Friday, 13 September 2013

A Mocking Bird

It is election season in Germany. On the 22nd of  September 2013people can vote for a new chancellor or choose to keep Angela Merkel in the current position. The posters of the various parties have been decorating the cities and towns for months. Most are very dull: a picture with a name and the party affiliation.
However, in my hometown Stralsund one image stuck out: a stork tapping one wing to its forehead with a headline saying “Let’s show Nazis that they are nuts!” (In German: “Nazis einen Vogel zeigen!”) The creators of the posters are not a political party but by an organisation that was created some years ago as a reaction to the Nazi fashion label Thor Steinar. The name of the organisation, Storch Heinar, rhymes with the original while referring to a bird (the stork) that is used to mock both the Steinar-fashion of Nazis and their ideology. The stork is skinny, tries to patch up its black feathers with white paint, and is wearing the Hitler moustache and a military helmet. Most importantly though, it stands out! Already in 2008, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Storch Heinar (click here for the article). Since then the organization has won a lawsuit, which Thor Steinar initiated against Storch-founder Mathias Brodkorb*, and has been actively reporting on the closures of Steinar stores, successful campaigns against right-wing demonstrations, mobilizing many sympathizers along the way.
The stork serves as a mocking-bird that combines a linguistic pun, a visual discussion of Nazi imagery and symbols, and a political agenda. I’ve been travelling through many cities in the Northeastern part of Germany, but I unfortunately only saw the stork in Stralsund and on the island of R├╝gen. Other cities in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania featured numerous posters by right-wing parties like Die Republikaner, Alternative MV or the NPD (National Party of Germany). Yes, the large parties (Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Green Party and Liberals) were also present, having not much to say on their posters. In contrast, the posters of the Republikaner speak to the disinterestedness with German politics in the general public, displaying images of naked bottoms in the colours of the big parties and asking “Which a...hole will you be voting for?” No agenda posted here either.
The Stork is not a party and at least in some communities this has been a reason to call for taking down the posters. True, the stork cannot be elected on the 22nd of September – but not voting at all means more votes for the far right. And so the main message is: go and vote and as long as it is not for the Nazis, it does not matter. The posters of the big parties seem to confirm that at least that part of the argument is correct.

*Brodkorb is now a delegate for the Social Democrats at the Landtag in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

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