The Frankfurt book fair, which took place last week from 19-23 October, is one of the largest of its kind in the world. After a dip in participation due to the pandemic in 2021, the 2022 edition brought more than 4,000 publishers and 180,000 visitors to Frankfurt. Of these 4,000 publishers, around “three or four could be considered to be part of the conservative spectrum,” the Junge Freiheit (one of the “three or four” publishers involved), reported. Despite being flanked by thousands of left-wing publishers, the poster girl of German climate activism, Luisa Neubauer, declared herself “not safe at the book fair.”
The 26-year-old Neubauer, who hails from the Reemtsma clan, a family of cigarette producers from Hamburg, attended the Frankfurt book fair to promote her book Gegen die Ohnmacht (Against Powerlessness), which she co-authored together with her 89-year-old grandmother, Dagmar Reemtsma.
The German regional news program “Hessenschau” interviewed Neubauer and asked if she considered boycotting the book fair over the presence of right-wing publishers. She answered, “I think it is complete misbehavior on the part of the book fair to not guarantee that all authors may feel safe here.” For her, it “is a shame that people cannot come here” out of fear for their safety.
Activists and politicians on the Left have long tried to influence the director of the Frankfurt book fair, Juergen Boos, not to invite conservative and right-wing publishers. This year, two Frankfurt politicians attempted to enact a ban on the Junge Freiheit and the Karolinger publishing house. Boos, so far, has remained steadfast in his conviction to remain independent and neutral.
That doesn’t mean, however, that right-wing publishers are welcome in Frankfurt. In the past, controversies between left-wing activists and right-wing publishers have dominated headlines. In 2018, a situation between the two escalated when three masked men beat up Götz Kubitschek, the owner-editor of the Antaios publishing house, along with his wife, when spotting them in a pizzeria in Frankfurt.
The main culprit for the Left this year, though, was Dieter Stein and his Junge Freiheit, whose stand was promoted as a “safe space for free speech.” Since Neubauer’s statements were apparently directed at Stein, the editor-in-chief answered with a video statement of his own, in which he invited her to visit the Junge Freiheit’s stand. “Anybody who wants to discuss matters—controversially, too, if need be—is welcome at our stand,” Stein said. He even invited Neubauer to “write a contribution for the next edition of the Junge Freiheit” in which Neubauer could share her “concept of a functioning energy and climate policy” with their readers.
Needless to say, Neubauer did not take him up on his offer. In an exclusive statement for the European Conservative, Dieter Stein commented on the situation, calling Neubauer’s claims “absurd” and pointed instead to the fact that the Junge Freiheit had “never posed a threat” in 30 years of attending the book fair, while, on the contrary, it had been “the target of left-wing extremist attacks countless times.” Stein recalled:
Once, in the 1990s, our entire stand was cleared out and a thousand copies of newspapers were destroyed. Repeatedly, we were threatened, the stand was graffitied, and readings were disrupted by shouting. Also, in previous years, the fair management was pressured by left-wing extremist organizations and left-wing politicians to isolate right-wing publishers in a poorly accessible cul-de-sac.
These shenanigans didn’t happen this year. Still, Stein considers it “ridiculous to speak of a problem” with three right-wing publishers out of a total of 4,000. According to the founder of the Junge Freiheit, “the Left obviously has a huge democracy problem.”
“It is an essential part of democracy to be able to endure opposing positions between progressives and conservatives. The Left is trying to turn discourse into a test of power by banning one side of the democratic spectrum from the public sphere. This is a scandal and must be fought,” said Stein.
Despite the enormous costs of being present at the book fair, the Junge Freiheit still decided to partake once again this year. “The point is: the public space must not be dominated by one political direction like a monopoly,” said Stein, adding that
if we voluntarily withdraw into bubbles and parallel worlds, we flee the field without a fight—which is exactly the goal of the advocates of a discourse controlled from above by a nanny-state, of supervised thinking, of a semi-totalitarian ‘civil society’ disguised as democracy. Without the will to resist found in our surroundings, in the many readers who visited us in large numbers at the stand and expressed encouragement, this cannot be done.
As for being turned down by Luisa Neubauer, Stein dismissed it as “typical for a Left that is not capable of sovereign argumentation.”