National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland: Exploring a leaked WhatsApp chat

Hanna Bruns

University of Bonn (


The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is a German party on the right end of the political spectrum that exhibits strong xenophobic and nationalistic viewpoints. Their move into the German federal parliament in September 2017 as the third strongest party was a wake-up call about the influence that the party has on the public. The current study aims at uncovering one way that the AfD uses to position itself in the political sphere: the use of metaphors. An analysis of a leaked WhatsApp group chat between members of the party reveals that despite the party’s claims of being opposed to xenophobia and racism, members of the party make active use of metaphors that are very typical of these discourse traditions.

Die Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) ist eine rechts eingestellte Partei, die einen starken ausländerfeindlichen und nationalistischen Standpunkt vertritt. Als sie im September 2017 in den Bundestag als drittstärkste Kraft eintrat, wurde der Einfluss der Partei besonders bewusst. Die aktuelle Studie hat das Ziel eine Art und Weise aufzudecken, durch die sich die AfD in der politischen Sphäre positioniert: Die Nutzung von Metaphern. Die Analyse eines veröffentlichten WhatsApp Chats, welcher von Mitgliedern der AfD geführt wurde, zeigt, dass Mitglieder der Partei Metaphern nutzen, welche sehr typisch für den rassistischen und ausländerfeindlichen Diskurs sind, obwohl die Partei sich selbst nicht in dieser Tradition darstellt.


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National Socialist metaphors in the discourse
of the Alternative für Deutschland: Exploring a leaked
WhatsApp chat
Hanna Bruns, University of Bonn (
The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is a German party on the right end of the political
spectrum that exhibits strong xenophobic and nationalistic viewpoints. Their move into the
German federal parliament in September 2017 as the third strongest party was a wake-up
call about the influence that the party has on the public. The current study aims at
uncovering one way that the AfD uses to position itself in the political sphere: the use of
metaphors. An analysis of a leaked WhatsApp group chat between members of the party
reveals that despite the party’s claims of being opposed to xenophobia and racism, members
of the party make active use of metaphors that are very typical of these discourse traditions.
Die Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) ist eine rechts eingestellte Partei, die einen starken
ausländerfeindlichen und nationalistischen Standpunkt vertritt. Als sie im September 2017 in
den Bundestag als drittstärkste Kraft eintrat, wurde der Einfluss der Partei besonders
bewusst. Die aktuelle Studie hat das Ziel eine Art und Weise aufzudecken, durch die sich die
AfD in der politischen Sphäre positioniert: Die Nutzung von Metaphern. Die Analyse eines
veröffentlichten WhatsApp Chats, welcher von Mitgliedern der AfD geführt wurde, zeigt,
dass Mitglieder der Partei Metaphern nutzen, welche sehr typisch für den rassistischen und
ausländerfeindlichen Diskurs sind, obwohl die Partei sich selbst nicht in dieser Tradition
1. Introduction
Conceptual metaphors and how they are used in discourse have been studied
in several fields, for instance with regards to racist and xenophobic ideology.
Studies such as Musolff (2010), Santa Ana (1999), and Charteris-Black (2006)
have focused on representations of immigrants in the media.
Following this line of research, the current study is concerned with the use of
metaphors that are typical of xenophobic, racist, and nationalistic discourse in
a private chat group from members of the German party Alternative für
Deutschland. The party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has, over the course of
the last years, displayed xenophobic, racist, and especially Islamophobic
attitudes, while maintaining the self-representation as being not xenophobic or
racist (cf. Lewandowsky 2016: 41 and Grigat 2017: 16).
The data analysed in this study, WhatsApp chat data from a group chat of
approximately 200 members of the AfD, was leaked on a left-extremist website 30/2020
in 2017. For the purpose of this study, metaphors which are identified in the
literature as typical for xenophobic and nationalistic discourse were predefined
as categories for analysis of the chat data. The imagery that is created
through the use of these metaphors is then discussed.
In this paper, I will address the following questions: What are typical metaphors
in racist and xenophobic discourse? Do the members of the AfD use
metaphors commonly found in racist and xenophobic discourse? Do members
of the AfD use explicitly National Socialist metaphors in this context? My
hypothesis is that metaphors typical of racist, but also specifically National
Socialist, discourse that de-humanise and de-individualise immigrants and
political oppositions and that represent the AfD as saviour of the German
people can be found.
In chapter 2, I will first give a short introduction into how metaphors make use
of conceptualisations to create a specific imagery in ideologies. Next I will give
an overview over the metaphors that are typically found in racist, xenophobic
and nationalistic discourse and provide a more detailed insight into the nation
as body metaphor and its implications and the contexts in which they can
specifically be defined as following the National Socialist tradition (cf. Musolff
2012). Next, I will talk about the AfD, its agenda and its self-representation.
Chapter 3 will be dedicated to more details about the data and the process of
In my results and discussion, Chapter 4, there will be a general overview over
the metaphors used in the chat that are commonly found in xenophobic
discourse, and then give detailed insight on how the nation as body metaphor
and its implications are used in the data. In doing so I will pay attention to
specific examples and describe how the ideological imagery is created through
these metaphors. Chapter 5 will summarise the study.
2. Theoretical Background
Critical Metaphor Analysis (CMA) can be positioned within the paradigm of
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), with political contexts often in focus.
Critical Metaphor Analysis is concerned with the way metaphors are used in
discourse and the effects they achieve. Metaphor is seen as “a part of human
conceptualisation and not simply a linguistic expression that occurs especially
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
frequently in oratory and literature” (Chilton 2004: 51). It is therefore a feature
of normal and everyday language, not a deviation from it (cf. Pörksen 2005:
216). This cognitive approach to metaphors has its beginnings in Lakoff and
Johnson's Conceptual Metaphor Theory (cf. 2003). Their book Metaphors we live
by, first published in 1980, “became the foundation text for a new, ‘cognitively’
oriented theory of meaning” (Musolff 2012: 302). In it, Lakoff and Johnson
describe metaphor as one of “our principal vehicles for understanding” the
world (Lakoff/Johnson 2003: 159), and argue that metaphor “is understanding
and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (Lakoff/Johnson 2003:
5, emphasis omitted). This is achieved by transferring (“mapping”, Musolff
2012: 302) concepts that are easily understood in clear terms (“source domain”,
Musolff 2012: 302) onto abstract ideas which we wish to understand (“target
domain”, Musolff 2012: 302; see also Lakoff/Johnson 2003: 115). Specific
semantic features of the source domain are accentuated in this process, while
others are suppressed (cf. Pörksen 2005: 217).
In CDA, “[r]acist and xenophobic discourse in particular have been
extensively analysed” (Hart 2010: 13), and also in CMA, the focus of analysis
has often been on the “investigation and exposure of racist metaphor”
(Musolff 2012: 301). The goal of these investigations is to identify and expose
“latent racist ideologies” (Hart 2010: 13) and to make people more aware of the
way language influences our perception of the society.
2.1 Common metaphors in xenophobic and nationalistic discourse
National Socialism is a radical ideology which is based on racism, xenophobia
(often with a particular focus on Anti-Semitism) and nationalism – with the
word ‘radical’ being pertinent here. While several racist and xenophobic
movements exist, these do not necessarily subscribe to the radical views which
stand in the National Socialist tradition. National Socialism as an ideology
nevertheless continues to exist today (cf. Piper 2018: 7). Especially with the
radical component of the National Socialist ideology in mind, it is therefore
important to show in how far specifically National Socialist language tradition
continues to exist today.
In any world view, metaphors play an important role. As Kövecses (2015: 60)
points out, a number of concepts influence the way people think and see the
world. This in turn then influences the metaphorical conceptualisations 30/2020
formed. Through the use of metaphors, specific features of social reality can be
highlighted, while others get suppressed or ignored. Since ideologies wish to
portray a specific picture of the world, the focus on the 'right' semantic
features is crucial. Therefore, “[i]deological patterns [...] arise when textproducers
select one set of metaphors instead of alternative ones” (Hart 2010:
A central aspect of racist and xenophobic ideology, then, is the representation
of the native people as positive (cf. Charteris-Black 2006: 566), while the 'other'
is represented as a threat to the native people (cf. Charteris-Black 2006: 565).
The well-being of the native people is supposedly threatened by a perceived
enemy, who is ascribed the role of the guilty party for any social injustices (cf.
Kellershohn 1998: 24). This perceived enemy is constructed in two different
ways: the first is the foreigner, who supposedly comes to the country to
destroy it. The second is the enemy within, the disloyal citizen (“illoyale
Bürger”, Kellershohn 1998: 24), who does not follow the ideals set forth by the
racist ideology. It is through this perceived image of the nation, and thereby
the native people, that is in danger, that racism, xenophobia, and the ideal of
the ‘strong nation’ that needs to fight the enemies, is rationalised (cf.
Kellershohn 1998: 24). Making use of metaphors is a very effective way for
racists to legitimise their ideology. One of their core strategies in doing so is to
de-humanise the perceived enemies. This is achieved by several different
One of those themes is presenting immigrants as a NATURAL DISASTER which
endangers the nation, most often as “a threatening amount of water or snow in
which we may drown” (Van Dijk 2008: 179), made concrete in words such as
‘flood’, ‘waves’, or ‘flow’ of immigrants (Pörksen 2005: 237). Humans are not
represented as individuals, but rather as inanimate concepts, especially as
masses which are a threat to the nation (cf. Pörksen 2005: 237). This metaphor
is connected to another, which conceptualises the NATION AS CONTAINER. The
nation is represented here as a schema of “an interior and an exterior defined
by a boundary” (Hart 2010: 131). The boundary, in this conceptualisation, can
be penetrated from outside (cf. Charteris-Black 2006: 577), and in order to
prevent this invasion or flooding, the boundaries need to be secured. Besides
the general conceptualisation of the NATION AS CONTAINER, the nation is also
frequently represented as a SHIP (cf. Van Dijk 2008: 180) in nationalistic
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
discourse. A common anti-immigration slogan is ‘the boat is full’ (“Das Boot
ist voll”; Van Dijk 2008: 180).
The same effect of presenting immigrants and oppositions of the ideology as
de-individualised threats to the native (in this case German) people can be
achieved by using the metaphorical frame of MILITARY AND WAR. A distinction
is thereby made between ‘enemies’ and ‘allies’, the two positions seen as two
fronts (Pörksen 2005: 247). In this visualisation, immigrants are often described
as invaders of the country (cf. Pörksen 2005: 248). Occasionally, enemies might
even be conceptualised directly as weapons against the native people (cf.
Pörksen 2005: 247).
The NATION AS A HOUSE metaphor is another, if not very frequently used,
metaphor found in xenophobic and National Socialist discourse. Its implications,
however, are quite wide reaching. In this conceptualisation, the German
nation is an object of concern, as it might be destroyed, for instance by fire (cf.
Pörksen 2005: 239). Furthermore, the house is often portrayed as in need of
cleaning. One wishes to clear out the dust and dirt, whereas the political
opposition, and immigrants, are conceptualised as the dirt, garbage and filth
that needs to be cleaned up (cf. Pörksen 2005: 240–241).
Commonly linked to right-wing discourse is also the metaphorical frame of
the THEATRE. Special attention in the use of this metaphor is paid to the
representation of the (political) reality as only a staging of events, behind
which another reality is hidden (cf. Pörksen 2005: 241–242). Politicians are
represented as puppets and actors, and unspecified ‘forces’ are supposedly
leading and controlling them from behind the curtain (Pörksen 2005: 242).
Another metaphorical sphere which is used in xenophobic language makes
use of the RELIGIOUS source domain. Targets are often seen as manifestations
of the 'evil', which can be conceptualised in a variety of ways (Pörksen 2005:
245). This image is seen as opposed to the ‘good’, as which the ideologists
represent themselves. The domain of religious metaphors may, however, also
refer to the use of imagery from the bible (cf. Pörksen 2005: 246).
A special focus of this paper is the NATION AS BODY metaphor and its
implications. Generally, the NATION AS BODY metaphor is also used in a variety
of contexts and does not necessarily indicate a nationalistic or xenophobic
imagery. It is used in many different cultures to refer to different concepts 30/2020
concerning politics and the state (cf. Musolff 2010: 1). However, when used in
the German context, this metaphor is stigmatised and its use problematic. It
therefore becomes relevant for the analysis of xenophobia (cf. Musolff 2010: 1).
While the other metaphors mentioned appear in a variety of xenophobic
contexts, not necessarily bound to National Socialism as such, the NATION AS
BODY metaphor (under specific circumstances) is. Especially the word
Volkskörper (people-body) is associated with the National Socialists and their
ideology (Musolff 2010: 121). The Volkskörper is the object to be concerned
about (Pörksen 2005: 224): it is an entity which is constantly threatened by, and
may decay due to, outer influences (Pörksen 2005: 224). In this imagery,
specific parts of the nation may be referred to as organs.
The implications of this metaphorical category are especially characteristic of
xenophobic discourse. These include the idea that the body may fall ill:
immigrants and other perceived enemies are represented as DISEASE or
“disease-carrying and -spreading agents, e.g. ‘parasites’” (Musolff 2012: 303).
The Volkskörper then requires therapy to heal it. Using this metaphor to refer to
the threats to the well-being of the ‘body’ gives ideologists an advantage:
Instead of laboriously having to demonstrate and back up their
claims with facts, which could be critically tested and challenged, the
speaker/writer invites the hearer/reader to access knowledge about
the undesirability of illness and the necessity for therapy by
referring to generally known illnesses and agents of disease (Musolff
2012: 303).
The DISEASES in question are most often conceptualised as ‘cancer’ and ‘ulcers’
(“Geschwüre”, Pörksen 2005: 226), but can also be other, mostly deadly, illnesses
as well as poisons (cf. Pörksen 2005: 226). Targets of this metaphor are
opinions which are perceived as destructive to the Volkskörper, as well as
specific groups of people (typically political oppositions and people on the left
end of the political spectrum, as well as immigrants). A concrete example of
this is given by Pörksen (2005) in which politicians, journalists, and judges are
denoted as metastases of ‘cancer’, ‘plague-spots’ and ‘pus blisters’ (“Krebsmetastasen”,
“Pestbeulen”, “Eiterblasen”; 228).
The proposed solution to the problems that befall the Volkskörper is the
THERAPY of it. In National Socialist discourse specifically, a person or group of
people might be represented as the therapist, who offers a solution to the
problems plaguing the body (cf. Pörksen 2005: 228). The method proposed by
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
the National Socialists to keep the body healthy and to prevent its ‘death’ is
just as it is imperative for a successful medical therapy to eliminate
all agents of disease in case of a serious illness, so any socio-political
elements of the nation that threaten its existence have to be
eliminated (Musolff 2012: 303).
Similar to the disease metaphor, the metaphorical category of ANIMALS
conceptualises the threat to the Volkskörper. It describes primarily immigrants,
but also supposed inner enemies, as parasites and scroungers (“Schmarotzer”),
people from the political left often as ticks (Pörksen 2005: 232), which are
commonly known to be distasteful and threatening. Within the metaphor,
these parasites may befall the Volkskörper and affect it negatively (Pörksen
2005: 233). Musolff (2014: 18) terms this conceptualisation of “human beings
who allegedly live at the expense of wider society” socio-parasites, however,
argues that in Nazi propaganda the concept was widened to include all sorts
of “disease-carrying organisms” (idem: 25). This imagery seemed to legitimise
the holocaust, and is still a common imagery in racist discourses, used
especially to denounce immigrants (idem: 26–27). Moreover, the immigrant
may not only be conceptualised as distasteful animal, but also as the carrier of
actual ‘bio-parasites’ (cf. Musolff 2014).
The second sub-conceptualisation of the ANIMAL metaphor is representing
perceived enemies and immigrants as animals in a similar fashion to the first,
however, makes no reference to the NATION AS BODY metaphor. Here, the
targets of the metaphor are being de-humanised by making use of the
systematic conceptual framework of the Great Chain of Being
(Lovejoy 1936) that allows racists to denigrate their respective
targets by ‘demoting’ them from humankind’s central position in the
Chain down to the ‘lower’ ranks of animals, plants, diseaseengendering
organisms or inorganic material (Musolff 2012: 302).
Political enemies are often denoted as ‘rats’ (Pörksen 2005: 232), but other
conceptualisations also exist. These often focus on either the repulsiveness or
the inferiority of the represented target. 30/2020
2.2 The Alternative für Deutschland
The Alternative für Deutschland, which is the source for the data used in this
study, is a German party that was founded in 2013 in Berlin and has had
electoral success very quickly in the state parliaments in Germany. Originally
founded as a party with primary anti-euro focus (cf. Grabow 2016: 174), the
party soon started to take up nationalist, xenophobic, and especially
Islamophobic stances (cf. Lewandowsky 2016: 41).
However, the party seems to be split in many regards, with several wings of
the party representing more or less radical points of view, which is said to be
responsible for the wide spectrum of voters that they have gained (cf.
Walther/Isemann 2019: 11). Nevertheless, what hides underneath these
different agendas, is most often a racist and nationalist programme of
exclusion (“Exklusionsprogramm”; Walther/Isemann 2019: 11).
Quite often, prevalent members of the party have proven to be radical in their
views. Frauke Petry, a former party leader, demanded the use of weapons to
stop refugees from entering the country (cf. Grabow 2016: 177), Alexander
Gauland, a party chairman for the AfD, racially “attacked German soccer
player Jérôme Boateng” (Grabow 2016: 178), and André Poggenburg,
chairman for the AfD in Saxony-Anhalt, made use of explicit National Socialist
language by describing protesting students as cancer on the German
Volkskörper (“Wucherung am deutschen Volkskörper”; Grigat 2017: 16).
Even though members of the party openly make such statements, the party
represents itself on the political continuum somewhere between “liberal” and
“conservative” (Fedders 2016: 166), while trying to emphasise the point that
they are not xenophobic or racist. One such exemplary claim can be found in a
speech for the party congress on 22 April 2017 by Jörg Meuthen (a party
chairman of the AfD) in which he said:
[…] dann bin ich für diese Leute also ein Ausländerfeind, ein Rassist
gar? Nein, meine Freunde, das bin ich ganz sicher nicht, nicht einmal
ansatzweise, das bin ich nie gewesen und werde ich aufgrund all
meiner Überzeugungen niemals sein, ebenso wenig wie irgendjemand
in diesem Saal. Ich bin nur elementar vernünftig, und ich
sehe, was hier geschieht. Und weiß meine tiefe Sorge, nicht etwa
plumpe Angst, sehr präzise zu begründen (Meuthen 2017).
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
([…] then I am a xenophobe for these people, a racist even? No, my
friends, this I am surely not, not even a little bit, I have never been,
and based on my conviction will never be, just as everyone in this
room. I am only fundamentally reasonable and I can see what is
happening here.)
Not only does the party present itself as not xenophobic, but it sees itself as the
only party that is not corrupted by outer influences and the only voice for the
German people. It construes the other parties as political establishment which
should be fought against (cf. Lewandowsky 2016: 40). Their justification comes
from the viewpoint that the German people (and their prosperity) are being
threatened from the outside, especially through Islamic influence, and that
they are the only party trying to defend the will of the German people (cf.
Lewandowsky 2016: 40 and Fedders 2016: 165). This shows a clear nationalistic
In the 2017 parliamentary election, the AfD was able to move into the German
federal parliament as the third strongest party and have since managed to be
represented in all state parliaments as well (cf. Walther/Isemann 2019: 2).
3. Data and Analysis
In the following section, the data used in this study will be presented and the
coding scheme for the analysis will be explained. The approach used in this
paper stems from the field of CMA. Specifically, the metaphors described as
indicative of xenophobic belief systems were used as categories for the
analysis of the data.
3.1 Data
The data used in the analysis is the transcript of a WhatsApp group chat called
“AfD Info LSA” (i.e. “Alternative für Deutschland Info Land Sachsen-
Anhalt”), which dates from 04 February 2017 to 29 May 2017. The group chat
was created on 19 May 2016 by Andreas Mrosek, who was a member of the
state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt for the AfD at that time (cf. Vorndran 2017).
Approximately 200 members of the right-wing German party participated in
the chat. The chat was illegally leaked online on a left-extremist website called
“” on 21 June 2017. The transcript was online until
25 August 2017, when the Federal Ministry of the Interior closed down the 30/2020
website due to its extremist messages (cf. Reisin 2017).1 Personal data, such as
names and telephone numbers of the members, were present in the chat,
which makes the use of this data for the study a sensitive matter. For these
reasons, names and telephone numbers are omitted in this paper.
The entire chat contains 8.795 messages that originally constituted a mixture of
written data, shared pictures, videos, documents, voice messages, and internet
links as well as emoticons. Due to the format of the chat transcript, media such
as spoken messages, pictures, and videos are not displayed and therefore not
The nature of this data is especially interesting since it constitutes (relatively)
private conversations by members of the AfD in Saxony-Anhalt. However,
conversations in this group cannot be characterised as completely private,
with some members warning others about this, e.g. “[…] Das hier ist fast
öffentlich, also vorsichtiger agieren! […]” (18.02.17, 08:42:47). Nevertheless,
the members of this group share their political beliefs relatively freely without
fear of repercussions from others, which gives a unique insight into the
members’ actual beliefs instead of what they purposefully present to the
public. The chat is also quite representative of the party in Saxony-Anhalt as
active members of the group include André Poggenburg (at that time chair of
the AfD in Saxony-Anhalt and member of the state parliament of Saxony-
Anhalt) and a number of other members2 of the state parliament of Saxony-
3.2 Analysis and Coding
The data was searched manually for representations of the metaphorical categories
found in the literature (cf. 2.1). The instances were marked and sorted
into the respective, predefined, categories.3 After sorting the data into cate-
1 Debates about whether the decision to close down the website was lawful have since
sparked. A decision regarding this has not been made at the time of writing.
2 Other members will not be named here, as the names have not been made public by
journalists. André Poggenburg and Andreas Mrosek, who I discuss as members here, have
been identified as belonging to the group by others (cf. Vorndran 2017).
3 One message is defined as one instance of a metaphor, even if it contains the metaphor
several times. If instances from different metaphor categories were found within one
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
gories, the instances were checked for relevance.4 Table 1 shows the different
categories of metaphorical conceptualisations and examples from the dataset.
Category Description Example5
BODY (cf.
Metaphors representing
the German
nation/people as a body
Ich sage nur Metastasen des Geschwürs am
Volkskörper. Und immer wieder als Argument
irgend ein Artikel der AfD-feindlichen DuMont-
Presse. (18.02.17, 18:53:04)
(I’m just saying metastases of the cancer at the
people-body. And as proof, some article of the
anti-AfD press agency DuMont.)
Metaphors representing
immigrants, or (other)
perceived enemies of the
AfD as diseases
Scheint ein bösartiges Geschwür am Volkskörper
zu sein, das da seine Metastasen in unsere Partei
gestreut hat... (19.02.17, 20:24:36)
(Seems to be a malignant ulcer at the peoplebody
whose metastases have spread into our
party… )
(cf. Musolff
Metaphors representing
immigrants, or (other)
perceived enemies of the
AfD as animals, including
disease carrying agents
Die Linken beißen wieder wild um
sich.....[emoticons left out] (03.03.17, 06:49:15)
(The Left [political party] are biting at each other
(cf. Van
Dijk 2008)
Metaphors representing
the German
nation/people as a
container, including
metaphors that represent
the German
nation/people as a ship
[…] Wenn deutschland nicht sofort die grenzen
dicht macht und mindestens den österreichischen
weg geht, dann sehe ich hier schwarz […]
(16.04.17, 23:38:25)
(If Germany does not immediately seal up the
borders, and at least goes the same way as
Austria, then I am pessimistic [lit. seeing black])
message, the message was sorted into both categories, and is therefore represented in the
categorised dataset twice.
4 Instances were only coded when reference was made to the country Germany, the
Alternative für Deutschland (and its self-representation), the perceived enemies of the AfD
(namely other parties in Germany, the press, left-wing people, and immigrants/refugees),
the perceived allies of the AfD (e.g. the right-wing movement PEGIDA), and actions taken by
the AfD, its perceived enemies and its perceived allies. The last point includes perceived or
supposed actions which influence the AfD, such as perceived manipulators of the party AfD,
supposedly deployed by other parties. Instances were also removed from analysis when the
shared content was not originally produced originally by the sender of the message. This
includes, for instance, reproduced extracts from speeches of other people, forwarded
messages, and shared parts of news articles. Messages were furthermore excluded from
analysis whenever it could not be identified who the target of the metaphor was.
5 All examples used in this table stem from the data. Due to formatting issues, emoticons
displayed in the original transcript cannot be displayed here. 30/2020
(cf. Van
Dijk 2008)
Metaphors representing
immigrants and perceived
enemies of the AfD as
natural disasters,
especially floods
Ich fürchte nach der Bundestagswahl im
September werden uns die Politiker wieder mit
Asylanten überschwemmen. […] (07.02.17,
(I fear that the politicians will flood us with
immigrants again after the parliamentary
elections in September.)
(cf. Pörksen
Metaphors from the
religious sphere, including
representations of
immigrants and perceived
enemies of the AfD as evil
Ich glaube der Antichrist tritt morgen um 18:30
Uhr in weiblicher Form in Magdeburg auf.
(13.03.17, 00:40:09)
(I think the antichrist is performing tomorrow at
6:30 pm in female form in Magdeburg.)
(cf. Pörksen
Metaphors from the
theatrical sphere,
especially the
representation of the
political sphere as staged
Vielleicht doch vom System inszeniert damit das
dumme Volk denkt eine Alternative zu haben
[emoticons left out] (01.04.17, 10:44:44)
(Maybe it is staged by the system so that the
stupid citizens think they have an alternative)
HOUSE (cf.
Metaphors representing
the German
nation/people as a house,
including the
representation of
immigrants and perceived
enemies of the AfD as dirt
or as possible destructionrisks
of the house
[…] Sicherlich haben innenpolitische Dinge
“Vorrang„, d. h., den eigenen Stall sollte man
sauber halten, bevor man draußen putzt. Aber
dennoch ist es wichtig, zu wissen, was links und
rechts von einem passiert. […] (18.02.17, 13:10:53)
(Surely, domestic policy issues have ”priority”,
i.e., one should clear out one’s own stable before
cleaning up outside. But it is still important to
know what is happening (to your) left and right.)
WAR (cf.
Metaphors from the
military sphere as well as
metaphors of war,
including the
representation of
immigrants and perceived
enemies as weapon
Daran kann man auch immer schön exemplarisch
sehen, wie diese Truppen als ad-hoc Armee
agiert. Da wird sich organisiert, vorbereitet,
ausgerüstet, ausgekundschaftet, geprobt usw.
(17.02.17, 09:29:16)
(You can see here as a nice example how these
troops operate as an ad-hoc army. They organize
themselves, prepare, equip, scout, practice, etc.)
Table 1: Coding categories with examples from the data
4. Results and Discussion
As discussed in 2.2, members of the AfD present and perceive themselves as
not xenophobic. In this chapter, I will first present further indications of this
stance that can be found in the dataset. Then, a general overview over the
different metaphorical concepts used in the chat will be given, before I go into
detail discussing the nation as body metaphor and its implications.
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
In official speeches of the AfD, members of the party speak about the issue of
racism and represent themselves to the public as not being racist (cf. e.g.
Meuthen 2017). What is more, in the private messages in the chat, the
members of the Alternative für Deutschland also show that they perceive
themselves this way and do not only present this image as a front to the
(1) Meuthen hat eine fantastische Rede gehalten und spricht uns
aus dem Herzen [emoticons left out] (22.04.17, 13:56:17)
(Meuthen has given a fantastic speech and is saying what all of
us feel)
(2) Kein Kölsch für Nazis? Ja super! Gut das wir keine sind!
(23.04.17, 19:54:27)
(No Kölsch for Nazis? Ok great! Good that we are not Nazis!)
(3) Oh man [emoticons left out] die sehen überall nur noch Nazis
krank absolut krank [emoticons left out] (27.05.17, 11:19:11)
(Oh man they see only Nazis everywhere sick absolutely sick)
(4) Das sehen nicht nur die (meisten) Leute hier so, wenn nicht
sogar alle. Die NS-Keule ist seit Jahren abgedroschen. Sie wird
nur durch die Etablierten genutzt, um “richtig tickende“
deutsche Staatsbürger zu demontieren. Sie wird genutzt um auf
uns zu lenken, damit die ihre blödsinnigen eigenen Interessen
in den Vordergrund rücken können. Ich liebe mein Land und
ich kämpfe um dieses Land, damit es unser Land bleiben kann.
[emoticons left out] (09.04.17, 21:12:37)
((Most) people here see it this way, if not all. The Naziaccusation
[lit. NS-bludgeon] has been a cliché for years. It’s
just used by the well-established ones to take down “correctly
functioning” German citizens. It is used to blame us, so that
they can put their own stupid interests into the foreground. I
love my country and I fight for this country, so that it can stay
our country.)
The first instance refers back to the speech for the party congress made by Jörg
Meuthen (Meuthen 2017, cf. 2.2) in which he claims to not be a racist. He also
identifies ‘everyone in this room’ (“irgendjemand in diesem Saal”, Meuthen
2017), meaning members of the party AfD as not racist. Members of the chatgroup
clearly side with his statement and justify their self-image as not
xenophobic by claiming that everyone who refers to them as Nazis is wrong. 30/2020
They are arguing that people are trying to ‘take down ‘correctly functioning’
German citizens’ (“‘richtig tickende’ deutsche Staatsbürger zu demontieren”,
09.04.17, 21:12:37). The fact that these messages were posted in a private group
chat, in which they do not have to fear repercussions for their opinions, shows
that AfD members do not only try to present themselves as not racist, but they
actually believe that they are not. In the following sections, their use of
metaphors which stand in the National Socialist tradition as well as others
commonly used racist metaphors will be discussed.
All categories presented in the literature as typical of National Socialist and
broader racist and xenophobic discourse existed also in the discourse between
AfD members in this chat. Figure 1 gives a general overview over the
frequency of metaphors across the whole data set.
Fig. 1: Frequency of metaphors found in the chat, in total numbers
The metaphorical domain of WAR AND MILITARY is the category used most
often in the chat. The use of this category here is very varied, as the following
examples show:
(5) Nun heißt es Ruhe in der Truppe halten und den Kampf auf die
externen politischen Gegner fokussieren. […] (07.05.17, 19:33:06)
(Now we need to keep the troops calm and focus the fight on
the external political enemies.)
(6) […] Nur zusammen sind wir stark und ein kleines Bollwerk
gegen die, die uns kaputt machen (wollen und sollen). (24.02.17,
(We are only strong together and a small bastion against those
who (want to and must) destroy us.)
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
Natural Disaster
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
Political oppositions as well as left-wing people are represented as ‘enemies’,
and the political actions taken by the AfD as a ‘fight’. The party itself is often
represented as ‘troops’. In one instance, the party is conceptualised as a
‘bastion’ against the enemies attacking the German nation.
The common imagery of the immigrant as invader of the country is also
present in this dataset. This, as well as other terms from the WAR metaphor
used here (e.g. representing immigrants as hordes) achieve the effect of deindividualisation
which is a well known xenophobic theme:
(7) Ich bin gerade in Nürnberg am Hauptbahnhof und komme mir
fremd im eigenen Land vor, über all nur Invasoren aus Afrika
oder aus arabischen Ländern (28.02.17, 16:21:08)
(I am at the main station in Nuremberg and feel like a foreigner
in my own country, there are only invaders from Africa or from
Arabic countries everywhere)
(8) Aber Horden von ausländischen Kulturbereicherern, die unsere
Frauen angrabschen und anpöbeln, dürfen natürlich kriminell
durch die Straßen ziehen! (25.05.17, 22:56:05)
(But hordes of foreign cultural enrichers who grope and accost
our women are of course allowed to wander criminally through
the streets!)
Another striking example of the war metaphor used against immigrants is the
conceptualisation of the immigration process as weapon used against the wellbeing
of the German nation and people. The exact impact and threat that is
posed by this weapon is not outlined:
(9) Stichwort: Migration als Waffe (09.02.17, 13:58:16)
(Keyword: Migration as weapon)
The metaphor used second most often is that of the NATION AS HOUSE and its
implications. Even though there is no direct and explicit imagery of the nation
as house in the data, the nation is described as being ‘ramshackle’, and
reference is made to the threatened destruction by fire while political figures
are labelled ‘arsonists’.
(10) Die Grünen müssten bei einem reibungslosen Funktionieren
unseres Systems schon lange der Überwachung durch den VS
[Verfassungsschutz] unterliegen. Das dem nicht so ist, zeigt
einmal mehr den maroden Zustand unseres Staates. […]
(05.04.17, 12:06:28) 30/2020
(If the system was working smoothly, the Greens [political
party] would have long been put under the surveillance of the
office for the protection of the constitution. That this isn’t so
shows the ramshackle condition of our state.)
(11) Die geistigen Brandstifter dieser politisch motivierten Gewalt
heißen Stegner, Schulz, Maas &Co. (02.03.17, 07:47:43)
(The mental arsonists of this politically motivated violence are
called Stegner, Schulz, Maas & Co.)
Another implication of the HOUSE metaphor is the need to clean the house. In
this implication, the opposition of the party is described as ‘dirt’ which needs
to be disposed of and cleaned up.
(12) Danke an die Spender und unsere Polizei . [emoticons left out]
Der schäbige Rest in die Tonne [emoticons left out] (23.04.17,
(Thanks to the donors and our police. The shabby rest of them
can go in the trash can.)
Representations of the NATION AS A CONTAINER can also be found in the chat.
Members of the chat talk about the need to ‘seal up’ the borders. Even more
often can the direct conceptualisation of the NATION AS A (sinking) SHIP be
found, in which the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel is conceptualised as the
captain of the ship. Moreover, the very explicit anti-immigrant phrase “Das
Boot ist voll” (cf. Van Dijk 2008: 180) can also be found in the data:
(13) […] Wieder ein gutes Beispiel dafür, warum das Mittelmeer
dicht gemacht werden und aufgegriffene Flüchtlinge sofort
zurückgeschickt werden müssen. […] (17.03.17, 12:05:19)
(Another good example of why the Mediterranean Sea must be
sealed off and why the refugees that were collected must be
sent back right away.)
(14) Man kann es eigentlich nicht mehr sehen und auch ertragen...!
Hoffentlich hat es bald eine Ende mit diesen Narrenschiff und
dieser Kapitänsfrau.... (12.02.17, 13:12:20)
(One can’t really look at it or bear it anymore…! Hopefully it
will soon be over with this ship of fools and this captainwoman….)
(15) Noch dazu in einem Boot was voll ist. Wir haben alle dasselbe
Ziel. (03.05.17, 08:31:10)
(And that in a boat that is full. We all have the same goal.)
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
Furthermore, the NATURAL DISASTER category, which interacts with the NATION
AS CONTAINER metaphor, is quite widely used and consists of several different
types of conceptualisations, such as floods and storms. Immigrants are hereby
portrayed as a ‘flood’ or as ‘waves’ because of which the country may drown.
The political and immigration situation is describes as ‘chaos’ and
‘catastrophe’. Moreover, the metaphor stands in direct connection to the SHIP
metaphor, as the floods are perceived to be the cause of the ship sinking.
(16) Diese Menschen sind wie Wasser-das findet auch immer seinen
Weg. Und wenn man den nicht schnell genug dicht macht,
dann heißt es schnell Land unter! (17.02.17, 09:36:03)
(These people are like water – it always finds a way. And if we
don't close it up quick enough, then we will soon be under
water [lit. land under]!)
(17) Genau diese bevorstehenden Flüchtlingswellen müssen wir bei
den Stammtischen thematisieren. [...] (17.02.17, 10:13:06)
(Exactly these oncoming refugee-waves must be topicalised at
the regulars’ table.)
(18) […] Aber ebend nicht als FDP oder CDU 2.0 und auch nicht mit
so einer CDU in Koalition, die unserem Land katastrophale
Zustände mit Mord und Totschlag importiert hat. (11.05.17,
(But not as FDP or CDU 2.0 and also not with such a CDU in
coalition, which has imported catastrophic conditions with
blood and thunder [lit. murder and manslaughter] into our
In the THEATRICALLY themed metaphors used in the chat, elections are
presented as ‘staged’ (cf. 01.04.17, 10:44:44; Table 1), politicians are portrayed
as ‘actors’, and the press is supposedly controlled and ‘led’ by others. The
objective of the AfD is to expose the truth behind the charade.
(19) Die Politikdarsteller der Kartellparteien gehören zu den
aktuellen Lebensrisiken des deutschen Volkes. […] (24.05.17,
(The political actors of the “cartel-parties” are one of the
current life-risks of the German people.)
(20) […] dass sich einige antifaschistische Gruppierungen und
linksgesteuerte Medien in den Schatten gestellt fühlen müssen
[…] (24.03.17, 08:22:16) 30/2020
(Some antifascist groups and left-controlled media must have
felt overshadowed.)
(21) Klasse [Name] , gut gemacht . Die Maske vom Gesicht reißen
[emoticon left out] (08.02.17, 17:20:06)
(Great [name], well done. Rip the mask off the face.)
The RELIGIOUS metaphors used in the chat are applied rather broadly. Most
prominent in this category is the conceptualisation of enemies as evil
creatures, such as ‘antichrist’ to describe Anetta Kahane6 (cf. 13.03.17, 00:40:09;
Table 1), ‘witches’ to refer to members of other parties, and ‘vampire’ to
denote Angela Merkel (cf. Example 23). Moreover, the members compare
themselves to David in his fight against Goliath, clearly taking up themes from
the bible.
(22) […] Die Einzigen , welche hier profitieren sind die
links/rot/grün/gelb/schwarzen7 Hexen , welche sich vor Freude
kaum einkriegen . (11.04.17, 00:40:58)
(The only ones who profit here are the
left/red/green/yellow/black witches who cannot contain their
(23) Oh gott [emoticon left out] Man bringe mir Silber und
Knoblauch [emoticon left out] (04.03.17, 10:36:06)
(Oh God, bring me silver and garlic.)
(24) […] Außerdem ist das durch die Erfahrung der Berufspolitiker,
die Teilweise 30 und mehr Jahre Politikerfahrung besitzen und
20x so viele Mitglieder, ein ganz anderen Goliat. […] (01.03.17,
(And, because of the know-how of the professional politicians,
of which many have 30 or more years of professional
experience and 20x as many members, they are a completely
different Goliath.)
The metaphors represented above show a general tendency towards
xenophobic and nationalistic discourse within the chat. While these metaphors
are commonly used by groups with these ideologies, they do not necessarily
6 Anetta Kahane is a German journalist and activist against right-wing extremism, racism
and anti-Semitism.
7 Political parties are often represented by colours: red=SPD, green=Bündnis90/Die
Grünen, yellow=FDP, black=CDU.
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
represent a National Socialist stance. For this, we will now turn to the NATION
AS BODY metaphor.
4.1 The NATION AS BODY Metaphor
In the following subsections, a more detailed overview over the NATION AS
BODY metaphor and its implications of DISEASES and ANIMALS will be given. As
discussed in 2.1, the NATION AS BODY metaphor can be used in several contexts
that do not necessarily imply a xenophobic ideology. Such instances can also
be found in the data:
(25) […] Der hat auch mehrfach Informationen an die lokale Presse
gegeben, nur um seinen ungewuenschten Vorstand zu
denunzieren. Alles auf dem Ruecken der Partei, der Waehler
und der Buerger. (27.04.17, 14:10:24)
(He also gave information to the press several times, only to
denounce the unwanted board. All on the backs of the party,
the voters, and the people.)
However, Kellershohn (1998) identifies the equation of the people with the
nation to a homogeneous entity as one of the ‘core ideologemes’
(“Kernideologeme”; 1998: 23) of National Socialism. In example 25, specific
people are being portrayed as not belonging to the NATION/BODY. The body in
this particular message consists of German citizens and the party AfD, which
excludes the government from this definition. The metaphor therefore refers in
this case to the German citizens, in the sense of a Volkskörper, rather than the
government and state, which would commonly be the case in other, not
xenophobic, contexts (cf. Musolff 2010).
While the use of the NATION (or in this case people) AS BODY metaphor is not
directly indicative of a National Socialist tradition, the use of the word
Volkskörper is. This term can also be found in the data:
(26) Medizinisch kann man folgende Diagnose in den Raum stellen:
Das Geschwür am Volkskörper streut bereits seine Metastasen
in das Organ AfD (18.02.17, 15:03:48)
(Medically, we can make the following diagnosis: The cancer at
the “people-body” is already spreading its metastases to the
AfD organ.) 30/2020
This is one of three instances in which the specific term Volkskörper is used in
the chat. Moreover, in this particular instance, the ’Organ AfD’ is mentioned,
which positions the party directly as vital part of the body of the German
people. This is in line with its self-representation as being a part and the voice
of the German people (cf. 2.2).
The direct use of this overtly National Socialist term is indicative of the fact
that (at least some members of) the AfD support a National Socialist stance.
Although the open use of this term by André Poggenburg in a speech (cf. 2.2)
is (partially) criticised as being provocative (cf. example 27), members of the
same group continue to use the term, being fully aware that it is a National
Socialist term, as can be seen in example 28.
(27) Wahlkampf lebt von provokanten und überspitzten Aussagen.
Wichtig ist, denen aber konkrete Lösungswege folgen zu lassen.
André's „Volkskörper“ war provokant, seine Forderung, die
Finanzierung der Linksextremisten mit staatlichen Geldern
einzustellen der Lösungsvorschlag. (18.02.17, 12:27:11)
(The election campaign is living from provocative and
exaggerated statements. It is just important to follow those up
with concrete solutions. André’s “Volkskörper” was
provocative, his demand to shut down the funding of left
extremists with money from the government is the solution.)
(28) Achtet mal innerhalb des Artikels auf folgende Passage...
[…] „Am 3. Februar hatte Poggenburg dort Linksextremisten
als „Wucherungen am deutschen Volkskörper“ bezeichnet, die
es loszuwerden gelte. Solche Vokabeln gehörten unzweideutig
zur Sprache der völkischen Bewegung. Sie gehörten allerdings
auch zur Sprache der Nationalsozialisten. […] (15.02.17,
(Pay attention to this passage from the article…
“On 3 February, Poggenburg had described left extremists as
“growth at the German Volkskörper [people-body]”, who should
be removed. Such vocabulary unequivocally belongs to the
language of the völkisch movement. It also belongs to the
language of the National Socialists.)
This awareness and the continued use of the word (as well as the fact that
André Poggenburg’s use of the term was not denounced but merely declared
‘provocative’) shows that members do not reject the idea of following National
Socialist language tradition. While not everyone uses this term, no one in the
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
group speaks up against it either. What is more, each time the Volkskörper is
mentioned, it is directly linked to the concept of an ulcer/growth
(“Geschwür”). This suggests that the metaphor is used only in the specific
context of a perceived threat. This implication of the NATION AS BODY
metaphor will be discussed in the next section.
4.2 The DISEASE Metaphor
The majority of the messages in which a DISEASE is conceptualised contain the
portrayal of some form of cancer of ulcer. Within xenophobic discourse, this
imagery is used most often to describe the perceived enemies (cf. 2.1). It is also
found most often compared to other disease metaphors in the data.
(29) Medizinisch kann man folgende Diagnose in den Raum stellen:
Das Geschwür am Volkskörper streut bereits seine Metastasen
in das Organ AfD (18.02.17, 15:03:48)
(Medically speaking, we can make the following diagnosis: The
cancer at the “people-body” is already spreading its metastases
to the AfD organ.)
(30) Und dieses Geschwür müsste operativ entfernt werden
(18.02.17, 15:05:51)
Chemotherapie? (18.02.17, 15:06:06)
Von Chemo halte ich nichts (18.02.17, 15:07:17)
(And this cancer should be removed with an operation
I think nothing of chemo)
The ‘cancer’ in this case is representative of some members of the party who
caused turmoil in the party. It is included in this analysis, because they are
suspected of being ‘planted’ into the party by the ‘enemy’. Particularly
interesting is the explicit use of the ‘medical diagnosis’ in example 29, which
shows an awareness of the metaphor that is being introduced into the
discourse here. Moreover, the discourse is being driven forward by another
group member, who proposes the ‘removal with an operation’ of the ulcer,
taking up another implication of the metaphor: the need for medical therapy.
Another member then suggests ‘chemotherapy’, which is commonly used to
treat cancer in the field of medicine. This idea, however, is shut down by the
same member who suggested the ‘removal with an operation’, by saying that
he disapproves of this method in favour of the more radical approach. It is a 30/2020
common theme in National Socialist discourse to be very radical in the
‘removal of the cancer’. While one member of the chat group suggests a
(seemingly) more gentle method of ridding the Volkskörper of the ulcer, this
idea is not welcomed by the other, who keeps in line with the National
Socialist tradition. The concept of the ulcer is, however, also used in other
instances. In example 31, the ‘growth’ explicitly refers to the left-extremist
group Antifa, not merely an unspecified enemy:
(31) […] Der linken Wucherung fehlt es nämlich an Hirn. Das geht
LINKS rein und rechts wieder raus. Weil nix dazwischen ist
[emoticons left out] (28.02.17, 20:41:28)
(The left growth is missing brain. It goes in from the LEFT and
back out the right. Because there is nothing in between.)
Other themes that keep in line with the common use of the DISEASE metaphor
can also be found in the chat data. Example 32 represents a different
conceptualisation of a substance affecting the ‘health’ of the NATION/BODY.
(32) […] Was für uns ALLE tödlich ist, sind die durch die Presse
teils verdrehten und gegenteilig behaupteten Tatsachen und
Aussagen. Das ist das Gift. [...] (03.04.17, 11:38:37)
(What is deadly for ALL of us are the facts and statements that
have been partially twisted and turned around by the press.
That is the poison.)
This message refers to statements by the press, which, according to the writer
of the message, are twisted, and deadly for ‘all of us’. By ‘all of us’ the sender
refers to the party AfD. Pörksen (2005: 226) identifies the usage of ‘poisonous
substances’ in xenophobic language. It is used to refer to opposed opinions or,
sometimes even people who are considered a threat. In this case the use of this
metaphorical poison is drastic, as it describes the press statements as being
‘deadly’. Another, less specific, use of the DISEASE metaphor refers to
politicians of the other parties:
(33) Die Politikdarsteller der Kartellparteien gehören zu den
aktuellen Lebensrisiken des deutschen Volkes. Dieses Risiko zu
mindern und auszuschalten ist das oberste Ziel unserer
politischen Arbeit. (24.05.17, 07:12:50)
(The political actors of the cartel-parties are one of the current
life-risks of the German people. Minimizing and eliminating
this risk is the ultimate objective of our political work.)
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
This instance actually shows that metaphors from several fields may be
combined to create one picture: politicians from other parties are presented as
‘actors’, a THEATRICALLY themed metaphor. Through the use of the term
‘cartel-parties’ the other parties are also presented as criminals, another
common theme in this dataset. Making use of the DISEASE metaphor, the
politicians are presented here as being one of the current ‘life-risks’ of the
German people. In this case, no direct mention of a NATION AS BODY or any
explicit description of a disease is made. Although the metaphor is not as
overtly implemented as in other instances, it is still very direct and radical in
its content: politicians from other parties are represented as threatening the life
of the German people and therefore the nation. What is more, the sender of the
message continues to present the AfD as the THERAPEUTIC solution for the
problem, indicating that they are striving to ‘minimize and eliminate the risk’
that is posed by the others. This conceptualisation clearly shows a connection
to past themes found in the National Socialist context of self-representation as
therapists and healers of the Volkskörper, who are seen as the only solution to
the perceived problems. The party hereby portrays itself to be the only group
caring for the ill body that is plagued by the threats posed by other parties and
4.3 The ANIMAL Metaphor
In this subsection, I will consider the metaphorical source domain of ANIMALS
and how it is applied to its targets. First, the metaphor as part of the
implications of the NATION AS BODY metaphor will be discussed:
(34) Ich kenne eine Familie in der Nachbarschaft, da ist eine
alleinerziehenden Mutter. Ihr Junge ist 8 Jahre und geht in die
2. Klasse. Er sagte mir, das er noch nie im Urlaub war. Es ist
beschämend, wenn man diese Schmarotzer hier so sieht…
(06.02.17, 16:02:11)
(I know a family in my neighbourhood, there's a single mother.
Her boy is 8 years old and is in 2nd grade. He told me that he
has never been on holidays. It is disgraceful, when you see
these parasites here...)
Example 34 shows the only case in the dataset in which the ANIMAL metaphor
in the first sense is used to describe immigrants. Still, it presents a common
theme within the use of this metaphor. The word ‘Schmarotzer’ is often used 30/2020
to refer to immigrants who are perceived to be what Musolff (2014: 18) terms
socio-parasites: people living on the expense of the native German people. The
scrounger is represented as inflicting problems onto the German people,
which is made very explicit in this example. The sender of the messages tells
the story of a family which he personally knows and who have never been
able to afford to go on holidays. By telling the story, he8 picks an individual
example of a family to communicate and obtain compassion with the family.
He contrasts this individualised family with the immigrants, which he simply
denotes as ’these parasites’, de-humanising as well as de-individualising the
group as a whole. While he is inciting compassion with the one, he is
antagonising the other. More than that, he directly relates the two instances to
each other. It suggests a connection between the ’scroungers’, who live off the
money of the German people, and the poverty of the German family that he
describes. Other instances of this implication of the NATION AS BODY metaphor
become apparent in describing left-wing people.
(35) Das Wort „zeckenkärcher“ gefällt mir [emoticons left out]
„Islamische Dusche“ wäre auch nicht schlecht gewesen... Egal
wofür man den Wawe benutzt, er macht sauber mit max. 9 Bar
läuft einem das Wasser eiskalt den Rücken runter. [emoticon
left out] (16.04.17, 12:56:09)
(I like the word “high-pressure tick cleaner”. “Islamic shower”
would have been nice as well… No matter what you use the
water gun for, it cleans up with max. 9 bar the water runs down
your back ice-cold.)
(36) Ich würde sagen Farbe und dann könnte man lange sehen wer
ne Zecke ist (16.04.17, 13:27:55)
Das war damals schon als wir im “Wawe 4“ CN-Reizstoff
untergemischt hatten. Der Mop wurde plötzlich so lebhaft...
Aber mit dieser neuen Zeckendusche...interessant… [emoticon
left out] (16.04.17, 13:40:43)
(I would say colour and then we can see for a long time who is
a tick.
It was like this already when we mixed CN-irritant
[chloroacetophenone] into the “water gun 4”. The mob
8 The male pronoun ‘he’ is used in this instance, as the sender of the message was referred
to with a male name in a reply to his messages.
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
suddenly got so feisty… But with this new tick-shower…
This part can only be fully understood within context: the word Zeckenkärcher
refers to a water cannon vehicle, which is used against rioters by the police.
The first part of this word, Zecken refers to the left-wing rioters – ‘ticks’.
Kärcher signifies cleaning devices by a specific brand, most often high pressure
cleaners and water blasters. This word therefore combines several
metaphorical conceptualisations: through the word Kärcher, the image of the
streets being cleaned is portrayed. What is more: the streets are being cleaned
of ticks, which are, as ‘bio-parasites’, regarded as particularly unpleasant
insects that suck the blood out of people and are carriers of diseases. This
imagery of ticks is transferred onto left-wing rioters. This construction
therefore invokes both the metaphorical fields of cleaning the HOUSE and
ANIMALS that carry diseases which might harm the PEOPLE-BODY.
The second sub-conceptualisation of the ANIMAL metaphor conceptualises
perceived enemies as animals, keeping in line with right-extremist language.
(37) Sowas trauen die sich nur in der Nacht. Links, sagt es ja schon .
Link und feige [emoticon left out] Abends kommen die Ratten
aus den Löschern (07.05.17, 10:12:55)
(They only dare to do this at night. Left, that already says
everything. Deceitful [“link” in German is similar to “links”,
meaning “left”] and cowardly. At night the rats come out of
their holes.)
Using the term rats to refer to people on the left side of the political spectrum
denounces them as being dirty and disgusting. Rats are also commonly known
to be carriers of disease, which also creates a link to the NATION AS BODY
metaphor. The theme is here further embedded into the discourse by referring
to them as ‘coming out of their holes’, a phrase which is used in another
instance to refer to immigrants:
(38) Ne xD Jetzt kommen sie langsam auf ihren Löchern (23.02.17,
(No xD Now they are slowly coming out of their holes.)
Although no direct reference to rats is made here, using the same image of
‘coming out of their holes’ implies a connection to the imagery of the 30/2020
immigrants as dirty animals living in the ground. In a different instance,
immigrants are also portrayed as ‘rabid’ animals:
(39) Das sind tollwütige Tiere , gesunde tun so etwas nicht
[emoticons left out] (05.04.17, 09:27:54)
They are rabid animals, healthy ones don’t do something like
This specific instance refers generally to immigrants who are said to have
murdered other people. The representation here is twofold: the immigrants
are not only de-humanised by denouncing them as animals, but also portrayed
as carrying a very dangerous and specifically very infectious disease. Other
conceptualisations include, for instance, the conceptualisation of the party Die
Linken as ‘biting at each other wildly’ (03.03.17, 06:49:15, cf. Table 1).
A different tone is struck in the representation of the AfD or the German
people as animals. Some messages in the chat imply that other parties, or other
perceived enemies, try to denounce members of the AfD or the German people
as animals. The metaphor is here used as a representation of the opinions that
perceived enemies supposedly have of the target-group. In these instances, the
members of the group clearly show their discontent with being compared to
(40) […] Die Pressepfeifen halten uns ein Stöckchen hin und die
halbe Partei springt drüber. […] (30.03.17, 21:02:27)
(The press-whistlers dangle a stick in front of us and half the
party jumps over it [idiom. “jumping through hoops”].)
(41) […] Und dann räumt die deutsche “Köterrasse diesen
“Flüchtlingen“ noch den Dreck weg. Eine Schande !!!! (11.04.17,
(And then the German mutt-race cleans up after these
“refugees“. A disgrace!!!!)
(42) Hochnotpeinlich! Mit dem Nasenring werden wir durch die
Manage geführt! (16.05.17, 08:34:18)
(Extremely embarrassing! We are being led through the circus
ring by the nose-ring.)
By using metaphors in these contexts, and overtly judging the ANIMAL
metaphor as negative imagery, members of the group exhibit sensitivity
towards the nature of the metaphor, the way it is used, and the effect it
Bruns: National Socialist metaphors in the discourse of the Alternative für Deutschland
achieves. The metaphor is consciously used to show how others supposedly
de-humanise the party and the German people. This indicates that the group
members are also aware of the same effect when they use the metaphor to
refer to immigrants and the political opposition. The fact that the metaphor is
used regardless of this awareness indicates that members of the group try to
explicitly denigrate immigrants and political opposition.
5. Conclusion
In this study, a WhatsApp chat between members of the party Alternative für
Deutschland was analysed in terms of metaphors typical of xenophobic and,
what is more, National Socialist discourse. The categories for analysis were
pre-defined by several researchers and used as basis for this study. The data
was then discussed in light of these categories of metaphors.
Addressing the research question of whether these metaphors could be found
in the data and how explicit they were, the following results were presented:
All explicitly xenophobic and nationalistic metaphors that were discussed in
the literature were also found in the data. Most of the instances were very
explicit in their imagery and in conceptualising immigrants and political
oppositions as enemies or threats. The effect achieved by the metaphors was to
de-humanise and de-individualise the target groups. The German people and
the AfD were portrayed as victims who are trying to defend themselves
against the threat posed from the outside and the enemy within.
In a more detailed discussion of the NATION AS BODY metaphor and its
implications, strong indications of National Socialist language tradition were
presented and discussed in light of individual examples. It was shown that the
explicitly National Socialist term Volkskörper was used, and that immigrants
and left-wing people were conceptualised as DISEASES that risk the well-being
of the NATION/BODY. Moreover, the AfD presented itself as the only solution to
healing the people-body, again following specifically National Socialist
discourse tradition. Furthermore, both groups were also represented as
ANIMALS in two senses: firstly as parasites who directly affect the
NATION/BODY, and secondly as other animals, that may, or may not, be
carriers of disease that can harm the NATION/BODY. Therefore, the selfrepresentation
of the AfD as not xenophobic cannot be supported. The use of
these definitively racist, xenophobic and in some cases explicitly National 30/2020
Socialist metaphors demonstrates the ideology that informs the agenda of the
The results from the analysis support the hypotheses that typical xenophobic
and nationalistic metaphors are used in AfD discourse in order to
conceptualise immigrants and political oppositions of the AfD as a threat to
the German people. The AfD positions itself as saviour of the people and
represents others as evil.
Especially with regards to the quick success the party has established over the
past years, exposing the AfD as xenophobic and nationalistic is an important
task. Since the objectives of a party are represented not only in what they say,
but also how they say it (Lewandowsky 2016: 42), raising awareness for the
rhetoric used by the AfD is of extreme importance.
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I would like to thank Prof. Dr. Andreas Musolff for his valuable comments
and suggestions on this paper.