• Germany's news in English
 

Merkel's rival gives voters the middle finger

Published: 13 Sep 2013 12:30 GMT+02:00

The man who wants to be Germany's next chancellor was pictured on the front of the weekly magazine supplement of the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily's Friday edition.

The unflattering black-and-white portrait of the Social Democrat (SPD) candidate Peer Steinbrück in suit and tie graces the cover of the magazine.

But the image of the 66-year-old flipping the bird, while sneering into the lens caused a storm ahead of the September 22nd vote, with attacks raining down from politicians and in the Twittersphere.

The provocative photograph has gone viral after a blogger published edited versions of the photo showing the SPD leader's outstretched digit in humorous situations.

The Tumblr blog, "What Peer's got his finger in" features versions of the photo in which Steinbrück's finger is being licked by an animated kitten, taking the place of God's finger in Michelangelo's Sistine chapel fresco, and spinning a basketball.

The blog has spawned a counterpart Twitter account, @peersfinger, which has already garnered almost 1,000 followers since the original photo was published.

CLICK HERE to see some of the funny Steinbrück photos

The @peersfinger Twitter account has been compared to the satirical @schlandkette account, mocking the necklace worn by Merkel in the TV debate with Steinbrück on September 1st.

And @schlandkette has commented on the @peersfinger feed, writing "I can hardly keep up with @peersfinger. Whatever, I'm slimmer."

Other tweets from users included "Coalition of my dreams-@peersfinger and @schlandkette", and "I would vote for Peer Steinbrück's middle finger".

Communications expert Stephan Lermer judged the picture, "a pubescent gesture, extremely vulgar - and this from a public person and chancellor candidate, a role model, who would represent 80 million Germans on the world stage."

Lermer predicted the picture would become iconic and define Steinbrück, the way Albert Einstein is best remembered for the photo with his tongue out.

"As Germans, we have to cringe," he said. "It will cost him votes. The gesture is unappetizing. It lacks class. It will especially turn off elder, conservative voters ... He thought he could score with irony, but the Germans are a serious people."

BUt SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel jumped to the defence of the candidate, saying on Twitter that Steinbrück "used an ironic photo interview to ironically show emotions".

Steinbrück defended himself late Thursday at a campaign event in Munich, where his party faces crucial Bavarian state elections Sunday.

In the photo essay with the Süddeutsche Zeitung's magazine, he said, "You are asked questions and have to respond with gestures, grimaces, emotions. You're acting. And I hope that the country will understand that the grimaces and gestures

relate to the question, and show a sense of humour."

Other parties sought to take advantage of the photo. "This gesture is unacceptable for a chancellor candidate," said economy minister Philipp Rösler of the Free Democrats, Merkel's junior coalition allies. "Something like that is just not on."

On Twitter under the tag #stinkefinger (middle-finger) one writer said: "Steinbrück's middle-finger seemed to say: 'Goodbye then, you election w*******.' At least he's getting a totally awesome exit."

Another judged the gesture as "diggin' for street credibility" while a third wrote: "Unbelievable! It's not a fake! I can't imagine a chancellor like that."

The image of the gaffe-prone Social Democrat candidate was taken for a photo-essay format called "Don't Say Anything Now" in which subjects are asked to respond non-verbally to questions.

The gesture by the self-styled straight-talking politician came in response to a question over his campaign gaffes, including causing offence in Italy by calling former premier Silvio Berlusconi a "clown". The journalists' question was: "Pannen (mishap) Peer, Problem Peer, Peerlusconi - you don't have to worry about a shortage of nicknames, do you?"

His picture stands in stark contrast to Merkel, who is portrayed on the cover of Friday's Economist magazine on a pedestal overlooking European landmarks with the headline "One woman to rule them all".

The Süddeutsche newspaper said had Steinbrück made the offensive gesture in a public place, would have faced a fine of €600 to €4,000, but it said that, given his negative image during the campaign, Steinbrück's "frustration is understandable".

Newspaper Die Welt said Steinbrück's ironic gesture showed he was now at ease on the campaign trail but would likely be remembered as part of the "series of many blunders and scandals".

READ MORE: Steinbrück shrugs off cleaner blackmail attempt

AFP/The Local/tsb

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
German ranchers murdered in Paraguay
Paraguayan police on patrol in an area known to contain EPP rebels. File photo: DPA

German ranchers murdered in Paraguay

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed that two Germans living in Paraguay were kidnapped and killed earlier this week. READ  

AfD braces for busy conference weekend
"Vote AfD!" reads the flyover message. Photo: DPA

AfD braces for busy conference weekend

As leaders of the Germany's anti-Euro upstart party Alternative for Germany (AfD) prepare for its party conference this weekend, the potential for chaos is rising. READ  

Sudden dose of winter causes traffic chaos
Snow in Oberharz. Photo: DPA

Sudden dose of winter causes traffic chaos

UPDATE: Two people were rescued from avalanches as a blast of winter has taken Germany by surprise, while snow and ice accounted for several traffic accidents across the country on Friday. READ  

BND collects 220 million phone records a day
Photo: DPA

BND collects 220 million phone records a day

Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) collects 220 million pieces of information about foreign phone calls and SMS every day, Zeit Online reported on Friday. READ  

U-turn on minimum wage for foreign drivers
Photo: DPA

U-turn on minimum wage for foreign drivers

Germany temporarily hit the brakes Friday on applying its new minimum wage to foreign truck drivers transiting the country in a move welcomed by Poland, which vigorously opposed the system. READ  

Crises make Germany EU foreign policy leader
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA

Crises make Germany EU foreign policy leader

Foreign policy think-tank the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) gave Germany top marks in its annual check-up of EU member states released on Thursday. READ  

Prost! Beer sales hop up for first gain in 8 years
Photo: DPA

Prost! Beer sales hop up for first gain in 8 years

New figures released Friday by federal statistics office Destatis are numbers breweries can drink to, as German beer consumption saw its first year-on-year rise since 2006. READ  

Germany has thousands of uni spots open
Photo: DPA

Germany has thousands of uni spots open

New research published by Spiegel on Friday shows that there are thousands of university placesa unoccupied across the country, while certain hot spots cope with too much demand. READ  

Borussia coach admits to 'downward spiral'
Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp at a press conference. Photo: DPA

Borussia coach admits to 'downward spiral'

Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp admits feeling the pressure as his side resume their fight to stay in Germany's top flight on Saturday at fellow Champions League side Bayer Leverkusen. READ  

This Week in History
Theodor Heuss: modern Germany's first president
Theodor Heuss at his swearing-in ceremony in 1949. Photo: DPA

Theodor Heuss: modern Germany's first president

The first President of the post-war Federal Republic of Germany, Theodor Heuss – born on January 31, 1884 – was one of the leading liberal politicians of the Weimar Republic and later helped rehabilitate his nation on the international scene. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,462
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd