Right-wing ideologues from Germany react enthusiastically to the events in Washington – they themselves want to do even better.
August 2020, Berlin: Dozens of people with imperial war flags break through barriers on the fringes of a rally of Corona deniers, run past security forces onto the steps of the Reichstag building. Only with difficulty can the police hold them back.
January 2021, Washington, D.C.: Hundreds of people storm the Capitol with “Trump 2020” flags, invade the building, trash offices. Congressmen have to be taken to safety while Joe Biden’s election victory is about to be officially declared.
Right-wing extremists at work, in the USA already one step further in the destruction of democracy, while in Berlin a mixture of vaccination opponents, corona deniers, right-wingers and followers of the QAnon myth came together. What they have in common, here and there, is that many of them see Trump as a savior who fights for the good and against the secret machinations of the “elites”.
The attacks from the conspiracy ideology milieu in Germany are still limited to inflammatory tirades on the Internet and minor riots; the supporters spread false information and dream of Day X. The messaging service Telegram with its chats and forums is their outrage machine. What happened in the USA is commented on enthusiastically. Experts observe with concern how the storming of the Capitol could incite the scene.
In Telegram groups called “Freedom Chat” or “Peace, Freedom, Facts,” they agitate and network. Groups like the “Reichsbürger” channel “Deutschlandtreff” or the group “Q-Anon Deutschland” have gained members since the protests against the Corona measures.
In the chat “Info Thuringia stands together”, someone writes about the official final result of the U.S. presidential election, which is to be announced this evening in the Capitol: “Now, despite the best evidence of all time, we will perhaps experience the greatest undermining of a legal system?! But we Germans know this from the last few months.”
The vegan cook Attila Hildmann, one of the main figures of the scene, comments: “Have they copied well from us GERMANS!” FSN, the media portal of neo-Nazi Patrick Schröder, writes: “Donald Trump 10x more based than most AfD deputies in all parliaments.” The illustration to this text is a jab. Far-right Youtuber Hagen Grell cheers on his channel, “THIS is a storm on parliament (not like back in Berlin).” His channel has over 21,000 subscribers.
The rhetoric is not new. For months, there has been talk in the chats and groups of wanting to overthrow the government and, in particular, Chancellor Angela Merkel: “[…] We will, can and must free ourselves from the Merkel regime,” comments a user under a video of the channel “Team Heimat,” except that, in view of the U.S., “99 percent of Germans have forgotten that they have to take care of Germany first.”
Judith Rahner of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has been following the reactions to the storming of the Capitol. “I perceive a euphoria in the scenes. These are exactly the images that this scene needs to celebrate the fall of the hated democracy.” That heavily armed men in Washington were able to gain access to the heart of democracy without much resistance is alarming, he said. Not least because this would fuel the dream of chaos and self-empowerment in Germany as well.
As it becomes clear that security forces are bringing the situation in Washington under control, some see the riots as a staging by the so-called Deep State or “the Antifa,” with the aim of denigrating Donald Trump. Right-wing Youtuber Heiko Schrang talks about the “alleged Trump coup” and a “fairy tale.”
The “Deep State” is a conspiracy myth from the environment of QAnon supporters. According to this myth, political events in public are a show to cover up what is actually happening behind the scenes. The followers of this myth see Donald Trump as a hero who exposes the Deep State and fights for good.
Such narratives of secret plans and higher powers are grounded in an anti-Semitism that has been a unifying element between Reichsbürger, right-wing nationalists, QAnon supporters, and contrarians in online chat groups since the beginning of the pandemic.
The “corona critics” have long since ceased to be concerned only with measures to contain the pandemic. Instead, anti-democratic resentments and right-wing extremist views are exchanged in chats and at demonstrations. Under a clear name, a man from Paderborn shares the lie in the Telegram group there: “30 MILLION DEATH VICTIMS BY “LOCKDOWN MEASURES.” This dwarfs even HOLOCAUST!!!” The normalization of Nazi comparisons, Holocaust relativization and unconstitutional symbols – all common.
For some, what Democrats consider a savage attack on the center of U.S. democracy is still far too little. Jürgen Elsässer, publisher of the far-right Compact magazine, published his opinion on the riots in the U.S. early Thursday morning: the “revolution” had failed, which was due in particular to the fact that the protesters were too peaceful and not organized enough.
Elsässer also disappointedly calls the riots in Berlin a “storm”. The head of the Austrian Identitarian movement, Martin Sellner, found the action “tactically bad,” as he shares via Telegram, “too chaotic.” He immediately gives instructions on how it should have been done instead.
In the chats, hatred of public media is also rampant, which is discharged in gloating about violent riots against journalists in Washington.
Biden’s election in the U.S. and the measures to combat the corona pandemic in Germany have nothing to do with each other. And yet they are linked in Telegram chats when misinformation is shared about the allegedly “stolen election” in the U.S. and about curfews in Germany. This reinforces the vague feeling: those up there in government are hoodwinking us down here, the “people.”
Those who invaded the U.S. capital’s Capitol on Wednesday and those who applaud it in lateral-thinking groups have more in common than a refusal to wear a breathing mask amid a global pandemic.
Hostility to democracy and racism are close. While the racist Southern flag flies in the pictures from the Capitol, the Reich war flag, considered a Nazi symbol in Germany, appeared repeatedly at Querdenken demonstrations last summer.
What unites the majority of people in the images from the Capitol with the driving influencers and tone-setting contrarians on Telegram is that they are white, mostly male and, by their own admission, concerned about the well-being of their country. In a comment on a video from the Capitol, someone writes: “Today is Patriots Day, burn them down the red fascists.”
When the images of the “Black Lives Matter” movement went around the world last summer, they were not met with sympathy in the Telegram groups of lateral thinkers; on the contrary, the demonstrators were called terrorists. After the attack on the Capitol failed, Black Lives Matter activists were also accused of inciting the crowd.
The misinformation and doomsday scenarios in Telegram chats have long created a climate in Germany, too, in which the boundaries of what can be thought and said are shifting. This is dangerous, warns Judith Rahner: “Apocalyptic scenarios, such as those described in the forums, legitimize violence. I see a danger of enormous radicalization there. All it takes is two or three people to go crazy.”
With the sharing of events like the one in Washington, a new “we” feeling is emerging among those who have fallen out with friend:ing and family over the rejection of the Corona measures.
Common enemy images – Angela Merkel, the “Deep State” or the Antifa – weld strangers together. From the mask-free rave in the supermarket to the “storming” of the Reichstag, the new group feeling brings people onto the streets who did not know each other before and who, through these shared experiences, once again experience a sense of belonging.
The extent to which this new self-image can also lead to anti-democratic self-empowerment was demonstrated by the attack on the Capitol. Through networking in public chats, the far-right echo chamber is also growing in Germany. From the very beginning, right-wing ideologies have been the basis for the kind of debate that is now being conducted by lateral thinkers, right-wing extremists and conspiracy ideologues on Telegram.
by Jeremy Abbott – American Correspondent – FN