“For obvious reasons, radical right mobilisation in Germany faces formidable institutional, political, and cultural obstacles. Previous outfits such as the ‘Republicans’ (REP), the ‘National Democrats’ (NPD), or the ‘German People’s Union’ (DVU) were occasionally successful at the local, regional, or EU level but were quickly stigmatised as neo-Nazi’s by mainstream political actors and the media and taken over by backward-looking political extremists who could not hope to attract a broader constituency.
The new ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD), however, was created by a group of disaffected right-wingers from Germany’s centre right parties and has so far avoided any involvement with the past. While the party stops short of embracing outright right-wing populism and hard-core euroscepticism, its somewhat ambivalent stance at the very margin of Germany’s party system has attracted a large number of activists from various right-wing backgrounds within a very short span of time, and has mobilised a substantial number of right-wing voters in five subsequent national and state-level elections.
Social media plays a crucial role for the party’s mobilisation strategy, with a reach that goes far beyond the party faithful: The AfD’s Facebook wall has become one of the largest right-wing forums on the German-speaking internet. While a ban on overt extremism is enforced by the party, the wall a platform for homophobes, immigration sceptics, Christian fundamentalists, Prussian nostalgics, anti-feminists, Islam critics, and just about everyone who opposes diversity and the policies that support it. While the wall directs activists, attention and resources towards the party, it also provides an echo-chamber for those who disagree with the relatively moderate policy proposals and general appearance of the current leadership. This exploratory paper looks at the role this page is playing not just for the AfD but more generally for the dynamics of the wider, highly diverse right-wing subculture in Germany.”