BREAKING NEWS
This content is not available in your region

'Environmental pig': Song parody sparks controversy, death threats and #grandmagate in Germany

Comments
'Environmental pig': Song parody sparks controversy, death threats and #grandmagate in Germany
Copyright  Pixabay
Text size Aa Aa

A satirical song mocking a fictional grandmother's environmental habits is causing huge controversy in Germany.

Public television channel WDR published a video of the altered children's classic but later took it down because of criticism.

It showed a children's choir singing My Grandma Drives Her Motorcycle In The Chicken Coop. But the lyrics were changed to end each verse with "My grandma is an old environment pig".

"My grandma takes an SUV to the doctor's" and a line about using up "1,000 litres of super fuel each month" are some of the amended lines of the songs that criticise the use of fossil fuels.

The final tagline is a lipsync of activist Greta Thunberg's statement "We will not let you get away with this".

The controversy saw Germany's Twittersphere teem with hashtags like #omagate [grandmagate] and #umweltsau [environmental pig].

After an initial public outcry, WDR deleted the video but it quickly resurfaced on other YouTube channels.

The video was initially posted a week before Christmas, but public indignation continued to build, reaching a crescendo of tweets in the last few days.

At one point on December 28, there were more than 7,000 tweets on this topic per hour, Der Spiegel found.

Reason for public outcry

On Twitter, users lament the "instrumentalisation of children" and accuse the channel of disrespecting an older generation. On top of that, many mention "government news" in a pejorative manner.

Right-wing conservative influencers were particularly critical of the video.

On Sunday, the online outrage moved on to the streets where about 200 people demonstrated in front of the WDR building in Cologne.

Police told Der Spiegel that about 25 of the protesters belonged to the "German brotherhood". Police are currently investigating whether the demonstration had been organised or influenced by rightwing extremists.

Death threats against journalist

WDR journalist Danny Hollek who had tweeted that "grandma isn't an environmental pig, but a #nazipig" has been receiving death threats almost every minute.

WDR director Tom Buhrow apologised for the video in a special programme saying it was "a mistake." He issued a statement on Twitter saying: "What we're witnessing right now says a lot about the current situation in our country." He added that the WDR will do its best to protect the employees that have been receiving death threats.

"What is going on in our country, I wonder, that an unsuccessful video can lead to death threats?" Buhrow said.

"What is wrong in our country that causes an unsuccessful video to end up in death threats?" - WDR director Tom Buhrow.

Political reaction from across the spectrum

Political parties and politicians are taking part in the online discussion. The wave of outrage goes across the political spectrum, but especially rightwing politicians have been rallying against the public channel.

Sven W. Tritschler is the vice president of the AfD in the Northrhine Westphalian state parliament. His tweet about Hollek's satirical message about grandma being a "Nazi pig" was widely spread with more than 250 retweets.

CSU, the party currently in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU tweeted a "clear positioning against the denigration and defamation of an older generation. We will not allow a societal divide. It is absolutely unacceptable that the young generation is being incited against the older one."