The "hipsterification" of the neo-Nazi movement in Germany has gained steam over the past year, according to a feature article in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine.
In fact, neo-Nazis are so hip in Germany these days that the media has even come with a new term, "nipsters," to described the trend of people dressing like Brooklyn hipsters at Nazi events.
Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize, Rolling Stone says, and the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. There's even a vegan Nazi cooking show.
"If the definition of the nipster is someone who can live in the mainstream," says neo-Nazi Internet TV star Patrick Schroeder, "then I see it as the future of the movement."
In the two years that it has been on-air, Schroeder's show, FSN.tv, has turned the thirty-something neo-Nazi into the public face of the German extreme right. That is largely because he is open about his desire to give the movement a friendlier, hipper face.
Schroeder holds seminars for neo-Nazis in which he instructs them about dressing less threateningly and argues that anybody should be able to join the movement without changing the way they look. That's an idea that has put him at odds with many older neo-Nazis in Germany.
His statements, however, are anything but new. Rolling Stone quotes him as saying, "If the Third Reich was so bad, it would have been toppled. Every half-intelligent person knows there is no system where everything was bad."
He also explains why black people don't belong in Germany: "It's against nature — there's a reason we're not walking around in the sun, in Ghana, with our skin color."
Another representative of new neo-Nazism is Andy Knape, 28, head of the youth wing of the National Democratic Party of Germany, the country's oldest and biggest extreme-right political party. Dressed in a grey T-shirt and Converse-style sneakers which "wouldn't look out of place on an American college campus," Knape says his mission is to give nationalism a friendlier and cooler face.
In the NPD and many other extreme-right organizations, Rolling Stone points out, "nationalist" often functions as a politically acceptable euphemism for "Nazi."
Hip neo-Nazis are taking over from the masculine, angry and violence-prone skinheads, who became the embodiment of the movement in the 1990s. Today's neo-Nazi is just as likely to have a beard and be dressed in skinny jeans as to be shaven-headed and tattooed.
In recent years, a growing number of neo-Nazi groups have staged savvy viral campaigns, including one where they dressed up as the Sesame Street Cookie Monster and distributed pamphlets to schoolchildren, and another involving a man in a bear costume calling himself the "deportation bear" and posing in front of Hanover Turkish shops.
"They can easily produce something that has the appearance of looking hip," says one social analyst. "These aren't just dumb East German youth — they understand how to package their political ideology."
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