The Austrian chancellor as a mixture of Hitler and
Mozart on the cover of Newsweek. Please relax!

Leni Riefenstahl, the director and scriptwriter of Nazi art and moviemaking, must have been hired as picture editor at the US magazine Newsweek. Austria’s federal chancellor was pictured on the cover of the once globally relevant magazine with the beautiful headline “Austria Rising.” The photo: Intensive use of Photoshop transformed Kurz into a kind of German hero from the Ring of the Nibelungs. Richard Wagner would have been thrilled.

The gist of the piece? With his center-far-right government and some inspiration from dark times (“the past”), Sebastian Kurz will establish Austria as a legit power in Europe. These journalistically absurd means of exaggeration have a clear purpose: To present Austria’s Kurz as the new strong and dangerous man of Europe. According to the photo caption, the reporter sent to Vienna to write the piece even found an anonymous Viennese person who compared Kurz to Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, due to his slick appearance. For those who haven’t read the great thriller, Mr. Bateman celebrates suits and ’80s music as he serially murders and tortures young women in New York.

In the rest of the article, Newsweek doesn’t miss a single cliché in its attempt to understand and explain the triumph of the “Wunderkind” – somewhere between Mozart and Hitler. The magazine even regards Kurz as a new factor of po wer politics in the EU, due to his stance on the refugee issue. To prove this, the “neoliberal” Die Presse is quoted: Concretely, that Austria is supposedly a “new small superpower” under the leadership of Kurz.

This is, however, undue credit for our newspaper. The quote actually comes from Austria’s federal president Alexander Van der Bellen on the occasion of his visit to the UN General Assembly. It was, of course, part of the current Olympics being played out in Austrian domestic politics. Van der Bellen meant it, of course – yes, you guessed correctly – ironically. But let’s look past that for now. Indeed, the fascination with this charming evil has also angered many an Austrian Kurz opponent. They see far too much attention being given to outlining his success. Furthermore, the article cites young Austrians declaring why they voted for Kurz. Surely, these people don’t exist. Only old Nazis voted for him. By the way, that was sarcasm.

Sebastian Kurz is a modern phenomenon for a completely different reason: Intellectuals, expats as well as political opponents of his People’s Party (ÖVP), are both outraged and fascinated by Kurz. It’s difficult to objectively observe and analyze his behavior.

For months now, the coverage of our small, but on a European level not so unimportant, Austria and its new chancellor has been lacking all sense of proportion, reason and differentiated sober distance. All of which we so desperately need in Europe, not just when it comes to Kurz. What would Switzerland do?