Persecuted for Memes

Dries Van Langenhove and the New Face of Flemish Nationalism

By Guillaume Durocher | 7 April 2019

THE UNZ REVIEW — Dries Van Langenhove is a Flemish nationalist who has rocketed to the national scene in just a few years by founding the nationalist group Shield & Friends, which rapidly achieved nation-wide fame for its spectacular direct actions and savvy use of social media. Van Langenhove is now heading Flemish Interest’s (Vlaams Belang, VB) electoral list for the Flemish Brabant province and will almost certainly win a seat at the Belgian federal parliament in the next elections on May 26. As such, the 25-year-old’s meteoric career is a telling example of how Europe’s new identitarian movements are connecting with more traditional nationalist organizations.

Shield & Friends (Schild & Vrienden, S&V), started as an online discussion group in August 2017, named after a thirteenth-century Flemish battle-cry against the French. It soon experienced rapid and organic growth as more and more Flemish youth discovered that others shared their concerns about immigration and cultural decline. “Sometimes people had close friends whom they did not even know were right-wing,” says Van Langenhove. “It’s easier to come out as transgender than conservative here. If you oppose late-term abortion, you are looked at as though you are crazy.” He jokes that S&V became a rare “safe space” for nationalists and conservatives amidst a fiercely left-wing campus culture.

S&V made a name for itself through pro-social activities and civic engagement: activists picked up litter during a garbagemen strike, donated blood, and volunteered to spend time with lonely elderly persons. S&V’s work took a more political turn with the fight for free speech, which is severely threatened on Belgian university campuses, at least insofar as nationalist and conservative ideas are concerned. On one occasion, the center-right interior minister, Theo Franken, gave a speech at Ghent University: left-wing students went on a rampage, smashing windows, spraying graffiti, and attacking attendants. […]

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