Germany caught up in debate over far right

In the wake of the far-right riots in Chemnitz, prominent politicians and the head of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution are under fire for trivialising the scale of the violence. They are playing into the hands of the extremists, some commentators lament. Others stress that nationalism also feeds on legitimate demands.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

Nationalism is a search for stability

Nationalism is also an expression of a basic human need, columnist David Thunder writes in The Irish Times:

“Nationalist movements often express a legitimate desire to slow down unsustainable levels of social change, and to vindicate a society's right to defend its distinctive values and way of life. ... Like it or not, we must either accept some version of the nationalist narrative as a coping mechanism for resisting disruptive social change, or else search for a fresh narrative that prepares citizens for change, while also addressing their need to be anchored in a place they can call home.”

Spiegel Online (DE) /

Head of German security agency helping the AfD

The conduct of the head of Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maaßen, regarding the events in Chemnitz is reminiscent of the right-wing populists' approach to public relations, blogger and author Sascha Lobo writes in Spiegel Online:

“Not hesitating to make unproven or even untrue statements, and even going as far as hinting at conspiracies, letting these opinions sink in and then half-heartedly back-pedalling and insisting that he was misunderstood, as if to insinuate that 'the media are to blame'. With such behaviour Maaßen has actively helped the far-right AfD, whether this was intentional or not. ... Taken together with his half-dozen meetings with the AfD, all of which took place on his own initiative, Maaßen gives every impression of viewing the right-wing extremist as a political ally.”

The New York Times (US) /

Trivialisation strengthens extremists

Trivialising the criminal activities of right-wing extremists only legitimates their methods, German journalist Anna Sauerbrey warns in The New York Times:

“Mr. Seehofer and Mr. Kretschmer may justify their actions as keeping the true far right at bay, but such moves only push the door open wider. And the costs are already apparent. Fear-mongering and denigrating language have long become mainstream. Now undermining reality is no longer a taboo, either. The political establishment has started to play the populist game: smashing reality into bits of bias they can then use as ammunition in the struggle for power.”