Exclusive: Will the AfD party be banned? The head of Germany's Junge Freiheit, Dieter Stein, reveals the establishment's strategy to make the party toxic

Dieter Stein, editor-in-chief of Germany's Junge Freiheit newspaper, talks about what unites and divides German conservatives, how the threat of an AfD ban is being used, and how his paper has managed to grow in a tough market.

Have you noticed that more people have become interested in conservative politics over the last year? Your publication writes a lot about the AfD and conservative politics. Is there a connection between your paper’s growth and these other topics?

Certainly, for the last year, one topic has been gaining traction again, which doesn’t divide the conservatives either, namely the topic of migration, but also the topics of energy supply and inflation. Before that, we had two big issues. These were coronavirus and the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which divided our readers and the conservatives as a whole — not just in Germany but also across Europe.

Our readers were also divided as to whether the policy of tough measures during the coronavirus period was the right one. There is also a relevant group in our country that says we should have allowed total freedom, but it is not the majority. That’s a myth that unfortunately also sometimes prevails among conservatives. We could have agreed on that. That’s not true.

Even among our readers, a significant proportion ultimately supported more or less drastic measures and, secondly, also supported the vaccinations. But there is a fashion, I would say, for the right-wing conservatives to say, “Hooray, hooray, everyone is against vaccination, everyone is against tough measures, lockdown etc.” It’s true that this stance has divided people. We also had to maneuver a bit. We tried to reflect the critical voices for and against, but it wasn’t a winning issue.

The second is the war in Ukraine. It’s very fashionable for the AfD to take a pro-Russia stance and a critical stance towards America and NATO. I do not share this position. There have also been controversies, including among authors and our readers, with people canceling their subscriptions to the newspaper because they would have liked us to report more critically on Ukraine and Russia.

Personally, I think it’s a very important topic. I also sometimes see a weakness in the positioning, especially in Germany, but also across Europe on this issue.

You are definitely critical of the AfD’s position on Ukraine, that they don’t give enough support. But there are also many parties in Europe that hold a similar view, for example, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán says the issue is about peace. So, he may not be for Russia, but he is also not for more weapons for Ukraine. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Of course, one is in favor of peace. That’s a pretty naive formula. Nobody is against peace. Everyone actually wants peace. A crucial point is the question of the attitude towards the sovereignty and freedom of the East-Central European nations. I consider this to be a central issue after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We, in this case, Germany: are we on the side of the Eastern and Central European nation state, or are we going to come up with this dangerous, foolish idea of once again dreaming of reaching an understanding with Russia over the heads of the Eastern European nations?

I believe it is our responsibility to say we stand for the freedom of this nation. We are against a revision of the post-war borders. We are also against supporting any of Russia’s imperial interests in expanding its sphere of influence again, initially, perhaps only at the expense of Ukraine as the next step, but also at the expense of other Central European states.

But, I think we often miss the point. In my opinion, the central problem is Europe’s weakness. The main issue is Germany’s weakness. We can discuss a lot about alternative security architecture in Europe. There is of course the theory — that many people say it was a mistake to discuss Ukraine joining NATO. That is actually correct. It should have been said that a solution should have been found for Ukraine to remain neutral. That is important in principle, and I also sympathize with that. But the key question is who will guarantee this status? Who will ensure that the Russians do not question this status in an emergency? And then, we always come back to the question of who is militarily capable of guaranteeing this security.

Take a look at Germany. Germany is not even in a position to secure its own borders against illegal immigration. We have a Bundeswehr that is in a lurch. We have the psychological problem in Germany that the majority of our elites have no awareness of what it means to be a nation and to organize national defense. We hide behind international institutions. So, that’s the European Union or NATO, but we’re all in favor of a moral foreign policy.

The key point is that if we wanted to do something different, if were for example to say we don’t want the Americans to interfere too much, then Germany has to put more weight behind Germany, Europe has to put more weight behind its own foundation. 

There are not too few answers from the AfD. Sure, they’ll come out with populist slogans about how they want peace. That’s ridiculous. In other words, if you need a different policy, Germany must no longer be a negligible factor. You can see that at the (CPAC) conference here. Why is Germany not taking part? Because Germany is not perceived as a relevant factor. Because there are no relevant representatives of Germany who speak with a powerful voice.

Given your overview of German politics, what is your opinion of Hans-George Maaßen’s new party, Union of Values (Werte Union). He says the AfD is too radical. What do you think?

To be honest, I don’t give the Union of Values any chance, but I think it will become clear this year that it was stillborn because the Union of Values ultimately has the same image problems as the AfD. Even Hans-Georg Maaßen, even as likeable as he is, has been burnt in the media. Also, due to the media campaigns that are taking place here, he is categorized in the media in a similar way to the AfD. Ultimately, the weight of the party is lacking. They would have to bring incredible amounts of money into play and also personnel, which are not there.

 As problematic as certain aspects of the AfD are — the current espionage affair that is boiling over, or these strange connections to Moscow and China — the AfD has managed to establish itself. It is the big player and it will not disappear. The key question is how the AfD can further professionalize itself and get a clearer profile and leadership. I think that will play out in the next elections as soon as the AfD moves closer and closer to government participation.

 That will happen first in the Eastern German states, in Saxony or Thuringia. The first step is a minority government that allows itself to be tolerated with the support of AfD votes. We also currently have a situation where, in my opinion, the wall designed to maintain a quarantine against the AfD is crumbling. Attempts have been made to establish a media quarantine against the AfD and to keep it out of the major established media. But, it has now reached a size where this can no longer be sustained. Then, there will also be greater professionalization and a clearer form of foreign policy positions that cannot be as colorful as they currently are.

How realistic is an AfD ban given its popularity? Do you think this can really happen?

I don’t think it can happen. Despite all the criticism leveled at the institutions in Germany, I believe that the rule of law works so far and that the legal basis is not sufficient. However, the fact that an AfD ban is still being discussed is part of a strategy of ostracism. There is a graduated approach. They say that the domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, is investigating the case. It examines whether the AfD has indications of right-wing extremist endeavors. Then it becomes a “suspected case.” Then it becomes a case for observation. Then, the step can even be taken to categorize the AfD as “confirmed right-wing extremist.” These are all terms that always mean little to the public outside Germany. However, they are gradations of ostracism that are expressed towards a party.

This creates a climate that makes this party toxic.

This no longer has quite the same effect as it perhaps did 10 or 20 years ago. In other words, the alternative media, social media, and the internet have created such a strong counter-balance that many citizens are able to form their own opinions. But it still has an effect because if the Office for the Protection of the Constitution categorizes the party as right-wing extremist, this sometimes means that civil servants are no longer allowed to be involved with the party. No police officers, no soldiers, i.e. all people, including those from the security sector, who all have a great affinity for a party that is in favor of law and order, who are in favor of a strong police force, strong security forces. This dries up the pool of personnel.

 Then, the caliber of the members and the politicians will also fall. You can already see the problems with recruiting staff in the parliamentary groups, i.e. research assistants, etc. It’s very difficult for the AfD to get competent people because people are afraid. Later, if their CV says they worked for the AfD, they will be rejected by other institutions. This debate around a ban is part of fostering a certain social atmosphere around the party. A corresponding ban procedure would drag on for years. But of course, it’s such a financial battle with lots of trial dates, where they have to spend a lot of money on a trial. It’s a war of attrition.

Have you noticed that more people have become interested in conservative politics over the last year? Your publication writes a lot about the AfD and conservative politics. Is there a connection between your paper’s growth and these other topics?

Certainly, for the last year, one topic has been gaining traction again, which doesn’t divide the conservatives either, namely the topic of migration, but also the topics of energy supply and inflation. Before that, we had two big issues. These were coronavirus and the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which divided our readers and the conservatives as a whole — not just in Germany but also across Europe.

Our readers were also divided as to whether the policy of tough measures during the coronavirus period was the right one. There is also a relevant group in our country that says we should have allowed total freedom, but it is not the majority. That’s a myth that unfortunately also sometimes prevails among conservatives. We could have agreed on that. That’s not true.

Even among our readers, a significant proportion ultimately supported more or less drastic measures and, secondly, also supported the vaccinations. But there is a fashion, I would say, for the right-wing conservatives to say, “Hooray, hooray, everyone is against vaccination, everyone is against tough measures, lockdown etc.” It’s true that this stance has divided people. We also had to maneuver a bit. We tried to reflect the critical voices for and against, but it wasn’t a winning issue.

The second is the war in Ukraine. It’s very fashionable for the AfD to take a pro-Russia stance and a critical stance towards America and NATO. I do not share this position. There have also been controversies, including among authors and our readers, with people canceling their subscriptions to the newspaper because they would have liked us to report more critically on Ukraine and Russia.

 Personally, I think it’s a very important topic. I also sometimes see a weakness in the positioning, especially in Germany, but also across Europe on this issue.

 You are definitely critical of the AfD’s position on Ukraine, that they don’t give enough support. But there are also many parties in Europe that hold a similar view, for example, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán says the issue is about peace. So, he may not be for Russia, but he is also not for more weapons for Ukraine. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Of course, one is in favor of peace. That’s a pretty naive formula. Nobody is against peace. Everyone actually wants peace. A crucial point is the question of the attitude towards the sovereignty and freedom of the East-Central European nations. I consider this to be a central issue after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We, in this case, Germany: are we on the side of the Eastern and Central European nation state, or are we going to come up with this dangerous, foolish idea of once again dreaming of reaching an understanding with Russia over the heads of the Eastern European nations?

I believe it is our responsibility to say we stand for the freedom of this nation. We are against a revision of the post-war borders. We are also against supporting any of Russia’s imperial interests in expanding its sphere of influence again, initially, perhaps only at the expense of Ukraine as the next step, but also at the expense of other Central European states.

But, I think we often miss the point. In my opinion, the central problem is Europe’s weakness. The main issue is Germany’s weakness. We can discuss a lot about alternative security architecture in Europe. There is of course the theory — that many people say it was a mistake to discuss Ukraine joining NATO. That is actually correct. It should have been said that a solution should have been found for Ukraine to remain neutral. That is important in principle, and I also sympathize with that. But the key question is who will guarantee this status? Who will ensure that the Russians do not question this status in an emergency? And then, we always come back to the question of who is militarily capable of guaranteeing this security.

Take a look at Germany. Germany is not even in a position to secure its own borders against illegal immigration. We have a Bundeswehr that is in a lurch. We have the psychological problem in Germany that the majority of our elites have no awareness of what it means to be a nation and to organize national defense. We hide behind international institutions. So, that’s the European Union or NATO, but we’re all in favor of a moral foreign policy.

The key point is that if we wanted to do something different, if were for example to say we don’t want the Americans to interfere too much, then Germany has to put more weight behind Germany, Europe has to put more weight behind its own foundation. 

 There are not too few answers from the AfD. Sure, they’ll come out with populist slogans about how they want peace. That’s ridiculous. In other words, if you need a different policy, Germany must no longer be a negligible factor. You can see that at the (CPAC) conference here. Why is Germany not taking part? Because Germany is not perceived as a relevant factor. Because there are no relevant representatives of Germany who speak with a powerful voice.

Given your overview of German politics, what is your opinion of Hans-George Maaßen’s new party, Union of Values (Werte Union). He says the AfD is too radical. What do you think?

To be honest, I don’t give the Union of Values any chance, but I think it will become clear this year that it was stillborn because the Union of Values ultimately has the same image problems as the AfD. Even Hans-Georg Maaßen, even as likeable as he is, has been burnt in the media. Also, due to the media campaigns that are taking place here, he is categorized in the media in a similar way to the AfD. Ultimately, the weight of the party is lacking. They would have to bring incredible amounts of money into play and also personnel, which are not there.

 As problematic as certain aspects of the AfD are — the current espionage affair that is boiling over, or these strange connections to Moscow and China — the AfD has managed to establish itself. It is the big player and it will not disappear. The key question is how the AfD can further professionalize itself and get a clearer profile and leadership. I think that will play out in the next elections as soon as the AfD moves closer and closer to government participation.

That will happen first in the Eastern German states, in Saxony or Thuringia. The first step is a minority government that allows itself to be tolerated with the support of AfD votes. We also currently have a situation where, in my opinion, the wall designed to maintain a quarantine against the AfD is crumbling. Attempts have been made to establish a media quarantine against the AfD and to keep it out of the major established media. But, it has now reached a size where this can no longer be sustained. Then, there will also be greater professionalization and a clearer form of foreign policy positions that cannot be as colorful as they currently are.

How realistic is an AfD ban given its popularity? Do you think this can really happen?

I don’t think it can happen. Despite all the criticism leveled at the institutions in Germany, I believe that the rule of law works so far and that the legal basis is not sufficient. However, the fact that an AfD ban is still being discussed is part of a strategy of ostracism. There is a graduated approach. They say that the domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, is investigating the case. It examines whether the AfD has indications of right-wing extremist endeavors. Then it becomes a “suspected case.” Then it becomes a case for observation. Then, the step can even be taken to categorize the AfD as “confirmed right-wing extremist.” These are all terms that always mean little to the public outside Germany. However, they are gradations of ostracism that are expressed towards a party.

This creates a climate that makes this party toxic.

This no longer has quite the same effect as it perhaps did 10 or 20 years ago. In other words, the alternative media, social media, and the internet have created such a strong counter-balance that many citizens are able to form their own opinions. But it still has an effect because if the Office for the Protection of the Constitution categorizes the party as right-wing extremist, this sometimes means that civil servants are no longer allowed to be involved with the party. No police officers, no soldiers, i.e. all people, including those from the security sector, who all have a great affinity for a party that is in favor of law and order, who are in favor of a strong police force, strong security forces. This dries up the pool of personnel.

Then, the caliber of the members and the politicians will also fall. You can already see the problems with recruiting staff in the parliamentary groups, i.e. research assistants, etc. It’s very difficult for the AfD to get competent people because people are afraid. Later, if their CV says they worked for the AfD, they will be rejected by other institutions. This debate around a ban is part of fostering a certain social atmosphere around the party. A corresponding ban procedure would drag on for years. But of course, it’s such a financial battle with lots of trial dates, where they have to spend a lot of money on a trial. It’s a war of attrition.

Last year, Junge Freiheit grew its subscriptions again, growing over 3 percent. What is your secret for this result in a very difficult market?

We were lucky that we were able to buck the trend and increase our circulation for almost 15 years

Although there has been talk for over 10 years that print media is dying, we have been able to grow from under 10,000 subscribers at the beginning of the 2000s to 28,000 subscribers. But since the first year of coronavirus, you could say we’ve also been on a slight downward trend since the end of 2020. We asked ourselves why that is. But it’s ultimately this megatrend away from print, that’s quite clear. We managed to reverse the trend by launching an offensive at the beginning of 2023 to massively expand our online editorial team. We have set up our own social media department, now with four employees alone. 

The most important thing, as they say, the game changer, is a new paywall. We’ve had one since 2019, but it was just far too complicated. We now have a very simple payment gate that readers can complete in no time at all. Since then, we have had enormous completion rates on the website. Every other article is a ‘plus’ article. You can only read it if you have an online subscription. Since then, we have seen a year-on-year increase. That’s the right way to go.

You have your office in Berlin. Is that sometimes dangerous or are you threatened by violence from radical groups? Or have you been able to avoid attacks?

We’ve been on Hohenzollerndamm in Berlin since 1996, so almost 30 years. We have experienced attacks. We experienced the worst attacks in 1994 when my car was set on fire. 

The editorial office was attacked. They threw gas grenades into the rooms. Our print shop was also attacked in Weimar and set on fire, causing €1.5 million in property damage. The printing company canceled our printing contract. The Federal Prosecutor General investigated the perpetrators for forming a terrorist organization. We have already experienced a lot.

But, we are not currently experiencing any attacks. I also have the feeling that you have to persevere. You have to have staying power. In any case, you still have to make sure that a project like this newspaper has a certain degree of seriousness and also generates publicity. You can’t go into a tiny niche, wall yourself in, and pile up the sandbags. You always have to try to appear open and professional. With the Junge Freiheit, and also with the expansion on the Internet through social media, we have succeeded in presenting a lot of likable young faces who stand behind this newspaper. And this staff also has an authoritative and winning appearance, while still being tough on the issue. This is also the right way for us as conservatives to win and be more assertive.

Dieter Stein is the founder and editor-in-chief of Junge Freiheit, which was founded in 1986 and has been published weekly out of Berlin since 1994. The influential paper is the largest conservative weekly in Germany.

Source:  Remix News

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post
Follow us on TruthSocial, X-Twitter, Gettr, Gab, VK, Anonup, Facebook and Telegram for interesting and mysterious bonus content!
If you are willing and able 👉 PayPal donate.

نموذج الاتصال