YouTuber slams mainstream political parties in Germany
"EU politics are f***king boring," but "go out and vote next weekend. Or else it'll be senior citizens who'll be deciding on your future."
A YouTuber called Rezo is causing a nightmare for established mainstream parties in Germany. In his video "Die Zerstörung der CDU" [The Destruction of the CDU], the 26-year-old Rezo tears apart the key policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Party (CDU). In his interpretation, over the many years it has been (co)-governing Germany, the party has failed in basically every field. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened, the country's climate policy is disastrous, and way too little money has been spent on education and equal opportunities. His statements are based on sources that he displays in the clip. This video went viral right before the European elections and it was widely shared among his fans, their parents and finally among social media users in general. It collected 14 million clicks in two weeks. Shortly before the elections, practically all German media outlets were talking about Rezo.
At the beginning of his YouTube video, he promises that it "won't be just another boring video about politics." He felt that the facts and figures on their own would lead to the conclusion that the CDU is destroying itself, its reputation and its election results.
Rezo has convinced his viewers by being eloquent, charming, authentic and clear in his opinion, and also by using his casual YouTube style. However, some politicians claim he is more than charming, has too much influence and is agitating people in Germany.
CDU party leader calls for regulation of internet opinion-making
Rezo has used his popularity to express his opinion. In an interview for bento.de, he stated that he hadn't been paid by anyone and that he just wanted more people to discuss these issues. His statement at the end of the 55-minute video: "Please don't vote for the SPD, please don't vote for the CDU, please don't vote for the CSU and certainly not for the AFD!" A number of commentators consider this a clear attempt to manipulate popular opinion and a direct call to vote for the other parties. The Greens did make strong gains in the European elections and were seen as the winners of the vote.
Compared to its results in 2014 the CDU lost 6.4% of its votes, and it reacted promptly. Party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer even said that opinion-making ("Meinungsmache") should be regulated during the election campaign:
"And the question already arises with regard to the topic of opinion making: What are actually rules from the analogue sector and which rules actually apply to the digital sector, yes or no [sic]?"
Internet users react with fury
Within a few hours the web was buzzing with indignation about her statement. And some of Germany’s most famous YouTubers started a petition demanding "No censorship of our freedom of speech, Mrs. Kramp-Karrenbauer"
It is nothing new for actors, artists and musicians to express their political views and commit to political causes. YouTubers who use their platforms to express their opinions definitively have the right to position themselves politically and unambiguously, as long as they don’t do anything illegal. It does not matter how inconvenient the opinions they spread might be. Volker Kitz, author of the book "Meinungsfreiheit! Demokratie für Fortgeschrittene" (Freedom of Expression! Democracy for Advanced Learners) says: "Freedom of expression in Germany goes very far, both in the analogue and in the digital world. Every personal assessment is protected as an opinion, even if it seems absurd to others. Criminal law draws the line, for example with the offences of insult and incitement to hatred. Journalists are subject to due diligence requirements, but the common YouTube star is not a journalist. He is more like a celebrity who is allowed to express himself comprehensively about current affairs in the analogue world."
Independent citizens must learn to distinguish for themselves which opinions they agree with and who they choose as role models.