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How QAnon jumped from the virtual world to the city of Germany

A group was born from the Netherlands on the Balkan Peninsula. In the UK, QAnon-themed protests under the banner of “Save Our Children” have taken place in more than 20 cities and towns, attracting more women and less right-wing demographics.

But it is Germany that QAnon appears to have penetrated the deepest. Considered to be the world’s largest non-English-speaking follower (estimated at 200,000), the app is rapidly gaining viewership on YouTube, Facebook and Telegram Messenger apps. People wave the Q flag during protests against coronavirus.

Attila Hildman at a vegan restaurant in Berlin. He hadn’t heard of QAnon until last spring. “I strongly hope that Q is genuine,” he said.credit:Lena Mucha / New York Times

And in Germany, like the United States, the far-right activists were first captured, making QAnon an unexpectedly unstable new political element when authorities were already struggling to eradicate extremist networks. did.

“There is a huge overlap,” said Josef Holnburger, a data scientist tracking QAnon in Germany. “The far-right influencers and groups were the first people to actively promote QAnon.”

Officials are confused by the resonation of a seemingly bizarre conspiracy theory in Germany about Trump’s taking a “deep nation” of demonists and pediatricians. Polls show confidence in the Merkel administration, but the alternative for Germany (AfD) on the far right is struggling.

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“I was surprised that QAnon is gaining such momentum here,” said Patrick Sensberg, a member of Markel’s Conservative Party and a member of the intelligence surveillance committee. “It looked like such an American one, but it’s falling on fertile ground.”

The myths and languages ​​used by QAnon are the ancient anti-Semitic metaphors and Pucci fantasies that have long enlivened Germany’s far-right fringes, from ritual child murder claims to fantasies of revenge against the liberal elite. It reminds me. Currently, these groups are taking advantage of the viral popularity of theory to reach a larger audience.

QAnon depicts an ideologically inconsistent mixture of vaccine opponents, fringe thinkers and the general public, who say the pandemic threat is exaggerated and government regulation is unjustified. Not everyone who is currently affiliated with QAnon believes in or supports violence in everything the group supports.

Until a few months ago, Hildman was widely known in restaurants, cookbooks, and as a guest on television cooking shows.

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However, Telegram has 80,000 followers, and since then he has become one of QAnon’s most important amps in Germany. He is a noisy regular in coronavirus protests, with more than 40,000 participants in Berlin this summer, what is considered a fake pandemic created by the “Deep State” to deprive him of his freedom. I opposed it.

He calls Merkel a “Zionist Jew” and opposes the “New World Order” and Rothschild bankers. He no longer recognizes Germany’s postwar democratic order and darkly predicts the civil war.

Thanks to a series of admirers, including civil servants, mail carriers, and geography students, for raising awareness about QAnon, not food, in a recent interview at a vegan restaurant in Berlin’s upscale district. Did.

Experts are worried that activists like Hildman are offering new, seemingly acceptable conduits for far-right ideas.

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“QAnon sells the color of fascism as a secret code rather than openly skipping it,” said Stephen Kramer, director of domestic intelligence in eastern Thuringia. “This provides an access point to a wider German society, where for history everyone considers themselves unaffected by Nazism.”

“It’s very dangerous,” Kramer added. “It’s a leap from the virtual world to the real world, and if the United States passes, it will speed up.”

The QAnon conspiracy theory appeared in the United States in 2017. At that time, a pseudonym online poster — Q — claiming to have the highest security clearance in the United States began dropping mysterious messages on message board 4Chan. Q hinted that the world’s elite had kidnapped children and put them in underground prisons to extract life-prolonging substances from their blood. The “storm” came and the “great awakening” continued.

For historians and far-right extremist experts, QAnon is both a very new and a very old phenomenon. Made in modern America, it has a strong repercussions of European anti-Semitism centuries ago, which was the source of the worst violence the continent knows.

Miloditrich, a far-right extremist expert at the Berlin-based Amadeu Antonio Foundation, said the idea of ​​a rootless elite who abuses children and even sucks blood to eat is the blood of Jewish Christian babies. It is reminiscent of the medieval propaganda of drinking.

“This is the 21st century version of the blood libel,” Ditrich said. “The idea of ​​an elite global conspiracy is deeply anti-Semitic. The” globalist “is the code for the Jews. “

NATO sparks

According to political scientist Hornberger, the ignition switch for the spread of QAnon in Germany was the large-scale NATO exercise “Defender-Europe 2020.”

When shrunk this spring due to the coronavirus, QAnon followers claimed that Merkel used a “fake pandemic” to shatter secret liberation plans.

The annual NATO exercise was used by QAnon conspiracy theorists to advance the idea that an army led by Donald Trump would revive the German Empire.

The annual NATO exercise was used by QAnon conspiracy theorists to advance the idea that an army led by Donald Trump would revive the German Empire.credit:AP

Next, the far-right movement, known as the imperialist movement, or imperialist citizens, jumped on online QAnon traffic to more clearly show their own conspiracy theories.

The imperial movement estimates that the government has about 19,000 followers and believes that the post-war republic of Germany is not a sovereign state, but a company founded by its allies after World War II. .. QAnon’s plot was in line with themselves, with Trump-led troops expecting to revive the German Empire.

On March 5, the two elements of the move merged into a common Facebook group, followed a week later by the Telegram channel.

“It was then that QAnon Germany first began to take off,” said Hornberger.

Two weeks later, during the blockade, German pop star Kusavia Naidou, a former judge of the German equivalent Australian idol, Joined the QAnon group and posted a YouTube video of tears. In this video, I told my followers that the children were released from an underground prison. Far-right influencer Oliver Janich has reposted it to his tens of thousands of Telegram followers.

Since then, Telegram’s largest German QAnon channel, Qlobal Change, has quadrupled its followers to 123,000. It has been played over 18 million times on YouTube. Overall, Dittrich of the Amadeu-Antonio Foundation estimates that QAnon-related accounts have more than 200,000 followers on all platforms.

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it will remove groups, pages, or Instagram accounts that are publicly identified by QAnon.

In Holocaust countries, promoting Nazi propaganda and inciting hatred can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, and two years ago, the government rigorously aimed to enforce the law online. The law has been passed.

However, conspiracy theories and lies are not illegal unless they are devoted to hate speech and extremist content, and authorities find it difficult to crack down on the spread of QAnon.

Extremists

Some QAnon followers are well-known militants, such as Marko Gross, a former police sniper and leader of the far-right group of weapons and ammunition.

“Trump is fighting the Deep State,” he said. New York Times In June. He said Merkel was part of the Deep State. “Deep state is global.”

However, Ditrich pointed out that there are many people who had nothing in common with the far right in the early days of the pandemic.

“I was able to watch it in real time on the Telegram channel,” he said. “People who started worrying about the blockade in April became more and more radical.”

Recently, I can see it in German cities.

Michael Ballweg, a Stuttgart-based software entrepreneur who founded Querdenken-711, the organization that was at the center of protests against the restriction of the coronavirus, recently began to refer to QAnon.

The Eastern Youth chapter of AfD uses the QAnon motto “Where we go one, we go all” abbreviation “WWG1 WGA” on its Facebook page.

When asked about the dangers of QAnon, federal intelligence said, “If anti-Semitic violence or violence against political authorities is justified by threats from a’deep state’, such conspiracy theories develop into danger. There is a possibility. “

According to experts like Ditrich and Hornberger, the greatest risk may come when the promised salvation does not arrive.

“Q always says:” Trust the plan. You have to wait. The people of Trump will take care of it, “Hornberger said. “If Trump doesn’t invade Germany, some might say,’Let’s take the plan ourselves.'”

New York Times

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How QAnon jumped from the virtual world to the city of Germany

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