OK, the headline is clickbait. Yes, the German chancellor did give a 30-minute interview to one of her country’s biggest YouTube stars, LeFloid. But although it was posted on Monday evening, it was recorded on Friday. So much for the immediacy of the Internet.
What’s interesting about this interview isn’t what Merkel said. In fact, she didn’t talk about Greece at all (unless that part was cut during the three intervening days due to obsolescence). No, the most interesting thing about the interview was the medium itself.
It marks the next stage in Merkel’s step-by-step transformation into the social media chancellor _ at least on the surface.
For while other world leaders are tweeting breaking news direct from their smartphone, Merkel’s cautious approach to social media means she often seems two or three steps removed from anything that appears on her official accounts.
That’s not to say her people aren’t aware of the importance of social media. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert (@regsprecher) likes to tweet. Merkel’s government has its own YouTube channel where citizens are treated to her weekly vodcast (scripted interviews with students). Her press team recently launched its own Facebook page. And the chancellor even has an Instagram account in her name, though you can be sure she hasn’t taken any of the pictures. “I’ve even done a Google Hangout,” Merkel tells LeFloid in what turns out to be little more than the standard German TV interview (except the interviewer has a baseball cap and visible tattoos, instead of a tie).
It’ll be interesting to see whether Merkel, who is still mocked for calling the Internet “Neuland’ (lit. “uncharted territory”), ever manages to embrace social media as a platform to directly engage her citizens, without any intermediary _ be they Youtube star, government spokesman or ZDF interviewer.
You can watch the whole interview, in which Merkel says nothing of great interest about topics including same-sex marriage, the legalization of cannabis, racism, Edward Snowden, TTIP and what it’s like to come home after a long day at the office, here: