For clarification, I don’t profess to be an expert on the far-right. I certainly hold an interest and follow their activity from a distance, however I have never conducted any deep investigations into the movement. What I have written here is information collected through my own observations, light investigations and reports from journalists monitoring the far-right. I recommend following the excellent investigatory work of Bellingcat and Popular Front for detailed analyses of this complex movement.
To the Right, to the Right
Since publishing Part 1 at the start of May, the situation in Germany has changed. Although lockdown restrictions have eased, the weekly protests are continuing and for the next few parts I want to focus primarily on the 9th May demonstration, due to the particular prominence of the far-right. A recent investigation by Die Zeit revealed nefarious Telegram channels used by anti-lockdown protestors that spread far-right conspiracy theories and propaganda. At the protest they outnumbered the leftist, anti-capitalist and Antifa groups and they were certainly more vocal. An expansive police force attempted to retain control over the hostile environment, however demonstrators eventually manoeuvred past police, escaping the narrow streets they were confined to and congregated in the central square, Alexanderplatz. At this point, I saw protestors climbing up a fountain and the scene unravelled into a chaotic mess, with over 1000 people dominating central Berlin. The chant, ‘Wir sind das Volk’, translated to ‘We are the people’, echoed through the air, which caused the German friend I was with to grow concerned. Out of historical context these words may seem innocuous, indeed quite typical of a protest, nevertheless they have became severely racially charged in recent years. Originating in the twilight of the GDR when frustrated citizens protested against the oppressive communist regime, the slogan has since been adopted by the nationalist PEGIDA organisation: an anti-Islam, xenophobic populist movement formed in Dresden in 2014. Despite its anti-authoritarian origin, the chant now has a firm association with Germany’s nationalist right.
As mentioned in Part 1, several politicians from the anti-immigrant, PEGIDA friendly, Alternative für Deutschland party were spotted at the April demonstrations, having positioned themselves as the leading political voice against the lockdown. PEGIDA and the AfD share many ideas; both present themselves as the acceptable face of the far-right, whilst successfully attracting moderates and extremists. Indeed, PEDGIDA’s 19-point manifesto managed to gain somewhat mainstream support by straying away from overtly racist language, even claiming that they are ‘for the admission of war refugees’. Yet one point in particular jumps out and has come to define German, far-right nationalism: ‘PEGIDA are for the preservation and protection of our Judeo-Christian influenced occidental culture’. Similarly, the AfD manifesto exclaims the party wants to prevent the ‘creeping extinction of European cultures’. What becomes clear is that the far-right believe European culture to be under threat, with Islam as the culprit. PEGIDA and the AfD may stay clear of explicit racism but this narrative runs in line with a particular far-right theory whose roots are steeped in racist history: the White Genocide conspiracy. This belief has also become prevalent in another country also dealing with mass protests and an increase in far-right activity: the United States. In this article I will examine the parallels between the US and Germany; the two countries with the most prolific anti-lockdown protests. Both have been marked by a surge in far-right ideology percolating into the mainstream, so let’s see how and why this is happening and the reason the far-right are taking part in the demonstrations.
To begin with, we need to dissect the White Genocide narrative at the heart of the far-right in both countries. It’s an idea that harks back to the most infamous conspiracy theory of the 20th century: the Stabbed in the Back myth, which led to the demonisation and eventual slaughter of Europe’s Jews. After Germany’s defeat in WW1, a theory amongst the right-wing began to gain momentum suggesting that the war had not been lost on the battlefields, but rather at home. Blame was placed on the liberals, anti-war activists, socialists and communists, which included a significant number of Jews, claiming that these groups had betrayed Germany due to their anti-war and anti-Kaiser actions. Proponents of this theory believed that Germany was still in a strong position to fight and win the war, despite the huge amount of evidence proving that Germany was out of resources and outnumbered.
The myth became instrumental propaganda by the Nazis, used by Hitler to rile up support through the frustrations of impoverished and dispirited Germans. This promulgated further anti-Semitic sentiment and a belief that Jews were responsible for Germany’s economic depression as part of a great ‘Jewish conspiracy’ to cripple Germany and take control. The fact that many Jews in the Weimar Republic were amongst the wealthiest people in the country and had begun to play an influential role in German politics, helped synthesise the Jewish elite conspiracy. By this time, Hitler had become obsessed with eugenics and the concept of racial hierarchy and hygiene, fixating on a book titled The Passing of the Great Race by American author Madison Grant. Grant’s theory segregated Europe into 3 racial groups: Nordic, Mediterranean and Alpine; with Nords (aka Aryans) sitting at the top of all races, as evidenced by dubious scientific ‘proof’. Grant depicted Nordic culture as being threatened to extinction by immigration from less-desirable races from Southern Europe and Asia and other non-whites. Evidently Grant’s theory made an impression on Hitler, as shortly after he came to power the Nazis published a pamphlet titled Are the White Nations Dying?, confirming Grant’s concerns of White Genocide and thrusting the conspiracy theory into the spotlight. By the time the Third-Reich was in full swing, the theory had poisoned the mind of an entire nation, creating a narrative that Jews were untrustworthy traitors, scientifically proven to be racially inferior and, most ominously, they were a threat to Germany’s Christian way of life.
Le Grand Replacement
Almost 100 years later and these myths may have primarily dissipated, but they never fully went away. Instead they found a home- the Internet-which has allowed them to sprout and propagate faster than ever before. As such, we have seen the mutation of the White Genocide theory into the Great Replacement theory; an equally egregious myth, inciting terrorist attacks across the Western world. It was formed at the start of the 2010s, when French author Renaud Camus published ‘Le Grand Replacement’, a book echoing the White Genocide theory, but with a fixation on Muslims rather than Jews. The book became a Bible-like-text for Internet trolls and extremists, circulating YouTube and notorious Internet messenger boards, providing answers to their frustrations. Then in March 2019, the most significant terrorist attack of the last 3 years took place in Christchurch, New Zealand. A terrorist of European heritage, opened fire on 2 mosques, murdering 51 Muslims and injuring 49, becoming the worst terrorist incident in New Zealand’s history and shaking the country to its core. In his manifesto, which he published on Twitter and 8-Chan before the attack, he directly referenced both the Great Replacement and White Genocide theory, as well as the 2011 Norway attack also targeting Muslims. His use of far-right Internet memes suggests he was embedded in Internet culture and likely discovered the Great Replacement through a far-right messaging board. Moreover, in a horrific demonstration of the Internet and real world colliding, the terrorist live-streamed the ordeal to Facebook, where an audience was watching the massacre unfold in real time as if it were a film.
Within a year, Christchurch sparked 3 similar incidents in the US and 2 in Germany. The most violent of these was the targeting of Hispanic Americans during the El Paso shooting, resulting in 23 deaths and 23 injuries. This in turn inspired the Halle shooting, in which a 27-year-old German attacked a Synagogue and Turkish restaurant, killing 2 and injuring 2. Both terrorists referenced the Great Replacement, with the El Paso shooter directly referring to the Christchurch attack, and the Halle shooter proclaiming El Paso as his inspiration. The latest terrorist attack in Germany took place in February 2020, in Hanau. Although the attacker didn’t specifically reference the Great Replacement, his actions certainly replicated its ideology, as he murdered 9 people of immigrant backgrounds and injured 5 in an attack on hookah bars. Like the Christchurch terrorist, he also mentioned his support of Donald Trump, offering an insight into how contemporary American nationalism has infiltrated far more than just American politics. Trumps election was a turning point in populist nationalism worldwide, symbolising the re-birth of an ideology once destined to remain firmly in history. From his election, and the subsequent surge in popularity of nationalist politicians, a shared narrative is currently being lived out by far-right supporters across the Occident; one in which white populations are at risk of being wiped out unless they fight back and save their race.
When we zoom out and compare both the US’ and Germany’s overall terrorist attacks in the last 4 years, we see stark similarities, with both countries being hardest hit by Islamic terrorist attacks in 2016. The USA confirmed 4 major Islamic terrorist attacks that year, whilst Germany confirmed 5. However since then, Germany hasn’t recorded any Islamic terrorist acts and America has only recorded 2. Instead, the trends in both countries have been a sharp rise in left-wing vs. right-wing extremism. There have been 14 major terrorist attacks in Germany from left-wing and right-wing groups since 2017, 10 in 2019-2020 alone. Far-left attacks resulted in 0 fatalities and injuries, aside from a few unfortunate torched cars, whilst right-wing attacks resulted in 15 deaths and 9 injuries; all of them related to immigration, including the assassination of Walter Lübcke, a pro-migrant politician. It is not surprising that similarities are being pointed out between today’s state of affairs and the Weimar Republic, an era in which violent street clashes between the left and right were routine, whilst blame was piled onto minorities.
The United States is a little different, wherein terrorism is less of a dichotomy between left and right and more between races. Of the 16 terrorist attacks since the start of 2017, 11 have been ethnicity related, excluding the 2017 NYC Islamic terrorist attack. It is not just white on non-white; in fact African Americans make up 3 of the perpetrators. The last 2-recorded terrorist attacks in the US were directed at the Jewish community by 3 different African American attackers. Meanwhile, 2 years earlier, a 25-year-old Sudanese man shot at white American churchgoers, injuring 8 and killing 1 as revenge for the Charleston church shooting of 2015. The far-right, however, have committed the most deadly attacks. In addition to El Paso, 11 people were killed and 6 injured in the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting, the most deadly attack on American Jews in the US’ history. Although the terrorist did not directly reference White Genocide in any manifesto, his online activity suggests he was also a believer.
What does all this information suggest? Well it proves that old tensions in Germany and America never really left, but have risen with a vengeance. The election of Trump has brought a surrealism to the world that countenances conspiracy theories and disinformation. That, combined with the bleeding of the online world into the real, has resulted in a bizarre and uncertain environment that crosses borders and compiles a narrative that is uniting the occidental far-right. Certainly a group of people who felt unrepresented by neo-Liberal and progressive values found a resurgence in power in this digital sphere, using conspiracy theories to motivate their movement and convince themselves of their beliefs. It is unfortunate, however, that in this time of over-information they were only able to find answers to their frustrations on the Internet, falling into the trap of radicalisation.
Most alarming of all is the seeping of these theories into mainstream politics. It is concerning that the third largest political party in Germany is referring to the ‘extinction of European culture’ as if it were fact, normalising an insidious ideology. Of course not every supporter is going to go out and commit atrocities, but these parties are attracting extremists who share this belief, injecting fears and resentment and pushing the most vulnerable even further into the conspiracy abyss. Although there have been internal arguments within the AfD recently, due to their stance on the coronavirus and neo-Nazi revelations, thus weakening their influence and potentially pushing away more centrist voters, they will no doubt have strengthened their position amongst hard-line supporters. Moreover, there is the possibility that they garner further support from the fringes because of their blatant questioning of the lockdown, which will be attractive for voters suspicious of Chancellor Merkel's COVID response. With conspiracy theories flying around and people spending more time on the Internet searching for answers and coming in contact with extreme ideas, it is likely the AfD will emerge with a more radical support base. Unfortunately the pandemic has strengthened the far-right and it is likely we will see more attacks like Christchurch in the post-coronavirus future.
If you’re reading this and thinking “That didn’t explain at all why the far-right were at the protest, in fact Dominic veered off the protests completely on this one!” Well, you are correct. This rather depressing and heavy section is just the prelude in order to provide some background information on a very dangerous theory and to show you why it is concerning that the AfD were even at the protests in the first place. I have plenty more to say on the topic. But I thought it would be too off-putting to completely emotionally drain you in one excessively long article, so it’s been divided into manageable chunks. The next section, will delve into the oppression of white’s and everyone’s favourite antagonist, the Elites (again).