Net campaign against the bundeswehr: do what counts

The Bundeswehr wanted to improve its image with a hip campaign worth 10.6 million euros. Now there’s a small uproar on the net.

Some will probably answer that with a yes. Screenshot: www.machwaszaehlt.de

"We also fight for you to be against us. Do what really matters!" That’s just one of the slogans with which the German Armed Forces have recently been aggressively promoting themselves as part of a 10.6 million euro advertising campaign. For career opportunities in the military. For Germany’s peace work. For deployment in war zones.

Nicely done, isn’t it?

Since Monday morning, this campaign has been sharply attacked on the web – and taken to task with a camouflage. For while the Bundeswehr campaign, already designed to irritate, led to a website from which interested junior military personnel could immediately organize an appointment for an interview, the camouflage of the Bundeswehr opponents invites you to the following homepage. At first glance, it is difficult to tell the two sites apart. How did this become possible?

The weak point was an a

It is true that the authors of the controversial Bundeswehr campaign had taken the precaution of registering numerous websites that could have a possible campaign reference (for example machwaszahlt.de) – but not all of them. The Berlin "Peng-Kollektiv", a network of action artists and activists, had found a homepage that was still free: machwaszaehlt.de.

There, on a website very similar in appearance to the Bundeswehr campaign site, one can now find out what happens in the army from the point of view of the critics. The homepage welcomes its visitors with the question "You think it’s cool to be a soldier?" Then the Bundeswehr critics list, for example, how many foreign deployments the German military is currently on and how many soldiers have lost their lives in recent years.

"We have taken note that the Bundeswehr never uses words like ‘death,’ ‘killing,’ ‘dying’ or ‘war’ in your entire campaign," says a spokesman for the Peng collective, who goes by the name Phillip Fisch. "We want to make up for that with our campaign."

On the web, it’s succeeding. The hashtag #machwaszaehlt made it into the top Twitter rankings in Germany on Monday just behind #HelmutSchmidt – and has since taken on a life of its own. In the meantime, people are tweeting various forms of political and aesthetic criticism toward the Bundeswehr under the hashtag. Photos of buttocks held up to the camera are particularly popular. Numerous other variations of posters from the Bundeswehr campaign are circulating on the web. One of the slogans: "Do you want to kill civilians? Do what counts!"

A proper reckoning is not worth it

Incidentally, in the background of the Peng collective’s action is a so-called agency for civil society called "The Populists." Behind this is a two-year cooperation between the Peng collective and Schauspiel Dortmund, which in turn is funded with 150,000 euros by the German Federal Cultural Foundation to promote cooperation between municipal theaters and the independent artist scene. The Schauspiel Dortmund is currently aggressively promoting increased cooperation in activist circles. For example, the action artists from the Center for Political Beauty had already staged a production in Dortmund.

So the anti-Bundeswehr campaign is financed directly from state funds? It would be nice. Because the effort of a proper accounting is not worth it here. The whole anti-Federal Armed Forces campaign, it says at Peng, cost just about 100 euros.

If that is true, at least one thing can be said: In relation to the 10.6 million euros invested by the Federal Ministry of Defense, this money was probably invested extremely effectively. And all because of the a.

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