How Eurovision explains Trump

Sursa foto: Facebook

The cultural „elites” on one side; „ordinary” people on the other

It takes a lot to get me to write about The Eurovision Song Contest, but the outcome this weekend has achieved it, because it explains much of the current political weirdness in the world. For example, it explains why a person like Donald Trump might return to White House, as shocking as that should be.

To whoever has not yet seen the Netflix movie, the Eurovision is a campy affair, wildly popular in Europe even among those who mock it, in which countries on the continent and its periphery – not just Israel but Azerbaijan and Australia – are represented by songs with the winner hosting next year’s party.

The silliness factor is very high, and the songs are generally middling-to-horrendous for anyone with mainstream tastes (in any genre but glam). Yet it has become a cultural juggernaut by celebrating two contradictory aspects of homo sapiens modernus: tolerance for the other, and intolerance of the other (nationalism). Never the twain shall meet, except at Eurovision time.

Voting is done in two ways, each worth half the total points awarded.  In the first, national juries award 10 songs points, with the favorite receiving 12 – the coveted douze points. It you do the math, with 37 countries involved this comes to (trust me) 2,146 points. Then the national audiences, voting by phone, dole out an equal number of points, so that each system accounts for half.

Politics are always involved, especially with the national juries. It has become a joke that Norway and Denmark tend to award each other douze points no matter what in a reflection of Viking solidarity; one might find a sign of progress that the same now applies to Serbia and Croatia. The optimistic may hope for the same one day between Armenia and Azerbaijan (or maybe not, since it does make a mockery of the musicianship, after all).

Israel was allowed to join in 1973, the year before Sweden’s ABBA and the Eurovision put each other on the map with the winning entry “Waterloo.”

Israel never benefited from the automatic support of neighbors, because these neither send songs nor would support it. Indeed, Israelis have always felt that pockets of animosity Europe itself have always created a handicap. Israelis always have this feeling; long story, perhaps related to the Holocaust.

Nonetheless, Israel overcame any handicap and won in 1978, 1979, 1998 and in 2018. Four victories in 50 years in a contest between almost 40 countries is way near the top of the pops, with all due respect to antisemitism.

This year, of course, Israel is being tarred and feathered all over the world over the war in Gaza, or so it would appear if one watches the news about rabid campus protests or follows the statistics about the tremendous rise in antisemitic incidents in the United States and elsewhere.

Many Israelis feel this is horribly unfair, because the war started with one of the worst terrorist attacks in global history, in which the Hamas rulers of Gaza  invaded Israel and massacred 1,200 people, the vast majority civilians.

Then again Israel’s counterattack, aimed at removing Hamas from power, has killed far more civilians; and then yet again, this is because Hamas uses the civilians as human shields, refuses to surrender and continues to hold Israeli hostages. The head spins from trying to figure out what is to be done – unless you’re a clueless campus progressive; in such a case you feel great confidence as you shout slogans against imaginary colonialism and in favor of the jihadi fanatics of Hamas, oblivious to the fact that they would kill you before you can say “non-binary.”

Which brings us back to the Eurovision final on Saturday night.

Israel’s song, “Hurricane,” was controversial from the start, because the lyrics of the original version, “October Rain,” appeared to reference the Hamas attack, violating the imperative of pretended political neutrality. Then many wanted Israel to be barred, and ultimately the event was accompanied by protests – with tension heightened by the specific venue: Sweden’s Malmo, which has become a symbol of European cities that have been overwhelmed by migrants, most of them Muslim.

At the same time, while it’s all subjective, it’s plausible to argue that “Hurricane” is a not-horrible song, and the singer, reality-contest winner Eden Golan, is extremely sympathetic, poised, talented and telegenic. Israelis were prepared for the worst, and just hoped the 20-year-old would survive the ordeal unscathed.

The results – which unfolded quite dramatically after the two dozen-odd finalists performed –  were fascinating.

As official representatives from country after country read out their point selection, it became clear that the Israeli entry was receiving a Eurovision variant of “cancellation.” Most of the juries gave it no points at all – and no jury gave it the coveted douze. I’ve seen this contest be political but rarely like this.  The only equivalent in its history may be the recent positive discrimination of Ukraine, which might as well have been declared the 2022 winner before a single note was sung.

Ah – but then came the votes from the audience, collected by phone from all the countries involved. “Hurricane” was immediately catapulted to the top of the table, ultimately being edged out in the popular vote only by Croatia, just barely – and with all others, including the ultimate winner, left in the dust. Combining the two tallies, “Hurricane” ended up in fifth place.

So here’s what happened.

The “professional” national juries, composed of cultural elites and music industry bureaucrats, decided Israel must be punished over Gaza; it was a political boycott unrelated to the song or the performance. Meanwhile, the “ordinary” people watching loved the song and ignored the politics. I doubt there was actual political support – but there was no discernable boycott.

There was a clear and yawning chasm between the “cultural elites” on the juries (probably backed by most academics) and “the people” (joined, I would assess, but much of the business community). That maps straight onto the  kulturkampf scrambling brains all over the world.

The winning entry, “The Code,” is performed by Nemo, a gender-fluid Swiss, and the lyrics celebrate self-discovery. Anyone who thinks that fact did not cause the juries to favor it is invited to purchase my 2018 car at 2024 prices.

And that is fine – it’s what (half) the Eurovision is all about. Israel’s 1999 winner, Diva, was performed by Dana International, a transexual.

Its 2018 winner, Toy, was performed by Netta, who became a continental icon for body-positivity and an exuberant, iconoclastic personality.

Both of them would be hung from the rafters by Hamas, and not only for being Jewish. It would be mainly for the same reason that the same applies to Nemo – a barbarian backwardness that is the enemy of humanity, of feminism, progress, of tolerance and of the West. All of which exists in spades in Israel. It appears that the juries do not know this – but that the people do.

In this gap, I see one of the central explanations for otherwise crazy political events in recent years and potentially of coming days. These include Brexit, far-right victories in Holland, Italy and elsewhere in Europe, the resilience of fake-democrats in Poland and Hungary, the real possibility that Marine Le Pen could emerge as the next president of France, and across the pond, the continuing viability of Trump as a candidate to return to the White House.

All these things would have been unlikely in “normal” times. Generally speaking, they remain lamentable in the eyes of most informed and educated people.  But when I talk to educated Americans who are contemplating a vote for Trump, the reason is almost always the same: Horror at the progressive movement’s overreach, and concern at one of its manifestations in particular – unchecked immigration, real or perceived.  I do not share that assessment of where the net negative lies, and I will certainly not vote for Trump; he is a menace. But I see where this backlash is coming from.

Basically, many of the voters of Trump, Le Pen, and cantankerous fellow travelers like Holland’s Geert Wilders, can be fairly described as follows: They are tired of universities teaching students that Western civilization is bad, they want their culture to remain more or less in place, and they cannot stand Queers for Palestine any more.

On the Israel front, if they care about it at all, they understand what Israel is dealing with, even if they don’t like its unfortunate current government. And if they knew about the European Song Contest outcome this weekend, they’d feel disdain for the hypocritical “elites” on the national juries, who chose to pander to an ignorant mob.


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