• Germany's news in English

Merkel's rival gives voters the middle finger

The Local · 13 Sep 2013, 12:30

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.

Story continues below…

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Obama to visit Berlin in last presidential trip to Germany
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel during a Berlin trip in 2013. Photo: DPA.

The White House announced on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama will be paying one last unexpected visit to the German capital - his last before he leaves office.

Hostility towards minorities 'widespread in Bavaria'
A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.

Hated RB Leipzig emerge as shock challengers to Bayern
RB Leipzig. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig's remarkable unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season has seen them suddenly emerge at the head of the pack chasing reigning champions and league leaders Bayern Munich.

Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd