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Print Is Dead: Not For Germany’s Radical Right

Extremist publications in Germany defy the belief that print is dead, and that radical-right innovation happens online.

Recent years have repeatedly seen debates over the radical right’s use of online spaces, especially social media platforms, to spread ideas, to connect and to mobilize. Indeed, the (no longer so new) visibility of the radical right on Facebook and YouTube, for example, has shifted focus away from traditional formats such as newspapers and magazines.

However, such outlets still play a role and, judged by recent developments in Germany, keep emerging in ever more manifold ways. Of course, Germany has long had its fair share of radical-right magazines (the anti-fascist Der Rechte Rand (the right fringe) has recently provided an excellent overview); among many, contemporary ones include the “mainstreamed” ZUERST! (“first,” since 2010), the new-right Sezession (“secession,” since 2003), the extreme-right ecology Umwelt & Aktiv (“environment & active,” since 2007) and the unashamedly neo-Nazi N.S. Heute (“N.S. today,” since 2017).

Two very recent publications speak to an international experience: Arcadi — whose managing editor is a local politician of the Alternative for Germany party with close connections to the identitarian movement — and the extreme-right Werk-Kodex, which illustrate the (aesthetic) qualities characterizing some of these publications. Indeed, these two publications demonstrate, to varying extents, the way in which an edgy, sometimes even glossy style and content related to (pop-)cultural, life-world-related aspects are thematized by radical-right sources — sources which not any longer focus simply on, for instance, the heroism of yesterdays’ German soldiers.

Right-Wing VICE

Consider Arcadi, which has been available online since 2016 and published its first print issue in late 2017. It prides itself as being the “[c]ultural magazine for young Europeans,” a project Martin Sellner referred to as “right-wing VICE.” In the above-mentioned issue of Der Rechte Rand, Nina Juliane Pink speaks of a “network project.” Indeed, through personal overlaps, advertising by, for example, the aforementioned Sezession and ZUERST! as well as ads by a neo-Nazi online shops, mutual referencing and meetings (such as at the Arcadi festival featuring Martin Sellner), the magazine serves as a hinge between the radical-right Alternative for Germany, identitarians, members of fraternities and neo-Nazis.

Its most recent, third issue appeared in June 2018. Issues have been structured along the lines of politics, diet, health and sport, travelling, culture and lifestyle. In terms of length, the two main sections are politics and, even more extensive, culture. The former has featured interviews with Brittany Pettibone, a discussion of the identitarian campaign Defend Europe and an interview with two young, “conservative” women arguing against contemporary feminism (“let’s use the advantages which nature has given to us”). The substantially larger section on culture includes articles on music (black metal, Lana Del Rey and alt-right synthpop), art (drawings/photos of Spain’s Falangists), an optimistic preview of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, video games and a lot on comics.

As interesting as this focus on (pop-)culture is the section on diet, health and sport that includes pieces on mixed martial arts and maté (“Club Maté is de facto, in its development, an original German beverage which serves very well as the beverage of a modern German youth”), though already in its second issue readers are told that “Maté was yesterday” and that mixery is the new “right-wing beverage of the scene.” There’s no accounting for taste, but the author is sure that “I, for my part, can get something out of ‘mix beer, not peoples.’ Cheers!”

The second publication, Werk-Kodex, has only been published once to date, this spring. Whether or not the publication will establish itself is open to debate. Magazines less sophisticated in their layout but likely to speak to a similar core audience, such as Hier & Jetzt (here & now) and Gegenlicht (against the light), have not been able to do so. However, its layout and workmanship are attractive and, within the scene, the project has been received positively by the aforementioned N.S. Heute and the bustling neo-Nazi Patrick Schröder. The magazine aims to cover “timeless topics” and has an explicitly metapolitical, cultural orientation. It aims to “think the whole to understand the individual: Germany. … to offer orientation concerning key national and völkisch topics, to describe existential aspects, to provide suggestions and at the same time to entertain the observer sophistically.”

Each issue is supposed to cover a key concept through three “holistic categories”: man-space-culture. Issue 1 deals with “provocation” and, maybe surprisingly, opens with an extensive interview with the well-known, 77-year-old former communard Rainer Langhans (“I do not bother about folk culture and its preservation respectively”). Beyond Langhans, prominent contributors are closely related to the extreme-right/neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). For example, Jürgen Gansel (NPD Saxony) is present with an article on provocation as a means for societal change; Udo Voigt (NPD party chairman between 1996 and 2011 and, since 2014, member of the European Parliament) is interviewed and “attests” that the Federal Republic is “under foreign rule and [under] control of the occupiers.”

Sascha Roßmüller, another NPD politician, writes about provocation, culture and space-time; and yet another interview presents Frank Rennicke, (in)famous singer/songwriter who was twice nominated as NPD candidate for federal presidency. However, the real star is, it seems, the magazine itself, which, although sometimes cluttered, sets new standards concerning the layout of radical-right magazines and their aesthetics — the website offers a fairly good idea, even though one cannot touch the thick, glossy pages.

Print Prestige

What can be taken from this brief look at two radical-right magazines other that noticing immediately, that all four issues feature women on their cover page? First, while these two cases are just examples, both defy the belief that “print is dead,” and that radical-right innovation happens online. Fabian Virchow has recently argued that print continues to attract as it speaks to reading habits of the magazines’ audience, the fact that good-looking print has become cheaper and that print facilitates continuity.

Maybe more specifically concerning this latter point one might add that print publications also demonstrate strength within the scene — a magazine as a prestigious anchor. More generally, these publications attest to the increasing competence within the radical-right scene. Second, both publications illustrate an appetite for metapolitics.

Such an endeavor is not new, of course. Though especially Arcadi points to the creation of radical-right cultural markers for the youth, markers that propose ideal, radical-right subjects, partly based on the appropriation of mainstream (pop-)cultural texts. These elements operate on a much more fundamental level, than say, the battle cry “Ausländer raus” (foreigners get out). To be aware of how the radical right — in no way limited to these two publications — has dealt with this latter aspect remains a key site for every serious analysis of its past and present.

*[Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right is a partner institution of Fair Observer.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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