July 20, 2011

The "Pimpsons" of Kosovo

Activist Fisnik Ismaili's cartoon adaptation of a US-influenced Kosovar political system has online users flocking to social media.

They're recognisable characters from the popular US show The Simpsons, but on "The Pimpsons" Facebook page they have different names and personalities. Here they are the recognisable characters from Kosovar politics.

Artist Fisnik Ismaili was unhappy seeing the US ambassador to Kosovo Christopher Dell take an active role in his country's political scene. Watching Dell at a televised news conference with some of Kosovo's top political leaders Ismaili realised he looked familiar: Dell looked like "Comic Book Guy" from The Simpsons. That was the inspiration for "The Pimpsons." Based on the idea that figures like Dell were the 'pimps' of Kosovo, Ismaili created an online cartoon that cast political figures into Simpsons characters."What I'm doing is not funny," Ismaili told The Stream. "It's portraying a reality that has become a joke in this country."

The cartoon takes place in single image "episodes" on Facebook, on a page that already boasts more than 15,000 likes. But Fisnik says that's not the entire picture of his audience. He told us: "Many people do not dare to 'like' it because they do not want their names appearing there. The best way to tell you how many viewers this has had – I just checked it now - it had 5.5 million post views in three months."

Some online wondered if international involvement in Kosovo's internal politics isn't a price the country has had to pay for being so young. Kosovo only declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, and it did so unilaterally, over the objections of many other nations. On Twitter, user @AHFitzpatrick wrote in: "You can't unilaterally declare independence and expect to get away with it clean." Speaking in response to this issue Ismaili said, "There's no free lunch as they say, it's all about compromises. But it's also a question of how much of those compromises do we have to make?" Drawing a comparison to South Sudan's recent independence he said, "Sudan itself recognised South Sudan right away whereas Serbia refuses to do so [for Kosovo]."

Ismaili thinks the time for such heavy-handed involvement in Kosovo's politics is at an end. "Although we're a new country and we've been around for three years, we are able to run our country ourselves."

These are some of the social media elements featured in this segment.