In the early hours of Sunday 3rd September 2017, the German political and satirical party Die PARTEI (“the political party“) took control of 31 secret Facebook groups belonging to far-right supporters. This strike had been executed with undercover agents posing as sympathisers and military-like, perfect timing as the result of months of painstaking work. Up until that point posts in these groups had typically featured strong support for the AfD party (the “alternative” party for Germany, a far-right nationalist movement) jokes about “leftists” and racist propaganda including fake news stories about immigrants and the government.
In a hilarious twist 180,000 far-right members woke up to find themselves suddenly belonging to newly renamed groups such as Hummus-Liebe (“hummus love”), Warum nicht auch mal einen Türken? (“Why not [elect] a Turk for once?”) and “I ❤ Antifa“. (the radical left anarchist political movement).
Facebook newsfeeds were spammed with pictures of hummus, recipes, nazi jokes, and gay Hitler memes.
In a pinned statement posted in each of the 31 newly PARTEI-controled and now public Facebook groups, Die PARTEI‘s founder declares:
“ATTENTION: with immediate effect this group is under the control of the very good political party Die PARTEI. Here is a message from our Reichs-propaganda leader: https://www.facebook.com/ShahakShapira/videos/1914991142157589/“
The link then takes the viewer to a Facebook video recorded by Shahak Shapira. Shapira is an Israeli artist, comedian and author living in Berlin. Some of his famous projects include YOLOCAUST, a website that featured selfies taken at the Holocaust memorial and superimposed them onto images taken of victims of the holocaust. The pictures were subsequently removed after those who had taken them admitted how mindless and insulting they had been.
For his latest mission, Shapira and his team infiltrated far-right Facebook groups over a period of ten months, in order to become admins, have fake accounts deleted and take control to deliver the trollolo of a lifetime. No illegal tactics or “hacking” were used.
“Dear fellow citizen” his video starts. “My name is Shahak Shapira – don’t worry that’s an old Prussian name.”
“If you are watching this then you are one of 180,000 members of 31 secret pro-AfD party Facebook groups which are now under my control.”
Outed AfD sympathisers started leaving the groups, some also posted angry messages on the now public feeds on how this move had done nothing but encourage them to vote AfD in the upcoming election even more.
But even more surprising was the mass of anti-AfD trolls who immediately started joining the groups to post jokes and tongue in cheek messages declaring the need for an alternative for hummus in order to ridicule what these groups stood for. Hummus, an “ethnic” food, is the perfect tool for ridiculing everything nationalists think is wrong with Germany.
German supermarket Edeka recently made headlines after a superbly executed publicity stunt that showcased just how empty German supermarkets would be if there were no foreign and only German products on its shelves.
As entertaining as this whole affair has been for Shapira’s fans and Germany as a whole, the message to be taken away from it has a serious undertone to it as well.
In his Jetzt.de interview Shapira cautions: “You have to try and think about how dangerous all of this bullshit is”, he says referring to the AfD party. “What dimensions it can take on, what it actually is they are doing and how they influence others.” And on his reasons for this incredibly clever, large-scale joke: “All the major parties seem to do is self-promote. Which other party do you see taking care of showing these people up?” And we sure are glad he did.
Whoever said Germans have no sense of humour?
Click here to read the interview on Jetzt.de with some more detail about how this was pulled off (interview in German).