Pirate leader says Twitter bitching divisive

The leader of Germany’s latest political sensation, the Pirate party, has told members to stop airing their differences on Twitter, saying public arguments are divisive.

Pirate leader says Twitter bitching divisive
Photo: DPA

Sebastian Nerz, the Pirates’ national chairman, criticized his party for its habit of bickering openly on the Internet, pleading with members to develop a new style of doing politics and to stop arguing over the social media service Twitter.

“Insults in 140 characters are not transparency. You can’t resolve a dispute over Twitter or Facebook, you only escalate them,” Nerz said.

“The first successes are also the time of the first mistakes – and these mistakes could split the party,” he said.

He was addressing the Pirates’ first party conference since their unexpectedly strong performance in the Berlin state election in September.

On Saturday 1,250 members gathered in the city of Offenbach for the conference, as the party faced the challenge of building on their success in the capital, in which it won an unprecedented 8.9 percent of the vote.

“We have left behind an eventful and tough period, and we face an even more difficult one,” Nerz told the assembled pirates at the opening of the conference.

Christoph Lauer, one of the 14 Pirates elected to the Berlin state parliament in September, said he didn’t see any danger of divisions. “The fact that 1,200 people have come together here alone shows that we have an active and lively discussion culture,” he told the DPA news agency.

In his speech Nerz also criticized the German government, accusing it of pushing a process of de-democratization in its handling of the euro crisis.

When the Pirates first formed a party in 2006, their focus was on Internet issues and digital rights. They have since widened their programme to include a variety of issues, including citizen rights and more transparency in politics. However, the party has been accused of not having policies on many issues, including foreign policy and the economy.

Over the course of the two-day gathering, members are expected to expand the party programme to include more economic and social policies. One of the more controversial issues is the proposal to introduce a basic minimum income for all citizens.

The party has seen its membership soar since the Berlin elections on September 18 to almost 19,000. Every member is entitled to attend the conference as the party rejects the idea of delegates.

Opinion polls indicate that the Pirate Party currently attracts around 7 percent support across Germany, which would be enough to allow it to enter the federal parliament should this popularity be reflected in votes at the 2013 general election.

DPA/DPAD/The Local/smd

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‘Not harmless nutcases’: German authorities identify new suspects in alleged coup plot

German authorities have identified more suspects after the major raids against the Reichsbürger, who allegedly sought to overthrow the government. Here’s what we know so far.

'Not harmless nutcases': German authorities identify new suspects in alleged coup plot

Germany has now identified 54 suspects and conducted more than 150 searches, Federal Criminal Office (BKA) President Holger Münch told public broadcaster ARD on Thursday.

The current suspects include an eccentric aristocrat known for his outspoken conspiracy theories, as well as former militia and an Alternative for Germany (AfD) member who until recently sat in German parliament.

READ ALSO: Who was involved in the alleged plot to ‘overthrow German democracy’?

Weapons – including crossbows and rifles – were also found at around 50 locations, Münch said, adding that there would likely be more suspects and searches in the coming days.

On Wednesday around 3,000 federal police carried officers carried out raids and arrests on a total of 25 people in eleven German states, as well as Italy and Austria.

Those arrested on Wednesday included “a dangerous mix of people with irrational convictions, some with a lot of money and others in possession of weapons”, Münch said.

They had put in place “a plan that they also intended to carry out… That makes it dangerous and that is why we intervened,” he said.

However, “We should not assume that a group with a few dozen members, maybe a hundred, is able to really challenge the state system in Germany,” Münch said.

“We have identified other people whose status in relation to this group we do not yet know exactly,” he said.
The group is thought to be made up of supporters of the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbürger), an ideological movement in Germany that encompasses far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts.

The Reichsbürger generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-World War I German Reich, or empire, under a monarchy and several groups have declared their own states.

Long-time targets

Germany’s security authorities had been targeting the Reichsbürger group since the spring and had a fairly clear overview of its development and plans, according to Thomas Haldenwang, the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Their plans then became increasingly concrete and weapons were procured, Haldenwang told public broadcaster ZDF.

“The German security authorities as a whole had the situation under control at all times,” he said. “But if it had been up to this group, this danger was already quite real.”

BKA chief Münch rejected accusations that authorities waited until the last moment to act. Rather, he said, the had wanted to gather enough evidence that a terrorist organization was behind the plans. There was no clarity yet on the timing of the overtly planned coup, he added. 

Heinrich XIII

The arrested Heinrich XIII, Prince of Preuss sits in a police car in Frankfurt on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

‘Anything but harmless nutcases’

Terrorism expert Peter Neumann said that the group is “able and willing to carry out serious terrorist attacks against the state,” Neumann told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland . 

“They formulate resistance narratives most clearly and claim to have the right and legitimacy to wage armed resistance against the state,” Neumann said.

CSU interior affairs expert Andrea Lindholz saw a “new quality” in the group’s willingness to use violence. 

Reichsbürger are “anything but harmless nutcases and conspiracy theorists,” the deputy leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Thursday.

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also warned against underestimating the group. What made them so dangerous, she said, was “that there was a military arm of it. With people who used to be in the Bundeswehr, so they can also handle weapons,” the SPD politician told public broadcaster ARD.

Haldenwang told ARD that security checks needed to be conducted on all people who are accepted into the security agencies of the federal and state governments.

The Reichsbürger scene has been underestimated for too long, said Germany’s Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which is committed to combating right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism.

Repeatedly in recent years, there had been clear signs that the followers were ready to use violence and were apparently also well organized, extremism researcher Lorenz Blumenthaler, who works for the foundation, told the DPA. 

“But especially in security circles, the groups have often been ridiculed and their enormous potential danger taken lightly, despite intensive warnings from civil society.” 

The issue, however, has been high on the political agenda ever since authorities foiled plans to kidnap German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach in April, he said.

 “Nobody is really laughing [at the threat] anymore.”

White House offers support

The U.S. government has offered support to Germany following Wednesday’s crackdown.

“We remain in close contact with our partners in government and stand ready to help if asked,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told DPA on Wednesday when asked if the U.S. was offering Germany intelligence on the matter.

She said they welcome the diligence of the German government and its law enforcement agencies in the fight “against violent extremism” and for the “security of its citizens and government facilities.”