How the far right uses pop culture to reach out for the youth

We all know Berlin is a vibrant city especially attractive for young creative people. No wonder the parties trying to make it into Abgeordnetenhaus (Berlin parliament) next sunday want to lure the city’s youngest into voting for them. In doing so many of the parties have had the heart to skate on the thin ice of subculture, slang, internet hypes and whatsoever. In short, the parties try pop culture and we all know where this leads us way too often

 

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“Vote McGovern”. Nixon portrait by Andy Warhol: Politics as subject to pop culture was always there. What happens the other way round?

Whenever German parties start campaigning for whatever election public walls and street lamps are covered with more or less random faces trying their best to look nice and likeable, just as in any other democratic country as well (while in dictatorships you’d probably see one face only obviously). In Berlin I have always been used to a streetscape where you’d find images of the biggest parties at face level while the nazi douchebags had to hang their posters so high, so nobody could reach them to tear them down but they had been splattered with paint bombs anyway.

That seems to have changed during the current election campaign for Wahl zum Berliner Abgeordnetenhaus (Berlin parliament election). Indeed the posters of NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands: national democratic party of Germany, the successor party of Hitler’s NSDAP, therefore plain nazis) and AfD (Alternative für Deutschland: alternative for Germany, other right wing bastards that don’t wanna hang out with the old fashioned bald and combat boot wearing Hitler fan club because they like Bismarck more but actually are the same nationalist pile of haters except they wear fancy suits) still hang high but even in Berlin’s multi national and alternative left wing districts Kreuzberg and Neukölln I haven’t seen a single poster of one of these parties that actually has been teared apart or paint bombed.

Misfits from the other side

This of course has to do with a general change of society and the way of how public debate is carried out currently. Another reason why especially a lot of young people currently are attracted to parties such as AfD or movements like Identitäre Bewegung (identitarian movement) in large parts of Germany is that they use the same mystification patterns as organically grown sub and youth cultures to establish one of their own and to give themselves an image of a young, dynamic and rebellious movement one can identify with in an allegedly conformist society that would treat these kids as misfits (as it did and does as well with beatniks, hippies, Gammler, 68er, punks, skinheads and so on, you name it).

Sadly these movents are quite good when it comes to adapt to youth culture in order to mobilise the kids politically. Perhaps you have seen AfD‘s 2016 campaign commercial for the Berlin election that raised a lot of attention a couple of weeks ago:

What we see in this 1 minute video is a bunch of mostly young and quite fashionable people with fancy sunglasses. A lot of them wear blue sunglasses (the party’s colour) and therefore have Durchblick (literally see-through, which means being in the know), while others lacking exactly that for having different coloured glasses. The happy summerly atmosphere is completed by a borderline cheesy electro swing track by former succesful producer Marco Delgardo (i.a. Roxette, Savage Garden, Atomic Kitten).

As horrid the message of this clip is, which is based inherently on the exclusion of different-minded people (and different coloured people and foreigners as well, since the only black man in the video wears the wrong glasses as well), for a political party it still comes kind of fresh and at least it is not a reason for Fremdscham (again, only when you leave out the message), a deeply uncomfortable feeling you often get for example when old people try and fail to talk like the cool kids nowadays.

Fremdscham it is what you feel when you watch the campaign commercial of Alfa (Allianz für Fortschritt und Aufbruch: alliance for progress and rise, a eurosceptic right wing conservative party). Imagine a bunch of mostly old white men with an academic background wearing business suits sitting together in a villa on the countryside and trying to come up with an idea to reach the young voters and one of them says: “What about that rap music, isn’t that what the kids are listening to all the time at the moment? Perhaps we should make a rap song.” Given that they are not the first ones among parties or companies doing that and by know the last person actually should know that classic rap and hip hop is a mine field when it’s not real, it’s not even funny anymore but makes me really really sad. The beat comes directly frome hell, the rhymes are cheap and I’m pretty damn sure the “rapper” never ever heard of something called flow. I don’t want to talk any further about this, just see for yourself:

I have to admit though that with the 1 minute long opening montage of news snippets with politicians talking is a classic gimmick mostly used in horror films to give the audience an overview of the general setting and plot without too much storytelling needed, just like in 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. Except here it is done pretty badly with cheap fading effects.

Berlin’s CDU (Christlich Demokratische Union: christian democratic union, Merkel’s conservative party) also tried to adapt to the laid-back Berlin party and creative lifestyle and boy, do they know what the party kids want! More security while going out!

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And while this very diverse bunch of likeable young girls and boys above surely know how to hit the dancefloor right, CDU candidate Frank Henkel comments in a video what really goes wrong in Germany’s capital: “[…] I also see a different Berlin. A Berlin with big problems. I see a city in which infrastructure decays, public transport that doesn’t work, integration [of migrants] that doesn’t always proceeds as some politicians want to make people believe. I see dirt and wildness (while Henkel passes by a wall with graffiti) […]”. Well, the way I see it, Berlin is constantly constructing fancy new buildings, public transport – while truly having problems – still is one of the best in Germay, the vast majority of the more than 500.000 people of almost 190 nationalities live peacefully together (yes I know there is a lot of criminal energy and arabic mafia here as well) and I really don’t think that in the year 2016 graffiti is still something you could use for symbolising vandalism and dirt.

That may have worked for Ed Koch‘s campaign to become mayor of New York in 1977 but today street art hangs in museums (which misses the whole point by the way). Dear Mr Henkel, you can’t fight against Berlin’s sub cultures and literally lead a war against Rigaer 94 (one of Berlin’s last left alternative housing projects deriving from the 90s squatting movement) but then unasked use video material shot at Klunkerkranich club to bask in the glory of what this city is loved and famous for. That’s just bad style.

After reviewing a lot of material that is mostly harmless and therefore too boring to mention it, after failed attempts to understand young voters it seems that Die Partei (the party, satirical party that even made it into EU parliament) is the only one that truly understands what people from, say, 18 to 35 want: Not to be bullshitted. Corresponding to their slogan Inhalte überwinden (overcoming content) they do exactly as promised and with their satiric and nihilist attempt show the true nature of what politics often means these days. In doing so they have not only become part of pop culture itself. With Maxim and Nico of notorious and constantly provoking rap crew K.I.Z they also have two german “popstars” running for the Berlin parliament (as the video below shows for the 2011 campaign. They run again this year). Enjoy and go vote on sunday.

 

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When childhood heroes die – Goodbye to Bud Spencer

This year has taken from us many important personalities in pop culture. But the death of Bud Spencer feels different.

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Spencer in Berlin 2015. Quelle: Wikipedia

This morning my daily cup of coffee had a very bitter taste, for only moments before I had learned that Carlo Pedersoli – the man known to and loved by the world as Bud Spencer – died just the day before at the age of 86 years. According to his son Giuseppe Pedersoli he wasn´t in pain and died calmly, surrounded by his family and loved ones, with his final words said to be “thank you”.

Not only am I said because with Bowie, Lemmy, Ali, Prince, Eco, Lee, Willemsen, Rickman and much more, the year 2016 has cost us a hell of a lot of beautiful people already. I am sad because yesterday, after Rock Music died, Pop Music died, Modern Literature died and Intellect died, it wasn´t just another great actor who finally took off with all the people above, but also the emotional bond to my childhood came to an end somehow and now I know that I´m never gonna be 10 again. I could see that coming already after the death of Peter Lustig earlier this year, a german host of the TV-show “Löwenzahn”, who filled the hearts of generations of children in Germany with joy, knowledge, and excitement. But then I thought there´s still good old Bud, plus I can watch Indiana Jones anytime I want. Besides my parents, who gave me a wonderful childhood, these three personas had their influence on my happy, innocent days as well; they embody my personal Holy Trinity of childhood heroes.

No talk about Harrison Ford

Since yesterday this Holy Trinity is not anymore. While Indiana Jones is unable to die (I know I´m not consistent here, since it´s not Harrison Ford I´m talking about but the actual figure instead, but it is how it is, I can´t change it) I see now – clearer than before – that there actually is something like death in pop culture. Of course, all of them will live on on the small screen forever but this time it really feels different.

The reason why this feels so real this time is, because I always felt a deep personal connection through Bud Spencer with my long gone grandfather. All my life I only had this one grandparent, so clearly he meant the world to me. He was my very first best friend. These endless nights when I was visiting him and was allowed to stay up as long as I wanted watching all the great late night stuff on TV with him, is something I will never forget. There, my love for trash- and B-movies started. Finally, at some point he would ask “shall we see if we can find some Bud Spencer beating up people?” and we switched channels until we found one of the certainly screened Bud Spencer flicks. Sometimes they would have a Spencer and Hill tribute night so we could binge the whole night long.

Of course, there were other things that tied this little soul of mine to my kind and loving Opa. It´s just that Spencer always impersonated this secret, conspiracy-like bond we unsaid felt in those nights when my parents thought I´d already be in bed for hours. I guess what I´m trying to say with all this talk about you´re-kind-of-triggering-memories-of-my-dead-grandfather is: thank you.