German Political Leader Questions YouTubers' Right To Tell Fans Not To Vote For Her Party, Urgently Summons Her Advisers In Response — By Fax
from the doof-doof-doof dept
One of the many ugly aspects of the Article 13/17 disaster is the way that politicians not only ignored the concerns of millions of EU citizens, but actively insulted them, describing them as “bots” or Google “astroturfing”. As Mike noted at the time, treating people with contempt, shortly before the main elections for the European Parliament, was not a wise move. German politicians were particularly contemptuous of young voters, and the latter did not forget. The mainstream German political parties — the center-right CDU and CSU, and the center-left SDP — were trashed in the recent elections, largely because very few young people voted for them. The German Greens, by contrast, had their best results yet.
One person who may have helped to bring that about is the YouTuber Rezo. Shortly before the EU vote, he released a 55-minute “personal rant” entitled, “The destruction of the CDU” (in German). In its first week, it had been viewed over 12 million times, and attracted over 180,000 comments. Despite its title, it is not just an anti-CDU polemic, but details the failure of all the mainstream German parties to address key issues — notably the climate crisis, but also poverty, German support for US militarism, and Article 13. It urged German viewers to vote — but not for the CDU, CSU, SDP or the extreme right-wing AfD. A few days later, over 90 fellow YouTubers joined Rezo in making the same call in a shorter video (in German).
The general view seems to be that the action of these top YouTubers probably caused many more young Germans to think and talk about the issues raised by the elections for the European Parliament, and then to go out and vote, than anything in the country’s history. Against a background of general cynicism and lack of political engagement in the EU, you might expect this initiative to be celebrated as an amazing achievement, and something to be emulated in future elections.
What would actually have happened in this country, if a group of 70 newspaper editorials had made a joint appeal two days before the election: “please do not vote for the CDU or the SPD”. That would have been a clear case of spin before the election, and would have led to heated debates in this country. And the question arises with regard to the issue of spin: what exactly are the rules from the analog domain, and which rules apply to the digital sector, yes or no? That’s a question we will discuss. And that’s why this discussion will be very aggressive.
In other words, how dare these impertinent youngsters criticize what their elders and betters are doing? Let’s bring in some new rules for the Internet to stop that happening again.
But this isn’t cynical “spin”: it’s just Rezo offering his opinion — take it or leave it. It’s what newspaper editorials and columnists do every day, and everybody accepts that as a useful and valid part of political discourse. What Kramp-Karrenbauer is really complaining about is the fact that YouTube represents an alternative to the established media outlets she knows how to handle. Frighteningly for the CDU, YouTube is not only a medium that it and the other parties can’t control, employing the usual political and economic levers, it’s one they struggle even to understand. For example, as the Guardian reported, one CDU supporter tweeted about Rezo: “This young man is spreading an endless stream of fake news and is populist down to the tips of his blue hair” (original in German). But Rezo’s video is not only a brilliant demonstration of how to use YouTube in an extremely persuasive way, it also comes with a Google document containing hundreds of references and citations of scientific literature backing up his claims, making it the diametric opposite of “fake news”.
It’s clear the traditional politicians and their old friends in mainstream media simply don’t know how to counter this kind of sweary but fact-based attack, using a powerful medium that costs practically nothing to produce and that can reach and influence a million people in a few hours. So, in order to discuss this troubling new high-tech threat that contributed to the humiliating drubbing her party received in the European Parliament elections, the CDU’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has organized a meeting of her most trusted political advisers.