On a Sunday at the end of January, a Dutch television program aired a satirical video with a voice-over pretending to be Donald Trump. The TV host, Arjen Lubach, began by showing a clip of Trump saying at his inauguration, “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.” Lubach said about Trump, “He had a clear message to the rest of the world: ‘I will screw you over big time.’”
Then he played the video, supposedly an official Dutch government introduction of the Netherlands, in English, to the new American President. “We speak Dutch. It’s the best language in Europe. We’ve got all the best words. All the other languages failed. Danish – total disaster. German is not even a real language. It’s fake.” The video shows a Dutch dike: “This is the Afsluitdijk. It’s a great, great wall, that we built to protect us from all the water from Mexico.” The video made fun of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration, his negative comments about NATO, and his attitudes toward blacks. The Dutch politician Jetta Klijnsma is shown using a walker: “We also have a disabled politician for you to make fun of.”
The video ends, “We totally understand it’s going to be America first. But can we just say, the Netherlands second? Is that okay?” The clip was downloaded 42 million times from the show’s Facebook page.
A German late-night TV host reacted to the viral video about a week later. Jan Böhmermann said he was furious that the Netherlands wanted to be second. “Stop, Holland! We want to be number two. Germany wants to be second, because we are strong, we are big. And who, if not us, deserves a third chance?” So he presented a similar video, saying he wanted to make it as simple as possible for our President, who “reads nothing”. “Mr. President, this is for you.”
The German video is more pointed. There are photos of Hitler, who “made Germany great again. Steve Bannon absolutely loves him.” “Germany hosted two world wars in the last 100 years. They were the best world wars in the world, and we won both of them. Bigly. Anyone who says anything else is fake news.” “We built a great German wall. And we made the Russians pay for it.” The video referenced Trump’s comments about being backstage at the Miss Universe pageant and about grabbing women. It’s very funny.
By that time, similar videos were being produced by late-night shows across Europe. They all poked fun at their own nation’s histories and politics, and at their neighbors, by references to Trump. Most of them are not as funny, perhaps because they are less subtle. Serbia: “Mr. President, just like you, we also like to grab women by the genitals.” Poland: “You want to destroy the EU, we’re already doing it from the inside.” Switzerland said the KKK were Trump’s friends. “We also love to treat our women badly. Love it. We didn’t let them vote until 1971. In some places, even until 1990. We grabbed them by the civil rights. And they let us do it. It was great.” Norway: “We might even award you the Nobel peace prize. You’ve already done more than Obama to bring people of the world together. Against you.”
Soon the viral video craze spread beyond Europe. A version from India said, “We know you love grabbing women by the [cat meows]. We have an ancient manual, the Kamasutra, which lists more than 245 ways to grab someone by their [cat meows].” Mexico: “We build walls. Nobody builds walls better than us.” An Israeli one was very funny, saying that Jews controlled Hollywood, but that Alec Baldwin was not Jewish. It contained frequent references to sexual assault and making fun of the handicapped. The website collecting the videos displays 29 of them, mostly from Europe, but ranging to Australia and Namibia. A bit of web surfing reveals many others.
The idea seemed so good that non-nations got into the act. A video from the 566 sovereign nations of the USA, meaning Native American tribes, said, “We know all about cleansing, immigrants coming in, destroying your communities, taking your water, taking your land, taking your women.” Others came from Mars, Mordor (the evil empire in the Lord of the Rings trilogy), the Galactic Empire, former East Germany, and the North Pole, which stresses all the different white animals there. “Everybody is white for sure.”
These videos typically make fun of insignificant issues, like the size of Trump’s hands or the way he combs his hair. But they all address in a joking way much more serious issues. His most important policy ideas, his demeaning behavior towards the handicapped, and his prejudices about blacks, Mexicans and Muslims are treated in his own words, seemingly in his own voice. Trump’s comments about grabbing women come up in all of these videos.
The whole world is invited to laugh at, and simultaneously disdain, the American President. After showing the video, Böhmermann said in English: “When the whole world is standing up to make fun of you, you really achieved something truly great.”
America has become the laughingstock of the world. That’s not so great.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, February 21, 2017