FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Politics and Prejudice at Eurovision

by

I’m just a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard.
Conchita Wurst, Eurovision Winner for 2014.

Eurovision has been the classic battleground of prejudice amidst unity since it began in 1956. Lay down your weapons, men and women of Europe, and wage war via song, vote and indignant commentary. Its origins have shown one continuous trend: music is the sideshow, whatever the tasteless denizens think. Music is, in fact, the excuse, necessary fluff to cover broader machinations. The rest of the excitement tends to unfold in the bitter rivalries that emerge either before, or during the competition. Neighbours vote for neighbours; situations of war cause grunts of angst and indignation between sessions of competition.

The big powers of the west – France, Germany, the United Kingdom – tend to poll in the lower ranks as a matter of course. Many European states can’t punish them with weapons and plague, so they do so via the Eurovision ballot, a sort of gang assault by ethnic solidarity by weaker powers. Scandinavian countries, who tend to keep their streets, and noses, clean, do well across the spectrum, grabbing, if there is such a thing, the “neutral” positions. The Slavic super blocs of the old Warsaw Pact huddle together as a general rule, but that rule breaks when Slavic powers find themselves at odds in conflict. Squabbling brothers and sisters can throw larger large spanners into the works, if only momentarily.

This year, the Ukrainian-Russian divide was more than slightly apparent, with the audience piling jeer and bile over countries happy to give points to the Russian entry, Shine, by the Tolmachevy Sisters. The lyrics did not help, which were given an unfair historical significance beyond the setting: “Living on the edge/Closer to the crime/Cross the line a step at the time.” Fraternal fractiousness had spilled over into the voting, and the scenes were not attractive. Ukraine’s own entry, Tick-Tock, featured a hamster wheel, more appropriately termed a mansterwheel.

Austria’s bearded transvestite Conchita Wurst, for that reason, is an aberration in more ways than one. That she won Eurovision with 290 points – the nearest being the Netherlands with 238 points – is itself a testament to more adventurous voting patterns. “This is for all those who believe in the future of peace and freedom – you know who you are. You are unity, and you’re unstoppable.” Her song, Rise Like A Phoenix, was sung in surrounds of dry ice in a gold dress.

Protest against her participation began in 2013 when it became clear that Wurst would be Austria’s 2014 candidate. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia frowned with disapproval via petitions placed on the American website, Change.org – remove Wurst, or at the very least, desist from participating in the immoral stage show. One Belarusian petition gathered over 4 thousand signatures, and a Russian petition over 23 thousand (Global Voices Online, May 11). The wording of the latter was heavy with pride at Russia’s efforts against immoral European liberals, upholding those strong heterosexual ties between men and women.

Austria, never the star locomotive of progressive politics, did sport an angry response from the right-wing FPO party. Russian politician Vitaly Milonov, a St. Petersburg legislator behind the “non-traditional relationships” bill in Russia, was unmistakably clear in his position: Wurst was a “pervert” representative of a competition that had become a “hotbed of sodomy.”

Milonov, in fact, has been in the business of keeping Russian purity intact for some years, now, fearing the rampaging hordes of Western vice. Seeing propaganda everywhere, he could not help but find Wurst to be the vital source of it, a bearded anti-Christ with a terrible potency to insult and inflict spiritual decomposition. “The participation of the obvious transvestite and hermaphrodite Conchita Wurst on the same stage as Russian singers on live television is a blatant propaganda of homosexuality and spiritual decay.”

In Milonov’s view, Russia’s own participation was a violation of the country’s recent development and would “contradict the path of cultural and moral renewal that Russia stands on”, insulting “millions of Russians” who might be watching (The Independent, May 2). Of course, it never occurred to Milonov, as it never does to the morally righteous, that the show can vanish at the flick of a switch on television or broadcasting device.

Even the contestants mucked in with comments. Armenian Eurovision favourite Aram MP3 could not resist a dig – Wurst should “eventually decide whether she is a woman or a man.” Feeling a need to, the singer modified his response by terming it a “joke”. Such views did not prevent Wurst’s own music from marching up the charts on Azerbaijan iTunes to an impressive third spot.

Wurst was bound to stir the pot, given her astonishing looks, a figure to match, and a voice to project that did not require any stage crowding and redundant gyrating. Eurovision this year has been spectacularly dull, and it would not necessarily have taken much to stand out. But the terror of the inner drag queen was simply too much to bear for patriarchy and tradition. The main thrust of any position of fear is the idea of a permanent emergency, a struggle against phantom terrors and threats.

Tenured American shock jock Rush Limbaugh, for instance, finds it astonishing that gay men might be able to play American football with any degree of success. Limbaugh and Milonov do share the common sentiment of being under permanent, sexual attack. Wurst’s fearless display would have struck even more terror into their fragile beings. Facial hair, worn with fearless indifference to the bigot brigades, rules, okay?

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail