Norbert Hofer has earned the nickname "the friendly face of the FPÖ" (Freedom Party of Austria). He manages to keep a smile even when things get heated on TV talk shows. His image is important, for Hofer hopes to become Austria's next president in December. He and his party, which also wants to provide Austria's next chancellor, present themselves as statesmanlike and avoid appearing overly close to the country's extreme right. Hofer has even gone to court to maintain that image. This summer he sued a member of the SPÖ (Socialist Party of Austria) for calling him a "Nazi."
But now, a controversial appearance has again sparked discussions about the FPÖ's relationship with the extreme right. FPÖ Secretary General Herbert Kickl will address a congress in Linz on Saturday of right-wing student fraternities (Burschenschaften), new rightists and anti-Semites calling themselves the "Defenders of Europe."
Bernhard Weidinger sees the congress as an important networking opportunity for German-speaking right-wing groups. The German journalist Jürgen Elsässer, editor-in-chief of "Compact" magazine and most recently a speaker at the second-year anniversary of the anti-immigrant "Pegida" movement (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), will be among the featured speakers.
"The spectrum ranges from right-wing conservatives, to right-wing extremists with ties to neo-Nazism," says Weidinger. Above all, right-wing media outlets will be present. "That particular scene sees itself as the movement's intellectual avant-garde." He considers several participants to be anti-Semitic, even if that is not the common consensus of the movement. "I would say the mainstream includes groups like the 'Blauen Narzisse,' the 'Sezession' and the so-called 'Identitarians.'"
All of these groups are unified in the fight against the supposed "Islamization" of Europe. The "Identitarian Movement" in particular, has made a name for itself of late: In April, members stormed a play put on by refugees in Vienna, and this August, in Berlin, they unfurled a huge banner on the Brandenburg Gate.