German far-right group uses YouTube, podcasts and rap to convert Gen Z

Ein Prozent is funding nationalist influencers to sway a new generation of ‘patriots’

Alexander Kleine often posts videos on YouTube about his favorite pastimes – beekeeping and chewing tobacco. Sporting a carefully groomed beard and a low fade haircut, he looks like a typical young hipster from his hometown of Leipzig.

However, first impressions on social media can be deceiving. Kleine, 28, is an important influencer on Germany’s far-right scene and a member of the anti-immigrant Identitarian movement. Along with his colleague Phillip Thaler, he produces a YouTube channel titled Laut Gedacht (“Thinking out loud”).

Clearly aimed at a millennial and younger audience, Laut Gedacht’s weekly-posted videos regularly attract up to 200,000 views. In one, Thaler and Kleine openly mock the speech of the environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who lives with Asperger’s syndrome. In another, more recent posting, the two men criticize German media outlets for their “insincere” coverage of Hungary’s right-wing populist prime minister Viktor Orban.

At first glance, Laut Gedacht might appear to be like any one of the dozens of far-right YouTube channels now operating in Germany. A closer look at its sponsor list, however, reveals links to a well-resourced and carefully organized information operation. 

An image from one of Laut Gedacht’s YouTube videos, featuring Alexander Kleine and Phillip Thaler/ Twitter

Klein and Thaler receive financial support from a group named Ein Prozent (One Percent), the aim of which is to spread nationalist narratives among young Germans.

The group was founded in 2015 by Götz Kubitschek — a former reserve officer in the German army, who reportedly served in Bosnia, but was later dismissed from the military for his involvement in “right-wing extremist” politics. According to its website, Ein Prozent was formed in 2015 as a reaction to the German government’s decision to take in large numbers of refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

The organization is primarily funded by small donations from a large network of like-minded individuals. According to the group’s website, almost 50,000 people gave an average sum of $22 to Ein Prozent in 2018, allowing it to spend $425,000 on “patriotic projects” that year.   

Since its founding, the group has backed more than 80 right-wing cultural initiatives across Germany. They range from youth magazines to music projects and social media channels, such as Laut Gedacht. Ein Prozent propagates support by deploying slick online marketing techniques to build and nurture networks of young influencers already well established in German-language far-right social media circles.

Although Ein Prozent is not officially affiliated with any political party, it has strong links to Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Kubitschek, for instance, is a regular speaker at AfD events, while AfD politician Hans Thomas Tillschneider is on the group’s board of directors.

Founded in 2013, AfD has quickly risen to political prominence. In Germany’s last parliamentary elections, held in 2017, it won 12.6% of the vote and 94 parliamentary seats. The party’s growing popularity can be largely attributed to its hardline positions on immigration and Islam. AfD co-chairman Alexander Gauland has openly and frequently spoken of fighting an “invasion of foreigners.”

Culture war

Stefan Laurer, is the editor of Belltower News, a Berlin-based publication that specializes in coverage of extremist organizations. According to him, Ein Prozent is “basically implementing a policy based on the ideology of the New Right.” 

Laurer refers to the metapolitical strategies of the Nouvelle Droite movement. Established in late-1960s France and borrowing heavily from radical left-wing theory, its proponents believe that, in order for the far-right to be successful, reactionary ideology must be gradually and comprehensively filtered into society, via non-political channels such as music, literature and art.

“The assumption is that in order to get more people in Germany to vote for the far-right AfD party, the whole culture needs to change first. People need to feel like it is a completely normal thing to do,” he explained. “The idea is that a real, long-lasting change in politics needs to be preceded by a cultural change.” 

Back when these ideas were first established, attempts to radically alter the cultural landscape of any nation would have been faced with almost insurmountable obstacles, given that the monopoly on cultural output was held by the legacy media. But, in the age of social media, the ability of previously marginal voices to create content and reach large audiences has greatly expanded. 

While the global far right has proved adept at exploiting the potential of 21st-century technology to deliver its political message, Ein Prozent is notable as an organization dedicated to achieving this wider cultural shift. 

To help spread its ideas to German youth, Ein Prozent actively backs right-wing German musicians. According to Belltower News, in 2016 the group promoted a track called “Europa” produced by a 27-year-old rapper known as Komplott (German for “conspiracy”).

According to Patrick Stegemann, who has recently published a book about Germany’s far-right online networks,  the group considers “Europa” to be the “unofficial anthem” of young, indigenous Germans.

Another notable example of Ein Prozent’s incursion into the German music business is the 28-year-old rapper Chris Ares, whose nationalist-themed album “2014-2018” briefly topped both the German iTunes and Amazon Music charts. 

It includes tracks such as “Narrativ,” which features the  lyrics, “They call you Nazi, if you are not left-wing and don’t sound cosmopolitan and intelligent. If you don’t want women to be raped — Nazi! If you want to grow happily in this country — Nazi!” 

The album was produced by the label Arcadi Musik, an offshoot of the far-right lifestyle magazine Arcadi, which receives financial support from Ein Prozent. The group also contributes funding to the alternative media site Redpilled.de, which aggregates short films on topics such as violent crimes committed in Germany by immigrants, a number of which are made by Ein Prozent’s own in-house media operation.

International links

Ein Prozent also produces several podcasts featuring well-known German far-right personalities. The strategy of collaboration is not limited to Germany alone. Kubtischek also organizes annual summer “academies” at his home, in a small village in the east German state of Saxony-Anhalt, to which he invites influential figures from the international far right.

Visitors have included Jack Donovan — an alt-right anti-feminist writer and men’s rights activist from the U.S., with more than 30,000 followers on Instagram — and the Austrian Martin Sellner, a key figure in the Identitarian movement.

Picture of Jack Donovan, a U.S. men’s rights activist/ Instagram

Sellner has been permanently banned from the U.K. and denied a travel permit to the U.S. In 2019, he was investigated by Austrian police after it emerged that he had received a donation of $1,500 from Brenton Tarrant, the Australian-born gunman who murdered 51 worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Together with Kubitschek, Sellner founded the German branch of the Identitarian movement. 

Kubitschek also runs a publishing house named Verlag Antaios, which prints books by notable far-right figures, including Sellner, Donovan and Alain de Benoist, the French political philosopher widely considered the founder of the Nouvelle Droite.

In 2019, Ein Prozent was banned from Facebook and Instagram for its links to the Identitarian movement. Now, the group’s main platforms are its own website and YouTube channel, which at the time of writing had just over 11,000 subscribers. It also communicates with an audience of 7,000 via Telegram, an encrypted messaging platform popular with far-right and other extremist groups.  

While these numbers are relatively small, experts believe that the group’s real influence lies in the projects and organizations it supports — many of which have a far wider reach and affect public discourse in a deeper way than a single, fringe political organization could hope to. For example, a chart-topping rap album is likely to connect not only with those already dedicated to the far-right cause, but also potential new converts. It also helps to normalize and entrench reactionary themes within popular culture. And that is precisely what Ein Prozent is all about. 

“They work as a PR company. That’s how they understand politics,” Stegemann told me. “It’s much more powerful to finance somebody else to tell your truth than to do it yourself.”

The story you just read is a small piece of a complex and an ever-changing storyline we are following as part of our coverage. These overarching storylines — whether the disinformation campaigns that are feeding the war on truth or the new technologies strengthening the growing authoritarianism, are the crises that Coda covers relentlessly and with singular focus. But we can’t do it without your help. Today, you have the opportunity to double the impact of your support for Coda Story. From now through the end of 2020, a year’s worth of monthly payments or a one-time contribution will be matched, all up to $5,000. Support journalism that stays on the story.

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Filip Brokeš

Filip Brokeš is an independent investigative journalist based in Berlin since 2018. Originally from Prague, Filip covers Central and Eastern Europe for a number of prominent media outlets.