Earlier this week, the world took their eyes off American President Donald Trump for a moment to watch the shocking results of the German parliamentary elections.
During those elections, the hard-right, anti-Muslim and Nazi-sympathizing Alternative for Germany party (abbreviated as AfD) seized control of an eighth of Germany’s Bundestag parliament — and they did so with help from an advertising agency based in Austin, Texas.
The party’s initial goal was humble: they wanted to get 1,000 or more reactions on their Facebook posts. By teaming up with Harris Media, Harris’ digital communications firm that brought victory to Ted Cruz’s Senate run, they did much more than that.
One popular (and very violent) image Harris made for AfD featured bloody tire tracks, with the names of cities and superimposed over them. Underneath the cities’ names were statistics about people killed in terror attacks carried out by Muslims. At the top of the image, the words “the tracks of the Chancellor [Merkel] through Europe,” echoing their belief that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “lenient” stance on Muslim refugees results in terror attacks.
Along with creating graphics for the party, AfD hired Harris for another purpose — they needed his connections in Silicon Valley to help them get out of hot water with social media companies due to the often-vitriolic anti-immigrant nature of their messaging.
“The team at Harris Media just places quick calls to the companies’ headquarters in Silicon Valley, sources say, where the agency is very well-networked as a result of its many successful political campaigns for the Republicans,” Germany’s Spegiel Online reported. “AfD’s orders are then simply put through to Germany from the United States.”
As Texas Monthly notes, Harris’ AfD contract was not the first time he’d created advertisements about the “Islamitization” of Germany. In 2016, Harris created an ad for the “neoconservative” Secure America Now group that featured a Germany “infiltrated” by caricatures of jihadists. Once Germans caught wind of it, they were quick to show their disgust both with the bigoted content and with Harris’ “sloppy” use of an Austrian train instead of a German one.
You can watch Harris’ first foray into “German” politics below.