So after all that it turns out that Yanis Varoufakis did put up a Stinkefinger, in 2013 – for a while on Thursday, Jan Böhmermann confused everyone by doing a sketch pretending he’d doctored Varoufakis’ Stinkefinger and then ZDF put out a statement saying he was just trying to do a joke and everyone watched the sketch again, and thought oh yeah! Great. Once we’ve all taken turns to wank off Jan Böhmermann, we might talk about the real insult – the Günther Jauch show, Germany’s most-watched political discussion programme, presided over by a man who has somehow amassed €50 million (according to this website) by doing a baffled face. A kind of squashy, baffled face. Fifty fecky million! Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good face. He wears it well and deploys it to good effect. And it’s multifunctional. He can use his squishy nonplussed expression both when asking fools to complete folksy sayings on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and when asking patronizing, loaded, leading, faux-naive questions to foreigners.
But, fuck me, the whole show is an insult. It’s an insult to Runkfunkbeitrag payers, for one thing, who, in exchange for what is allegedly one of German TV’s most expensive talk-show productions (over €4000 a minute), are offered an infantile interpretation of whatever the biggest story of the week was, presented so as to provoke bourgeois Germany’s meanest xenophobic prejudices. If the show was on SAT 1, most people would just snicker and take the piss and shake their heads and suck their teeth, but because it’s on the state’s own ARD they nod and do thoughtful faces and absorb it like they’re in church and Jauch was their squidgy-faced priest.
The show was using one of its oldest tricks, of course, by taking a video from years ago when Varoufakis was talking about something else and playing it back to him and then smugly sitting back and going, “How do you explain that? Hmm? Hmm?” They pulled the same one on a Berlin imam a few months ago. And just like that time, the entire point was to humiliate him. Everything Varoufakis said was aimed at conciliation – if we believe in Europe and the euro, then we think as Europeans, not as Greeks and Germans, was the gist of what Varoufakis was trying to say. In return, the arrogant game show host Jauch and the smug git from the CSU Markus Söder treated him alternately like a child (“Greece should start doing its homework”) and a criminal. It was cheap and it was a disgrace.
The exact same show is going on in Brussels this week. Every single attempt at compromise that Greece offers – from a European debt conference, to linking Greece’s debt repayments to its economic growth, to a four-month bridging loan to allow the government to implement its own reforms – is batted away by Merkel and Schäuble, despite much evidence that austerity politics has failed. And in the end Merkel and Schäuble and Jauch stick up their middle fingers.