Poster Wars

By MEREL BLOK

There was a time and day when posters were at the heart of political discourse. In an era before the internet and mobile phones, the quickest and easiest way to reach people was through posters on the street. Flash-forward from 1917 or 1968 to the twenty-first century, however, and it seems that paper, ink, and glue have been backgrounded by the noise of tweets, television, and the internet. In the run-up to the Dutch elections, the poster board placed outside of my student flat for poster campaigning remained so pristine, it was somewhat therapeutic. Each day, I could wait for the traffic and pretend for a minute that the Dutch had decided enough was enough. That they would not stand for a country with more political parties than fundamental differences.

That is, until a week or two ago, when a local trickster decided to spray-paint an opening call: a neon-purple ‘Divide and Rule’ cut through my wooden pattern of calm. The liberal democrats’ response, D66, was to cover it with their poster accompanied by the slogan ‘Opportunities for Everyone’.

The next day, the prankster had replied by tearing off of half the poster. It now read ‘Opportunities’ – which struck me as a more realistic depiction of politics than its original. This was the opening shot for other parties to join the poster war. The GreenLeft, eager as always, pasted a portrait of their leader, Jesse Klaver, on both sides of the board. The unintentionally comic effect was a disclosure of the true nature of politicians: pretty damn two-faced.

In the days that followed, the board quickly became filled with posters of all sorts. The conservatives, the VVD, certainly won the prize for the most condescending poster: ‘Wrapping an arm around someone: a) Very normal b) Not normal’. Political normcore has reached new heights. It certainly leaves me worried about the Dutch national identity if awkward physical contact you make in an attempt to console someone is the best the ruling party can come up with. The party currently leading in the polls (need I waste more words on them than this?) remained remarkably absent in the visual competition.

A more symbolic signalling of the waning days of posters came when a storm blew the entire board apart, its legs snapped and the posters were washed away by the rain.The municipality has yet to repair it, but in the meantime, someone put up a poster on the trashcan next to the board. It reads: ‘politics are over’.

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