It is the most prominent European group of martial artists for right-wing extremists. Their signature tournament has been banned twice by German authorities. However, Kampf der Nibelungen (or Battle of the Nibelungs) is still alive on Facebook. There are multiple pages and videos on Instagram and YouTube. They use these pages to promote their ideology, recruits, and make money from ticket sales and branded merchandise.
Despite Facebook and other platforms’ repeated promises to eradicate extremism, the Battle of the Nibelungs is just one of many far-right groups using mainstream social media to make a profit.
According to Counter Extremism Project research, at least 54 Facebook profiles belong to 39 entities, which the German government and civil societies have identified as extremists. This is according to The Associated Press. The Counter Extremism Project is a non-profit advocacy and policy group that aims to fight extremism. These groups have almost 268,000 friends and subscribers on Facebook alone.
CEP also discovered 39 Instagram profiles that were related, 16 Twitter profiles, and 34 YouTube channels. These have received over 9.5million views. Nearly 60% of these profiles were specifically designed to make money. They featured prominent links to online shops and photos that promoted merchandise.
For 20 euros ($23), click on the blue “view shop” button on Erik & Sons’ Facebook page. You can purchase a T-shirt with the message “My favorite colour is white” for just $20. Deutsches Warenhaus sells “Refugees Not Welcome” stickers for 2.50 Euros ($3), and Aryan Brotherhood tube scarves featuring skull faces for 5.88 Euros ($7). OPOS Records’ Facebook page promotes new music, merchandise, and T-shirts such as “True Aggression,” Pride & Dignity, and “One Family”. The brand stands for “One People One Struggle” and links to its online shop via Instagram and Twitter.
CEP’s database contains a list of people and organizations representing Germany’s far-right and combat sports scene. Alexander Ritzmann (lead researcher on the project) said, “They are those who create the infrastructure where people meet and make money, enjoy songs, and recruit.” It’s not likely that the men I highlighted will be involved in violent crimes. They are too intelligent. They create the stories and encourage the activities that lead to violence.
CEP stated that it focuses on groups that seek to overthrow liberal democratic institutions, norms like freedom of press, protection for minorities, and universal human dignity. They also believe that the white race has been under siege and must be protected, with violence if necessary. CEP stated that although none have been banned, almost all were described as extremists in German intelligence reports.
The groups appear harmless on Facebook. They do not violate platform rules by using hate speech or posting Swastikas. This is generally illegal in Germany.
These key architects of Germany’s far-right adhere to strict guidelines and use mainstream social media to promote festivals and music labels, mixed martial arts tournaments, and other brands. This can bring millions of dollars in sales and connect people with similar views from all over the globe.
However, cutting off these groups could have unintended and damaging consequences.
David Greene, Civil Liberties Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, said that “We don’t want to go down a path when we tell sites they should remove persons based on their who they are but what they do on the website.”
Repressive governments could use platforms to give them broad latitude to sanction undesirable organizations. He said, “That could have serious human rights concerns.” “The history and practice of content moderation have shown that it almost always works against marginalized and powerless individuals.”
German authorities have banned the Battle of the Nibelungs 2019 event on the ground that it wasn’t about sports but was training fighters with combat skills to fight for political struggle.
As the coronavirus was rampant, organizers had planned to stream the event online. They used Instagram to promote it. According to local media reports, a group of over 100 police officers in black wore balaclavas and broke up the Magdeburg motorcycle club, where fights were being recorded for the broadcast.
According to intelligence reports from Germany, the Battle of the Nibelungs serves as a “central point of communication” for right-wing extremists. It has attracted followers from all over Europe and the United States to its stated political goals, namely to combat the “rotting” liberal democratic system.
Robert Rundo, founder of the Rise Above Movement in California, attended the Nibelungs tournament. At least four Rise Above members were charged with rioting for taking their combat training out into the streets during the Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia. Many Battle of Nibelungs alumni have been sent to prison for manslaughter and assault, as well as attacks on migrants.
National Socialism Today, which is a magazine by nationalists for nationists, has praised Battle of the Nibelungs for inspiring a desire to fight and motivating “activists in improving their readiness for combat”
However, there is no mention of professionalized anti-government violence in the group’s social media accounts. It’s instead a brand that promotes healthy lifestyles, and sells tea mugs and shoulder bags.
“Exploring the natural world. One Facebook post shows a man on the top of a mountain wearing Resistend-branded sportswear. This sponsor of the Nibelung tournament. The photos show all the men looking pumped and white and enjoying healthy activities like long runs or alpine trekkings.
Thorsten Heise, who was convicted of inciting hatred and has been called “one of the most prominent German neo Nazis” by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution of the German state of Thuringia, also maintains multiple Facebook pages.