There’s not much time to go until the German federal elections on Sunday, but we are far from any election fever. Angela Merkel’s success seems inevitable, the only remaining question is whether she will be able to lead a coalition with the libertarian FDP or if she will be forced to maintain the current coalition with the Social Democrats. It’s been a boring pre-election time.
But if it’s getting bored, the Internet strikes back. It all started with the photo above. It shows an invitation to an event with Angela Merkel in Hamburg, saying “The chancellor’s coming”. Somebody has scribbled beneath it: “And everybody goes ‘yeaahh'”.
Initially posted on flickr, the photo has made its way through the German blogosphere. As it was taken up by Spreeblick, somebody proposed a flashmob in the comments: “I’d like to be in Hamburg tomorrow! Who’s going? A ‘yeaahh’ flashmob?”
And they went there. The flashmobbers were only a small minority among the 2000 people that had come to listen to Mrs. Merkel, but they certainly had their share of attention when they commented each sentence of the chancellor with an enthusiastic “yeaahh”.
The thing didn’t end there. When Mrs. Merkel went to Mainz, people showed up to shout “yeaahh” in Mainz. When she spoke in Wuppertal, flashmobbers were already awaiting the chancellor, accompanied by reporters of the honorable “Tagesthemen” newscast.
In a comment for “Tagesthemen“, Thomas Hinrichs complains that the “yeaahh” flashmobs are nonsensical. He’s right about that. In fact, that’s the only point about them. Hinrichs attributes the emergence of the flashmobs to the failed communication between politicians and netizens. The latter, he said, had to stop calling everybody stupid who’s not using social networks, while the parties should start to step up to each other on the internet. I differ on that.
During the last years, Germany has seen the rise of an unexpected civil liberties movement. Fighting against data retention, tens of thousands took to the streets. Fearing the installation of an internet censorship infrastructure, more than 130.000 people signed a petition to the parliament. They went unheard.
Especially the latter case has led to a lot of frustration. The so-called “access aggravation act” proposes the introduction of DNS blocks to complicate the access to child pornography on the internet. On the one hand, these blocks are easily to be circumvented, on the other hand the sites should be deleted, not blocked. The act is, in one word, nonsensical.
This is what experts and activists told the politicians. Over and over again they repeated what they see as reasonable arguments, only to be ignored. In the end, only four politicians of the governing coalition dared to vote against the bill.
That’s why people are on the streets today, parodying the chancellor’s speeches with choruses of yeaahh’s. As all reasonable arguments have failed, people join the meaningless play called politics, answering nonsensical phrases with nonsensical shouts. Mr. Hinrichs is wrong: People don’t want to befriend their chancellor on Facebook. They want to be taken serious. The flashmobs are just the ultimate mirror they hold against those who have ignored them when they came to them with arguments and petitions.