a Political Journalism class assignment, instructor Natasha Lennard:
Write a brief portrait of an individual figure whose position in society you believe has hindered their ability to be recognized as a “truth-teller” in establishment media narratives. Use the frameworks we have discussed in class.
Nico Semsrott introduces himself as a “demotivational speaker.” If a glass can be half full or half empty, he says it’s fully empty. If one approaches life with the intent to be disappointed, they find out that their goal can be easily archived, and an archived goal instantly makes people happier. His talent for satire he learned from the professionals, he says, in a catholic school. He gained popularity in Germany with his poetry slam show titled “Freude ist nur ein Mangel an Informationen (joy is just a lack of information).”
During these years of performances, he was introduced to Martin Sonneborn, the founder of “Die Partei,” a German political party founded in 2004 by Sonneborn, the former editor-in-chief of the satirical magazine Titanic. “Die Partei” and Titanic are known for their often controversial content, aiming at politicians and other public figures with scathing wit and biting commentary to draw attention to important issues. “Die Partei” is a nod to the former East German Communist Party, and one of their first campaign promises was to “Rebuild the wall,” a sentiment many disillusioned Germans might have secretly wished for, albeit not the party’s target audience. Nico is 36 years old. Young voters especially see “Die Partei” as a refreshing alternative to traditional political parties, which they believe have become disconnected. Even Germany’s Green party has increasingly become part of the establishment, and its politicians are seen as complicit traitors to the party’s initial pledge.
Nico paused from performing to become the leading candidate of “die Partei.” In a somber campaign clip without narration, a two-minute-long underwater shot follows a child drowning, wearing a red t‑shirt and blue shorts, remindful of the news photograph of the Kurdish refugee child that had washed up on the beach. The camera films the child drowning for several agonizing minutes, and we hear the sound of water until the camera re-emerges above the water to show the leftovers of the refugee’s rescue buoy. The clip wasn’t allowed to air on public TV; it took Pornhub to step up and post it where it turned viral.
At Nico’s first elections, they reached 2% of votes in Germany; among first-time voters, it was up to 9%, and in Berlin, it was above 10%. This election win entitled Nico to a seat in the European parliament. He uses his youtube channel and website as a blog to document his new job. His first social media posts have the urge to create complete transparency. He lists all his earnings, daily meetings, issues he voted for, and even the food or other bribes given to him at lobby events. He then holds a Q&A to ask how he should spend the money. Quickly, he is convinced that the European Parliament is a joke and a house filled with jesters. He writes: “A couple of months ago, I held a speech. But nobody noticed. Because I held it in the European Parliament”. In other videos, he lists the top five corruption methods of politicians of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and explains how they hold themselves unaccountable. His app Trickadvisor ranks politicians’ corruption levels; Since politicians pass laws anonymously without public accountability, there is no control over who they return favors to. Hence, in his first point-of-order, he proposed full disclosure of politicians’ income, and from his assigned seat in the last row, he demanded the parliament to verify if there were conflicts of interest. One of his ideas is that, much like athletes, politicians should wear suits displaying their sponsors’ logos. This causes nervous laughter through the chairs of the constituencies upon which he is cut off the floor.
He resigned from “die Partei” after heavy controversies and accusations of racism and blackfacing arose around the federal chairman Martin Sonneborn and now runs as an independent platform at the European Parliament. He laments how ill-informed most politicians are about many crucial topics, including internet privacy,
Politics can be hard to swallow, more likely aggressive, and tend to point out inconvenient problems. Because of Nico’s critical approach and the use of irony and satire to comment on important issues, he has gained a large following for his humorous and engaging content. In a Peinlich (embarrassingly)-Political-PowerPoint Presentation (PPPPP), he writes: “If you are a billionaire, you need to take action to combat the climate crisis, or your wealth will be confiscated. We should not treat billionaires as outcasts but as money-hungry addicts.”
Unfortunately, in his latest youtube video, he says he doesn’t want to run as a European candidate again because he feels he wasn’t bribed as much as others. Instead, he plans a program called “Schade,” which roughly translates to “What a shame.”