“The indicator raised for those who do not wear masks”, says the headline of an advertisement created by Visit Berlin (tourism department in the region) and the Berlin Senate (which is equivalent to the state government).
Under the slogan, however, the elderly woman in the flowered mask who looks ugly at the spectator shows not the index, but the middle finger of her left hand.
The tourism department argued that it wanted to “explore Berlin’s unique and dry sense of humor” to reinforce the rules for preventing coronavirus transmission and the importance of protecting the elderly, who are more susceptible to complications from the disease.
The concern accompanies a recurrence in the new cases of coronavirus infection in Germany, which totaled 26,163, or 31.5 per 100 thousand inhabitants, in the week ended this Wednesday (14).
Berlin recorded the highest incidence in the country: in the districts of Neukoelln and Mitte more than 100 cases were registered per 100,000 inhabitants, according to official data.
On Wednesday night, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of the country’s 16 states limited meetings to 15 participants and lowered curfews to bars and restaurants from 11 pm onwards, in areas with a weekly fee of more than 35 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
The level of 35/100 thousand is considered critical, according to the federal government, because after reaching transmission it seems to accelerate.
Visit Berlin stated that the tone of the ad reproduces the way Berliners communicate, known for speaking directly and without outspokenness. The very contradiction between the finger mentioned in the title and the one raised in the image was purposeful, they say.
But many people were not amused.
Under official criticism and complaints for discriminating and offending those who cannot wear masks (children, for example), the campaign was suspended shortly after its launch, on Tuesday (13), with the publication of the ad in a local newspaper.
The controversy over the image and the initiative, however, has survived on news sites and social networks.
For the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, Lorenz Maroldt, the ad insults city dwellers and reveals the government’s failure in implementing policies to prevent contagion.
The founder and editor-in-chief of the Berlin Espectator, Imanuel Marcus, defended the campaign: “Those who don’t wear masks endanger the health and lives of others. Why wouldn’t we be mad at them? ”
According to him, the various “contained and discreet campaigns that tell people to follow the rules with friendly smiles” are not enough to convince some “refuseniks” – those who refuse to wear masks and keep their distance – and the time to be patient with them already passed.
“Berlin is bold and daring: the old lady who shows her middle finger looks exactly like a Berliner. Many of us use the word ‘f’, especially in English, as it sounds less aggressive that way. Furthermore, we are in 2020. Complaining about such gestures is a bit narrow-minded, ”he said.