This evening, the Eurovision Song Song Contest finals take place – as some of you are waiting on tenterhooks for, while others amongst you are no doubt dreading as your social media feed gets filled up with endless commentary on an event you could care less than nothing about (to this latter group: apologies in advance for my own contribution to this annual outpouring that I will be making tonight). But here’s a question both sets of people can ponder: why is it that as Eurovision gets more and more political, it is the social conservative autocrats of the far eastern reaches of what can just about still be called Europe that are most obsessed with winning the thing?
Consider Russia. Putin throws a lot of money and effort at winning most years. When they last won in 2008, the following year when they hosted the event as a result, the Kremlin spent a massive amount of money putting it all on, a purported 35 million Euros. This was around four times more than they made back off the event, so the money was not spent as a direct investment but rather as the means to putting on a spectacle. But who was Russia trying to reach exactly with all that and why?
Most western Europeans treat Eurovision as a joke, one they either love revelling in once a year or deriding year round as a waste of time. I suppose the Nordics take it a little more serious, but not that much; winning the contest wouldn’t be a moment of unprecedented national pride. Yet the further east you go, the more seriously it is treated, until you get to Russia and it seems like a key part of Putin’s plan to take over the universe some day.
Again, who does the Russian president think he’s reaching with his attempts to win the Eurovision Song Contest? Beyond the lack of seriousness with which western European take the whole thing, there is the fact that the event is, well, a teenie bit gay, and getting gayer by the year. Rainbow flags are becoming more ubiquitous at the finals year on year and there is the entertaining, probably apocryphal, but no doubt revealing story of a year in the not too distant past in which the female prostitutes in whichever eastern European capital was hosting the event that year got themselves prepared for a boon in business via the incoming Eurovision fans – only to find that they were at a loose end as the invading hordes were not interested in their services.
Putin is as anti-gay as it gets. Does he just not see how gay the Eurovision Song Contest is? Why does he think the Russian entry gets booed so much every year? Does he not actually watch the thing?
I find it amazing that a song contest can simultaneously become the symbol of socially liberal values AND autocratic propaganda reach. It is possibly why I never miss the thing.