Enemy Images. Analysis of the German right-wing party NPD

by Dennis Schmidt (Author)

Seminar Paper 2013 12 Pages

Politics - International Politics - General and Theories



1 Introduction

2. Enemy images

3. The NPD and their enemy images

4. Conclusion


1 Introduction

The following text will mainly concentrate on the concept enemy image. In the Oxford Dictionary the word enemy is defined like this: An enemy is „a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something“. Indeed, hostility and opposition play an extremely important role not only in our everyday individual life, but of course also in political relations – national and international – and social relationships. We a confronted with news about hostility and enemies every day by our newspaper, television, radio and the Internet because the phenomenon of enmity is present all over the world and can be seen as an ineradicable characteristic trait of humanity.

The paper will firstly analyse the concept enemy image by consulting different authors and academic text concentrating on the question: How can we define an enemy image? Afterwards it will discuss, if one can recognize a certain similarity in the way political actors create an enemy image by the question: Which patterns tend to reoccur when enemy images are produced? Finally, the consequences of enemy images when they are accepted in society play a role.

When we go back in history, we can find uncountable examples of enmities which had war, violence and suffering as consequence: Religious groups like Christians fought against Muslims in several crusades, whole nations have become hereditary enemies such as Germany and France after 1800 or several nations formed alliances to combat one big enemy like Hitler and his Nazi Germany during World War II. The next part of the essay will focus on an empirical example, namely the extreme right-wing party in Germany, the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (the National Democratic Party). It will elaborate on how they deliver their views upon immigration, non-Germans and Germany itself by analysing their homepage (npd.de) in order to discover how they treat the concept of enemy image in their political program and try to find out in how far their adoption of enemy images fit into the results worked out the chapter before.

I chose that party as my empirical example, because for me as a German, it is very interesting to see how the Nationalists try to justify their anti-democratic, non-multicultural and nationalist ideas by creating enemy images in order to gain voters and popularity amongst the population. Also, it is important to mention that this party is beginning to be accepted more and more in the German society, which is undermined by the fact that the NPD is getting more and more votes in the state parliament elections and is right no represented in two parliaments: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Sachsen.

As a conclusion the results will be summarized and evaluated critically.

2. Enemy images

This chapter begins with answering the question of how different authors approach the phenomenon enemy images and describe and define it. Harle thinks that an enemy is somebody which is not part of our identity of the in-group which we belong to, but of the out-group which we tend to separate ourselves from and therefore regard it as the the Other. We need this distinction between Us and Them for us to be able to completely experience ourselves and build up our own identity. According to him the definition of the Other helps us to define ourselves and and in this way create a kind of social order which we as humans search for. That is why we seek for differences which are likely highlight our positive characteristic traits and the bad ones of the Other, which can be called the evil Other (Harle 2000:10f.).

Zur also states that there is a psychological basis on building up enmities by creating categories like Us-Them and equally that the Us is the Good and the Them is the Bad which automatically defines the Other is strange, unknown and something which has to be counteracted offensively, which is a threat to us and therefore becomes our enemy. And in order to satisfy our need for safety we must destroy this enemy. (Zur 1991:346)

He defines seven types of enemies: the symbolic enemy was part of primitive warlike actions resembling a ritual where the enemy was not considered as something evil to be destroyed, but as a kind of partner on an equal basis. These actions took place not because of fear or threat, but in order to allow chaos and aggressiveness in some way. The withholding enemy is a threat to our psychological and physical needs and we are likely to react by enslaving him rather than killing him. The worthy enemy is seen as somebody honorable who we consider as worth to combat with. These fights are such between two men who seek for heroic appreciation. They respect each other and do not see each other as threats. The enemy of God is a kind of enemy which is based on religious fundamentalism. The enemy is considered as a threat to God and therefore has to be eradicated and “destroyed in order to ensure the safety of the group” This is the first one to be accompanied by the attribute evil. The offensive enemy plays a role when it comes to wars which are fought to defend countries or nations. The enemy is seen as a threat to the nation or the group, while the own nation is always considered as defensive and good and the enemy as offensive and evil. The oppressive or betraying enemy can be used as a justification for a revolution. The ruler of a nation our group is marked as too dominant and tyrannical and has to be overthrown by the oppressed group or population. In the last decades the invisible enemy appeared in form of terrorism. The enemy can not be defined by his physical appearance, he has no face so to say. That is what makes him something unknown and invisible which even affirms the threat and fear. (Zur 1991: 347ff.) According to Zur, with an enemy image one tries represent the enemy. This image is emotionally affected and stereotyped and all bad traits are projected onto the enemy. It is also clear that this leads to the willingness to use violence and potentially aggressive behaviour towards the enemy. Also threatening aspect is implicit: the in-group is threatened by the out-group and is afraid of it. And as a third emphasis, the dehumanisation of enemy has to be mentioned: the enemy is considered as inhuman which justifies violence and hostility towards it (Zur 1991:350). Harle has the same opinion when it comes to not seeing the enemy as a human being any more but as the devil or as something not worth to be human such as a beast or as an inferior being in general. (Harle 2000:13)

As a next step the way of creating enemy images by political actors shall be examined. Harle claims that enemy images are not only the product of the human psychological basis, but often produced by policy-makers who claim that that what they say must be considered as the one and only truth. For Hitler and Nazi-Germany it was clear that their in-group the Arian Germans are the superior race and their main enemy is the inferior Jewish which has to be destroyed with the help of the Almighty God (Harle 2000:14). Of course one could say that this opinion is totally irrational but we have to bear in mind that an objective truth does not exist, but that truth is always a product of the individual. This individual truth of political actors is delivered through propaganda. Harold Lasswell defines it as such: “the expression of opinions or actions carried out deliberately by individuals or groups with a view to influencing the opinion or actions of other individuals or groups for predetermined ends and through psychological manipulations.” With our modern media techniques propaganda can be easily spread and newspapers, films, textbooks and the television are effective tools with which political actors try to build up the opinion of the society. (Zur 1991:351). Zur also lists up eleven types of distorted perception of the enemy used by policy-makers to manipulate people's minds. The first one is called double standard dynamics which means that different norms to judge the enemy and oneself are used which supports the belief of the Us being good and the enemy being evil. Similar to that the double standard in attribution states that bad behaviour of the enemy lies in its nature while positive actions are rather occasional and arbitrary. Always portraying the enemy negatively and make threatening predictions which reach far beyond the real level is another strategy. The mirror image means that both parties accuse the other of the same bad behaviour. By selective attention the enemy's negative aspects are remembered more easily, while the positive ones are mostly ignored. Being biased in critical judgement is another principle where the statements of informer of one's in-group are considered as more credible than those of the enemy. Also, propaganda often shows paradoxical and oppositional images of the enemy at the same time to justify different types of aggression towards the enemy. The eight strategy means that propaganda tends to explain the enmity between the two parties as historically caused, which means that the enmity has existed for a very long time and never will change. Networks of enemies and friends are used to explain some kind of loyalty to one's friend or aggression towards the enemy's friend. All these strategies only function when there is a lack of knowledge about the enemy and the tendency to ignore for example positive behaviour of the enemy. As mentioned above dehumanisation is a very important phenomenon in the field of enemy images and through propaganda tries to depict the enemy as non-human and therefore without any domestic or individual characteristics (Zur 1991:356ff.). So it becomes clear that politicians and media try to create enemy images by a wide range of different measures and strategies and so try to manipulate the public opinion and minds of the individual.

Now a short view on the consequences of enemy images shall be presented. Of course, when we have produced and enemy image and are facing a threat, the reaction is to defend ourselves against that enemy and that threat. The logical consequence is violence and therefore warfare. After having created the enemy, we use weapons and warfare to eliminate the enemy and to remove the threat out of our minds in order to feel safe and secure. (Keen 2004:8) I personally believe that an enemy image has far more consequences than just warfare. When an enemy image and an out-group who has to be fought against are produced, the whole out-group becomes one big enemy image. There is no individual anymore and practically this means that the in-group is biased in its emotions against this out-group. They feel fear and aggression against it. In societies consisting of both – in-group and out-group – members this can lead to discrimination and a kind of exclusion of the individuals fitting into the stereotypical image of the enemy in society. This can make life in such a society not worthy any more. Examples for this kind of discrimination might be the Jews in the Third Reich or any kind of racism or discrimination against ethnic or religious minorities in recent history. In the next chapter a concrete example of such an enemy image in the Germany of nowadays will be discussed and analysed.



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enemy images analysis german


  • Dennis Schmidt (Author)



Title: Enemy Images. Analysis of the German right-wing party NPD