The Greens as Enemies during the Gas Price Crisis 2022 – Second Methodological Exploration in the NOTORIOUS Project

Authors: Paula Matlach and Sara Bundtzen

Published: 2 October 2023

In response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, EU member states have imposed a number of restrictive measures on Russia. These sanctions aim to signal that a war of aggression is not free of costs.

As a part of the project “Cross-Platform Identification, Monitoring, and Modelling of Disinformation Dissemination Patterns (NOTORIOUS)”, this report examines narratives about the 2022 energy crisis in Germany as a case study with broad political, economic and social relevance. For this purpose, the report employs a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, and includes a discussion on the definitional and methodological challenges when collecting social media data to study narratives.

Focusing on X (then Twitter), the analysis identifies ‘narrative clusters’ that contain mis- and disinformation about the German government’s response to the gas price crisis. For example, user profiles– including official AfD accounts, AfD-affiliated accounts, and accounts from the right-wing and conspiracy ideology milieus– attributed the gas shortage and rising energy costs to ideological malice on the part of the government.

In particular, the Green Party and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck were targeted by hateful attacks as well as manipulated and misleading information. The report reiterates previous research highlighting the use of enemy images, especially against Green Party politicians, as a widespread tactic of far-right actors. The observed ‘narrative clusters’– blaming and demonising the Green Party– are part of the ‘culture wars’ that reinforce in-and out-group thinking and emotionally charge public debates.