Last week I wrote here that star titles should trigger discussions. Our cover discussion with Alice Weidel from the AfD did this, the conversation was discussed, very often critically. AfD supporters got really upset about our question: "What can you actually do besides hate?" Other criticism focused on three points: Talking to Weidel at all, because you don't talk to Nazis. Then the decision to put Weidel on the title, professionally photographed, as always with our title talks. And finally criticism of the way the conversation was conducted: We were taken in by Weidel, we didn't contradict her enough.
I don't want to try to refute this criticism in detail, because these are issues that we also argued about. And we never imagined for a moment that we could find the perfect solution for dealing with extremists who hardly care about facts, or even exposing them in one fell swoop.
The only thing that irritates me is the self-confidence of those who so flatly condemn our approach – arguing with the AfD, also in an interview. Many politicians refuse to deal with the AfD. Media tried walks with AfD people, page-long portraits. Most of the time it was about proving that they had broken taboos and reassuring ourselves that we were morally on the right side. Both are necessary, but may have only reinforced the party's "otherness" that appeals to some voters. What we never really managed to do: to show what a sad bunch that is and how little the "Alternative for Germany" has to offer.
I've lived for a long time in countries where hate has become a discourse. In the USA, where the racist Donald Trump could become president. In France, where we are currently experiencing again how effective the poison of ideas from Le Pen and Co. is. I don't want that for Germany, especially not for Germany with its very special history. The star does not want that, which has always spoken out against extremism. And that's why we have to wrestle and fight. In this issue, for example, the political scientist Natascha Strobl and the publicist Hasnain Kazim do the same: Strobl warns against the fear of the AfD, but Kazim pleads not to ignore the right and their speeches. Our columnist Jagoda Marinić, on the other hand, fears that the right-wing populists will "wallow in the dirt with joy" at every word they spread.
But we don't have to argue about the political solutions proposed by the AfD, because there are hardly any. It's about how we can show that voting for populists may give you a good feeling for a moment, because they provide an outlet for fears, worries and problems that are beating down on us right now. But populists never really help people because they always put themselves first. Politicians have to make that clear by creating solutions and talking about them again and again so that as many people as possible get the message: They want something and they don't just talk. And we media have to think about how we can uncover the emptiness of the populists without appearing patronizing. This will sometimes work better, sometimes not so well, but the attempt should become normal. Our aim was to provide an impetus for this.