The Networker

Nicole Reese of #friedlichzusammen is one of the central figures of the current Berlin Corona protests. She holds leadership positions in various groupings. What role does the #FDP play in this? A commentary on the bridge-building between protesting middle-class families, the New Right, esotericists and left-alternative system critics. A commentary by Annette Bulut

Copyright: Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism e.V. (JFDA), Berlin

Bielefeld lawyer Nicole Reese made a declaration of honor on Twitter a week ago: she is „neither right-wing, nor open to the right.“ However, this does not change the fact that #friedlichzusammen, an initiative founded by her with voice actress Giovanna Winterfeldt, actress Miriam Stein and others, is classified by observers in parts as open-right, anti-democratic and conspiracy ideological. The three women come from the political environment of the actions #allesdichtmachen and #allesaufdentisch. Now Reese invited the chairman of the #FDP Bielefeld and others to the Bielefeld Johanniskirche for an ‚open debate space‘. She had the event of her new DemokratieManufaktur sponsored by Sparkasse Bielefeld and Volksbank Bielefeld-Gütersloh. In the run-up to the event, the Bielefelderin tried to refute the accusation that the initiative #friedlichzusammen, which she and others founded, was open to the right and tolerated Nazis, as the Green politician Janosch Dahmen recently criticized on Twitter. The initiative took action against this by filing a complaint.

Other observers of the lateral thinking scene present quite a bit of evidence on Twitter and describe #friedlichzusammen in parts as #system-hostile, #right-wing open and #conspiracy-ideological. One of Reese’s close comrades-in-arms, Giovanna Winterfeldt, suggests an open-right tolerance in an interview with Jens Lehrich for the YouTube series ‚Auf Augenhöhe‘. In addition, Winterfeldt participated in a demo of extreme right-winger Eric Graziani and showed solidarity with the right-wing #FreedomParade in a video.

No distancing from „democratic resistance“ and extreme right-wing „Compact“

Even if one cannot reproach Reese personally from this, the question arises how her distancing from extremism and Holocaust denial is to be evaluated, if at the same time on her #friedlichzusammen demos relevantly known people appear and one of her closest comrades-in-arms goes on an Eric Graziani demo. „The Berlin protests of #friedlichzusammen are almost no different from other Corona protests of the past. And they are largely congruent both in content and participants with previous Corona protests. And these are definitely open to the right,“ explains the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism e.V. (JFDA), Berlin.

As the JFDA reports, on the #friedlichzusammen demo on 12.03.22 in Berlin #b1203 also a team of the secured right-wing extremist monthly Compact was on site and filmed. Compact spreads conspiracy myths and serves vaccination opponents. „With the presence of the team of the secured extremist Compact, the initiators seemed to have no problem, just as little with the fact that the video stream of the demo was published as an Insta-story of Compact,“ said the JFDA. While the association does not assess #friedlichzusammen as right-wing, it recognizes an association of people from different ideological contexts that „reveal a certain hostility to democracy in the expressions of opinion of individual speakers by questioning the existing system. #friedlichzusammen is in any case a new current, which – like the entire protest movement – still has to be politically classified. The common denominator seems to be the desire for a change of system.“

Reese unites #allesaufdentisch, #friedlichzusammen, family initiatives and #FDP

Among other things, the actors come from the environment of the actions #allesdichtmachen and #allesaufdentisch of director Dietrich Brüggemann and actor Volker Bruch. Nicole Reese also participated in #allesaufdentisch.

The mother of four made her political public appearance in the spring of 2020, when she – among others with Nele Flüchter – jointly founded the initiative „Families in Crisis“ (#noFidK), today: Initiative Familien (IF). The highly controversial initiative last came into disrepute about half a year ago through a demonstration with #Querdenkern and a member of #Scientology in Stuttgart, in which Reese also participated with LautFürFamilien (LFF). Only after public pressure IF distanced itself weeks later.Families and children obviously fulfill an important function at #friedlichzusammen. Thus, the JFDA writes in an article: „Conspicuous was the large presence of children at the demonstration and very many posters that revolve around child protection. The theme can be determined as one of the main concerns of ‚peaceful together‘. Since the beginning of the pandemic, concern for children has often been advanced to underline their own concerns.“

Making opinions in culture, politics, science and church

It turns out that the new protest movement uses and defends idea-formers like Ulrike Guérot to give its political narratives an academic-philosophical superstructure. This is intended to reach the bourgeois strata. The goal is opinion leadership. Uncritical or cooperating media, politicians in election campaigns, even churches are a welcome vehicle for this. It is against this background that Reese’s latest coup must be seen: her recently founded DemokratieManufaktur. The question arises whether this is an attempt to make certain political narratives of #friedlich zusammen acceptable through the back door – and what role the #FDP plays in this. DemocracyManufacture with and without #FDP Surprisingly, Reese managed to get the chairman of the Free Democrats Bielefeld (FDP), Jan Maik Schlifter, among others, for the very first event of the DemokratieManufaktur in the Johanniskirche in Bielefeld. Schlifter did not see a reason not to sit down with the lawyer publicly on a stage. According to his own statement, he had asked Reese about her relationship with right-wing extremists at her #friedlichzusammen demos and assured her of a clearly distanced attitude. Whether research by #Querdenken observers became too sensitive and led in advance to him canceling the event ‚at short notice due to illness‘ remains unclear. He left an answer to the question of whether his assessment of Reese had changed in the meantime unanswered.

In any case, Reese felt compelled in the run-up to the event on Twitter late in the evening of 25.03.22 to issue a declaration of honor. In it it says, among other things, that there were people who tried to „damage her reputation“. For this reason she has now for the first time taken up a Twitter account. She goes on to explain: „I am against any kind of discrimination, hatred and incitement. I distance myself from extremism of any kind, especially towards people who deny or trivialize the Holocaust. I am neither right-wing, nor right-wing open and forbid me any insinuation of this kind…I have founded the peace movement #friedlichzusammen with other committed people. We demonstrate for children’s rights, a free vaccination decision and for peace…“. Journalistic inquiries, whether #friedlichzusammen is actually right-wing open, whether the founders are right-wing open or tolerate neo-Nazis in their rows and which role the FDP plays in this mixture situation, are naturally based on a justified public interest. Damage to reputation can only exist if the accusations are unfounded. Moreover, so far they are not directed against Reese personally, but against her initiative #friedlichzusammen. However, there is also a journalistic duty to clarify any accusations against her person – especially because it is a professor who teaches police officers (!). Reese is a lecturer at the University of Police and Public Administration NRW.

Reese: Leadership role in different groupings

Anyone who on the one hand calls for ‚open debate spaces‘ to promote democratic discourse, makes a declaration of honor and at the same time leads a controversial „peace movement“ called #friedlichzusammen, must put up with journalistic research and critical reporting as a public figure. Thus, every journalist moves within the framework of freedom of opinion and freedom of the press. The person Reese is also of public interest because she is not only the founder of #friedlichzusammen and an activist with #allesaufdentisch, but is also standing as a candidate for her party ‚Lobbyists for Children‘ in the NRW state elections, as well as launching the initiative LautFürFamilien, a spin-off of the controversial organization „Families in Crisis“, which I reported on in 2021. Freelance journalist Gunnar Hamann has also done intensive research and data analysis on the individuals and initiatives. His latest analysis of the central role played by the FDP-affiliated „WELT“ for the professional media campaign of the initiatives around Reese & Co. can be found here.

Credit: Gunnar Hamann

Families in Crisis (#noFidK) – today called Initiative Familien – is the nucleus of all these initiatives. Since its founding, it has had the closest ties to politics and has therefore never been able to completely shake off the (as yet unproven) accusation of being astroturfing. The few members founded a bogus giant with always the same people to occupy political opinion. The most recent example of this is the aforementioned „DemokratieManufaktur“ – which Reese is responsible for together with Sonja Alefi (active in #friedlichzusammen and „wir gemeinsam“) and Nora von Obstfelder. Both come from the circle of „Families in Crisis“ – both previously appeared at FDP and FNFreiheit events, respectively.

My conclusion

According to my analysis, the interlocking of people from different ideological contexts at #friedlichzusammen unites a common emotional state: open to the right and / or strongly alienated from the political system. Nicole Reese can bring these polymorphous currents together as a central figure because she occupies leadership positions in different groupings.

She also carries the positions through good media contacts and her bourgeois-academic image as a professor largely unhindered into the social center – for example, at Deutschlandfunk or in the Berliner Zeitung. Since #friedlichzusammen dubs itself a ‚peace movement‘, it can also use this as a platform for other politically-socially controversial issues. It must be observed how the New Right embraces this fact.

The common cement seems to be the will to change the system, which holds together the heterogeneous conglomerate of left-wing alternatives, esotericists, the New Right and the alleged center.

The #FDP is playing a dangerous game.

Credit: Jüdisches Forum für Demokratie und gegen Antisemitismus e.V., Berlin (Foto), Gunnar Hamann (Grafik).

Translated with from German into English (free version)

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