The youth movement calling itself Schild en Vrienden, which presents itself in favour of Flemish conservative values, is actually a cover for a racist and antisemitic movement, according to a report by the VRT programme Pano. The name Schild en Vrienden (Shield and Friends) is a reference to the 14th century shibboleth which would unmask any French spy trying to pronounce the Dutch words. A hint of French German pronunciation would immediately betray any spy trying to pass as Flemish.
The youth movement has hitherto been regarded as Flemish nationalist and conservative, but nevertheless respectable. The movement’s creator, Dries Van Langenhove, is a member of the board of the university of Ghent, a spokesperson for the Flemish movement and a regular contributor to newspaper and TV opinion pieces. Four members were elected to the Flemish Youth Council, and the group even ensured security for a recent lecture by N-VA politician Theo Francken.
However, according to Pano, behind the scenes the group is far from respectable, indulging in racist, sexist and antisemitic speech in closed online discussion groups. Among the postings uncovered by Pano: a “Jewish Rolex” in which hands with a watch are replaced by the counter of a gas meter; a fake fund-raising account for a whip for a “lazy thyphus negro” and a cartoon about the two-year-old refugee shot by police earlier in the year.
Aside from a horrific and tasteless sense of humour, the discussion groups, the programme reveals, also show the movement’s intention of infiltrating conventional political movements, such as the Flemish Youth Council, in order to influence their positions. Members involved on that side are trained and schooled, including a recent information trip to Romania, which also involved a side-trip to Budapest to meet with Hungarian prime minister Victor Orban.
The programme also spoke of close links with certain faction of the N-VA and Vlaams Belang, as well as representatives of the American alt-right.