The biggest German newspaper Der Spiegel appears to be mimicking their American counterparts’ hysteria over Russian influence.
Three writers at Spiegel Online would like to inform readers about a dangerous group of Russian agents among German netizens. They relate to us the story of a young spokeswoman for Linksjugend, or “Left Youth,” who “became a target” last week:
[Rambatz] was hoping to become a member of Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, but now her political career lies in ruins. She had asked on Facebook for “anti-German film recommendations.” More specifically, she wrote: “Basically anything where Germans die.” After the post went public, her campaign ended. She is no longer seeking a seat.
Though it might seem spontaneous, the outrage directed at this young woman, we are told, is part of a sinister strategy to undermine the German political process. It hardly needs to be pointed out how familiar this sounds.
The article mentions a group called Reconquista Germanica, and that they organize using the app Discord. It also makes the rather odd observation that “the group organizes itself along strict military lines,” since, of course, people who get organized are scary.
Very intelligent and respectable people, the article goes on to imply, have connected the dots for us:
At the respected London School of Economics, a working group that includes Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and journalist Anne Applebaum and Russian-born writer Peter Pomerantsev, has been analyzing these efforts. They have also looked into the conspicuous affinity Moscow seems to have for the AfD.
Russia portrays the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland more favorably than the other parties, the highly-respected working group reports.
There is also speculation about the motive for “cyberattacks” in 2015 and 2016 by a group called APT28:
One theory is that the Bundestag didn’t get hacked in 2015 in order to try to influence the election. It’s possible that it was just a classic case of trying to obtain information.
Speaking in favor of that theory is the fact that the members of parliament whose computers were hacked are involved in issues pertaining to Russia. It’s also feasible that the stolen data simply isn’t all that interesting.
It’s possible the Russians didn’t succeed in purloining ‘kompromat,’ or compromising material that could be used in the propaganda war against German politicians.
It might even be that the Kremlin’s attempts at influence are under such public scrutiny at the moment that the political risks of an action aimed at Germany appear to be too high.German security authorities consider that to be a probable explanation.
So, which is it? Do the Russians want to literally ‘hack the election,’ as was said ad nauseum after the Trump election? Do they want to cause uncertainty about the results? Are they just some inexplicably adversarial shadow that seeks to harm Germany whenever convenient?
The Kremlin could also use its cybertools more intensively, especially given that the news only recently emerged that Russian manipulators placed paid ads featuring political content during the U.S. election campaign on Facebook, and that hundreds if not thousands of user accounts on Twitter and Facebook that heavily targeted Clinton were likely influenced by the Russians.
One gets the sense that Western governments and media would be incredulous at losses for their preferred political parties if voters actually willingly chose to vote against them.