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Watch: the weird German music video that infuriated Turkey's president

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is really pissed at Germany. According to reports in the German press on Tuesday, he even went so far to summon Germany's ambassador to his office to complain.

But what about? Syria, perhaps? Or Europe's handling of the refugee crisis?

Naw. It was a satirical YouTube video, produced by a German state broadcaster, making fun of Erdogan. Here's the video that offended the Turkish leader's delicate sensibilities, now with helpful English subtitles:

The song, a riff on an old German pop song, pokes fun at Erdogan's appearance, his ostentatious palace, and, most importantly, his dismal record on freedom of the press and civil rights.

"Equal rights for women / Beaten up equally," the lyrics go, sung over footage of Turkish police breaking up an International Women's Day march with batons.

For most heads of state, this wouldn't be something you'd need to yell at a foreign dignitary about. But Erdogan isn't just any head of state: The Turkish president is often described as famously thin-skinned, and he's got a record to prove it.

According to a 2015 BBC report, 236 people in Turkey were investigated, between August 2014 and March 2015, for "insulting the head of state," a crime under Turkish law punishable by years of prison time. Of these, 105 were indicted and eight arrested.

Some of these cases are truly absurd. In 2014, Erdogan saw a teacher who he thought made a "rude gesture" at him. After he complained about her publicly, she was arrested for insulting the president. In January 2016, she was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison.

In another case, a Turkish doctor was arrested for making a meme comparing Erdogan to Gollum. Turkish courts had to bring up "Gollum experts" to assess whether this was insulting. Here is the meme, in case you're curious about whether Erdogan actually looks like Gollum (the answer, IMHO, is clearly yes):

If this all sounds petty, it sure is. But the bigger issue, the one the video is pointing to, is that Turkey under Erdogan has been slowly sliding toward authoritarianism.

During his time in office, the Turkish government has tried to "reform" Turkey's school system along Islamist lines, violently cracked down on anti-government protests, and temporarily banned Twitter to prevent it from being a threat to "moral and national values."

"Comparisons to Vladimir Putin are useful," Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey scholar at St. Lawrence University, wrote last year. "Both Erdogan and Putin voice faith in the institution of elections as a tool for demonstrating legitimacy, and both ensure that no sustained critique of their policies can reach the public."

So as funny as the idea of Erdogan yelling at the German ambassador over a Weird Al–style parody cover may be, it's worth noting that this episode reflects something deeply troubling about politics in one of the world's largest and most important Muslim countries.