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Julia Ebner writes in the Guardian

on Tue, 09/26/2017 - 14:41

You are vetted,” IdentitasTH writes after testing my knowledge on “alt-right” counterculture, verifying my connections to the Austrian extreme right and checking the timelines of my avatar social media accounts. It was a few weeks ago that I first entered the virtual world of Infokrieg (Infowar), a closed online community run by Identitarians whose primary goal was to manipulate the German election.

Mobilisation efforts started in early July, when the Austrian Identitarian leader Martin Sellner opened an information warfare channel on the encrypted messaging app Telegram. His declared goal was to create a patriotic digital revolution; tilting the German election in favour of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) would only be the beginning. The extreme-right activists had even drafted a comprehensive handbook on media guerrillas that included instructions on “shitposting”, open-source meme warfare and social networking raids.

With 13.3% of the vote, AfD achieved everything the Identitarians could hope for: the far-right party tripled its vote from the last general election in 2013, comfortably took third place and becomes the first openly nationalist party to enter the German parliament since the second world war.

Users of Infokrieg and Reconquista Germania, a YouTube channel led by the far-right online celebrity Nikolai Alexander, posted triumphant messages. “We are getting stronger and stronger. Praise Kek! Party time!” wrote one, in reference to the fictional far-right land of “Kekistan”.

Reconquista Germania gave rise to a bigger, more extreme group, who convened over the gaming app Discord to form a community where neo-Nazi symbols and Holocaust-denying literature are found next to pro-AfD and anti-Merkel memes. In preparation for “Day X”, its members share comprehensive survival guides that include emergency stock lists, instructions on where to buy knives, how to build electroshockers and how to use weapons such as the FG-42, a Nazi-era gun originally used by paratroopers.

Over Discord, those committed to Reconquista’s endeavour, were set targets, provided with instructions and equipped with an arsenal of memes glorifying Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and the AfD and denouncing Islam, the EU and the “old parties”. This massive, tightly organised troll army was then released into the depths of social media, where the perks of online anonymity allowed them to be as shameless as possible and as merciless as necessary. In targeted bullying campaigns they attempted to shut up their foremost critics; in large-scale Twitter and YouTube raids they sought to discredit and mock their political opponents.

See full article here

The Rage: The Vicious Circle of Islamist and Far-Right Extremism
Julia Ebner
ISBN 9781788310321
Paperback, £11.99

Contact Yale Representation for more information.