Coalition agreement: Facebook fans of CDU and SPD discuss personnel questions instead of content

Office changes and hatred against journalists are topic trends

The ridicule against Martin Schulz (see here) disappeared; instead, less heated debates on personnel questions came to the fore in the Facebook communities of the CDU and SPD from February 9th on. Concrete political content, however, is rarely discussed. Only the activities of a British right-wing populist captivate the interest of both political parties.

SPD fans interested in the following topics from February 9 to February 11 2018.

The SPD fans on Facebook were interested in the following topics from February 9 to February 11 2018.

Facebook ridicule against Schulz quickly decreases after his resignation

The news that Martin Schulz would decline the office of the Foreign Minister reached many Facebook fans of CDU and SPD via a Spiegel Online article.

In this report, the party base’s dissatisfaction and the concern that personnel squabbles might outshine content-related questions are given as the reason for the SPD chairman’s repeated changes of mind.

Nevertheless, in the following days (February 9th to February 11th), concrete political topics barely played a role for Facebook fans of both parties. The Facebook ridicule against the previous SPD chairman Schulz quickly decreased in both communities around February 9th.

Instead, among SPD supporters, an open letter to Martin Schulz and the party executive community – which had already circulated before – began trending; the signers criticised Schulz for suggesting Andrea Nahles as his successor without involving the party base in the decision-making process.

They requested to select the new party chairperson through an election during which all party members could vote.

On Facebook, Andrea Nahles becomes a knitting dolly

In a trending video, Nahles is asked what she can do better than her predecessor and – after several seconds of hesitation – she says one word: “knitting”.

While many SPD supporters watched the video on February 7th on the Facebook page of ZDF Heuteplus, it reached many CDU fans the day after via the Facebook page of AfD.

SPD fans also shared a ZDF Heute video from February 9th in which Nahles – against the background of his renouncement from the intended Office of the Foreign Minister ­– thanks Martin Schulz for his work on the coalition contract and particularly for ‘the chapter on Europe which represents a real political change’.

In addition, the SPD Facebook community was interested in the political fate of Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD chairman between 2009 and 2017 and the Minister of Economic affairs from 2013 to 2017.

The politician was mentioned several times as the potential Foreign Minister of the Grand Coalition, but now it seems that he could come away empty-handed from the awarding of posts.

Users shared a Focus Online piece in which Gabriel complains that he was wronged by his party, the SPD. In the meantime, a quote has been raised to the level of a ‘scandal’; Gabriel’s young daughter commented on the loss of his political posts with the following words:

‘Don’t be sad, dad, now you have more time with us. That’s better than spending time with the man with the hair in the face.’

Call from the SPD youth organisation to boycott the Grand Coalition loses relevance

Facebook post of the satirical politics magazine Extra 3 (February 9th, 2018): ‘The SPD members are now allowed to agree to a coalition contract which has been negotiated by someone who did not want to have it first, who then defended it against resistance in its own ranks and who is now not there any more. Good luck, comrades!’

The SPD community continues to be interested in the upcoming member vote on the Grand Coalition.

The only trending post regarding this topic in both the SPD and CDU communities is from Extra 3 and comments on the member vote as follows:

‘The SPD members now have the right to agree to a coalition contract which has been negotiated by someone who first did not want to have it, who then defended it against intense resistance in the own ranks and who is not there any more now. Good luck, comrades!’

As was observed directly after the end of the coalition negotiations (see our previous blog post), Kevin Kühnert’s call addressing SPD members to vote against a new edition of the Grand Coalition is once again trending, but already much less than in previous days.

Instead, SPD fans are now equally interested in a Spiegel Online text explaining the member vote schedule and the pro and contra positions regarding a new edition of the Grand Coalition within the party.

Merkel’s finance politics, a ‘combination of vicarage and GDR’

From February 9th on, supporters of both parties showed great interest in Andrea Nahles.

In contrast, between February 9th and 11th, the CDU community focused on criticism of Angela Merkel’s governing style.

A Bild article was widely shared which claimed that Merkel had invited herself to the ZDF broadcast ‘Berlin direkt’ in order to steal the critics’ thunder regarding the results of the Grand Coalition. The text then lists points of criticism made by some CDU politicians towards the chancellor and calls it a ‘CDU uprising against the party leader.’

In his Spiegel Online column ‘Socialist, Expensive, Merkel’, Jan Fleischhauer accuses the coalition negotiators of spend tax money carelessly. He then particularly questions Angela Merkel’s expenditure policy:

‘It seems to be an unimaginable thought for Angela Merkel that freedom can also mean to decide for yourself what you want to spend the money you gained yourself on (…). Merkel’s politics has become a “combination of vicarage and GDR.”’

He implies the chancellor has a ‘too-reckless attitude towards other people’s money’ and criticises that, in spite of expenses amounting to €1.3 trillion according to the state’s financial plan for the current legislative period, the government does even not manage to provide for properly sealed roofs at school buildings.

In addition, CDU supporters showed interest in Thomas de Maizière leaving the cabinet. Particularly often, they shared the article ‘How the chancellor ditched a devoted companion’ of Bild, in which Merkel is accused of a heartless treatment of ‘one of her closest companions’.

Ironic video praises the new homeland ministry

Facebook fans of both parties seem to be so desperate about all the Grand Coalition discussions around the allocation of political posts that they only read and share texts that mock the topic.

CDU supporters particularly liked a text by the satirical newspaper Postillon, according to which Merkel wants to establish ‘a Ministry for ice cream, a window Ministry and a whatnot Ministry’ in order to be able to allocate more posts to CDU politicians.

The SPD fans, however, preferred to make fun of the plans for a new homeland ministry. An ironic video that looks like a promotional video for the new ministry has become a trend.

The video claims that Germany does not need ‘fibre optic networks, schools or fair wages’ since Heimat (that is, the feeling of belong to or feeling at home in one’s own country) is ‘the most important future issue for the next 1,000 years’.

Das Heimatministerium

Der Imagefilm des Heimatministeriums überzeugt: Die neue Regierung hat die Zukunftsthemen im Griff.

Gepostet von Bohemian Browser Ballett am Donnerstag, 8. Februar 2018

 

Some CDU fans, however, also seemed to be interested in more serious criticism regarding the topic. In their Facebook community, media articles on the criticism of the new Ministry made by the Turkish community are popular. Its chairman Gökay Sofuoglu argued:

‘We think that applying the term Heimat to the political context is problematic, not only due to German history. We fear that it would promote not social cohesion and a common bond but exclusion and division.’

Many CDU supporters clearly seem to reject this point of view, and they read different articles about the topic, also on websites by the far right.

Users fall for putative police Facebook page

All in all, the topics in both communities between February 9th and 11th were so heavily dominated by the end of the coalition talks that only a few other topics made it into the trends.

One exception is a video of the Facebook page of Germany’s first public service broadcaster, which shows how, during the hour of commemoration for the victims of National Socialism in the German parliament, AfD politicians made wry faces or clapped only reluctantly if at all, while in several speeches, attacks on immigrants or refugees were condemned, and the genocide survivor Anita-Lasker Wallfisch praises Germany’s receptiveness as ‘an incredibly generous, courageous and human gesture’.

CDU supporters are also interested in the case of a police officer who, on February 10th, was pushed against a tram car and died. They frequently shared a mourning picture from the Facebook page ‘Nachwuchspolizisten (Junior police officers)’, that they probably mistook for an official police page.

The post claims the deceased police officer had been ‘a colleague of the state criminal investigation department North Rhine-Westphalia’ who fought ‘Islam terrorism’. The Facebook page, however, does not have any relation to the police.

The creators of the page describe themselves as ‘police officers, police cadets and citizens running the page in their leisure time’ who want to offer ‘a first stop for all who are interested in the police, the human behind the uniform and for those who have the career aspiration of becoming a police officer’.

Provocation video against journalists becomes a trend

The most unusual trend is a video which can be found on Facebook and several German- and English-speaking websites,, including Journalistenwatch and on the Facebook page AfD-Freunde Stuttgart (AfD friends Stuttgart).

Tommy Robinson in Cottbus: „Warum nennen Sie diese Leute rechtsextrem?“

Tommy Robinson in Cottbus: „Warum nennen Sie diese Leute rechtsextrem?“Grandios! Der britische Aktivist Tommy Robinson ist unterwegs in Cottbus. Er spricht mit Demonstranten und konfrontiert Journalisten von ARD und DW mit der Frage, warum sie normale Bürger „rechtsextrem“ nennen: „Die Leute haben genug. Ich glaube, wir werden Zeugen von dem Beginn etwas Großem. Angela Merkel hat Millionen Migranten aus Kulturen eingeladen, die Frauen nicht respektieren. Das hier ist die wirkliche #Meetoo-Bewegung.„Es gibt Messer-Attacken von Migranten und die Atmosphäre hat sich verändert. Es ist jetzt eine Atmosphäre der Angst“, erzählt ihm ein Mann. Tommy Robinson, erklärt, er würde immer wieder mit Frauen sprechen, die ihm sagen, sie hätten jetzt Angst nachts auf der Straße zu sein. Aber sie wollten ihm das nicht in die Kamera sagen, weil sie Angst vor den Repressalien der Politik und der Polizei hätte.Die Befragten erzählen ihm, man befürchte inzwischen den Jobverlust, wenn man die „falsche“ Meinung äußert.„Für die Medien sind wir die Rassisten, der braune Sumpf von Deutschland“, so eine Frau mit rotem Schal.Daraufhin geht eine Journalistin dazwischen und fordert ihn auf nicht mit der Frau zu reden. Sie sind Journalistin aus Berlin? Wieso soll die Frau nicht reden? Wissen sie was, sie sind eine Faschistin!“ antwortet Robinson ihr. Die Journalistin ist empört und macht sich auf den Weg, um die Polizei zu holen.Tommy Robinson lacht: „Guckt Euch das an. Die Frau hat mir erzählt, warum sie hier ist, dass sie Angst hat. Und die Journalistin hier, das ist der Nazi. Die Mainstream-Medien sind die Feinde der Bürger Europas. Ihr Mainstream-Medien seid alle mit schuldig an dem, was in Europa passiert. Ihr berichtet nicht die Wahrheit und ihr bezeichnet diese Leute völlig unfair als Faschisten, Nazis und Rassisten.“ Die Journalistin ist inzwischen ohne Polizei wieder aufgetaucht, redet aber mit Robinson kein Wort mehr.Er macht Bekanntschaft mit einer blonden ARD-Reporterin, die ihm bereitwillig Fragen beantworten will. Doch der Kollege schreitet kopfschüttelnd ein. Keine Fragen erlaubt. Robinson ist hartnäckig: „Wie würden Sie diese Leute hier bezeichnen“, fragt er die blonde ARD-Frau. “Würden Sie sagen die sind rechtsextrem? War das ein Ja? Also, ich denke das war ein Ja. Gucken sie sich diese ältere Frau hier an, würden sie erklären, warum sie rechtsextrem ist?“ „Nein, die ist normal“, „So, die ist normal, was ist mit der da?“ fragt Robinson weiter. „Die ist auch normal“. „Aber Sie sagen, das hier ist eine rechtsextreme Demonstration“, „Das habe ich nicht gesagt, das haben Sie gesagt“, windet sich die ARD-Journalistin, der jetzt nicht nur der Kaffee in ihrer Hand zu heiß wird. Sie will keine Fragen mehr beantworten, sie merkt, das Eis ist dünn, auf dem sie sich bewegt.Robinson dreht sich noch einmal zu der ARD-Crew um: „Es wird der Tag kommen, an dem sich alle gegen Euch wenden werden, Freunde. Keiner traut Euch mehr.“Eine Journalistin der Deutschen Welle erklärt ihm, sie würden die Leute nicht als rechtsextrem aber als Rechte bezeichnen. Es seien AfD-Anhänger und sie wollten die Migrationspolitik stoppen.“ Als sie mitbekommt, dass Robinson das Gespräch veröffentlichen will, verlangt sie, dass er es löscht. Auch ein RTL-Reporter will nicht gefragt werden, ob und warum er die Demonstranten später in seinem Bericht als Rechtsextreme bezeichnen wird.„Was ist los mit Euch, Leute?“, fragt Robinson lachend, „Ihr seid doch Journalisten!“Sein Fazit: „Viele, mit denen ich gesprochen habe, haben an den arabischen Frühling erinnert und gesagt, das hier wird der deutsche Sommer werden. Ich denke, dass ist der Anfang. Die AfD wird stärker werden und immer mehr Menschen werden auf die Straße gehen in diesem Sommer“, beendet Tommy Robinson seinen Bericht aus Cottbus.

Gepostet von AfD-Freunde Stuttgart am Freitag, 9. Februar 2018

 

It shows the British right-wing populist Tommy Robinson, who is well known for his anti-Islam resentments and is said to have been involved in setting up a British branch of Pegida.

At a demonstration organised by the rightist alliance ‘Zukunft Heimat’ (Future Homeland) in early February in Cottbus, he films and interviews some of the participants and tries to involve journalists in discussions on the political views of the demonstration’s participants.

For instance, he shouts out to a group of journalists: ‘The mainstream media are the enemy of the European people. […] The day will come when everyone will be directed against you.’

Although the Cottbus demonstration was against Merkel, Islam and refugees, Robinson finds in his video a way to establish a connection to the #MeToo debate, and he declares his demonstration the “true #MeToo” movement.

This argument was also used in an online campaign addressing women operated by the Identitarian Movement beginning at the end of January (the first German public service broadcaster’s fact-checking programme Faktenfinder reported).

His video, which he also distributed on his own Facebook page and on German websites such as Journalistenwatch or Philosophia Perennis, not only uses the logo of the conspiracy theory platform ‘The Rebel’ but also the Pegida logo, and it reached more than 100,000 views on the Facebook channel of the German Pegida founder Lutz Bachmann.

Surprisingly, Robinson’s video became a trend in the Facebook community of the CDU as well as in the SPD Facebook community, something that we could not observe in any of our analyses regarding similar topics.

We also had to filter out a much larger amount of spam and bot accounts than is typical. Some of these suspicious accounts had also shared Tommy Robinson’s video.

The analysis is based on 2,528 public posts which were published or shared in the Facebook communities of CDU and SPD within the time period from February 9th to February 11th. Contents from bot or spam accounts have been filtered out. In the period under review, much more suspicious activities were observed than normally. The analysis is not representative, but it allows deep insights into the analysed target groups.