The scenes in Chemnitz have rightly horrified not just activists and antifascists in Germany, but people around the world appalled at the appearance of right-wing hooligans flooding the streets of Germany, making the Hitler salute and using the death of an individual to stoke an openly fascist world outlook. However, while few doubt the seriousness of the situation, press coverage has been subpar in Germany and simply abominable in the English-speaking world.
Since the beginning of the "refugee crisis" and Chancellor Angela Merkel's (CDU) decision to adopt a public face (though hardly a policy) of welcoming migrants, the media has promoted the concept that Germans "left behind" by economic and social change or otherwise upset with the move have been on one end of a "sharp divide" and a "backlash."
While it is undeniable that many in Germany have been detrimentally impacted by neoliberal economic policies, the media, especially in the English-speaking world, usually considers the far-right Alternative For Germany (AfD) the vehicle for these "ordinary" Germans. This concept should be familiar to those in the US and UK who have seen narratives put out by Donald Trump and Nigel Farage.
Except, the concept as applied to Germany is not just incorrect, it verges on fascist propaganda. Over 80 percent of Germans who voted in the general election last year rejected the AfD and other far-right parties like the neo-Nazi AfD, and although the party has gained popularity since then, it is still overwhelmingly rejected by Germans. The number of neo-Nazi demonstrators at the Chemnitz demonstrations and the number of demonstrations themselves are dwarfed by the Seebrücke movement promoting the right to rescue. In equating the opinions of the Chemnitz rioters with a substantial section of the German working class, commentators are becoming conduits for the message concocted by Joseph Goebbels over 80 years ago when he presented the Nazis as a "socialist" party.
Yet the New York Times actually interviewed a leader of the riot, Benjamin Jahn Zschocke, of Pro Chemnitz, and allowed him to speak as a member of a "movement" aiming to transform German society to eliminate a "failed system." The decision of the media to accommodate far-right, and - let's face it - neo-Nazi views has been made out of fear based on a campaign of xenophobic claims that the "elites" are trying to stifle "free speech" and "what people are really thinking," a talking point weaponised by figures like Steve Bannon and Boris Johnson to shift acceptable discourse so far to the right that, in the US, a "Muslim Ban" was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Some American media is detached from reality altogether. CBS News, a major US broadcaster, analysed the rising presence of bigotry in Chemnitz as antisemitism - coming from the presence of Muslim refugees and migrants! It should be obvious that German bigots doesn't need foreigners to teach them how to hate Jews, but CBS has certainly pulled off an impressive act - promoting neo-Nazi narratives about migrants under the guise of concern for antisemitism!
The German press, in the meantime, has promoted a perspective that leads to even more sinister conclusions. The notorious BILD tabloid has portrayed the events in Chemnitz as a "meeting" of "the extreme left and right." Although the presence of the Nazis is taken for granted, and peace groups are seen as a natural counter-force, "the problem" begins when "Antifascists begin mobilizing left-autonomous forces," which the paper describes as "scary."
Another article by BILD on Chemnitz starts with two photos: one showing blood on the ground where the murder used to justify the rallies took place, and the second portraying flowers and candles for the dead carpenter. This is followed by noting calls for demonstrations by "right-wing as well as left-wing groups."
Talk of a "polarisation" between "right and left" is also employed by John R. Schindler of The Observer, who claims that Russia and the GRU were responsible for this collision of "the extremes," who are both characterised as "violent" and "hot-headed," despite the fact that one side has employed violence and has celebrated the greatest criminal in world history, while the other peacefully highlights the sinister nature of the government's anti-refugee policies in colourful marches, reminding Germans to "stay human."
This "extremism theory," the official state doctrine that the far left and far right are equally dangerous (and thus conflated) is taken to its logical conclusion with an article in Welt that blames the Chemnitz events on a refusal to "deal with the dictatorship of the GDR," which it characterises as having "preserved fascism by refusing to deal with National Socialism."
The article then notes that "What we see now in Chemnitz is the 1968 of the East," thereby ironically taking the same view as Zschocke and other far-right figures in Germany and internationally who see the right-wing populist tidal wave as an "anti-68." Since 1968 was a left-wing rebellion against the right-wing authoritarians who remained in power under the Federal Republic, a rebellion 50 years later against the left-wing authoritarians who have almost no power in Germany today, must therefore take on a right-wing character.
An "anti-68" would not serve German society, historical memory or the political landscape. It would lead to an increasingly repressive state that would further the destruction of social protections, justify the further brutalisation of refugees, and, finally, be used to criminalise the ideas of socialism, humanism, and solidarity - all but guaranteeing the rise of a new Hitler.
Once Again Sliding Into Fascism: Germany, 50 Years After 1968