The Identitarian Movement… explained.
What is the Identitarian Movement (IB)? In short, it is a patriotic association that wants to re-establish 'German' identity as a guiding value through activist actions. When taking a closer look, it's a bit more complicated.
The Identitarian Movement (IB) is not a German idea. There are many such groups in different countries – the Bloc Identitaire from France is regularly mentioned as one of the first groups and was founded in the early 2000s. In Germany, the Identitarian Movement has officially existed since 2014, but it was already active on the internet in 2012. As a registered association, it is based in Paderborn and consists of 16 regional groups spread across Germany. What these movements have in common are their political orientation and their political goals, which are classified by experts as belonging to the "new right wing". The groups are interconnected, with identitarian activists from Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Austria, Italy and Poland working together. "Our goal is the creation of a patriotic civil society in which the love for one's homeland and a fearless commitment to one's own identity are recognized once again as guiding values of social coexistence," writes the movement on its website. The Identitarian Movement sees Germany and 'German' society, or the European countries, as being threatened by 'Islamisation' and 'alienation' of refugees and migrants. The IB warns of a so-called 'great exchange', in which the 'native' society is replaced by migrants. To prevent this threat, they mainly refer to so-called 'ethnopluralism'. While at first glance, this term suggests a striving for ethnic diversity, a closer look reveals that it is about social and spatial demarcation of different ethnic groups. "Ethnopluralism" is a theory that assumes "immutable cultural identities" that must be protected through separate development, otherwise they would become "weaker". Unlike nationalist theories, it does not obviously speak of the superiority of a particular group, yet the implementation seems to be similar. Kathrin Glösel, Austrian political scientist and author, described ethnopluralism as "worldwide apartheid". Apartheid is a type of racial segregation or segregation in which “the whites” dominate. Apartheid in South Africa was a clearly racist and authoritarian system. This demarcation that the IB wants, should be questioned historically, because hardly any culture that exists today is exclusively French, Spanish, Chinese, Brazilian, Russian or anything else. Cultures emerge through human exchange and develop over centuries. And if the IB is actually against the "over-familiarisation" of ethnic groups by others, is it also active when it comes to coming to terms with colonialism?
Through projects, actions and media presence, the Identitarian Movement tries to promote and realise its goals of spreading patriotic values. Their appearance is professional and modern, their website and videos appealing and aesthetic – and it is precisely this what makes them so dangerous. This deviation from the classic nationalist characteristics of such movements is essential in the marketing of the IB. Furthermore, the Identitarian Movement uses non-violent forms of propaganda that are atypical for right-wing extremism, such as hanging banners. This seemingly harmless appearance helps them to win new and especially young members. During my research, I also noticed that many of the texts and statements seem harmless at first glance. Racist statements are rather subliminal. This may also explain why it is mainly the established and higher-ranking members who are allowed to speak in interviews, as they know how to express themselves in order to sound as politically correct and harmless as possible. However, it is also interesting to mention here that at least two prominent members of the IB have a past in national socialist groups, for example in the youth organisation of the NPD. In the video by a reporter of the Spiegel who wanted to do interviews at a public event of the IB visitors were repeatedly asked by official stewards not to answer. This shows that the people who feel addressed by the Identitarian movement are often racist, nationalist and extremist (one of the interviewees mentioned apartheid as a solution to "migration problems"), even if the official spokespersons of the movement at least publicly speak out against it.
But this exactly is the problem: content has to be there to attract such people, and even if it is hidden behind posh language, that doesn't make it any less bad. Another example of this is provided by the Christchurch assassin, who donated money to the leader of the Austrian Identitarians, Martin Sellner, and also to French counterpart groups. The assassin shot over 50 people in two mosques in New Zealand in 2019, giving the takeover of the West by Muslim people as the reason. Who such an organisation appeals to, gives a deep insight.
Language is one of the most important tools the Identitarian movement uses. Their language is mostly modern, academic and their words politically correct. Emphasis on "mostly". In a statement expressing solidarity with Greece, they use the word "black Africa", a term that is outdated and often seen as racist. Through this term, a demarcation is made between North Africa and "the rest of the country". In colonial times, the north of Africa was seen as more culturally valuable and the region south of it, now sub-Saharan Africa, as a cultureless and homogeneous entity. This assessment is racist and wrong (the region today comprises 49 states). The language of the IB clearly declares its patriotic and conservative values and goals, taking great care not to appear racist, violent or extremist.
Their conservatism is also reflected in the gender distribution and their choice of words. The members presented on the website are exclusively male, videos of their demonstrations, meetings and events show mainly (but not only) men. However, the IB, or rather the women of the IB, claim to also lead feminist struggles. Though these are directed less against patriarchy than against migrants. The activists created a web action called "120 decibels". It is an alternative action to #metoo, which, according to them, ignores the real problem. The activists define men with migration background who were able to come to Germany through German immigration policy and who sexually harass and rape women here as the only danger to women. This statement is highly simplified and indirectly claims that "German" men do not rape or sexually harass women. In their video, the women say they now have to carry pepper spray and pocket alarms and that going jogging in the evening is now too dangerous. To claim that this problem can be solved by an immigration stop and remigration alone is naïve and dangerous. Women have been raped by men from all countries for thousands of years. So the problem here is not origin, but patriarchy, which is prevalent in all countries of the world. The acceptance and frequency of sexual harassment and rape varies from country to country, in some countries marital rape is still legal and women are forced to marry their rapist when pregnant. These conditions are unacceptable, yet we must not ignore our own abuses.
In 2016, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified the association as a suspicious case, whereupon they examined its behaviour and motivation. Three years later, the Identitarian Movement was classified as "right-wing extremist". The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution justified the decision by saying that the Identitarian Movement is violating Article 1 of the constitution (human dignity) and Article 20 (1) and (2) of the constitution (principle of democracy). They say that its supporters are to be classified as "intellectual arsonists". The Office for the Protection of the Constitution writes on this: "They [the IB] call for an "identitarian" – as opposed to the existing representative – democracy. In particular, the IBD's fixation on ethnic homogeneity as a central value for society and democracy proves that its ideology violates the human dignity protected by the constitution and the principle of democracy". This result allows the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to observe the association with the means at its disposal. The Identitarian Movement already responded in 2017 with legal proceedings against the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and its decisions of 2016 and 2019.