Photo by lukaspaslawski (Flickr CC)
I wish I wrote a column for Bild. All you have to do is write four sentences that are so simplistic they literally make no sense. Such as, "Laughing and satire are absolutely wrong."
I don't really want to do this, except on nights like this, when I'm reduced to drinking homemade White Russians, scraping things out of the internet and watching the 1993 movie Cyborg 2 in the hope that it will provide some unexpected new angle on Peer Steinbrück's ill-advised comments about the Italian election. (It hasn't yet, but then the filmmakers have confused cyborgs and androids, so really there's no allegorical help there.)
But I like Steinbrück – I admire a man who's chosen a horse and is damn well going to ride it. His beast is called Klartext, ("Plain speaking"), a word that's written in big letters all around him whenever he appears in campaign events.
The slogan is not just there so that the audience realizes what that awkward middle-aged man on stage is trying to do, it's a prompt for the SPD candidate himself, so that he remembers to say blunt witty things, and not complicated boring things. This week, at an SPD event in Potsdam he said that the Italian election had been won by "two clowns", – meaning Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo.
"Not very funny, but it'll do," he probably thought. "I got it off the cover of the Economist. It's got that whole 'what people really think' thing." It might even be what the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano thinks, but you know how it is - people always get patriotically offended when a German insults the most embarrassing representatives of their country – and the Italian president promptly called off his lunch-date with Steini. Not that the SPD man went hungry – he had lots of egg on his face to dine on.
But German voters don't mind if you offend a few Mediterranean folk. The real problem is that Steinbrück's jokes are not funny enough. And even though people always want politicians to be less aloof, they like it even less when politicians seem more like dads trying to be cool. In fact, in these times of almost total boredom and ubiquitous entertainment, Steinbrück's irony is that what people want are actual clowns, like in Italy.