Who said Germans don’t have a sense of humor? When it comes to the head of the right-wing, populist Alternative for Germany party, it seems they have a finely tuned sense of sarcasm.
Alice Weidel is well known for taking selfies and posting them on her Instagram account; she’s also very active on Twitter. But a recent posting raised a number of questions. It showed Ms. Weidel aiming a high kick, martial-arts-style, at a boxing bag in a department store and was decorated with the hashtag, #AfD.
“Was it a threat?” one German journalist asked. “Should we be feeling sorry for the poor boxing bag? Or was she just trying to show us all how flexible she was?”
In the end, the world wide web didn’t care. German social media decided there was a far better use for Ms. Weidel’s sporty pose – crop it out and paste it into in a bunch of other, far more amusing pictures.
Ms. Weidel has now kicked the Beatles, the Nazis, a dolphin, Darth Vader, a number of heavy metal bands and a unicorn.
TV comedian Jan Böhmermann was one of the first to notice the picture and replaced the boxing bag with the German constitution. Berlin-based comedian, Shahak Shapira, was next, organizing for the politician to kick Jean Claude van Damme and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo on successive Twitter posts. He used the hashtag #WeidelKickingThings, an homage to another political satire that did the rounds last year after conservative politician, Wolfgang Bosbach, stormed out of a German talk show. The hashtag, #BosbachLeavingThings, followed him out of the studio and around the Internet.
After Mr. Shapira’s first few posts, the Internet, as they say, took care of the rest. Journalists, satirists and ordinary Germans with Photoshop skills got in on the act. Ms. Weidel has now kicked the Beatles, the Nazis, Pokémon, astronauts, refugees, a dolphin, Darth Vader, pop star Ariana Grande, the Hamburg police, a number of heavy metal bands and a unicorn – among other things. Less obvious versions of Ms. Weidel kicking things verged on the metaphysical: One wit had her kicking over dominoes and another decorated her political colleague Alexander Gauland with a new pattern, a series of tiny yellow versions of Ms. Weidel kicking things. Another had four kicking Weidels positioned into the shape of a swastika.
Meanwhile, martial arts teachers commented on her stance (not correct) and the department store that owns the sporting goods division in which Ms. Weidel took the picture was taken talked about the legalities of testing a boxing bag before buying. If the Internet is to be believed, the first T-shirts are being made and one Twitter user has offered to send five cans of Pringles offered to the best example of the meme.
“Some of our pizzas polarize but there’s no need for violence,” groceries giant Dr Oetker said on Twitter, posting a picture of Ms. Weidel kicking their “Turkish-style” pizza. That got Ms. Weidel’s fans annoyed, with many telling the food manufacturer to stay out of politics.
On March 1, #WeidelKickingThings was third on the list of trending Twitter topics for Germany. It even made it onto a small segment of the nightly news and into a number of national newspapers, websites and current affairs shows.
Her own supporters also got in on the act a little later on, posting pictures of Ms. Weidel kicking things like her political opponents, Angela Merkel, the Social Democrat’s Martin Schulz and the Greens’ Anton Hofreiter among them.
They do say all publicity is good publicity. But maybe the hashtag is even more ironic given that, this morning, Ms. Weidel and her AfD colleagues were in parliament debating whether the German constitution should be altered to make German the official language. They fear that there are too many Anglicisms making their way into the language. The level of opposition from other parties’ politicians was high so it seems unlikely the AfD will get their way. As yet, no word as to whether Ms. Weidel tried to kick anything after the debate.
Cathrin Schaer is an editor for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: [email protected]