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The Corrupt hypocritical Politics of pointless Eurovision

Since it’s inception in 1952, Eurovision was envisioned as acelebration of culture. After the travesty of war, Europe needed everything it could to create unity. It should come as no surprise that as nonviolent a song contest is, the prospect of countless nations facing off against each other in competition is constantly open to invoke political ideas.

Technically it’s against the rules to focus on politics in Eurovision but it’s always difficult to stop that from happening.

Just this year was big for that, the main reason being that thecontest was hosted in Israel. Most groups that partook in Eurovision generally just tiptoed around the contentious political climate in the state which ultimately left most groupsseemingly in a state of silent approval of Israel. Not all of Eurovision’s teams were afraid to make a statement though; both Madonna, and Iceland’s group, Hatari even displayed Palestinian flags at the end of their performances.

Hatari in particular were a big standout for politics at Eurovision, both for this year and over the event’s lifetime. Self-described as “[an] award-winning anti-capitalist BDSM techno band” Hatari took no shame in being as overt with their message as possible. Every interview they’d find a way to drop references to their anti-capitalist and pro-equality message, so it’s no surprise that they rubbed Israeli officialsthe wrong way. But despite it all, Hatari would compete at Eurovision and their brutally socialist message was a welcome contrast to the otherwise apolitical nature of the rest 2019’s Eurovision.

Surprisingly though it wasn’t Hatari’s anti-capitilist message that grabbed the most headlines, it was their defiant act of flag waving. The topic of flags is another touchy subject at Eurovision, officially they only let flags be displayed if they represent a nation recognised by the UN. This rule has never been used to disqualify teams but still exists as an unspoken taboo that strongly discourages teams against it. This leaves controversy at the mere sight of flags such Palestine’s or the Republic of Artsakh (which caused backlash in 2016’sEurovision after being displayed by Armenia’s team).

When nations of ongoing turmoil compete in Eurovision, it also muddies the water on what is acceptable etiquette. Armenia and Azerbaijan have infamously had a troubled relationship during Eurovision, like the aforementioned references to Artsakh whose international recognition is constantly debated. There have been countless incidents and boycotts from both sides brought about by the way these nations are represented in Eurovision and how that reflects the states of these nations in the world at large.

There is also Russia’s and Ukraine’s representation in Eurovision. In 2016 Ukraine’s performer Jamala won with her song 1944, which was chock full of references to the Soviet-Union’s mass deportation of Crimean Tatars during the second world war.

And potentially accidental but still noteworthy is Russia’s 2014 act which opened on the lyrics of:

“…Cross the line a step at a time. Now maybe there’s a place, maybe there’s a time, maybe there’s a day you’ll be mine.”

which was interpreted as some as an illusion to Russia’s ongoing attempt at invading Ukraine.This year Ukraine didn’t even compete in Eurovision. The reason given was that Ukraine’s top three picks all seemingly had ties to Russia, proving that it’s difficult to put politics aside for this occasion.

There are countless more examples like this that can be found across all of Eurovision’s history. Whilst conceptually the idea of putting all our problems to one side and just celebrating culture and unity is great, it’s important to remember that Eurovision doesn’t do much to resolve our global conflict. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to enjoy Eurovision, but we should still be weary of the state of the world at large. 

Politics have always existed underneath the surface of Eurovision, and they will for all of Eurovision’s lifetime.