A mailbox sticker produced and distributed by the left-wing environmental group Campax caused a political stir this week. The sticker has a picture of a sheep wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with “FCK NZS” kicking the logos of the FDP/PLR and Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC) with its hind legs. The sticker has been described as extremist and has triggered outrage and dismay, reported the newspaper NZZ.
Switzerland’s political climate of compromise has become increasingly polarised over recent decades.
No stranger to controversial polarising political advertisements, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC) has largely led the way. In 2007, the party produced a controversial campaign poster with a black and white sheep to promote its support for the deportation of foreign criminals – see image below. It has produced similar imagery to campaign against islamic dress codes and portrayed other political parties as worms devouring an apple.
This week, Campax, a left leaning political movement that has Baltasar Glaettli, a parliamentarian from the Green Party on its board, stepped into the political sheep-based cartoon political boxing ring.
Borrowing the SVP/UDC sheep metaphor, Campax created and distributed mailbox stickers with a sheep wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with “FCK NZS” kicking the logos of the FDP/PLR and Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC) with its hind legs – see image below. It is well known that the term FCK NZS means F**k Nazis.
Members of the FDP/PLR in particular have responded with outrage and dismay. Jehuda Spielman, an FDP politician and Zurich municipal councillor, responded by asking Campax whether he as an FDP member and descendant of Holocaust victims was also a Nazi? FDP President Thierry Burkart described it as despicable political propaganda, and FDP parliamentarian Hans-Peter Portmann has suggested filing criminal charges against Campax as a way to stop extremism.
The FDP/PLR has been drawn into the Nazi sheep imagery in response to its decision to list share with the SVP/UDC. List sharing (or connection) is a way for parties to support each other. Essentially, votes are pooled and the resulting seats are split based on vote proportions. It means fewer votes are wasted in an arrangement where the parties give their unusable votes to the other. The FDP/PLR and SVP/UDC have teamed up in this way in the cantons of Aargau and Zurich.
Campax has now removed the controversial image from its website and replaced it with a T-shirt-free version.
Political communications such as these controversial cartoons are typically part of the populist media playbook. Designed to provoke outrage, they often have the singular aim of increasing media attention by aiming at obvious emotional triggers. This cheap and unfortunately effective tactic typically leads to a triggering arms race and even greater political polarisation.
A well trained reflex to see through this cheap trick is surely part of the antidote to political polarisation.
NZZ article (in German)