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Simon Goebel

Simon Goebel holds a Master’s degree in European Ethnology, Political Science and Philosophy, and a PhD in European Ethnology at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. He is currently working as a consultant for asylum law and access to the employment market at Tür an Tür – Integrationsprojekte gGmbH in Augsburg, Germany. He is a member of the research group ‘Flight&Migration and Social Transformation Processes’ at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, as well as a member of the refugee studies network (the Netzwerk Flüchtlingsforschung) and a coordinator of the working team ‘Flight and Media’.

Every Second Counts! Comedy Between Subversive Action and National Conformity

Authors: Dr Simon Goebel & Arthur Depner

The Dutch late night show ‘Zondag met Lubach’ (‘Sunday with Lubach’) broadcasted a satire video on the 22nd of January 2017 in which the makers pretend to be the government of the Netherlands addressing Donald Trump. The speaker in the video using simple-minded idioms and phrases known from speeches of Trump declares that the Netherlands accept that America is first, but applies for being second – whatever that means. In running through the Netherlands’ history by picking up embarrassing parts as well as focusing current political issues like nationalism, the video is targeting on a deconstruction of typical national self-descriptions by the official policy.

Many European and non-European late night and satire shows produced similar videos in a concerted action. They created the website everysecondcounts.eu.

Apparently, those video productions are statements against the nationalist agitation of Donald Trump and his staff just as against their rhetoric seeking for segregation and discrimination of minorities. This could be interpreted as progressive and self-deprecating media input. A more detailed view, however, allows another interpretation. Every video focuses on an exclusively national history. The self-deprecating laughter addresses ‘us’, a collective identity construed as national. All videos include traditional stereotypes and enemy images. Not least the shows stage a national competition for the funniest video.

In our paper, we analyse the videos of European shows qualitatively taking both levels of meaning (progressive self-deprecating, reproduction of stereotypes) into account to show which discourses on nationalism they contain explicitly and implicitly. Therefore, we will contextualize them with everyday discourses on nationalism and collective identity in Europe. Using a cultural anthropology approach, we ask whether the meanings of words, idioms, phrases, images and notions in the videos are a subversive action or just another media production confirming national mindsets.

We ask whether the meanings of words, idioms, phrases, images and notions in the videos are a subversive action or just another media production confirming national mindsets