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

More articles by:

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

November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohamed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail