Sarah Rambatz became a target early last week. In the internet, right-wing agitators declared open season on the young woman from Hamburg. “What do we do with brainwashed traitors?” asked a user on KrautChan, a web platform popular among right-wing online activists. “Simply getting rid of her isn’t acceptable in a civilized society. Or is it?” The national spokesperson for the youth organization of the Left Party was hoping to become a member of Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, but now her political career lies in ruins. She had asked on Facebook for “anti-German film recommendations.” More specifically, she wrote: “Basically anything where Germans die.” After the post went public, her campaign ended. She is no longer seeking a seat. The screen shot of her tasteless Facebook post spread with lightning speed across social networks and a wave of hatred broke over the young woman, who was attacked with lines like: “This whore deserves to be screwed to death and dismembered.” On Wednesday, Rambatz told the Hamburg’s Morgenpost newspaper she was at wit’s end. “For several days, I have been in close contact with the police and other government security officials,” she told the paper. “My family and I are getting death threats.”
But what may seem like a spontaneous wave of online outrage is actually being controlled by right-wing activists seeking to manipulate the German federal election. Rambatz’s ill-advised post was just the moment they were waiting for. Since Tuesday of last week, it has been repeatedly posted in chatrooms belonging to the right-wing extremist activist group Reconquista Germanica, with notes like, “This photo should absolutely be spread further.”
The group organizes itself along strict military lines and, in addition to its YouTube channel with 33,000 subscribers, it has recently found another home: the chat app Discord. In this command center for anonymous disinformation, the self-proclaimed “officers,” “privates” and “recruits” get their “daily orders.” In this way, they tried in this way to spread the hashtag #verraeterduell (traitor debate) on Twitter during the Sept. 3 televised debate between Christian Democratic Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democratic challenger Martin Schulz. Their own firepower, the members boast, is so powerful that they even managed to get a “patriotic video” to become one of the most-clicked videos on YouTube in Germany.