While those who believe in conspiracy theories are growing in number, there are three very good reasons why they won’t go away.
Yesterday, we witnessed Americans descending on the Australian embassy in New York, our flag in hand, marching and chanting to save us. What they were saving us from, they didn’t tell. It, of course, highlights the latest throng of people who have had their heads turned by online conspiracy theories. So, despite their thoughts making little sense, why are they growing louder? Well, there are three reasons, and they may (or may not) shock you.
Save Australia from fucking what? Our tiny death toll? 🙄 please stop https://t.co/QUjF514E9V
— Emily Sears (@emilysears) October 5, 2021
1. The COVID has made it more possible for conspiracy theorists, neo-nazis, and anti-vaxxers to reach you
It may, or may not, come as a surprise to you that the far-right movement and many other extreme ideologies are growing in popularity. This surge seems to coincide with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Yep, everyone’s two least favourite things, extremist views and pandemics coming together to top off what has been a stellar last couple of years… and by ‘stellar’ I mean ‘dreadful’. Seeing that many of us are in our twelfth consecutive week of lockdown we’ve got the time to delve deeper into this issue — and it is as interesting as it is terrifying.
It is ironic that the same group of people who are referring to the rest of us as ‘sheep’ are the ones gathering in large groups only to be herded away by police.
Finding a uniting cause is key for any group. COVID-19 has allowed groups like far-right nationalists, libertarians, anti-vaxxers, and conspiracy theorists to come together in one big lovefest and take advantage of the frustrations forming from continued lockdowns and economic uncertainty. The groups are calling on the government to stop mandating vaccines and to end the lockdown restriction. They’re chanting clever slogans whilst singing the national anthem and telling the rest of us sheep to wake up.
F**k the jab!
Our home is girt by sea
F**k Bill Gates
Extremist groups tend to capitalise on the frustrations and fear that COVID has induced in many people. Whilst writing this article millions are living in lockdown for what feels like an eternity.
2. The internet can provide you with information that agrees with you on any topic regardless of your views
The internet has provided an environment where young men can spend hours at home searching the internet for ideas and concepts that appeal to them, only to delete their browser history, and then search anti-vax propaganda and a host of other conspiracy theories.
Evidence has shown many of the young men who associate with these extreme groups tend to have a feeling of emasculation. There are usually two factors at play here; emasculation from institutions such as the government, and a sense of personal emasculation from feeling bullied, or isolated. This drives them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Joining these groups, they believe, will help them reclaim their manhood.
Parallels can be drawn between the Melbourne protesters and a group of 20-year-olds heading for a day out at the races. With many chatting on messaging apps about what they were going to wear on their big day out.
Melbourne has recently broken the world record for most time in lockdown so it is no wonder the government is being met with protests. This is a perfect breeding ground for a distrust in the government, as there as many residents feel a growing sense of alienation. These conditions are perfect for groups to unite people around a common cause and give many people (mostly young men) a sense of belonging and purpose.
The protests in Melbourne were mostly in relation to the mandate by the Victorian State Government requiring all construction workers to have at least one COVID vaccination by 23 September or else they would not be able to work. This, as one might expect, was met with criticism by some of those within the diverse melting pot that is the construction industry. Violent protests soon ensued and the Victorian State Government shut down all construction sites in metropolitan Melbourne and some surrounding areas for two weeks.
“We put the industry on notice just a week ago, we have seen appalling behaviour on site and on our streets, and now we’re acting decisively and without hesitation.” — Minister for Health Martin Foley
And just like that group of 20-year-olds at the races, things went to shit pretty quickly and all those pre-drinks were a bad idea.
The union leaders then placed much of the blame on far-right extremists for the violent protest. Claiming that many were not members of the union and were just there to create violence and chaos. This accusation has been deemed quite possible by some of the researchers analysing how extremist groups operate and recruit new members. Many protesters who were not involved in the union allegedly purchased fluro workwear to blend into the crowd and appear as angered union members. The hatred of unionised workforces by the far-right, anger about mandated vaccinations, and resentment within the community provided a perfect opportunity for extreme ideologies to gain followers.
The police were called in as an alcohol-fuelled mob started taking their frustrations out on the Police, the union employees, and headquarters building, and at times each other.
3. Their tactics have worked before, and they’ll work again
Their tactics aren’t anything new — prey on the weak with misinformation, disrupt the status quo to gain the support of the disenfranchised.
It is alarming that groups such as neo nazis, conspiracy theorists, and anti-vaxxers are increasing in popularity all around the world. Although it really shouldn’t be surprising, history is riddled with tales of opportunistic extremists rising to power on the back of misinformation and propaganda.
Interestingly, one approach to reducing vulnerable people’s involvement with extreme ideologies is to understand the meaning of involvement for the individual and provide support for them. It has been recommended by researchers that we need to think long-term about the issues that cause vulnerable people to join these groups. By providing work, financial security, media literacy, and rebuilding trustworthiness in the government — we reduce some of the driving factors that create the anger and hostility we are currently seeing.
It is a very sensitive issue for most people to even start to think about. How do we as a society begin to even deal with extremist ideologies — let alone those who have become involved in such dangerous, detrimental, and unproductive ideas?
I guess we really need to ask ourselves: What do we do when an Anti-Vaxxer, A Conspiracy, Theorist, and a Neo-Nazi all walk into a bar? (Hi-Vis optional)