Germany’s soft glove of public relations

    POLITICS: A close look at the communication strategies of four MPs from the right-wing populist party AfD.

    Resurgent fascism in Europe has seen parties resorting to increasingly deceptive means to gloss over their images and make them palatable to populations who grew up after the revelations of the horrors of Hitler’s rule and years of post-war denazification measures. The Voice of the People, a documentary by Andreas Wilcke that screens at the Copenhagen International Film Festival, shows us how Alternative fur Deutschland (the AfD), a right-wing populist party in Germany, is channeling much of its energy into public relations strategies that enable it to broaden its appeal to the mainstream by seeming as what it is not; to hide its more radical tendencies behind a smoke-screen of rhetoric about protecting the freedoms and human rights of citizens. Shot over more than three years following the 2017 election, when the AfD entered parliament with 94 seats, the film follows a number of the party’s MPs, including Norbert Kleinwaechter, a young member of the Bundestag for the state of Brandenburg, behind the scenes in the extremely male-oriented environment of the party backrooms, to reveal more about their approach to communications, and how they strive to represent themselves to voters. It sheds light, in doing so, on global changes to how political players are seeking to sway voters in a more personality-based landscape of rising populism, which is less about debating issues and policy manifestos, and more about sensationalism and stoking emotions.

    Image pollishing

    «They will do everything to position us as right-wing extremists», lower-ranked party members are advised by the AFD’s leaders, who instruct them not to say anything that could be used against them when dealing with their opponents and the press. Self-censoring their own prejudiced beliefs, and toning down the more radical aspects of their plans for governing, are constant concerns behind closed doors, as the party seeks ways to seem legitimate and not alienate their potential . . .

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    Carmen Gray
    Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
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