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Shameless move by the CDU

May 5, 2010

Not a joke, alas

Probably shouldn’t get all worked up about this, but this might be the crassest, most damnable mindless misappropriation of American culture in Germany, ever. Seriously!? Black is Beautiful!? Are they out of their minds? After watching SPD politicians last fall attempt to channel Barack Obama–including, regretfully, the slogan “yes we can” in English–I thought things had hit rock bottom in the misappropriation department. Evidently that was overly optimistic.

Reaching into the history of the American civil rights movement and ripping this slogan from its context cheapens it significance and its history. That a center right party would do so makes it downright cynical. Putting a picture of a bunch of white people next to it is just … wrong. Selling it on t-shirts, wrist bands, and beach towels? Words fail me. This is not irony or some postmodern pastiche. It is tasteless.

This was actually called into life by the Junge Union, the young Republicans of Germany. Given the nature of their other campaigns (Nobel Peace Prize for Kohl, referring to Die Linke as crap, and using sex to sell politics, among others) I suppose this campaign fits right in. Suddenly, the cesspool of American politics seems like the moral high ground. Now that is a scary thought.

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  1. RoKa permalink
    May 8, 2010 21:16

    Peinlich! Peinlich!
    Und das als Inhaber einer Professur. Muss was technisches sein, weil von allem anderen ist augenscheinlich eher kein blasser Schimmer vorhanden.
    Wenn man keine Ahnung hat….
    (Als Rechtfertigungsgrund für so viel falsches Verstehen könnte allenfalls noch durchgehen, dass mangels Deutschkenntnisse alles mit Google übersetzt wurde – aber dann sollte man sich auch mit solchen Kommentaren zurückhalten)

  2. Dale permalink*
    May 9, 2010 21:34

    So I gather, RoKa, that you disagree with my analysis here. Had no idea that Glenn Beck had so many fans in Germany, but am happy to see that we Americans have no monopoly on blusterers.

  3. Kermit permalink
    May 12, 2010 07:19

    Hi Dale,

    maybe you can forgive the CDU for the misuse of this quotation: Skin color is not a common political issue in Germany and therefore hardly anybody knows the origin of “Black is Beautiful”. I always thought it’s a quotation from the fashion world on black clothes.

    Also the SPD did not use the “Yes, we can”. It was a prank by the satire show “Extra-3”:

    So maybe you restore some part of optimism in general, although not particularly in the “Junge Union”.

    RoKa: I do not get your point / Was wollen Sie uns sagen?


  4. Dale permalink*
    May 12, 2010 08:38

    Thanks for the comment and the correction, Kermit. What I did see various SPD politicians do was use the slogan in the context of speeches, including Müntefering, which was a bit surreal as you can imagine. But thanks for pointing out that it was not necessarily an official tagline for the party.

    You are also correct that skin color is not a hot button issue in German politics, although race and nationality certainly are. When I wrote this post, I tried to think of a German phrase that a US political party could appropriate that would seem similarly crass to a German observer. This is hard, since it is unlikely that a US political entity would use a German phrase. The closest I can come is “wir sind das Volk.” That phrase means a great deal to a lot of Germans who risked their careers and perhaps their lives to topple the SED, and using it in advertising or for other purposes would cheapen it, which is what I objected to with the CDU’s usage here.

    Of course, things get used in advertising all the time where the original is cheapened through this usage. My favorite example is John Lennon’s song Imagine, which has been used to hawk all sorts of products and promote all sorts of dubious causes. Advertising is a tough game, I guess, and one has to provoke sometimes to attract attention.

  5. permalink
    July 7, 2013 10:12

    I actually laughed out loud when I read this: “That a center right party would do so makes it downright cynical.”

    LOL are you serious? You do realize that, globally, it has largely been the collectivist left in its various incarnations that has promoted, propagated, and institutionalized racism over the years, right? And that it has usually been the liberal and radical center and center-right that has been the force for fight for equality FOR ALL under the law?

    It’s cute that a you wrote an entire blog post with punctuation and words though!

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