Editor’s note: #BullshitRadar is LeipGlo‘s new political commentary column, featuring Leipzig-based writer and educator Rachael Clugston. The opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions of our webzine as a whole.
The politics of making a “threat”
By Rachael Clugston
When you threaten to press charges against someone over social media, you’d expect a bit of follow-up from supporters and the police. So the story broke over Twitter on October 9, under the AfD‘s Frauke Petry account, of a charge being brought against Angela Merkel. This was repeated on all the related AfD pages on Facebook. A press conference was also held and the story had some coverage in several newspapers, although this was trumped by Horst Seehofer‘s threat to appeal to the federal court following Merkel’s decision to allow an influx of refugees in without registration controls in place.
Using German legalese and quotes from the constitution to argue for charges to be pressed against Merkel for “people smuggling”, the AfD wanted to communicate to their frustrated supporters that this party is a party of deeds. Why this “deed” at this time? The announcement came the day after Petry herself admitted her marriage of 14 years was over and that she is now in a relationship with NRW AfD chef Marcus Pretzell. I’m not interested in dragging this up for the sake of it – the fact is that many within the party knew about this affair for months and had complained that Petry had defended Pretzell against claims of mismanagement, when she presented herself in the media as “unbiased” in her defense of him.
Using this personal alliance, Pretzell and Petry managed to garner the majority of delegates for their struggle against Bernd Lucke for the leadership challenge, which successfully determined the course and tenor of the AfD agenda today. Here the personal has political ramifications. I would argue that the timing of the “charge of people smuggling” has more to do with the news cycle than any intention to see Merkel go to jail. To my knowledge, after 5 requests for confirmation of the formal lodging of the legal claim, there has been no clear answer forthcoming.
This demonstrates that the AfD are only serious about one thing: They argue continually that the federal government is illegitimate. To agitate for jail time for the Chancellor of a country feeds directly into the discourse of elected leaders being “traitors” to their country and their people. This signposts the virulence of the vocabulary: “Volksveräter”, “Hochverrat”, “politischer Amoklauf”.
Sadly, this political climate has already led to threats against several politicians, culminating in the attempted assassination of the newly elected mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker. The promotion of “extra-parliamentary” actions such as regular demonstrations to instrumentalise a segment of the population against representative democracy cannot be seen as anything other than a veiled attack on democracy. Every Wednesday in Erfurt, Björn Höcke claims to speak for “the people”, apart from any mandate. Petry is unwilling or unable to pull him into line – while she types sophisticatedly formulated legalese, he encourages crowd chants and argues that Germany is in the phase prior to a civil war (“Vorbürgerkrieg“).
Calls for early new elections are also entwined with rumours about vote manipulation. As far as the AfD is concerned, ‘whatever it takes’ rather than the rule of law is being encouraged through such symbolism as a ‘Strafanzeige’ on the nation’s leader or a German flag draped over a chair on “Günther Jauch”.