Brussels (Brussels Morning) The co-president of the German Greens party Annalena Baerbock is facing an escalating campaign of online attacks featuring sexism, hate and disinformation, which started within hours of the party formally announcing her as its candidate for chancellor, Deutsche Welle reported.
“It wasn’t the increase in fake content and hate that surprised us”, Josephine Ballon, legal head at the HateAid advice centre, declared. “It was the sheer speed and extent. What’s unfolding is gender-specific hate. This kind of hate seeks to discredit and silence the target”.
After Baerbock was nominated by her party, she became a target for sexualised hate and baseless claims. A supposed nude photo of Baerbock circulated online, which actually showed a young Russian porn star with a vague resemblance to the Greens’ leader. Bogus claims were spread – among them, that Baerbock called for the abolition of pets to combat climate change. She was also subjected to a series of slurs about her appearance.
Political and communications adviser Johannes Hillje was unsurprised, pointing out that the trend was all too common and to be expected. “Next to conspiracy tales, Islamophobia, and anti-migration sentiment … misogyny is a key part of the ideology of the groups who create and spread this kind of content”, Hillje observed.
The far-right scene fears Baerbock as the new Angela Merkel, according to Hillje, a fear exacerbated by the Greens’ leader soaring popularity in the polls to the point where she has overtaken current chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). “As a female, successful, liberal politician, Baerbock meets a lot of the criteria of their classic image of ‘the enemy”, Hillje opined.
Two hate groups
The communication expert claims Baerbock is the target of two separate groups – one, the far-right network of populists and extremists, and the other pro-Russian. The latter is enflamed by Baerbock’s open criticism of Moscow and her calls to end the construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
Experts currently are less concerned that the online hate and disinformation could affect the election results than they are worried that it could result in real-life violence – which, they note, has already happened on several occasions.