German media made Frank Magnitz the new face of the AfD | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 17.01.2019
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German media made Frank Magnitz the new face of the AfD

Reaction to the attack on Frank Magnitz, a Bundestag member for the far-right Alternative for Germany, reveals just how polarized the country has become. The AfD has received a clear boost from the media hoopla.

According to press reports, in an internal party document circulated by members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), Frank Magnitz says it was his intention to dramatize the recent attack on him to stir up "attention" and "media outrage." That's why Magnitz, a member of the Bundestag and AfD's party leader in the state of Bremen, distributed a press release and images of his bloodied face — making sure to implicate the German left in his detailed account of the attack.

Since then, however, details have emerged that contradict Magnitz's account. Surveillance footage does show three men attack him from behind, but exactly how he sustained a massive wound on his face remains inconclusive. (The injury is visible in the video, and one assessment suggests that it may have been caused by his fall.)

According to the AfD document, Magnitz was pleased by how quickly media got the story out to the rest of Germany — and the world. The whole country was shaken up and talking about the attack.

Bremen: Magnitz scene (Reuters/F. Bimmer)

A thorough investigation has revealed details that largely contradict the AfD's account

An 'assassination attempt'?

The AfD is well-prepared for media campaigns. The party's parliamentary group has a social media division that quickly posts statements online as world events unfold. The digital operation requires just a handful of workers in two small offices, and it doesn't cost much.

In fact, the press seemed to be following social media in reporting on what Magnitz said had happened to him. The AfD spread news of an "assassination attempt" as a result of "verbal attacks from politicians and media" on the party.

Though police were still investigating and the standards of journalism call for accurately reporting events in context, respected German media accepted and spread the AfD's version.

That, too, worked to the AfD's benefit. The party could accuse media outlets that were waiting to report the whole story of trying to suppress the truth.

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