Behind Far-right German Party’s Successful Scare Campaign: Adviser to Netanyahu, Trump

AfD, which won 12.5% of the vote in Germany, focused its campaign on the 'Islamic threat.' The man behind it worked with prominent Republicans and with Israel's ruling party

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Vincent Harris, CEO of Harris Media, who worked with Netanyahu, Trump and AfD.
Vincent Harris, CEO of Harris Media, who worked with Netanyahu, Trump and AfD.Credit: Takemetothelake
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

The far-right Alternative for Germany party, which will soon enter the Bundestag for the first time after Sunday’s elections, hired the services of an American media consultant who has worked for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The party, which won 12.5 percent of the popular vote, will be the third largest in the German parliament with over 90 seats.

Its election campaign stood out on social networks and used prominent billboards, focusing on a threat of an Islamic takeover of Germany.

An election campaign poster of the German anti-immigrant party AfD, Alternative for Germany, reading 'Burkas? We like bikinis' is displayed in central Berlin, Germany.Credit: Markus Schreiber/AP

Behind the scenes, the AfD used the services of Vincent Harris, CEO of Harris Media, an online communications consulting firm founded in 2008. The company is based in Austin, Texas and is known for its provocative campaigns. It has also worked for a number of conservative Republican candidates, such as senators Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Harris also worked with the right-wing UKIP party in Britain.

Harris worked for Netanyahu and the Likud party in the 2015 election. “I love Israel, and I am excited to be here to help the Likud and the prime minister use digital media in an effective and forward-looking manner,” he told the Jerusalem Post before the election.

Of Harris, the Likud party said on Monday that they were not responsible for him or his work after their contract had ended, and that any insinuation otherwise was a "pathetic attempt" to create a story out of nothing.

The campaign Harris worked on for Alternative for Germany over the past few months included controversial, unusual ads for German elections, which appeared on the party’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. The ads show bloody tire tracks on the streets of Europe with the caption: “The tracks left by the world chancellor in Europe.”

A revolving billboard features a poster German Chancellor Angela Merkel (top) and a poster from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) featuring the sentence "Stop Islamisation" in Berlin on SeptCredit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP

Blames terror on Merkel

The ad mentions six deadly terrorist attacks around Europe, including in Germany, Britain and France. The message is clear: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy, which opened the gates of Germany to a million refugees and asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa, is what brought Islamic terrorism to Europe and caused the deaths of so many in recent years.

Harris even visited the party’s headquarters in Berlin to monitor their progress, reported Spiegel Online last month. He recommended the party adopt the slogan: “Germany for Germans,” but that was too much even for the AfD.

Harris has used the growing “Muslim threat” before online. During Trump’s presidential campaign Harris produced a video clip warning of the dangerous implications of electing Hillary Clinton. Germany lost control of its borders, we must not let that happen in the United States, he said. The clip shows a Germany in the not distant future that has become part of Islamic State. The Cologne Cathedral, one of the symbols of Germany and German Christianity, has become a mosque and the Oktoberfest festival, another major symbol, now bans the sale of beer and pork.

Alongside Harris, author and advertising professional Thor Kunkel was behind the design of the party’s provocative campaign posters on the streets. A number made the global headlines, including one with two women in bikinis: “Burkas? We like bikinis.” Another shows a pregnant woman: “New Germans? We’ll make them ourselves.”

The message is clear: Germany does not need immigrants to fight the drop in birthrates. Another ad has a pig with the caption: “Islam? It’s not right for our kitchen.”

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