Is Angela Merkel to blame for Germany’s terrible Eurovision showing?
Things seem to be going remarkably well for Germany recently. The country remains one of the few in the eurozone not to have slipped into recession, its two top soccer teams — Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund — are squaring off in the final of the Champions League, and it has succeeded in imposing steep ...
Things seem to be going remarkably well for Germany recently. The country remains one of the few in the eurozone not to have slipped into recession, its two top soccer teams — Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund — are squaring off in the final of the Champions League, and it has succeeded in imposing steep demands for austerity as part of the many bailout deals it has financed.
But Germans are now worrying that as a result their fellow Europeans just don’t seem to like them very much. On Saturday, Germany’s entry into the annual Eurovision singing competition finished near the bottom of the pack and managed to garner points from just five other countries: Austria, Israel, Spain, Albania, and Switzerland. Is this the dreaded Angela Merkel-effect in action?
First, let’s have a look at Germany’s entry, "Glorious" by Cascada:
Not so bad, right? (Especially by the standards of the generally terrible quality of most acts.) For comparison’s sake, have a look also at this year’s winner, the Danish entry "Only Teardrops" by Emmelie De Forest:
There’s clearly not a great deal separating the two acts, and if Germans are feeling aggrieved about their defeat at the hands of yet another inoffensive Scandinavian country, they may be correct in blaming politics. As I wrote on Friday, the voting system for the Eurovision competition has long been deeply political. The Scandinavian, Balkan, and former Soviet countries all typically vote for each other, for instance, while the Greeks and Cypriots refuse to vote for the Turks.
That dynamic was on display once more on Saturday. The former Soviet states broke heavily in favor of Azerbaijan and Ukraine, propelling them to second and third place, respectively. Did they deserve that placement? Well, you can judge for yourself. Here’s Azerbaijan’s entry, "Hold Me" by Farid Mammadov:
And here’s Ukraine’s entry, "Gravity" by Zlata Ognevich.
After scoring only 18 points to Ukraine’s 214, the Germans are understandably looking for someone to blame, and it looks like Merkel might become the scapegoat. "There’s obviously a political situation to keep in mind — I don’t want to say ‘this was 18 points for Angela Merkel’," said Germany’s ARD TV network coordinator Thomas Schreiber. "But we all have to be aware that it wasn’t just Cascada up there on stage [being judged] but all of Germany."
The idea that Europeans might be punishing Germany for imposing austerity on its European brethren doesn’t seem so far-fetched on its face. There aren’t many ways for Europeans to get back at Germans these days — they’re beating everyone at soccer now, too — so perhaps a silly singing competition is the only outlet remaining for the continent’s debtors.
But even if Merkel is to blame, German Eurovision angst is something of an annual tradition, one that predates the eurozone crisis. Here’s how Reuters summed it up in a 2007 headline: "Germans blame Eurovision failure on bloc-voting." And in 2008: "Germans fret no one likes them after Eurovision dud." In 2009, they didn’t even bother sending a German, packing an American off to notch another subpar finish. In 2010, Germany finally won, but the desperation-laden headlines haven’t gone away.
Has any superpower ever been so desperate to be liked?