On Thursday, Ms. Merkel’s party published an open letter addressing each of Rezo’s main lines of attack. It then announced that it had filmed its own video in response, using the youngest member of Parliament, Philipp Amthor, but decided against publishing it.
“This very public accounting puts the traditional parties on Defcon 3,” said Professor Dörner.
Instead, Paul Ziemiak, the head of the Young Union, the party’s youth wing, called out Rezo on Twitter for a one-on-one debate. “We take it very seriously, especially because so many young people are watching the video,” Mr. Ziemiak told German reporters.
Since then, other young politicians, including the Christian Democrats’ Jenna Behrends, who is involved in Berlin city politics, and Tiemo Wölken, a Social Democratic Party member of the European Parliament, have responded with their own videos. But none of the responses have garnered the interest that the initial video did.
The national fascination with the video comes from the recognition that the authority structures in the country are being upended in real time, Professor Dörner said in the interview.
German households pay a media fee of almost $20 a month directly to public broadcasters, whether they own a television or not. In return, the public broadcasters are trusted to be a bedrock of quality journalism and worthwhile entertainment. But while the trust in the main news broadcasters has never been near absolute, Professor Dörner says, that is no longer the case, since more Germans get their news and entertainment from the internet.
A recent analysis by the news organization BuzzFeed showed that of the 100 most-shared social media posts mentioning the European elections in German, 49 came from the populist Alternative for Germany and 13 others from the Freedom Party, Austria’s far-right party whose leader recently resigned as vice chancellor over a video that raised questions over ties to Russia.