Fake Racist Comments by German Soccer Star Go Viral

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The online far right manufactured and then spread fake hateful quotes from German soccer star Toni Kroos, adding fuel to their racist campaigns

Over the past few days, a fake quote falsely attributed to German soccer player Toni Kroos, who played for Germany in the EURO 2024 soccer tournament, has been circulating rapidly online. 

Several accounts on Twitter, Telegram, and other social media platforms have been sharing and reacting to this made up quote: “Germany is no longer the country it was 10 years ago due to mass migration. The issue of mass migration has become too ‘uncontrolled.’ There are problems everywhere, it’s too crowded, there’s too much.”

On July 5, an interview featuring Kroos by the Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (Second German Television, ZDF) podcast, a public-service broadcaster based in Germany, was released. The interview was over an hour long, with Kroos only speaking briefly about migration towards the end. According to a fact-check by The Irish Times, it was the show’s hosts who brought up feelings related to “loss of control” and “overwhelmedness” in Germany. Unfortunately, one word used by Kroos, “uncontrolled,” has been wildly taken out of context without any regard for the accuracy of his full comments.

Kroos did say that migration was “underestimated, and then in the end it was just too uncontrolled,” but stressed in several other comments that immigration is a good thing for Germany. For example, he said “the basic idea that people are coming, who we obviously need…is sensational,” and that it is also “sensational that people from outside come to [Germany] and are happy.” 

Kroos also mentioned, completely unrelated to the issue of immigrants, that he’d feel more comfortable allowing his daughter, if she were 14 or 15 years old, out late at night in a Spanish city compared to a German one, citing “concerns about whether she would actually be okay and whether she would come home unscathed.” This part of the interview was used, wrongly, as supplementary evidence for Kroos’ supposed views against immigration. He made no mention of immigrants being the reason for his concerns, but that didn’t stop his words being manipulated by far right actors who constantly scapegoat immigrants as perpetrators of violence.

The overall context of the conversation and comments about migration didn’t stop the far right from skewing Kroos’ quotes and using his celebrity to fuel their racist campaigns. A day after the interview was released, an article by Paul Joseph Watson, a British conspiracy theorist who formerly worked for Alex Jones’ InfoWars, claimed Kroos “told a ZDF podcast that Germany is no longer the country it was 10 years ago due to mass migration.” Watson was soon being cited as the source of the fake quote by soccer news aggregation accounts on Twitter.

A soccer news aggregation account sharing the fake quote by Kroos, attributing credit to Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) for providing it. It got over 500,000 views in just over a day. (Source: Twitter)

This seemed to be the impetus for a widespread disinformation campaign by several far-right groups and individuals. InfoWars claimed that Kroos suggested that “migration changed Germany for the worse and made it unsafe for girls and woman (sic) to walk the streets at night.” Similarly, the far-right news outlet The Gateway Pundit published an article titled “German Soccer Captain Says His Country Has Been ‘Overwhelmed’ By Migrants, No Longer Safe To Live There.” 

On social media, the transnational far right pounced on the opportunity to spread lies for their own hateful purposes. The pan-European Identitarian movement’s de-facto leader Martin Sellner weighed in, sharing a post by Identitäre Bewegung Deutschland (Identitarian Movement Germany, IBD) saying “Only remigration can ensure that Mr Kroos’ daughter is safe again in Germany at night. We work every day to make this possible!” Remigration advocates for the forced removal of non-white people from Germany to halt the supposed “Great Replacement,” meaning the idea that somehow Germans are being “replaced” by migrants, refugees and non-Europeans. Believers in this conspiracy theory have been responsible for an astounding number of mass casualty terrorist attacks around the globe, including multiple murders in Germany. In November 2023, Sellner delivered a lecture to members of the far-right German party Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD), who Kroos publicly denounced in 2021, about making remigration federal policy in Germany. Other Identitarians and far right groups, such as Twitter account RadioGenoa, COMPACT Magazine, Identity England, a Telegram channel dedicated to virulent anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson, Australian antisemite Keith Woods, and nationalist Finnish outlet Kansalainen (Citizen), either shared fake quotes or tried to capitalize on Kroos’ comments that had been manipulated and taken out of context.

A post by RadioGenoa on Twitter sharing a fake quote by Kroos got around four million views, over 6,500 retweets, and around 40,000 likes (Source: Twitter)

Some reactions on 4chan, an online forum board which runs rampant with extremism, saw users defend Kroos as “redpilled,” a reference to The Matrix used by the far right to signify someone who has a racist and misogynistic worldview. They also defended the fake comments, saying that Kroos was sharing his “real thoughts on immigration” which would usually subject someone to “total media annihilation.” Others said the quotes were “on point,” and elaborated by demonstrating their preference to live in places “where people are still mostly white.”

The impact celebrities can have on online discourse cannot go understated, such as the case of “White Boy Summer” coined by Chet Hanks, Tom Hanks’ son, being co-opted by neo-Nazis over the past few years. The far right will also happily twist someone’s words to fit their agenda, which has happened here with Kroos, allowing them to harness large platforms and celebrity to spread hate and disinformation. 

1800 1200 Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
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