Eurovision 2013: An American in London

American expat Leigh Alexander has had her first Eurovision party as an embedded foreigner in London. It went well.

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Pop and politics collide at Europe's awesomely trashy song contest

You know the Ameri-centricism Europeans make fun of? I might have been an example of that, having not really heard of the Eurovision Song Contest until 2010 – and even then, the only reason I’d heard a thing about it was because of the Epic Sax Guy meme, spawned by Moldova’s hilariously neon-infused, incredibly euro-centric performance that year.

This year, a bottle of cranberry Finlandia and nearly four hours of completely un-ironic enthusiasm opened my eyes.

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Sign a petition for a "guilt-free Eurovision" -- keep the pressure up on Azerbaijan

Robert sez, "Azerbaijan is hosting the final of this Saturday's Eurovision song contest. Amidst the absurdity and kitsch, human rights groups are worried that Azerbaijan's autocratic government will use the occasion to airbrush its appalling treatment of journalists and activists. Index on Censorship is asking Boing Boing readers to make the President of Azerbaijan face the music during #Eurovision, by signing a petition demanding he end the persecution of writers and artists who speak truth to power."

My father was born in a refugee camp in Azerbaijan -- to Russian/Polish/Belarusian parents -- and I've always felt a distant kinship to the place, enough so that I take this sort of thing more personally than I would if it were in another post-Soviet Asian dictatorship. I signed.

The Eurovision Song Contest is a guilty pleasure for millions across Europe. But this year the competition has a dark side – it’s being hosted by Azerbaijan, a country whose people face violence, prison and persecution for exercising their right to free speech. On 18 April, Idrak Abbasov, an investigative reporter who won the Guardian/Index Award, was beaten unconscious by private security guards while the police looked on.

Other journalists have been attacked, abducted and tortured. In November 2011, writer Rafiq Tagi was attacked outside his home and later died. No one has been brought to justice for his murder. In fact, in the last seven years, there have been no arrests or prosecutions related to violence against journalists.

But it’s not just journalists – musicians, gay rights campaigners and political activists are also under attack.

Raise your voice for free speech in Azerbaijan (Thanks, Robert!)