/ Conspiracy myths have a stranglehold on truth

They threaten society and provide a breeding ground for antisemitism and right-wing extremism

The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have provided extremists of all persuasions with opportunities to disseminate their anti-democratic ideologies. Even the most absurd conspiracy theories are gaining traction. Despite lacking any factual basis, they are an effective way of infecting large sections of the population with a fundamental dissatisfaction with the constitutional state. However, we are now experiencing the new phenomenon of previously unrelated myths and conspiracy theory groupings merging into a larger narrative. The propaganda spectrum extends from recriminations against certain groups of people such as migrants or Jews to allegations about an elite global cabal by QAnon. Conspiracy theorists are really letting rip on right-wing social media platforms – turning them into a shared echo chamber for propaganda on the so-called ‘corona dictatorship’, warnings about German citizens being deprived of their rights and of mass migration.

The event analysed exactly what conspiracy theories are, who supports them and why they are currently so popular. As a representative of the political community, Matthias Fischbach MP in the state parliament and member of the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament discussed the ‘conspiracy against the people’ with journalist and fact checker Karoline Schwarz and philosopher Dr Jan Skudlarek, using facts and reason to demystify what the conspiracy theorists and their supporters primarily are: a risk to democracy and our constitutional state.

/ Hate. Power. Violence.

/ Hate. Power. Violence.

A series of anti-extremism events with ex-Neonazi and red-light rocker Philip Schlaffer

In his book, ‘Hass. Macht. Gewalt’ (Hate. Power. Violence), ex-Neonazi and red-light rocker Philip Schlaffer tells readers about his former life. Born in 1978, Philip Schlaffer slipped into the neo-Nazi scene, where he finally felt a sense of belonging after his family and school failed to provide him with the support and stability he needed. He was soon radicalised and indoctrinated into xenophobia, nationalism and blind worship of the Third Reich. He later founded the extreme right-wing ‘Kameradschaft Werwölfe Wismar’ (Wismar Werewolves Brotherhood), published right-wing rock songs on the internet and increasingly spent his days drinking, being violent towards ‘foreigners’ and getting into skirmishes with the police. Philip Schlaffer was the instigator of the controversial rocker club ‘Schwarze Schar Wismar’ (Wismar Black Sheep), which was involved in drug dealing and clandestine prostitution. In addition to his regular court appearances, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution attempted to recruit him as an undercover agent. It was during a spell in jail that Schlaffer finally decided to relinquish his life of crime and extremism for good. Today Philip Schlaffer and his organisation, ‘Extremislos’, campaign to prevent racism and to promote democracy and tolerance.

In September he and journalist Christoph Giesa took part in two evening and two school events in Baden Württemberg, providing a brutally honest account of his life and discussing the risks associated with right-wing populist and right-wing extremist views with Chairman of the FDP parliamentary group in the Baden-Wurttemberg state parliament, Dr Hans-Ulrich Rülke MP and schoolchildren. Summing up, he said:

// I rejected society because it rejected me.

He talked about the exclusion he had experienced, the lack of recognition, group dynamics and his sense of loneliness after turning his back on the scene, as well as his concerns that people would not want to have anything to do with him because of his past. Today Schlaffer says he is a committed democrat who is able to think more freely than before.