SHOCK FACTOR SUCCESS: HOW AFD CAMPAIGNING TACTICS INFILTRATED THE MAINSTREAM

ANJA FRENCH

NOVEMBER 2017





On 24th September 2017, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) became the first radical right wing party to enter the Bundestag since the 1960s. Not only did the AfD achieve 13% of the votes, they also became the third largest party in Germany, despite the party only being formed in 2013. From my own experience of being in Munich during the election period, I felt overwhelmed by the blatantly accessible anti-immigration, Islamophobic and misogynistic ideologies present within the AfD’s advertising campaign. I could not help but think that the AfD’s provocative advertisement campaign helped to send a wave of nationalism across Germany.

In comparison to the UK, campaign posters appeared to be an important advertising tool for all parties during the time of the election. In Munich, the most shocking and memorable posters undoubtedly belonged to the AfD. The strong emphasis on posters as opposed to television advertisements facilitated the infiltration into the German mainstream. Through their outreach to a mass daily audience, posters became a very democratic campaign tool during the German election. Furthermore, through the use of a medium as conventional as the poster, it heightened the AfD’s “credibility” as people were encountering right-wing extremism on an everyday basis through something as commonplace as a poster. A clear aim of the AfD’s provocative advertising campaign was to normalise the identification with the extreme right. Due to the perpetual indoctrination of the AfD advertising campaign, I felt that people could easily become desensitised to their aggressive ideologies, which would perhaps provide people with the social acceptance and normalisation that they felt they needed to vote for the far right.

The advertisement which appeared to be the most frequently used, and in my opinion, the most offensive, combined both blatant misogyny with Islamophobia by featuring two women in bikinis walking down a beach. The slogan read “Burkas? Wir steh’n auf Bikinis” (“Burqas? We’re into bikinis”), which promoted both the isolation of Muslims and the oppression of women. It is important to add that the image of the two women was captured from behind, contributing further to the overt sexualisation of women within this advertisement campaign. It is apparent that the AfD’s demographic is a populist audience, hence why the AfD attempt to target people’s frustrated emotions regarding immigration. This specific advertisement also suggests that they are mainly targeting a heterosexual male audience through the overt sexualisation of women. Furthermore, through eliciting Islamophobia within a mainstream advertisement campaign by claiming that a key part of Islam, such as the burqa, is unacceptable within German culture, it gives right-wing extremism “legitimacy”. Through the legitimate platform of a political poster campaign, this could again provide people with the social acceptance that they require to vote for the AfD. And finally, the slogan used in all of their poster campaigns, “Trau dich Deutschland” (“Believe in yourself, Germany”), again attempts to fill the mainstream audience with a confidence in the far right, which highlights the emotive aspect of the campaign

The AfD also specifically targeted Muslims through their campaign poster, which depicted a piglet with the caption “Der Islam? Passt nicht zu unserer Küche” (“Islam? It doesn’t suit our kitchen”). This suggests that Muslims who choose not to eat pork are not adhering to the norms of German cuisine and consequently not to German culture. The advertisement attempts to alienate Muslims by implying that fundamental aspects within German culture such as cuisine are not compatible with Islam. Again, by isolating Muslims and portraying them as the “other” to a mainstream audience, it gives people an excuse to discriminate against them. In addition to this, the use of the possessive pronoun “unserer” targets a German audience as a collective and implies togetherness and commonality amongst all Germans. This collectivist nationalism could be worryingly reminiscent of the “Ein Volk”(“One people”) ideology used in Nazi propaganda, used to unite the Germans as one race.

Another campaign poster, which contained ideologies reminiscent of the Nazi era, depicted a pregnant woman smiling with the caption “Neue Deutsche? Machen wir selber” (“New Germans? We make them ourselves”). The belief that Germans can make “new Germans” by themselves is worryingly similar to the Aryan race ideologies during the Nazi era, which also encouraged Germans to maintain “racial purity”. The imagery of the smiling woman on the poster could be seen as glorification of childbirth, which can in turn seen to mirror the Nazi propaganda of women being persuaded to produce multiple children for the Fatherland, Germany. This advertisement contains apparent connotations of anti-immigration ideologies by suggesting they do not need non-Germans to create “new Germans”. This implies that immigrants are not necessary within Germany’s future.

To conclude, I believe that the AfD’s provocative and aggressive advertising campaign undoubtedly contributed to their success in the recent German election. Through the infiltration of the mainstream, the AfD’s advertising campaign gave right-wing extremism a political platform to be heard. Through the democratic campaign tool of something as ubiquitous as campaign posters, the AfD were able to indoctrinate a wide audience on a daily basis with xenophobia, Islamophobia and misogyny in their new aggressive method of provocative advertising. As such, I believe that the AfD’s offensive poster campaign was successful in somewhat normalising these prejudices and therefore gave people the social acceptance they previously sought after to vote for the far right.