This article below serves as an apposite follow-up to Thor von Waldstein’s speech and the discussion about “moderate” vs. “extremist”. It highlights the repeated attempts to force Björn Höcke, the popular German politician from the AfD party, to jump over the “distancing stick” held out for him by leftists and their cowed accomplices on the Right. JLH has simultaneously translated and fisked an MSM article that makes a blatant effort to marginalize Mr. Höcke, and with him the possibility of any real political alternative in Germany.
Anatomy of a Hit-Piece
Introduction by JLH
As a result of coverage by Gates of Vienna, Björn Höcke is already known to some here as an Ossi who is attempting to move the AfD toward an immigrant-critical position. However, other than some dramatic moments, we do not know that much about him, so when I came across an article in the FAZ with what appeared to be a neutral title and promise of a look behind the curtain of his facade, I decided to translate it.
How wrong I was about its intentions, as you will see. But nothing in politics goes to waste, so read along with me and we will learn a little about Höcke, and possibly even more about the Left — its presumptions, its bêtes noires and its techniques.
My comments are interpolated within the text in square brackets. The original piece was published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Björn Höcke — Propagator and Place-Holder
[At first, this seemed like a harmless title, but on reflection, what does it describe? First, the town-crier figure who is spreading the word, and disappears around the corner as the more important people show up. Then, somebody who is just important enough to hold a place open until the real hero arrives to take it. Just a loud guy with no substance who thinks a lot of himself.]
by Friederike Haupt
December 22, 2015
Björn Höcke will have to be careful for a while now. This is clear from the way he talks about his party, the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland/Alternative for Germany). Last Thursday, when he wanted to describe what it is, he was still using some of the original Höcke turns of phrase: “For me, the AfD is the last evolutionary chance for this people. Our substance is being consumed in every area.” If the chance is missed, will that necessarily mean revolution? How else can you understand the sentence? Höcke has predicted that Germans will have to pass through a “ vale of tears” before the AfD will save the democratic nation of laws.
[“How else can you understand the sentence?” Perhaps as a reference to electing a more responsive government??]
On Friday, at Höcke’s behest, his spokeswoman authorized the quotation, with an emendation, which was as perfect as though it had been worn smooth and round by a river flowing over it for a thousand years: “The AfD is a modern liberal-conservative party. It fills the vacuum left by Merkel’s social-democratized Union. We want to win back those who have turned away from politics in recent years, because they missed the ideas of the AfD in the political offerings.”
In the interval between the two quotations, the AfD had conferred about Höcke. Or rather, argued fiercely. Frauke Petry, the federal chairwoman, was in favor of disciplinary measures against Höcke, in fact, because of a claim he had made shortly before in a speech: that Europeans and Africans had different reproductive strategies.
To Africans, he attributed what the biologists called the r-strategy. According to Höcke, Europeans followed the K strategy. In the English-language Wikipedia, this “r/K selection theory” is illustrated by two photos, according to which the r strategy is represented by rats and the K strategy by whales. Höcke’s comment was widely perceived as biological racism.
[What Höcke said is not that different from what others have said. Other Europeans have remarked on the likelihood that they will become a minority because of the drastic difference in birth rate. Muslim immigrants themselves have bragged about the same phenomenon. So what makes this so dramatic?
The graphic pictures. Rats — those companions of cockroaches in all the worst places to be, biting babies in their cradles. Versus the noble and endangered giant mammals of the sea.
But wait. Didn’t Friederike take her pictures from the English language Wikipedia? And the same reference exists in German. With one difference — the German page, typically, has no dramatic pictures — just graphs and formulas and explications.
So what if we alter the illustration a bit. How would you react to hundreds of tiny, newly hatched turtles toddling toward the safety of the sea, as most are gobbled up by the predators that have been salivating for this moment? Or a very large litter of cute little kittens? And imagine the opposite for the K strategy — a ferocious wolf staring balefully at a terrified lamb. This may be the alpha male who is the only one in the pack who mates, and has as few as 2-4 cubs a year. May not even do that, if food is short and it will be hard for the pack to keep itself fed. Think of it as responsible parenting. Does it change the theory, or just the emotional impact?]
Petry’s plan failed with the majority. The party leadership managed only to produce a sterile press release. Höcke should examine “to what extent his positions were still in accord with those of the AfD.” But why should Höcke be concerned about his agreement with the AfD, instead of the other way around?
Officially, Björn Höcke is simply the local and faction leader of his party in Thuringia, which has just 2.2 million residents (and glorious bratwursts). But he is also an enormously popular man in the AfD — you could say in terms of the usual end of December rankings: the parvenu of the year. There are many reasons for that. One is that he is a good public speaker. Another, that he is good at talking himself out of a situation. And a third, that when the chips are down, he does not do the one without the other.
That is the trick that Höcke has been pulling for years. And more and more often recently. In the past week, the show reached its apogee thus far. He has transformed the scandal surrounding his speech into an internal conflict in the AfD, at the end of which he emerges as the victor. How he did that is typical of him.
[“That is the trick that Höcke has been pulling for years.” I guess we’ll have to take your word for that, in the absence of other examples.]
Hazardous pitfalls, Höcke the chicken?
Thursday afternoon, appointments time for Björn Höcke in his legislative office in Erfurt. It is already getting dark outside; the last light is leaking out of the blue evening sky. Inside, the electricity is out. Höcke lights an Advent candle in the seating area. Warm candlelight illuminates at least three German flags: one very big one behind the desk, a smaller one on the desk, one painted on the bulletin board. Hugely, next to it, Bismarck.
From the desk, Höcke is looking him directly in the eye. Maybe that’s lucky. When Höcke spoke out a week ago on Facebook about his controversial appearance at the Institut für Staatpolitik, the accompanying photo showed him in front of a street sign — Otto von Bismarck Allee. Höcke was photographed from below so that the sign would fit into the picture. He is wearing a suit, a tie and a thoughtful expression. Just as now, in the office.
[Is there a hint here of megalomania, of pretension to power? Well, at least we’re not calling him Hitler, or suggesting a Nazi leaning, but wait until the end of the article…]
Höcke’s spokeswoman has said in advance that he is exhausted by what has bombarded him in recent days. It sounds as if he has stumbled into something, as one walks unsuspectingly into a hailstorm. This refers to the reactions to his talk. Now Höcke makes use of the trick that has helped him in similar situations, i.e., when his standpoints are described as in agreement with those of rightist extremists: admit mistakes without accepting guilt. Now, for example, he says: ““I must cover my head with ashes. I still make mistakes and learn from them. It’s a balancing act — trying not to fall into every trap, but also not to lose my spontaneity.” Hazardous pitfalls, Höcke the chicken?
[Translation: I really hate it when we think we have him and he slips away.]
Teacher for history and sport
Höcke passes himself off as politically naive. His transgressions are to be understood as klutzy mistakes. Oops, what did I just step in? And that is how — according to his personal foundational mythology — he became a politician. Not a decision; rather, psychological stress drove him to it. He was once a history and sport instructor. “When I think about leaving the school world, I still get sad. That was my calling.” tempi passati.
At any rate, Höcke was already politically active before he happened onto the AfD. He just had no party. He associated with a network of rightist intellectuals, attended lectures, exchanged ideas on the internet with like-minded people. Höcke’s network includes a man who goes on record: “I invented Höcke, if you please. I discovered his political talent.” This is the AfD member Heiner Hofsommer, 70, from north Hesse. When he comes to the telephone on Wednesday, he is immediately ready to talk about Höcke — He is his friend and a “noble person” who has “intentionally brought four children into the world,” as has he, Hofsommer. They have just finished a half-hour telephone conversation.
At one time, Hofsommer was a CDU member of the regional legislature in Hesse. He left the party at the end of the 1990s. Like Höcke, Hofsommer had been a teacher and was then also a principal, until 2002 when he was forced to transfer to the school authority in Fulda, because of certain comments — among others, “Negroes do not belong in America.” He soon got to know Höcke, who was teaching in north Hesse. Both of them still love meetings which Hofsommer organizes with like-minded people, where they talk politics.
[This may be guilt by association — if there is anything to associate with. A quick look at the incident shows that, despite allegations, there was “contradictory evidence from students” and no case was made. So the authorities couldn’t discern who was telling the truth, but we know!]
The “inventor” of Björn Höcke
Everyone agreed: the middle class is going under. Something has to be done in Germany. Hofsommer claims that he put Höcke in contact with the former CDU Bundestag representative, Martin Hohmann, who had been expelled after a speech in 2004 criticized as anti-Semitic, and was now an AfD candidate in Fulda. Höcke and Hofsommer are also privately acquainted; they have been introduced to each other’s wives.
[The sentence makes it sound as if Hofsommer’s reason for the introduction was because of Hohmann’s unfortunate speech. (Oops, did Friederike say that?)
A later interview points to the ARD report as the real source of the scandal rather than anything that Hohmann said. One of the fearless few who spoke up was CSU representative Norbert Geis, who said “Hohmann is not an anti-Semite and he said nothing anti-Semitic.”]
Hofsommer is happy with the way in which his friend has developed. He has given him tips on making a good speech. On his internet site, Hofsommer offers rhetorical coaching and seminars for confident public appearances. He had, in fact, criticized Höcke in their telephone conversation for mentioning the business of the Africans and reproduction strategies.
“In presentations like that, he should not go into detail.” It is misunderstood. But all in all, Hofsommer estimates: “He is on the way. He knows that he has a historic mission to carry out.” Unlike Höcke, who must be cautious, Hofsommer can let loose when it comes to the AfD leadership. They are not in the same class with Höcke. The fact that Frauke Petry is separated from her husband is a manifestation of that. And he adds meaningfully: “Panta rhei — everything is in flux.”
Contention within the AfD
Höcke himself says that he does not live for the banalities of Thuringian local politics, e.g., the salt content of the Werra river: “Actually, my place is meta-politics, The history of ideas.” He is notorious in the legislature for preferring to speak of Germany and Europe rather than the appointed topic. Thursday, the two-year budget for 2016/2017 was being discussed. Höcke listened closely for a while, took notes, now and then did some stretching exercises in his seat, and seemed in good humor talking with his colleagues.
He fills his speaking time with comments like: “What we want in this country is a goodbye culture.” And a lot about Merkel. At one point the legislative president reminded him that this was the budget debate. Höcke was undeterred. And the Höcke trick also works in the legislature. Recently in the assembly he referred several times to a Green representative whose name is Rothe-Beinlich as “Rothe-Peinlich” [“-awkward”]. When the president called him to order for that, he said nonchalantly, “Madame President, I guess I have a P-B problem. That could be.” He would try to work on that. “Thank you for pointing it out.”
[Nobody likes a wise-a**. Especially if he’s a radical right populist wise-a**. Let’s keep all this snarky name-calling where it belongs — on the left.]
There is disagreement in the AfD as to whether Höcke has become extremely influential. Both within the party and in his public image. His style and his opinions are well received by many in the base. Furthermore, former party friends from the Thuringian state association describe him was an affable person, who moderated conflicts instead of dividing, was calm and patient. Others recognize a “new Höcke” whose success has gone to his head, and is now “addicted” to more and more attention; to some, it is not clear what he stands for politically.
An impeachment proceeding had already concluded
In May, the then federal executive board of the AfD had concluded an impeachment proceeding against Höcke. He had said in a newspaper interview that he did not assume that you can judge every single member of the NPD as an extremist. In the view of party head, Bernd Lucke, and others, he had not sufficiently distanced himself from that. The undertaking [to impeach Höcke] collapsed when the executive board changed during the summer.
Lucke remembers an incident that he thinks fits into his picture of Höcke. When Lucke was still party head, Höcke had given an interview to the magazine Zuerst! “I spoke to him about it and asked if he knew what kind of a magazine it was. I would put it in the right-radical spectrum. Höcke said that he was acquainted with it. But he gave everyone interviews. For him that was a part of freedom of expression. He gave the impression it was a one-time thing. But a few months later, it happened again.” In the end, it did him no harm. And that is how it turned out this week too.
On Friday afternoon, Heiner Hofsommer calls the editorial office. Just to say he hopes the article on Höcke will be fair.
[Good luck with that!]
|1.||Including, inter alia, Kassel and Fulda|
|2.||German broadcasting pool|
|3.||Attributed to Pope Simplicius (468-483 AD)|
|4.||National Democratic Party, seen by some as having much in common with the Nazi party