It’s a photo montage showing Annalena Baerbock of the Greens wearing a doctoral hat, the World Economic Forum emblem in the background, as well as a portrait of Jewish billionaire George Soros. “Soros model student becomes candidate for chancellor,” it says below. And further: “Baerbock follows a 5-year course at the World Economic Forum. There influential people are brought in to implement a global social and political change in the spirit of Soros and Co.”
The montage has been shared thousands of times on Facebook and other channels – including by politicians such as Bundestag AfD member Martin Sichert. His gruesome image: a “worldwide wealthy elite” wants to “doctrinate an ecological dictatorship” and needs people like Annalena Baerbock to do this. Conclusion: “If you choose green in September, you choose Soros and Co.”
Two weeks earlier at the Brandenburg Gate: here in Berlin, protesters are protesting against the corona protection measures. The editor of the magazine “Compact”, Jürgen Elsässer, stands at the microphone and speaks of a small money elite who plans to “dehumanize” the people. The names are known, they just need to be pronounced: “Bill Gates, George Soros, Klaus Schwab.” Jürgen Elsässer continues: “Everything that is happening now follows the plan of these people, and this plan has a title and this title is called Great Reset.”
There it is, the new conspiracy story that is getting massive amounts of attention in the year of the upcoming federal election – and could become so dangerous that experts like Baden-Württemberg anti-Semitism commissioner Michael Blume are warning of violence and even a possible terrorist threat. Because the horror vision can be connected far beyond the corona protest environment and is also shared by opponents of climate protection policy, by anti-Semites and in the far-right camp. How can it ever get this far?
Where did the big reset come from? The economist Klaus Schwab founded the World Economic Forum (WEF) 50 years ago. Every January, business leaders, politicians and representatives of civil society gather in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. On the occasion of the pandemic, Schwab presented his proposal in this historic crisis in June 2020: he sees the exceptional situation as an opportunity for an economic and social reboot to face the future in a more sustainable, fair and crisis-proof manner. .
The initiative, for which Schwab also published a book, is called “The Great Reset” – which translates as “The Great New Start”. It encompasses all the hotly debated issues in society – from a more sustainable economy, climate protection and mobility to the field of social justice.
How did the conspiracy story come about? The first murmur about the “Great Reset” came from the US. On the Trump-loyal station “Fox News”, the thesis was circulated that it could be some sort of socialist overthrow plan, supported by the challenger at the time in the US presidential election, Joe Biden.
This is based on the conspiracy story, according to which a global elite is behind the plan to change society – and therefore caused the pandemic to deprive the population of the right to vote and lead it towards a kind of global socialism. The World Economic Forum is therefore a meeting place for such a global elite. The speed with which Schwab presented his response to the pandemic was also considered evidence of a conspiracy – and that UN Secretary-General António Guterres, British Crown Prince Charles and Swedish climate protection activist Greta Thunberg are co-initiators. The “Open Society” foundation of Hungarian billionaire George Soros is one of the supporters – and the Jew Soros is one of the enemies.
Experts such as anti-Semitism commissioner Blume warned early on of the potential danger – and of parallels to the refugee crisis. At the time, the myth of the ‘Great Replacement’ was especially popular among right-wing extremists and AfD supporters – what is meant is the claim that there was a secret plan for ‘repopulation’ according to which refugees go to Germany.
At the time, representatives of the ‘elites’ behind it were also mentioned, such as George Soros and Bill Gates. And even then there was the charge that German politicians were their puppets. For example, far-right AfD leader Björn Höcke spoke of Angela Merkel as a “Soros customer”. In such a worldview, the “Great Reset” sounds like the next logical step.
Blume observes how strident the theories become: “There are serious protagonists of the movement who claim that genocide is being planned here,” says Blume. The supporters denied the pandemic. And, “They believe there is no man-made climate change and reject scientific findings.”
What is the current danger? In all likelihood, climate protection will become a central theme in the federal election campaign – and experts say it will be accused of conspiracy theories. Annalena Baerbock has become an enemy, as has Chancellor Angela Merkel for a long time, says Blume. This is also the opinion of expert Josef Holnburger, whose center for monitoring, analysis and strategy mainly observes radicalization on the net.
Michael Blume warns in this regard against the threat of violence. “I think we have to be really, really careful in the coming months and years, especially on extremist terrorism,” he says. Research shows that people with a conspiratorial ideological view of the world “are more willing to use violence as a political tool,” says Holnburger.
“If you go into the subject and really think you have an all-powerful elite who oppress people and are above all absolutely mean, who may even torture children, then you may be more willing to use more radical means,” says Josef Holnburger.