The demos of the "lateral thinkers against the Corona measures caused a stir nationwide. At the turn of the year there was a break in the demonstrations, but now the movement is becoming active again. The #Faktenfuchs clarifies who is behind it and who the protest attracts.
On 29. August 2020 a large demonstration marches through the Berlin city center. Some of the demonstrators hold up posters showing politicians and scientists: Angela Merkel, Olaf Scholz, Karl Lauterbach, Christian Drosten. All are pictured in prisoner clothing and carry a sign with the inscription "guilty" in the hands.
What exactly they are "guilty" of is not written on the signs, but it is clear: the demonstrators reject outright the measures taken by politicians under the influence of science to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Even more: Merkel and Co. are to be locked up according to opinion of the demonstrators even.
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"Querdenken" is active throughout Germany
This demonstration, in which about 38.000 people participated, had Michael Ballweg announced, founder and managing director of a software company from Stuttgart. There he had in the spring 2020 "Querdenken 711" brought into being. "Lateral thinking 711" describes itself as (freedom) "initiative", sometimes also as movement – it concerns thereby neither an association nor a party.
The addition "711 comes from the telephone area code of Stuttgart (0711). "Lateral thinking 711" is the Stuttgart local group of "Querdenken. Germany far there are according to own Website at present 68 offshoots, of it nine in Bavaria. Also these local groups carry in each case the telephone prefix in the name, thus for example "transverse thinking 089 Munich". Alone up to October "transverse thinking" has according to their own information, organized more than 100 demonstrations and gatherings throughout Germany, in which several hundred thousand people are said to have participated.
At Christmas Ballweg announced a break in demonstrations. Instead, he wants to use the winter to "gather strength for the spring" to gather, he justified his actions in a video. This he recommends also to other transverse thinking-groups in Germany.
Autokorsos as a new form of protest
In the meantime, however, the winter break is over. On 27. January Ballweg called by video message to a new form of protest: Car parades in cities. It started in Stuttgart, in the meantime in a so-called "freedom drivers"-Group on Telegram Autokorsos planned in several German cities. With the Autokorsos, in which partially several hundred vehicles are involved, the Querdenker want to show their displeasure over the Corona measures.
Official goal of the "lateral thinkers is the unrestricted re-establishment of the at present partially restricted basic rights: "We insist on the first 20 articles of our constitution", it says in a one-sided manifesto. These are in particular the abolition of the restrictions of fundamental rights by the "Corona decree". Then nine basic rights are listed, among other things freedom of opinion, assembly and occupation.
Further it is called in the manifesto: "We are non-partisan and exclude no opinion". In fact, a diffuse mixture of people, ideas and world views can be found at lateral thinking demos: Small families next to rioters, rainbow flags next to Reich war flags.
Herrmann sees extremely heterogeneous movement in transverse thinkers
The Bavarian state government sees "lateral thinking as "extremely heterogeneous movement: In terms of content, the arc spans from citizens who want to point out the importance of the fundamental right of assembly, to fanatical opponents of vaccination, esotericists, general state skeptics and conspiracy theorists. "Also right-wing extremists as well as'Reichsburger' and'Selbstverwalter' try to take advantage of the Corona crisis and participate in appropriate demos", said Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) in November.
Verfassungsschutz Baden-Wurttemberg observes core of Querdenken 711
The Baden-Wurttemberg Office for the Protection of the Constitution has a similar view: both "personnel" as well as "ideologically there is with "lateral thinking 711" Overlaps with, among others, right-wing extremists and Reichsburgern or. self-governors. The Reichsburger deny the existence of the Federal Republic and reject democratic and constitutional structures. In mid-November, Ballweg met in Saalfeld, Thuringia, for a "working meeting" with the citizen of the realm Peter Fitzek, which its own "kingdom of Germany" proclaimed.
Since December, the Baden-Wurttemberg Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been observing the core or. the organizational level of "Querdenken 711". "When extremist efforts abuse the freedoms of the Basic Law in order to promote their extremist and conspiracy ideological narratives, a line has been crossed.", said Baden-Wurttemberg’s Interior Minister Thomas Strobl (CDU) at the time. "The advanced radicalization of the'Querdenken'-group in the country makes an observation of their organizational level by our constitutional protection indispensable".
© dpa-imagebroadcast/Sebastian Gollnow
Image rights: dpa-Bildfunk/Sebastian Gollnow
Querdenken founder Michael Ballweg at a demonstration in Berlin
Ballweg: "insubstantial rumors and accusations"
The assessment of the Ministry of the Interior and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Baden-Wurttemberg is in clear contradiction to official announcements, in which "Querdenken 711" is said to be a "non-Semitic" organization Distanced themselves from extremism of any kind, and especially from Reichsburgern. Again and again, founder Ballweg emphasizes standing on the ground of the Basic Law.
He commented on the observation by the Baden-Wurttemberg Office for the Protection of the Constitution: It was only "general, completely unsubstantiated rumors and accusations" were put forward. "We see the observation as another attempt by the government to intimidate peaceful demonstrators", said Ballweg.
Strobl: Majority of Corona demo-goers are not extremists
Exactly that is not the case. Baden-Wurttemberg’s Interior Minister Thomas Strobl stressed in December that the observation was directed "exclusively against the organizational structures of'Querdenken 711' and its regional offshoots, as well as against extremists in the group’s environment and its meetings – and not against the largely non-extremist participants in the Corona protests. "The majority of the participants of the'Querdenken'-demonstrations are not extremists", Strobl said.
Study examines Corona protests
Who attends Corona demonstrations and what motivations, values and convictions the participants have was recently investigated by a team from the University of Basel led by sociologist Oliver Nachtwey in a study entitled "Political Sociology of Corona Protests" investigates.
In the study, the sociologists interviewed participants in Corona demonstrations in Germany and Switzerland. Second, the researchers had members of Telegram groups where critics of the Corona measures are active fill out questionnaires. In total, more than 1.150 people interviewed.
Sociologists refer to the movement of critics as a whole as "lateral thinkers". This also – but not only – means that the "Querdenken 711" are not extremists-Initiative and its local offshoots meant. While the results are not representative, the researchers believe they provide an overview of certain patterns of attitudes within the lateral thinking movement.
Strong alienation from institutions, parties and media
The Basel researchers also note a great heterogeneity within the movement of Corona critics and lateral thinkers. "It is not one, but several, often disparate social groups linked by shared mentalities", the study states.
Characteristic of this new movement is a "strong alienation from the institutions of the political system, the established media and – at least for Germany – the old popular parties," said Ballweg."
Partly anti-Semitic tendencies
The researchers cautiously speak of a "relative tendency toward anti-Semitism" among the lateral thinkers, which is not surprising insofar as it is a movement "that has many references and a high tendency to conspiracy-theoretical thinking – and conspiracy theories often have anti-Semitic features."
All in all, the lateral thinkers are neither outspokenly xenophobic nor Islamophobic, in a few areas even rather anti-authoritarian and inclined toward anthroposophy. A large part wants to put alternative medicine on an equal footing with conventional medicine, back to nature and place more emphasis on holistic and spiritual thinking.
Movement open to the right
With view of the election intentions it can be said that it concerns a movement "which comes rather from the left, but goes more strongly to the right". While the lateral thinkers might not necessarily be categorized in their basic disposition in the image of a right-wing movement. However, it is "clearly a movement that is open to the right and has considerable intrinsic radicalization potential." A majority considers the AfD to be a normal party and feels that the excitement about imperial war flags at demonstrations is exaggerated.
The "Querdenken 711" initiative founded in April 2020 by Stuttgart-based IT entrepreneur Michael Ballweg Rejects federal and state Corona measures and calls for the rollback of all current fundamental rights restrictions. More than 60 local cross-thinking groups have now formed to hold corona demonstrations.
Lateral thinking describes itself as "non-partisan": one excludes no opinion and stands on the ground of the Basic Law. The lateral thinker movement is very heterogeneous, the spectrum ranges from vaccination opponents to esoterics, general state skeptics and conspiracy theorists to right-wing extremists and Reich citizens. Because it is precisely at the leadership level of "Lateral Thinking 711" both in terms of personnel and ideology overlaps with right-wing extremists and Reichsburger, it has been monitored by the Baden-Wurttemberg Office for the Protection of the Constitution since December 2020.
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