Flags of inconvenience

The sami flag
The Sami flag is controversial in a united Europe.
Photo: Silje Bergum Kinsten/norden.org

I wrote about the truly bizarre TV show Eurovision Song Contest a while back, in Political entertainment. There’s no other way to describe a show where viewers in very different cultures don’t vote for their favourite songs, but favourite country, and if you thought that people in Albania, Moldova and Azerbaijan listened to the same music as people in Ireland, Sweden and Germany, this show would surprise you. Incidentally, the German speaking countries are probably worth a separate post as David Hasselhoff has had number one hits in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

I guess we all have our peculiarities and I’m afraid I can’t say that Norwegians are any easier to understand. We like the best bands in rock, blues, country and all the other genres, but we also listen to songs that would have you question our judgment. The tricky thing about Eurovision is to host the event without allowing politics. I haven’t heard any updates on the Ukrainian song this year, but as I wrote in Political entertainment it is about a part of Russian history that they probably don’t want any focus on. Susana Jalamadinova is a Crimean Tatar and her song 1944 is about Stalin’s deportation of the Tatars from Crimea to the Central Asian part of the Soviet Union during World War 2..

There is also the problem of flags. The audience like to wave flags and support their own country, but in order to avoid any controversy the European Broadcasting Union has decided that only flags of countries will be allowed. The Norwegian singer this year, Agnete Johnssen, is Sami descent, and naturally Sami representatives wanted to show the Sami flag. This violates the rules as it represents the Sami population in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The hosts are not completely consistent because they do allow the EU flag and the rainbow flag.

What about Israel? I am not going to bring up the usual controversies about who has the right to live there, and I may be playing with semantics now, but Israel seems to be in a intermediate position. It is clearly a country, but I think it’s also fair to say it represents Jews all over the world, and I believe all Jews can get citizenship if they want. That makes it a nation as well. It also seems strange that competitions like the Eurovision or the Football World Cup label Israel as a European country, while Jordan is Asian.

It is nevertheless understandable that EBU want some rules. There are separatist movements in Scotland, Austria, Spain, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy just to mention a few. They don’t have much support, but there are some even in the Scandinavian countries. This night of European amiability would be very different if there were Scots, Catalans, Basques and Sardinians chanting political slogans, while some British spectators might go as far as stating that it was a jolly bad show, so let’s go for Brexit.

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