Created in 2016, #BOOS is a Dutch YouTube channel by TV-producer BBNVARA, with its content presented by Tim Hofman. In each video Hofman supports individuals who are angry (hence the Dutch word ‘boos’), or frustrated by a personal ongoing issue with a public organisation or persona. These individuals; unsuccessful attempts to privately solve such issues, like non-returned deposits or unjustified fines, result in requesting #BOOS’s assistance. Direct confrontation with the offender, the pressure of negative publicity and Hofman’s persistence consistently produces results.
Conflict Resolution the #BOOS way
Hofman (b1988) is a Dutch program maker, writer, presenter, and poet. He started his television career with producer BNN, appearing in programs such as Spuiten en Slikken and je zal het maar hebben. These productions shamelessly discuss real social and cultural issues to normalise talk about drugs, sex, and disabilities. Hofman does not shy away from conflict and injustice, or creating citizen’s initiatives to enable more open political debates about subjects like drugs and the law.
Each #BOOS episode commences with Hofman’s signature opening sentence: ”Yes hello and welcome to #BOOS, in which I try to make angry people unangry by using…” After which Hofman and his sidekick Marije swiftly interview the victim to sketch out the backstory of the specific issue they have with the organisation to be dealt with during the episode. Then, shielded with judicial justification, they visit the organisation unannounced and request to speak to one of their spokespeople or someone with authority.
Hofman continues by presenting the issue to them, demanding to hear their side of the story, an explanation for the issue, and finally for the issue to be resolved on the spot. Making the culprits face their acts in this abrupt manner results in the organization researching the issue from their side, and consequently giving the victim and the #BOOS presenters what they came for: a solution. Surprisingly, the episodes maintain an overall entertaining and light-hearted tone. Hofman presents the organizations with a certificate that ‘praises’ them for their wrongdoings, and the show uses funny animations, colourful edits, youthful language, and even confetti cannons to take the edge off of serious matters.
So, in what ways does #BOOS interact with our current public sphere in a wider context?
Even though #BOOS handles individuals’ issues (after attempts to solve them privately), they are highly relevant to the public. Many other individuals are customers at or interact with the culprit-organisations, and are likely dealing with the same issues and frustrations. #BOOS also questions the transparency of information and interaction within organizations by broadcasting private conversations and arguments. Their approach is rather fearless, as exemplified by their refusal to back down from a culprit’s lawsuit that attempted to stop #BOOS from publicly uploading an episode. That episode, in which the culprit broke Hofman’s jaw and a gave him a concussion, now has 2.1 million views(season 1, episode 53). As #BOOS is presented on an online public platform, it naturally creates a community and sparks intense discussion between individuals.
Even though #BOOS handles individuals’ issues (after attempts to solve them privately), it is highly relevant to the public
#BOOS the System
Several of the specific issues discussed in #BOOS episodes have broader public effects. On the lighter end of the scale would be issues like the 10-year-old who lostt 300 euro because he never received the gameconsole he purchased online. Hofman ended up revealing a larger group of consumers ‘framed’ in a similar fashion by the webshop owner. The confronted owner thoroughly apologized, refunded each client and shut down his webshop to get his financial situation in order (season 2, episode 51).
Somewhat more intense was the case in which Hofman took six ‘sick’ young people to the CBR (central office of driving competence), the organisation in charge of driving tests and driver’s licenses. As these specific youngsters have medical disorders, like ADD and Asperger’s, they needed to give a doctor’s declaration to the CBR which states they are fully capable and competent to drive and obtain a driver’s license. In this case, the specific issue is the extra cost, between 200 and 300 euro, to receive the doctor’s declaration and purchase extra driving lessons, and the fact that they have been waiting between 19 weeks and over a year to simply receive a response from the CBR. In an unsatisfying outcome, the CBR-spokesperson clarified the long wait as a result of the implementation of a new administrative system, and only promised to look at their specific cases, not the cases of all individuals in a similar situation (season 2, episode 54).
The heavier issues dealt with in #BOOS are consistently relevant to a larger group of individuals. One such issue even made it to the national media.It concerned a young manworking as a supermarket cashier, whose employer deliberately registered him in the wrong, lower, pay scale. The young man was registered in pay scale A, as are all new cashiers, but was doing tasks that belong to scale B and thus should have been paid more. Hofman revealed that nearly all supermarkets engage in similar practices, thus addressing an extensive group of victims.
It sparked an intense inquiry into this systemic misconduct, leading to what Hofman called a ‘supermarket-war’ (season 2, episode 17). Following this revelation FNV Jong (the Labour Union for youths) received over 2000 compaints from young peopleexperiencing this same issue. The episode further led to the involvement of Dutch MP Gijs van Dijk, resulting in a debate in the Dutch parliament over the systematic underpayment of young employees and a call for the government to rapidly solve the issue. https://www.youtube.com/embed/SPyBvTsS9yQ
Making the Political Personal
Another politically relevant example is the #BOOS documentary Terug Naar Je Eige Land (2018), in which Hofman followed the children of migrants who were about to be deported or had already been deported from The Netherlands. Using 9-year-old Iraqi Nemr as the main character throughout the campaign surrounding the film, Hofman critically addressed the personal situation of migrant children in The Netherlands by showing how they are affected by the so-called ‘Kinderpardon’, a law regulating their right to reside in the country.
In an attempt to keep 400 children who have lived in the netherlands for 5 years or longer from being deported and challenge the malfunctions of this law, he used the documentary to start a citizen’s initiative. The 40 thousand signatures required to make the issue a debate topic in the parliament was easily surpassed. As the episode received attention in national media and gained support from well-known personas, Hofman collected over 250 thousand signatures. #BOOS demonstrated the power of personal stories in public discussions and political debates on ‘the migrant issue’, with its impact illustrated by the many Dutch nationals who signed the petition in favour of the migrant children. https://www.youtube.com/embed/v1tjz6l7TGQ
#BOOS is a public voice reminding us we are part of a collective that has the power to solve issues, spark discussions and question and challenge authority
Certainly, through their content and actions, #BOOS is a public voice reminding us we are part of a collective that has the power to solve issues, spark discussions and question and challenge authority. They imply that if Tim Hofman, as an individual armed with a camera, is able to represent and resolve important issues through this program, the possibilities of a united and mobilized group of individual citizens are enormous.
NOS. (2018). Tim Hofman biedt Kamer handtekeningen voor kinderpardon aan. NOS.
Hofman, T. (2019). CBR HAAT ZIEKE MENSEN EN MARIJE KRIJGT EEN BOETE | #BOOS S02E54. YouTube.
Hofman, T. (2019). SIEM (10) VOOR 300 EURO GENAAID EN SAMET BELOOFT BETERSCHAP | #BOOS SO2E51. YouTube.
Hofman, T. (2018). #BOOS docu: Terug naar je eige land. YouTube.
Hofman, T. (2018). SUPERMARKT BELT POLITIE EN #BOOS REGELT DEBAT IN TWEEDE KAMER | #BOOS S02E17. YouTube.
Hofman, T. (2017). TIM BREEKT ZIJN KAAK EN TON HENDRIKS LIEGT ALLES BIJ ELKAAR | #BOOS AFL. 53. YouTube.
Redactie (2016). #BOOS-studenten krijgen honderden euro’s terug van huurbazin. Gelderlander.
Redactie (2017). Rechter: Tim Hofman mag #BOOS-aflevering waarin hij gebroken kaak oploopt online zetten. De Volkskrant.
Redactie (2018). Tim Hofman is boos en zorgt voor Kamervragen. RTl Boulevard.
Smulders, S. (2018). FNV Jong: ‘Supermarktmedewerkers check je contract’. Metro.