German Young Voter Campaign Copies U.S. Don’t Vote Video

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identical storm troopers All of them are looking the same. In the Imperial Army that’s probably good. In political campaigning, not so much.

Now here I’m in a bit of a dilemma. Check out this German knock-off version of the Don’t Vote video. (Both versions at the end of this post.)

On one hand, I’m always glad about anything that encourages folks to vote. I’m very politically interested, I supported a much-talked about recent online petition (see my blog posts), signed a class-action lawsuit against data retention, interned at – and later briefly worked as an editor for – German online politics magazine and think tank politik-digital.de, did all kinds of stuff, mostly outside party politics. These days (disclaimer!) I’m an adviser to the youth online campaign of the SPD, more concretely Jusos.

All that to say: I really appreciate any effort whatsoever that individuals, and organizations of any kind take to get more people to vote, because I think political action in general and voting in particular is incredibly important.

But. And it’s a big but. But on the other hand, the German internet scene has long since gotten the reputation of just copying U.S. web services. (I’m looking at you, StudiVZ, but not only at you, there’s many more cases just as blatant as that.) And in this sense, there’s this video here, called “geh nicht hin”, which translates into “don’t go there”, referring to the federal elections on 27 Sept.

The video is done, I’m sure, with the best of intentions. Produced, as far as I can tell, by probono.tv, a well-respected TV production company, and politik-digital.de, the very online politics magazine I used to work for and that I highly respect. The whole thing was done, in other words, by the good guys.

Now here I am, as I said, in a bit of a dilemma. It’s a good video, it’s a great idea, it’s smart, and it supports a cause I also support. But it’s a direct, 1:1 copy, a total knock-off. And to make matters worse, it’s a direct knock-off of the U.S. elections. Campaigners Germany-wide have talked for a long time about how Obama campaign blueprints can be adapted to the German elections. (I don’t think they can.) It’s become almost a joke: “Well, let’s do it like Obama!” But here we are, different country, different political system, different parties, candidates, issues. Different campaigning system even.

Still, this video just copies this American video (which I found pretty good), and just translates it. Which makes it look rather sad. And sure, you could argue that people here haven’t seen it and that a good adaption of an idea can still be valid, and that’s true. But this left me with a bit of a bitter taste.

(The website gehnichthin.de is showing a technical error message while I’m writing this, but the video is visible there.) Update (29 July): gehnichthin.de is live and working now.

So here’s the two videos. Top: German version “geh nicht hin”. Bottom: U.S. version “don’t vote”.

Much more funny, by the way, is this video response by German bloggers. It translates to: “don’t go outside!”, poking fun at the cliché of geeks hiding behind their computers and avoiding the outside world:

Photo by Jeremy Mates (Creative Commons)

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