BERLIN – For years German Chancellor Angela Merkel has struggled to expand the digital skills of the national workforce and to involve more young people in politics.
Last week, a young blue-haired German YouTuber, known as Rezo, showed how disturbing is the right combination of digital experience and political commitment to the establishment.
In a 55-minute clip, complete with a list of 247 references and citations from scientific literature, he attacked Ms. Merkel's Democratic Democratic Union for a series of sins: growing social inequality, pollution, war and censorship on the Internet. Saturday morning, the YouTube video was viewed more than nine million times, becoming the most popular non-musical clip in Germany in six days.
The video led to a storm of debates in a country that is just beginning to come to terms with the enormous effect that journalists and independent activists on social media can have on public discourse. The clip also became a public relations crisis for government conservatives a few days before the Germans headed for Sunday elections for the European Parliament elections.
"It is upsetting the familiar order of knowledge: what are the facts and what are they not? What are the most important voices?" Said Andreas Dörner, professor of media studies at the Philipps University of Marburg.
"It is both fascinating and scary," added Professor Dörner.
The video is a master class for online civic involvement. Dressed in an orange sweatshirt and a gray cap, the narrator, who says he is 26, explains his attack point by point, apparently while sitting in his study studying with guitars and keyboards in the background. His true identity and his hometown are not clear, but he says he is a YouTube music producer.
The video uses cuts, sound effects and graphics that are easy to watch and, in a style commensurate with German youth culture, uses a lot of slang in English.
"In this video, I will show how CDU people lie, how they lack the fundamental skills for their work, how they do policy that goes against the opinion of experts, apparently they take part in various war crimes, how they use propaganda and the lies against the young generations, as for their politics in recent decades, the rich get rich and the poor and the others lose more and more ", he says at the beginning of the video. "And I will show that, according to many thousands of German scientists, the C.D.U. is destroying our own lives and our future".
With the increase in the number of views on the video, the reactions of politicians whose party was attacked have gone from contemptuous to rabid.
On Thursday, Ms. Merkel's party published an open letter to each of Rezo's main lines of attack. He then announced that he had filmed his own video in response, using the youngest member of Parliament, Philipp Amthor, but decided not to publish it.
"This very public accounting puts the traditional parties on Defcon 3," said Professor Dörner.
Instead, Paul Ziemiak, the head of the Young Union, the party's youth wing, called Rezo on Twitter for a one to one debate. "We take it very seriously, especially because so many young people watch the video," Mr. Ziemiak told German journalists.
Since then, other young politicians, including Christian Democrat Jenna Behrends, engaged in the politics of the city of Berlin, and Tiemo Wölken, a member of the Social Democratic Party of the European Parliament, have responded with their videos. But none of the answers has garnered the interest that the initial video has made.
The national appeal of the video derives from the recognition that the authority structures in the country are turned upside down in real time, said Professor Dörner in the interview.
German families pay an average tax of almost $ 20 a month directly to public broadcasters, regardless of whether they own a television or not. In return, public broadcasters trust themselves to be a basis for quality journalism and useful entertainment. But the Germans are getting more and more news and entertainment from non-traditional sources on the Internet.
A recent analysis of the organization BuzzFeed showed that among the 100 most shared social media posts mentioning the European elections in Germany, 49 came from the populist alternative for Germany and 13 others from the Freedom Party, the party of Austrian extreme right whose leader recently resigned as deputy chancellor for a video that raised questions about ties with Russia.
The legacy news broadcasters represented seven of the 100 most shared. The Christian Democrats, who have ruled the country for 13 years and are ready to win the highest number of seats in the European Parliament of any party in Germany, have not even placed.
While Rezo's video, titled "The Destruction of the C.D.U." directly attacks the party, does not hesitate to criticize the Social Democrats, who have been in the governing coalition for nine of the last 13 years. And at some point he calls Alternative for Nazi members of Germany.
Since the clip appeals to young people, who did not vote in the past, its effects were not evident in the most recent opinion polls, in which the Christian Union (composed by Ms. Merkel's Christian Democracy and their the Bavarian twin party, the Christian Social Union) continues to lead the German parties with about 27 percent of the votes.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a conservative trend newspaper, published an editorial article directed to Rezo under the title "Every I like is an accusation of shame." Dozens of other articles have criticized and praised the video blogger, and some have dissected his arguments one by one, the way in which the American media control the claims made by the presidential candidates.
In the next storm, Rezo remained silent. Then, on Friday, he and 90 other YouTubers – many with important followers in Germany – launched a video that invited viewers to go out and vote, but not for Christian Democrats or Social Democrats.