The Art of Political Lobbying

This week German parliament was fully underway, which meant that various pressure groups were swinging from the chandeliers of the lobbies desperately trying to find a way in.

I’ve never understood political lobbying – it all seems so simplistic and corrupt. Take for example E-Plus´s attempt to limit free access to content on the web on Wednesday night, when they hosted a Mobile meets Movies evening.

No matter how much wine they plied you with, nothing could shake off the corporate atmosphere that clung to the whole affair. This was partly due to the fact that E-Plus’s Unter den Linden offices are…very officey; photocopiers, bland abstract art and grey carpets all the way.

Moreover, the people at E-Plus did not really care about the topic Mobile meets Movies, and scarcely bothered to hide the fact. We expected something vaguely in line with Virgin Shorts, The Pocket Film Festival and creative uses of new media; we got two short films – one from 1981 and the other from 1989 – shown in a meeting room normally used for PowerPoint presentations. Now why would they pick two very old films when there are thousands of brilliant short films made every year, especially in Berlin? One; the people organising the event had no interest in movies, and two, one of them was made by Lutz Dammbeck, filmmaker and Professor of New Media, which brings me to the low point of the evening.

After the films, we were subjected to a lecture from the aforementioned Professor and Christoph Keese, a journalist who works for Axel Springer AG, Germany’s largest newspaper publishing company and owner of the Bild.

Both of them spent the next hour and a half pleading for the limitation of free content on the web using the stupid arguments. For example, that free web content would result in there being less artists in the world, which is the stupidest statement I’ve heard since Elton John suggested that the Internet should be cut off for 5 years to encourage creativity.  If anything, the Internet democratises and encourages creativity – and it’s not just losers like me that are using it – Elfriede Jelinek, the feminist anti-capitalist former Nobel Prize Winner is shunning massive advances to publish her latest writings online for free.

In short, both the journalist (for the profit of his paper) and the filmmaker (for his art) were dancing around like apes trying to protect their territory.

It was with this attitude of annoyance that I went to an event hosted by Vattenfall, one of Europe’s largest energy companies, who wish to extend the service life of nuclear power stations, the following day. While I had previously not really cared one way or another about free content on the web (although by Wednesday night my opinion very strongly against that of E-Plus), I have never really been in favour of nuclear power stations so I was geared up to start an argument with the first suit I saw.

However, when we arrived at The 12 Apostles, the party was in full swing and there was no one round to have a serious argument with. The restaurant, situated under three arcs of the S-Bahn between Friedrichstrasse and Hackesher Markt, had a self-service buffet in each room as well as a flying buffet. There were also several wine bars, beer bars, cocktail bars, a fresh sushi bar and a cigar bar where you could get a genuine latina to roll you a fresh cigar (unfortunately not between her thighs).  In the red smokey atmosphere, surrounded by religious frescos with the train rumbling occasionally overhead, we felt like we were having a party in the depths of hell.

There were no speeches, no-one telling you what they wanted and why, just pure, sinful decadence. Sure there were lots of evil-looking Mr Burns types around, however, there were also quite a few well-known faces – Andrea Nahles (deputy and gerneral secretary of the SPD), German soap stars, Peter Scholl-Latour (non-fiction writer and documentary filmmaker) and Heiner Bremer (former anchor man and TV journalist). What were they all doing there? Who cares. What do I think about nuclear power stations? Well, here’s a short piece of free web content to help express my thoughts:

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