The German public broadcaster SWR2 had in April 2018 published its findings on a several thousand strong German far-right troll group called "Reconquista Germanica." After one year of undercover investigations the team unearthed a far-fledged network of right-wing extremists, regularly launching hate attacks against undesired websites and people.1
Organizational chart of Reconquista Germanica.
Reconquista Germanica, founded by a certain "Nikolai Alexander," emerged in the run-up to the 2017 German elections. Although the activists are presenting themselves as a satirical project by gamers and LARPers, it is in fact a group of far-right extremists, coordinating targeted online attacks against political opponents, mainstream media and adverse institutions. The group has a YouTube channel with over 31,000 subscribers, which is currently blocked in Germany, but is still available in other countries.2 They organize their activities primarily via the chat app Discord with the declared aim of strengthening the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Within closed forums they discuss their next targets, and hashtag campaigns, in order to manipulate social media algorithms and the political discourse online.
The hierarchically organized network (see chart) probes its future participants, mostly male and under 30, with specific questions, for example: "What does it mean for you to be a patriot?" Or: "How do you imagine Germany's future according to your personal dream scenario?” Every day there are new "orders" to flood undesired posts on Youtube, Twitter or other social networks with hate comments, and to disseminate racist content. Increased engagement can help members rise in the hierarchy. They then become “meme lords”, or “storm troopers". For targeted hate actions, they use terms like "special task force," vocabulary borrowed from the military jargon of the Third Reich.
Martin Sellner, figurehead of the Identitarian Movement Austria, had according to SWR2 research “VIP” status on the server of "Reconquista Germanica." Sellner said in an interview in this regard: "I think these are actually normal maneuvers in the information war. Hating, and trolls are simply part of the turf. If you cannot deal with that you should not enter that turf."
One of the early victims of these online attacks was the independent journalist Rayk Anders3, who, after having critisized the AfD in a Youtube video, was flooded with around 2000 hate comments in just two days.4 Shortly after, in September 2017, around 1500 members of the Discord chat group were spreading hateful memes and hashtags on social media in the context of an important TV debate between Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz, causing their comments to be displayed among the top tweets on Twitter.5
Logo of Reconquista Germanica
The Reconquista Germanica Youtube channel is particularly pro-Russian, and recommends Russian media, such as Sputnik and RT, over Western media. In this context it published for example a video "The credibility of Russian media: Why Russian sources are the better alternative."6 Many of their videos host Russian commentators or have links to Russia, shown in titles such as “Nikolai Starikov: The Central Banking System,"7 "Russian state TV on the Campact conference,"8 etc.
Since the existence of Reconquista Germanica became known, an active opposition has formed under the hashtag #ReconquistaInternet. It is trying to map out the troll army, as well as helping out people attacked by it.9
RECONQUISTA GERMANICA - AND NOW?
Nikolai Alexander has been running a successful right-wing Youtube channel for years. In 2017 he also launched #ReconquistaGermanica. Which kind of battle is fought by internet activism? Together with Alexander we are looking for answers.
Ein Prozent interviewed Reconquista Germanica's Nikolai Alexander in mid-August 2020.
- 1. "Wie Rechtsextreme Hass im Netz organisieren," SWR2, April 26, 2018, https://www.swr.de/swr2/leben-und-gesellschaft/article-swr-11346.html.
- 2. Reconquista Germany on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/ReconquistaGermany.
- 3. Twitter profile of Rayk Andres, https://twitter.com/RaykAnders.
- 4. "Wahlkampf: Wo sich die Rechte sammelt," ZDF, September 20, 2017, http://web.archive.org/web/20171125002900/https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/heute/zdfcheck17-wahlkampf-wo-sich-die-rechte-im-netz-sammelt-100.html.
- 5. Karsten Schmehl, "Diese geheimen Chats zeigen, wer hinter dem Meme-Angriff #Verräterduell aufs TV-Duell steckt," BuzzFeed News, September 3, 2017, https://www.buzzfeed.com/de/karstenschmehl/willkommen-in-der-welt-von-discord-teil1?utm_term=.qwYmREMLx7#.rhYwpAjDr3.
- 6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFnfgUmsoKE
- 7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKYT2VsIBVQ
- 8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhCsVn-4OqA
- 9. Alexander Pearson, "German satirist Jan Böhmermann wants to shower online hate with love trolls," Deutsche Welle, May 3, 2018, https://www.dw.com/en/german-satirist-jan-b%C3%B6hmermann-wants-to-shower-online-hate-with-love-trolls/a-43644818?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf.
- 10. Twitter post of Ein Prozent, August 11, 2020, https://twitter.com/ein_prozent/status/1293226513945567233.