As an influencer, Lola Weippert actively campaigns against discrimination. Rhetoric expert Michael Ehlers analyzes her reaction to the Sylt video and the importance of influencers in the fight against discrimination.

Lola Weippert is one thing above all: influential. Yes, even if you’re reading the name for the first time. The presenter and influencer became known in particular through her work on the radio and on Instagram. She gained additional attention through a campaign in which a listener was sought to spend five days with her on a blind date in Las Vegas and then marry in a fake wedding.

She is a regular guest on game shows and reality formats. She has over 700,000 followers on Instagram and almost 30,000 mostly young followers on the video platform TikTok. Her videos are viewed up to a million times and are also shared by other users, for example as a commented video on other platforms such as YouTube. To put this into perspective: the sold circulation of Bild am Sonntag is around 461,800 copies.

Michael Ehlers has been training public figures, top managers, professional sports coaches and many more for two decades. He gives lectures on the topics of rhetoric, communication, digital transformation and motivation.

Just in case you just woke up from a coma today: The scandalous video from Sylt shows young people in the Sylt posh club “Pony” who are quite exuberantly shouting xenophobic lines to Gigi D’Agostino’s dance hit “L’amour toujours” at Pentecost. I don’t know whether the young people are convinced right-wing radicals or “Nazis”. But I do know that the group is giving the Hitler salute and one of the partygoers is holding two fingers to his upper lip in the typical Hitler imitation.

The video of the incident quickly spread on social networks and attracted the attention of users, the media and the authorities. Several of the people shown were subsequently fired by their employers, the state security service launched investigations, the Vice President of the Bundestag and the Chancellor joined the discussion. The song, which had become a right-wing meme, was subsequently banned at many folk festivals.

In the wake of this video, more and more similar cases came to light in which partygoers sang the xenophobic lyrics to the song. The Sylt video also attracted so much attention because the partygoers were not stereotypical Thuringian village Nazis, but rather “rich kids” in sailing shoes and with snobby sweaters tied around their necks. The video is therefore seen as a symbol of how deeply xenophobia and right-wing extremist ideas have penetrated society.

On May 25, Lola Weippert published a video with the comment “Nazis are proof that brain failure does not always lead to death,” in which she reacts to the scandalous video in a clearly emotional and tearful manner. Her message to her followers is just as emotional. She does not provide an analysis of the deep-rooted racism in German majority society, nor does she relativize whether the young people are perhaps just imitating an internet phenomenon with a twist of irony. No. Germany started two world wars not long ago, and there are already people “shouting things like that, giving a Hitler salute!”

She also explains in the video that she has Jewish ancestors and clearly shows us our past: six million Jews gassed. She ends the video with a plea: “If you know anyone in this video, please report it or write to me and I will do it. But this must not be forgotten without consequences.”

She strongly condemns what happened and calls for the protagonists to be reported. In this way, although in a completely different form, she is in line with the content of all politicians from the democratic parties. It is important that, despite all the emotion, she calls for trust in the rule of law. This is something that distinguishes her from the Twitter mob, which sometimes seems to be unleashed.

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The reactions on social media were not only positive. Although the video received almost 40,000 likes, there was also backlash. In my view, this backlash, which is reflected in derisive comments – especially on X, formerly Twitter – and reaction videos on YouTube, is even more important than the likes. Because it shows how sensitive the right reacts when its narrative of a new normality of right-wing content is questioned.

When right-wing populist accounts with a wide reach tag Lola Weippert (and other accounts) and make them available as a target for their followers, that means that someone has hit a sore spot. What is significant to me is that very few people engage with the content of her video, but instead criticize her for showing herself to be extremely emotional or for the clothes she is wearing in her own video.

Spoiler: right-wing circles still don’t like the few women who speak their minds. Ms. Weippert herself made some of the reactions public on her account: “Fuck you, you whore, I’ll stab you” “Hope you get cancer and your parents too” This is “just a small excerpt from the messages I get here on Instagram, especially after I spoke out against a certain party (I will continue to do so anyway).”

This is the norm on social media. This is how people try to silence unpopular opinions. Anyone who opposes this deserves the full support of democratic civil society, just like any politician who rightly insists on being protected by the state.

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Influencers like Lola Weippert reach hundreds of thousands of young people with their content. They form a powerful counterweight to the content that extremist groups and radical parties put online every day. To say out of pseudo-intellectual arrogance: “Oh, it’s just the internet and I don’t even know them” ignores reality.

Their sons and daughters know the popular influencers. The use of social media as a source of information among teenagers and young adults is continuously increasing. Generation Z simply prefers social media and online platforms to traditional media such as television and newspapers to get information.

Parties like the AfD, but also more extreme right-wing and Islamist groups have long since recognized this and consistently use these channels. The other parties are only slowly taking up the fight for dominance of opinion.

It is all the more important that people like Lola Weippert use their authenticity to say: racism and misanthropy are not cool! Don’t take part in it! That may not be particularly analytical or intellectual and may work more on an emotional level. But it works. And above all, it ensures that right-wing extremist content – like the lyrics of the Sylt song – is not seen as everyday and normal.

This text comes from an expert from the FOCUS online EXPERTS Circle. Our experts have a high level of specialist knowledge in their subject area and are not part of the editorial team. Find out more.