THE BLOG

Can Merkel Survive Snowden, and Other Jokes

The NSA spying scandal is making quite some waves in Germany as well; after all, Germany is the biggest target country for U.S spying. No big surprise, since the 9-11-hijackers were Muslim immigrants in Germany living completely unspied on by the German authorities. This is because Germans have fairly unhappy memories of its government spying on its citizens, from the Gestapo to the Stasi (immortalized in the landmark movie The Lives of Others). Due to that, Germany has a very high standard of "Datenschutz," protection of data privacy, something the English language does not even really have a word for.

Now, of course, many Germans are upset. However, as it has turned out recently, the German secret service and the German government are in cahoots with the NSA, the CIA, and the U.S. administration in general. There are even German laws on the books allowing that to happen. They are dating back to the American occupation of Germany after WWII. As of now, most Germans think, 'what can you do, they are everywhere,' and have retreated to making jokes about the U.S spying machine, like they did in the good ole' GDR. Like this

"O'zapft is," is the traditional slogan, when the mayor of Munich invites to the opening of Octoberfest; it usually means tapping a barrel of beer. In this context, of course, it means tapping into all of our emails.

Website like lachschon.de ("laugh already") are brimming with cartoons like those:

This is Merkel, telling her Secretary of State, Guido Westerwelle, "But I promised Barack that you will keep your cellphone turned on at all times."

Even Cicero, an earnest debate magazine, posted this. The caption in the bubble says, "I'd like to buy a carrier pigeon."

And Titanic, Germany's oldest satire magazine, has a field day. Titanic traditionally publishes letters not from, but TO the reader. This is what they came up with:

Dear NSA, can you confirm to our Grandma, and in writing, that we, in fact, HAVE called her on her birthday, three times altogether? Her number and her birthday date are in your records. Please send her a large print document, two copies, with all the necessary details.

There is also a Facebook site, "God knows everything, as does Obama".

It posts pictures like this.

(Voice from the loudspeaker): "Stop the mindless clicking already! The file you are looking for is on disc 3, folder 'pictures'."

And this is a YouTube video explaining how video supervision works (untranslatable):

However, serious questions are being raised as well: Will the NSA scandal hurt Angela Merkel in the upcoming elections? If Merkel is seen as a tool of the NSA, that might make her collateral damage. Germany is voting on September 22, and Merkel needs a majority for her Christian Democrats, in the Parliament, the Bundestag, not necessary 50 percent, but a lead. As of now, the CDU is in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Liberal, in the German sense, is actually closer to Libertarian, at least on paper. In practice, the Liberal Democrats rather do everything to keep themselves in power.

So, yes, Merkel got some flak, but everybody knows that the Social Democrats are not much better. They would collaborate with the NSA and the CIA as well. The Green Party is now basically concerned with turning every German into a vegetarian, so, no dice. The only hope would be the Pirates Party, Germany's internet-freedom nerd party. The Pirates should be able to gain votes with a little help from the NSA, but they are currently going down in flames, due to infighting and ineptitude.

As a publisher of Berlin-themed books, I have considered doing a book on the Pirates, but the way it looks now, they don't have a future, so, no sales. What can you do? If the Pirates cannot take advantage of Ed Snowden as an opportunity to get votes, Merkel will outlive them for many years to come. But at least this is good for comedians.