reede, juuli 06, 2007

Rein Lang's Birthday Bash

Imagine you are the justice minister of a right-leaning government in northern Europe that was once upon a time occupied by the Third Reich, like, say Lene Espersen of Denmark. How would you celebrate your birthday? Would you do it by attending a private performance of a play called "Adolf" and tell your friends to dress like they would in a 1930s beer cellar in Munich?

That's what Rein Lang did last week, and he so far has not expressed any acknowledgement of poor taste in the matter, let alone considered stepping down. Instead he's dismissed the event as a private matter, even though a predecessor of his, Jaak Jõeruut resigned after someone in his ministry wore a shirt that said "kommarid ahju" (communists into the oven).

Some say that Jõeruut's resignation was more of an excuse to get out of his position and into one he prefered. Maybe most resignations are like that. Still, despite the international political overtones -- Russia routinely accuses Estonia of fascist sympathies -- you have to wonder, what the hell was Lang thinking, and maybe it's time for a little more damage control.

Rein Lang, like Ansip, would never step down, especially when his main critic is Öine Vahtkond (the Russian-state supported Night Vigil). But if Prince Harry had to apologize for his costume party, then perhaps a justice minister of a EU country might seek to address any misgivings about his 50th birthday party bash.

45 kommentaari:

Scott ütles ...

I've always thought that Rein Lang was a tool. This just confirms that he's a powertool of some sort.

If he had any honor, he'd resign over this, yes. If his party wasn't feckless, they would force him out.

The Nazi sympathizer thing has been overblown by the propaganda, but if there's a third rail of Estonian politics, this should be it.

How big an idiot is this guy?

stockholm slender ütles ...

But this is absolutely crazy. Same thing if someone would party in the spirit of Stalin. Millions of innocent people were murdered, it just doesn't seem that funny. Regardless of any current politics, but regarding them this surely is insane even thinking purely pragmatically. Not a strong suit obviously with all people. Pragmatism AND thinking, I mean.

Mait ütles ...

Rein Lang's the Vladimir Wolfowitz of Estonian politics. Village idiot not displaying enough sense to get promoted to court jester.

Full diagnosis (for the ee-speakers here) would be krooniline mölapidamatus.

Btw, the play in question is quite antifashist, but understnading that is obviously too much for both Russian press and herr Lang.

Mait ütles ...

Blast, Wolfovich, not Wolfowitz. Let's just say Zhirinovski.

Kristopher ütles ...

Put this one down to "satirical license", I think, though they are big boys and they should know that unless you are Mel Brooks doing a musical within a movie (or maybe Sacha Baron Cohen), this sort of a thing is a no-no.

But it could also be moustache envy. Neither Lang nor Ansip can grow decent ones. Kallas can.

Blogaddict ütles ...

And he does this when we are all busy high-fiving each other for successfully beating Russians on their recent propaganda war?!

Wtf!?

He should be court-martialed according to the laws of cyber-war!

Kristopher ütles ...

It should probably be made more clear that the picture is definitely not of Lang, but of the actor who plays the role in a play (set during Hitler's last days).

Giustino ütles ...

It's not like the guy was doing anything 'pro-Nazi', it's that he made a big political faux-pas.

Politician's rule #32: Do Not Attend Nazi-Themed Costume Parties

Blogaddict ütles ...

In estonia throwing a nazi themed birthday bash is not necessarily pro-nazi just like going to sauna with a bunch of friends is not necessarily pro-gay.

The only problem I see with our ungri-mugri humour and habits is the effort it takes to explain it to the outsiders who just don't get it.

However, when it comes to russians, we actually have a small chance explaining it away using the sauna comparison. We just don't wear winter hats in sauna like they do ...

Kieli ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, to me it suggests really quite unpleasant levity in connection with an awful historical tragedy and amazing, amazing lack of elementary political understanding. I mean, yes, he's not Nazi, he is not pro-Nazi - but that this clarifications should now even be needed... He's a minister of the government, this is the big league now, these things matter. Off with his political head (and its non-existent contents).

plasma-jack ütles ...

well, you're talking about a guy who said "fuck, I really do have to keep listening such shit" to a colleague after a radio debate. and a politician who once said that low-paid workers aka plaebs should be deptrived of voting right, because poor people are so goddamn stupid.

But there is also a bright side. Many people don't remember that, but Lang actually was briefly a foreign minister before Parts' government's demise. Now imagine that guy telling negro jokes to Condy...

Juan Manuel ütles ...

I am looking at the EPL frontpage but I can't find this news story.

Mait ütles ...

Oh, right, his foreign minister days... replacing Ojuland, the _other_ politico whose words skip brain on their way to mouth.

One can understand why Meri & Ilves ended up as presidents after foreign ministry - what they built up has survived despite being run by nincompoops. Foreign office was in limbo for quite a while. While Paet isn't golden like these two, at least he's not stupid.

Anyone taking bets on whether Ojuland and Lang continue the presidency tradition? ;)

Scott ütles ...

Blogaddict: I understand the bit about ungri-mugri humor. It was, after all, a anti-Nazi production.
But Lang doesn't get to choose how people interpret it. And I think we know that the best that will be thought about it by outsiders is it was in incredibly bad taste.
I think that Russian wire services will have this little factoid on a hot-key anytime he comes up.
Just like the idiot girl in the homeguard who wore a Nazi swatstika in her pierced ear in a parade a few years back. The Russians still have a field day with that photo.
One needs to be smart enough not to pee on your own shoes.
Mait, at least Ojuland was easy on the eyes, even though the vacuum at the foreign ministry was a sight to see.

Agu-Enrik Ubailves ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
margus ütles ...

Scott,

How would it help if Rein Lang resigned? It would just spin the news story as would explaining it or apologizing. Russian news services have already made up gargantuan lies which were believed by the populace so this 'mistake' accounts as a drop in the sea. Remember Anssip? 'Estonian justice minister is a nazy' to a russian is similar to 'Sarkozy is French'.

Village idiot not displaying enough sense to get promoted to court jester.

So he's minister of justice because he's cute and they love him? Zhirinovsky on the other hand is not in the government. But yes, Lang talks a lot of nonsense time to time.

Agu-Enrik Ubailves ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Juan Manuel ütles ...

But poor Milton is a dull man to drink with.

Was, unless you like to drink with the dead...

Agu-Enrik Ubailves ütles ...

Protest: at least for liberals Milton is immortal! And technically - Hitler is dead too. Dancing with the dead has too much became part of our life. By the way, a Berndt Notkes painting Totentanz has been regarded as a symbol of Tallinn's cultural heritage.

Blogaddict ütles ...

So Lang is becoming a liability. Like an idiot family member whose actions need to be translated to the confused bystanders.

We'll Americans have Bush, so they should be able to understand our pain and discomfort.

nipi ütles ...

Ojucaust - was the description of the time when lady had the post of minister.

margus ütles ...

Why is the nazi theme such a taboo anyway? I mean Americans can reenact their civil war in the appropriate costumes, even talk favorably of 'ye old south' and be proud about it. Shouldn't that outrage the blacks? Why can the Britons be proud about the colonial era moral values? Why is Che still such a Jesus? I'm sure there are many people more suitable for the praise than a hardened killer. Prince Harry in a nazi uniform is insulting but Prince Harry as a British colonial army officer would have been cordial although those both killed and enslaved people(the amounts differ).

Was the Third Reich really the most evilest thing ever? What about Gengis Khan & co? The population of almost every city they conquered was beheaded.

People joke about death and grievances and religion all the time. We know that nazis in a comedy film are not real living naziz and neither is Prince Harry on a costume party. Yet he was forced to apologize for pretending to be a nazi sympathizer which is ridiculous and not for being a self-assured careless lifeburner what they all knew.

When little boys play cops and crooks we don't assume the latter are 'bad' or that they see a criminal future for themselves. So what is wrong with grownups depicting horrible events or hated ideas.

Rein Lang having bad taste in this case means his taste contradicted a hypocritical myth.

Blogaddict ütles ...

margus,

Very good observations. Sure it will be kosher to make Buchenwald jokes in 500 years or so, but not yet.

While it is fine to hold toga parties now, I am not sure that it would have been PC right after the Barbars took over the Rome.

Wait, where am I going with this line of thought ....?

Ah, never mind. The thing is, I agree with you. But Lang is still an idiot.

andres kahar ütles ...

Emphasis in all the wrong places, I'm afraid. No offence, but most of you dolts missed Rein Lang's blinding brilliance.

Well, Kristopher glimpsed it when he cited moustache envy. A friend of a friend who allegedly worked at Kuku [sic] might've once mentioned Lang's old nickname way back when, during a late night chat: Dirty Ugro-Sanchez.

Say. No. More.

All these serious-minded responses here @IfE call to mind the urban legend about Tom Lehrer giving up satire when Kissinger won the Nobel: sometimes things get so weird that it just ain't possible to make fun no more.

I mean, Portugal is taking over the EU presidency.

P O R T U G A L !

(What fucking next? Portugal? Oh, sure. Now let's recruit a crew of retards from, say, Birmingham, AL as Uro commissioners. Portugal! Jeezus! All well and good if you want to suffer Virgin Mary sightings all over Brussels, which'll doubtless grind EU biznis to a halt. Oh, never mind. The jig was up when the EU started letting Frenchmen hold EU posts as anything other than Maurice Chevalier impersonators. But I digress...*)

Anyhow, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

And therein lurks Lang's brilliance.

Lang was instructing Estonians in the fine art of how to make fun and have fun. Lang was visionary. Lang was breaking new ground.

Because, you see:

Stalin: not funny. He laughed at his own jokes, and telegraphed worse than Jerry Seinfeld.

Russia: not funny since Solzhenitsyn stopped doing satire.

Scandinavians: simply not funny, and never could be. Two words: Ingmar Bergman.

Sexist humour: well, civilized Scando influence pretty much spoiled that fun.

Racist humour: not much fun unless one lives in a multi-racial society in which horrible things were done to innocent people because of their race or ethnicity. Sorry, Estonia -- too white. (Lang considered doing black face, but the July 2 focus group didn't get it, and “My Mammy” doesn’t translate well into Estonian.)

So, what's a fella to do?

Answer: Go Nazi or go home.

The Nazi period is rich with unmined comic gold:

You've got a fast-talking know-it-all with a funny moustache who showed up late for rallies, all for dramatic effect, and then started flailing his arms around and yelling, so all of his mummy issues were laid bare for history to see. And his followers? They're all full of piss and vinegar, all worked up into a lather about things, wearing Hugo Boss, listening to Wagner -- and talking German.

Talking G E R M A N !

What's not to laugh at?

I thought there were some clever folks commenting here. Now: not so sure. Rein Lang to YOU (Pl) is pearls before swine. A prophet has no honour in his own time and place.

Rein Lang is special.

And all of YOU can go straight to hell.

__________

* I do apologize to all readers. None of you need to go to hell. And, despite having Portuguese friends and sometimes patronizing Portuguese restaurants, I've always thought Portugal to be the weak link in the European chain. To their credit, some trains ran on time under Salazar. I also apologize to all residents of Birmingham, AL -- except the retarded ones.

Kristopher ütles ...

Margus...yes, the Nazi regime was the most evilest thing...EVER (as sportscaster Bob Costas would have it).

Leave Art Buchenwald out of it -- now there was a guy with a sense of black humor.

Andres, thanks for the links, especially the minstrelsy one. Instructive.

And point well taken: if Rein Lang did not in fact charge the stage wearing a toothbrush moustache and yelling Sieg Heil...perhaps he should have.

WHAT? Kissinger won a Nobel? In what -- math?

I hold that bastard Hitchens responsible.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, I don't know, I just don't find Stalinism or Nazism very funny. I know that in real life, among us sophisticated people, you are supposed to find everything funny - any other position is truly politically incorrect, sanctimonious and boring. Well, sorry, in that horror, in the context of that horror, I just find humour a way to distance oneself, to protect oneself. And I'm not sure if we should distance, should protect ourselves in the context of these late horrors. So, I find absolutely nothing funny in that period - lots of things for savage, funny satire, but nothing humorous. This aside from the practical political situation which makes one wonder about the state of this person's "thought" processes.

Wahur ütles ...

stockholm slender, I am pretty sure about on thing. As long as we prohibit, hate, regulate, fight or simply forget such horrible things, they will be back again and again. The day we are all able to laugh at them, they're gone. Puff! For good, never to come back.

stockholm slender ütles ...

No, I actually support quite unlimited free speech (apart from personal slander and incitement to actual violence). I wouldn't outlaw holocaust (or gulag) denial. I just don't find these tragedies as very jokey subjects (as for example the Soviet Union seems to be quite universally in the West, a humorous, even half nostalgic subject). Satire is different as its aware of the horror - but that is not what we usually are talking about here. In this context humour is mostly used for distancing and softening, and I don't really think that we should distance ourselves from these horrors or soften their impact.

Flasher T ütles ...

Anyone taking bets on whether Ojuland and Lang continue the presidency tradition? ;)

No bet, but Laar is looking increasingly likely.

Why is the nazi theme such a taboo anyway?

Kills the mood. It's a problem for the entire European unity thing, where Britain, France and Germany pretend to be buddies. Post-WWII European ideology is largely juxtaposed to Nazism. Nazi is Evil, but known to be very effective at capturing the imaginations of the lemmings^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hmasses. That's why Mein Kampf is banned in Europe.

Was the Third Reich really the most evilest thing ever?

Well, it's the latest & greatest Most Evilest Thing Ever, but more importantly, it lost the war.

stockholm slender ütles ...

The fact that the Soviet/Communist crimes are not, so griveously unjustly, viewed with same horror than the Nazi crimes surely shouldn't mean that we ought not regard the Nazis with horror. It truly devalues our moral stance if we pick our warning examples very selectively (and don't pick the winners of the WW2 at all), but would it then be better to pick no examples, no horrors at all and view all history, all crimes against humanity with amused, and fundamentally tolerant, cynicism?

in upstate NY ütles ...

Well, now you know why Estonians are not outrageous, after reading all the reactions to Rein Lang.

While the birthday bash was in poor taste, Americans, at least, should remember Hogan's Heros and bumbling Sargeant Schultz ("I know NUTHink!") Or Mel Brooks' movies that are interlaced with lots of Nazi references.

Humour is a way to reduce the emotional impact. And as much as Estonians protest against Russian accusations against them, there is a grain of truth to it.

At first, the Russians are conveniently forgetting that they also quite happily welcomed the Nazis as saviors from Stalin during WWII. That is why Hitler got as far as Stalingrad before the Russians really started pushing back. It took that long before the Russians got it through their heads that the Germans categorized them with the Jews.

But no headway will be made with the Russians. They will not admit that they treated the Estonians similarly to how the Nazis treated the Russians and Jews in 1939. To admit that would mean acknowledging their imperial designs on Estonia, then and now.

Would that WWII were done with.

Mait ütles ...

Most likely he got the post for being a good little party soldier for a long time. Sickening practice, but prevalent practically everyhere. At best, this props up some dulltard with sense to keep away from whatever he's been appointed to lead and lets the employees get on with their work, at worst they get someone who's been dreaming of implementing some ill-conceived reforms. Or someone who insist in slamming his foot in his mouth repeatedly.

Or he's done the Ojuland thing and holds some juicy kompromat.

Andres ütles ...

Rein Lang has always looked as the stupid one in Estonian politics to me. I have no idea what so ever, why he is kept in the government etc. He usually makes those "ouch.. please don't tell me that's our justice minister" remarks and his thoughts don't usually categorize him as one of the bright crayons in the box. Maybe it really is a Bush thing. "Please, PLEASE don't judge us by only looking at that guy" etc.

Blogaddict ütles ...

http://www.hot.ee/tiblunn/

Giustino ütles ...

I personally found his comment that it was a 'private matter' quite weak. Government ministers should be more careful. I can't imagine Condoleezza Rice taking in a Hitler one act on her birthday ... Comedians can poke all the fun they want, but politicians aren't that lucky.

andres kahar ütles ...

From what I've read and heard, I get the distinct impression that Condoleezza Rice is too self-conscious, and too much of a boss-pleaser, to ever allow a faux-pas worse than smudged lipstick.

Besides, aren't Rice's fascist rituals of a somewhat different cultural kind? (church hymns, NFL games with the Bushes, and dating stars of those games...)

Nathan ütles ...

Belafonte said it best about Rice.

Someone has already hinted here that the Nazis were perhaps not the worst chaps; surely it would not be too remiss of me to recall the plantation and field nigra dichotomy posited by the elder statesman.

The allegation that Rice sleeps around with American football players may however be taking matters too far.

andres kahar ütles ...

Nate: makes me smile when chaps hastily resurrect themselves online like this.

Just having fun with stories told and intimated about your good Secretary -- stories far too good for my imagination to conjure.

But, still, mighty chivalrous of you to defend her honour like that. Given that she's a high-level public figure, and also co-conspirator of some bloody policies that have resulted in untold deaths, I'd say glib fun with Rice rumours in a comment forum is but minor offence in the grand scheme of things.

Besides, I carefully said "date" -- NOT "sleep," "screw," or "hump." I severely doubt evangelical Presbyterians have sex until they finish their terms of office. Let's keep it clean, "Nathan."

Nathan ütles ...

Hasty? It has been my undiminished calling for thirteen years to serve Riga and Tallinn, a placeholder in a public space requiring such a figure.

I am well aware of Candy's (as she was and will remain) reputation. Well aware. Recall the entendre in the now outdated (pre-hunting accident) song, "Don't Wanna Grow Up To Be the President (Summer in Crawford)" as early as 2003 or 4.

If you're thinking bout drinking down in Crawford, Texas,
Don't expect to get too far
Making sweet talk to the margarita twins
You know they'll drink you unnerneath the bar.
Rums-feld, he swings both ways, but he breaks too many hearts
You'd be better off drinking with Condeleezza Rice
She's a foxy Sovietologist star.

andres kahar ütles ...

Nate: I dig your style, dude.

Robert ütles ...

I don't see what's the big deal. The play carries a totally anti-fascist ideology, it's been performed in Estonia and all over Europe for years and received excellent reviews. Here'a a review of the play, performed by author: http://inkpot.com/theatre/05reviews/0305,adol,ni.html

Robert ütles ...

the link should end in .html not htm.

Giustino ütles ...

I don't see what's the big deal. The play carries a totally anti-fascist ideology, it's been performed in Estonia and all over Europe for years and received excellent reviews.

Well, Rein broke his silence today. I guess he decided to wait a few days to get his response together.

Agu-Enrik Ubailves ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.