The movie The Baader Meinhof Complex takes place in the late 1960s and 1970s Western Germany and tells the story of The Red Army Faction (RAF) – a far-left terrorist group that organized bombings, hijackings, assassinations, robberies, and kidnappings. The group consisted of people who believed that West Germany was turning into a Neo-Nazi police state and decided that violence was the only answer to this problem. The members of RAF were able to receive training in Jordan by Fatah – formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, and then return to West Germany to continue their fight. The leaders of RAF were able to employ not only violence but also propaganda to their cause. In many cases, they were able to put the Western German government in a bad light and make some parts of the society believe in their worldview. Moreover, the movie also demonstrated how relationships within terrorist organizations can develop and how the organizations’ actions impact its own members’ psychological state.
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The movie directly relates to the topic of research as it studies one of the most infamous terrorist groups of 20th century Europe, their motivation, goals, methods, psychology, and history. The movie conveys several important messages about society considering trust, violence, and dialogue. It is demonstrated that the lack of trust within the society and between some parts of the society and the government was one of the main reasons for the creation of RAF. The presence of foreign forces who were perceived as imperialists and their support by some of the elites connected to the Nazi regime in the past was intolerable for the German youth. Moreover, the violence that the government itself occasionally used was quickly associated with the grim heritage of the previous Nazi regime, and the society was quick to draw parallels. At the same time, as the events of the movie occurred during the Cold War, it is evident that the government of Western Germany was not easy to trust left-wing movements as well. Finally, it is shown that dialogue is almost impossible in such conditions of mutual mistrust, hate, and violence.
Globalization tends to be shown from the negative perspective in the movie, as it is associated with foreign military bases on the territory of Western Germany and international terrorism. American military bases in Western Germany become one of the major attack targets for RAF as they see the US as imperialistic foreign power collaborating with Neo-Nazis. Regarding international terrorism, the movie tells the story of terrorism blurring the borders between Europe and the Middle East – as it was mentioned before, RAF members were able to enlist support from Palestinian radicals. Later, members of the RAF also helped Palestinian military groups and even participated in their operations abroad. This indicates that terrorism has already evolved in its scale, and the governments, which faced this issue, had to adapt as well and cooperate with other countries on a larger scale to counter the threat.
Overall, the movie demonstrated that radicalism was imminent for the post-World War II Western Germany society that was immersed in the abyss of the Cold War and only recently started rebuilding its yet fragile democracy. Numerous mistakes in the government’s reaction led to the transformation of radicalization into well-organized and coordinated terrorism that was supported internationally. The Western German government was not ready to counter such a threat effectively, which is why the fusion of violence and propaganda that RAF employed was so successful initially.