After an exhaustingly long finale of the Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev, Portugal won the competition for the first time in half a century. To Americans, this is a remote festival, but internationally it is a major cultural celebration. In 2016, it garnered more than two hundred million viewers worldwide. Moreover, it represents a barometer for the political situation in Europe.
From the very beginning in 1956, the song contest was intended as a way to build bridges between war-torn European nations. It was part of an effort to create European unity. This was, for instance, reflected in the voting rules, where the participating countries from an early point were not allowed to vote on their own national candidate. National self-interest should be set aside in favor of charity towards their neighbors.
However, nationalism found a way to circumvent this restriction. If you cannot vote for your own country, then at least you can vote for those who are in geographic and cultural proximity. Statistical analyses suggest regional bloc voting.
This year’s competition saw a strange development. The host country, Ukraine, chose as its slogan “Celebrate diversity.” The kneejerk reaction to this is to assume that it is an alignment with the EU-elite’s multiculturalist agenda. This is at least how large swaths of the media have interpreted it, and criticized Ukraine for not living up to its slogan. From Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty:
“The [Eurovision] slogan sounds hollow in a country where LGBT people still do not enjoy equal protection under law and in employment, journalists and rights activists are harassed and attacked for a different point of view, and people with disabilities are virtually invisible in public life,” Tanya Cooper, a Kyiv-based Ukraine researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), told RFE/RL. “It seems that the authorities put on the show for public and international partners by taking a step forward just to take two steps back later.”
The British newspaper The Telegraph reports:
Eurovision’s theme, ‘Celebrate Diversity’ has been mocked by many online because the presenters are three white men.
The left evidently interprets diversity in terms of standard identity politics.
However, multiculturalism may not be the kind of diversity that Ukraine had in mind. The Ukrainian Eurovision team explains the slogan:
Celebrate Diversity is the central message for this year’s event and is complimented by a creative logo design based around a traditional Ukrainian bead necklace known as Namysto.
From the start, the Ukrainian Eurovision team emphasizes that the logo is rooted in local, national traditions. They continue:
According to Viktoriia Sydorenko, International PR Manager for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, the slogan encapsulates both tradition and modernity. “We were trying to combine traditions. On one hand we’d like to present our country and history, but on the other, we want to show that Ukraine is a modern country.”
When asked about the Ukrainian traditional necklace, Namysto, Viktoriia explained that it can also be seen as a representation of both Europe and indeed Eurovision. “It’s all about Europe: each country is so different, but at the same time comes together by sharing common values. This diversity of cultures makes us stronger as we complete each other.”
This vision of diversity is diametrically opposed to leftist post-modernism. Ukraine emphasizes that it wants to be part of a global community and be an open country, but at the same time, it wants to preserve its culture and its tradition and not dilute it through external influences.
As such, even though the Eurovision Song Contest is supposed to be completely non-political, this year’s host has subtly turned it into hot politics by promoting an idea that is growing across Europe: a form of pan-Europeanism that celebrates each country’s right to national and cultural self-determination and assertion.