideology-driven falsehoods. The Fox News anchor portrayed the Dutch capital as a cesspool of corruption and crime, and warned that the Obama Administration had a similar fate in store for the United States.
Just a month after Barack Obama’s election, the left, according to O’Reilly was “pushing the envelope” to legalize marijuana and prostitution. Both have been legal, to an extent, in the Netherlands, so it makes sense to look at how things played out there.
Margaret Hoover, a Republican Party strategist, appeared on the program to talk about the “wonderfully naive ideas” which Dutchmen had “about teaching their children to have safe sex and smoke grass.” Consequently, she claimed, criminals and drug addicts from all over Europe came to Amsterdam to “exploit that opening.” The city “is a mess.”
This is a wonderfully naive bunch of lies. Dutch youngsters are taught about safe sex in high school, and teen pregnancies and STD infections are much lower in the Netherlands than in the United States.
Dutch children aren’t taught how to smoke weed, nor is Amsterdam “full of undesirables,” as O’Reilly put it. Unless he means liberals?
Out of control
Monica Crowley, a Fox News contributor, described the city as a “cesspool of corruption,” but the Index of Economic Freedom, published by the conservative Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, reports that corruption in the Netherlands is among the lowest in the world.
Crowley said “everything is out of control,” yet violent crime in the Netherlands is low and outside major cities like Amsterdam virtually non-existent.
Legalizing prostitution has reduced sex crimes. Human trafficking remains a problem. The national government now allows cities to close brothels if they suspect their owners may be engaged in criminal activities. Amsterdam has used that power to reduce the size of its Red Light District.
Drugs are more complicated, because Dutch law distinguishes between “hard” (cocaine, heroin, LSD, MDMA) and “soft” drugs (marijuana and, at the time of O’Reilly’s report, psilocybin mushrooms). Neither are legal, but soft drugs are decriminalized.
Overall Dutch drug use is low. A 1999 study by the University of Amsterdam found that about 15 percent smoked weed at some point. The number for hard drugs was 2 percent.
In the United States, a 2008 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 47 percent had used illicit drugs at least once.