What is the most extreme political lie

The number of right-wing extremists is increasing - and they are eagerly trying to gain even more popularity with crude conspiracy theories in protests against the corona rules. Herbert Reul, the North Rhine-Westphalian interior minister, has now warned against this strategy and a "collective madness". The CDU politician spoke in D├╝sseldorf on Tuesday of "a real danger to democracy." Because, Reul continues, the reinterpretation of the corona pandemic as a "big lie" is just as infectious as the virus itself: "It's contagious!"

Reul, who presented the 2019 annual report of the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution in North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday, referred to the strengthening of right-wing extremists already last year: According to this, the number of right-wing extremists in the most populous federal state rose by 25 percent to 4075 people in 2019. That is the highest level in ten years. The authorities classify around 2,000 of them as "violent". It is true that politically motivated crime from the right fell by almost three percent, to 3,661 criminal offenses. Burkhard Freier, the head of the protection of the constitution in North Rhine-Westphalia, sees "legalistic extremism" on the advance for the time being, that is, people who are less inclined to commit crimes: "But on this breeding ground, violence grows, racism grows and possibly terrorism."

Minister Reul is concerned about how the Internet has developed into the "darkroom of an extremist worldview". There, individual perpetrators like the murderers from Halle and Hanau would find their support: "They were only apparently lonely." Both would have had their "conspiracy belief". The perpetrator from Halle believed himself to be a victim of feminism, the assassin from Hanau believed that a chip had been implanted in him as a child. Since 2015, Reul continues, the extreme right has "massively spread the madness" that politicians are pursuing "a major plan for the disempowerment and exchange of the population" through the immigration of refugees.

Now, according to Reul, "a myth" is being cultivated in so-called hygiene demonstrations that the powerful assume a corona conspiracy for the purpose of depriving their own citizens of liberty. "The new thing about Corona is that this is now taking place on the street." The extreme right is trying to attract new followers by "dissolving borders" and "penetrating into the middle of society".

Almost all social groups are vulnerable, believes Professor Andreas Zick

On Tuesday, Reul's interpretation also agreed with Andreas Zick, professor of conflict research at Bielefeld University. "The fight for the street, for the public space is very important to the right-wing extremists," he told the SZ. Corona offers groups such as the so-called "Reichsb├╝rgern" a chance to build bridges "in an ideology of resistance against the established system and its elites."

Zick is working on an empirical study on the perception of the corona crisis in the country. A survey of over 3,000 people at the end of March and beginning of April showed that at least one in four believed that the media and politics were "deliberately hiding certain information" from the population. And at least eight percent of those questioned agreed with the statement that there are "secret organizations that have a major influence on political decisions during the Corona crisis." The Bielefeld professor believes that in times of massive uncertainty, "almost all groups in society are susceptible": including middle-class milieus, women and men, young and old alike.

Burkhard Freier, the head of the NRW constitution protection, makes three very heterogeneous groups among the activists of the corona conspiracy mysticism. On the one hand, there are champions without a clear political background like singer Xavier Naidoo. In addition, the uncertainty is being fueled specifically via the Internet from abroad, for example from Russia and China. And thirdly, the extreme right has been seeking proximity to protesters against the corona restrictions for weeks. Initially, groups like the party "Dierechte", the NPD or the "Brotherhood of Germany" tried in vain to organize the protests themselves. "But that didn't work," said Freier, "because society's defensive reflexes worked." Since then, however, the right-wing extremists have changed their tactics: They have now mingled with the demonstrators - and campaigning for their conspiratorial cause.