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New times, new standards, new media. If ever someone had to deal with these phenomena in recent political history, it was Gijs van Hall, the man who was warmly welcomed as the new social-democratic (PvdA) mayor of Amsterdam in 1957. Ten years later he was expelled from office and from the town hall. How could it have come to this? Dirk Wolthekker will come up with an answer during the next edition of the Character Assassination colloquium.

Detail Summary
Date 21 June 2019
Time 17:00 -19:00

Van Hall said he knew the answer himself: the (then new) media and the young post-war generation had intentionally made a caricature of him and committed character assassination. As a descendant of an influential Amsterdam family with an excellent track record during the war and in public administration, they always had to go after him. Everything that happened to him, it was all just Because I am a Van Hall. In this colloquium I would like to go deeper into the question of how things got that far: Van Hall himself tarnished, the family name tarnished and the reputation of the mayoralty discredited.

Who actually committed character assassination? Was it the protest-movement Provo? Was it the government? The (new) media? And what had been the role of Van Hall himself? Hadn’t he provoked the problems himself with his bumbling and regent-like public actions, with his lack of vision and view on the mayoralty, on the municipal civil service and on politics in The Hague? If we put Van Hall to the administrative yardstick and assess his mayoralty on the basis of a number of criteria, we can only conclude that quite a lot of his duties were inadequately fulfilled. Although Van Hall was a skilled negotiator and appreciated by his aldermen in the intimacy of the boardroom, he seemed to be unaware of the chances, limitations, risks and challenges of the office. We will see that he himself played an important role in the caricature that was made of him.

All of this does not change the fact that Provo and the new media (the television!) saw in him the personification of everything that was wrong with public administration, with society in general and with Amsterdam in particular. But the confessional-liberal De Jong government, which had just taken office in 1967, was also guilty of Van Hall’s tragic downfall: the PvdA was no longer in government. Nobody needed Van Hall anymore.

The event will take place in the University Library's Doelenzaal, and is followed by drinks. All are welcome.