February 21, 2020
Racist colouring book distributed publicly by far right German political party AfD
by Nikki Griffiths
Alternative for Germany (AfD) was only formed in 2013, but it has become the third largest political party in Germany. Eurosceptic and right-wing populist, it is supporting increasingly far-right views and is now, first and foremost, an anti-immigration party. It has been accused in the past of promoting neo-Nazi ideas and using neo-Nazi language, it is anti-abortion, anti-Islamic and is hostile to “alternative” lifestyles, defending the traditional nuclear family. While to many this may seem unacceptable, their rise in popularity is symptomatic of a wider, right-wing shift so many of us are all too familiar with. As Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) explains:
“It appeals both to the right-wing extremist fringe and to people dissatisfied with the status quo who may or may not have previously participated in the electoral system. Some experts have talked of a “radicalization of the center.” Studies have suggested that the AfD has siphoned off supporters from all of Germany’s established mainstream parties, and it currently boasts more than 23,000 members. Thus, some commentators see the rise of the party as part of the same populist international trend that saw voters in the UK approve the Brexit referendum and Americans elect Donald Trump as president of the United States.”
It therefore doesn’t come as a surprise that Nigel Farage, Brexit orchestrator and leader of the current Brexit party in the UK, took part in their 2017 election campaign, offering support.
The AfD are currently facing public scrutiny after a controversial move at an event held last Wednesday in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, at which party members handed out allegedly xenophobic colouring books. Entitled “North Rhine-Westphalia for colouring in,” the booklets showed images which included people brandishing guns from within vehicles, many of whom are holding Turkish flags; caricatures of women in burqas with a hand with a knife emerging menacingly towards a swimming pool, and offensive caricatures of people with bones in their hair and thick lips. An anonymous activist who attended the event to protest against the AfD told the BBC he was shocked by the contents of the book, saying it was akin to “fascist propaganda.”
You can view some of the images here.
Criticism came thick and fast, involving the police, opposition from other politicians and left-wing Antifa groups. Thomas Kutschaty, a local politician from the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) tweeted:
The #NoAfD has published a racist coloring book. Now it wants to incite children with its inhuman ideology. A note on waste recycling: This book belongs in the brown bin.
These responses were almost taken as a point of pride by AfD leader Markus Wagner, who said in a statement, as reported by DW: “when Antifa extremists attack artistic freedom, there can only be one answer: we increase the number of copies!”
The AfD parliamentary group accused the left’s criticism as an “attack on the freedom of art and satire” and said it was “inspired by a colouring book for adults.”
However, only a day later, AfD sent a statement to DW in apology, reading:
Although the majority of the drawings were unobjectionable and in line with the project assignment, unfortunately there were also a few that are definitely not OK and also obviously do not represent the beliefs of the parliamentary group.
Wagner also completely backtracked, saying: “The assessment I made yesterday was a mistake. The book should not have been published in this form.”
Either the AfD are arrogantly stupid, or they know exactly what they are doing. An analysis from DW succinctly describes their strategy of “shock-then-apologise,” saying:
The AfD is often accused of pursuing a strategy whereby one of the “far-right” members breaks a social taboo with an outlandish, offensive statement only for a “moderate” member to qualify his or her colleague’s remarks.
Will a too-late apology clear the party from any wrong-doing? Prosecutors and the state parliament are reportedly looking into the matter further, checking if the AfD had used funds improperly to distribute the book.
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.