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Victoria Macdonald, Queens University.
In May, moments after the global death toll from COVID-19 reached 250,000, a YouTube film emerged and has since been called “the first true hit conspiracy video of the COVID-19 era”. Titled “Plandemic,” the video argued that COVID-19 deaths were overplayed in an effort to implement a large-scale vaccination program. While the video has since been widely debunked, it planted seeds of doubt in the Western world. By the time YouTube removed the video, a line had been drawn in the sand.
During any tumultuous moment on the world stage, whether it be war, famine, drought or a pandemic, people crave answers. Historically, people have turned to their God or their government as a means to make sense of the world. Yet in a moment where theistic religions have lost their hold on many educated North Americans, and faith in government administration has dwindled, people are seeking answers outside of professionals, religious leaders or government officials – they are turning to conspiracy. Now people protest masks, social-distancing, government restrictions on movement, vaccines, and 5G networks . Their social media is full to the brim with gruesome stories about a global elite, who are committing mass genocide to turn-over a profit. This perceived danger of the eventual COVID vaccine, most importantly, has been a successful attempt to exploit the pandemic and draw well-educated people into the depths of far-right ideology.
Indeed, these conspiracy theories tend to be prevalent within far-right media circles. Many of them state their claims in a manner that may seem rational, but is overtly racist. For example, many groups have claimed that George Soros, a Jewish investor, is part of an elite group which is developing a COVID-19 vaccine that will eliminate the white race. These theorists go on to claim that the murder of George Floyd was staged by these same elites. The rationale is that Black Lives Matter will serve as a vehicle to defund the police and usher in a new militarized world order.
By playing into people’s sense of self-preservation in such profound ways, the far-right has succeeded in normalizing its views. Now, it doesn’t seem so much as a health emergency as it is a debate between the right and left. The “plandemic” narrative is only the tip of the iceberg, there has been a significant rise into social media activity regarding the QAnon theory. These theories have become influential in terms of the reopen movement , which opposes lockdown restrictions.
One cannot necessarily blame people for being drawn into the depths of conspiracy amidst COVID-19. These agendas play on the emotions of their viewers, utilizing fear to legitimize their claims. For many, this unprecedented pandemic has altered their lives forever. Many people feel the need to rationalize their feelings, their desire for the world to stay the same, a reason to feel intellectually unique amidst the crisis. This pandemic has been a breeding ground for far-right messaging, offering new platforms to harmful movements. It is possible, and increasingly apparent that mainstream audiences are tripping into the depths of far-right ideology. And in a way, these ideas may be becoming a public-health emergency of their own.
Blyth Crawford. “Coronavirus and Conspiracies: How the Far Right Is Exploiting the Pandemic.” The Conversation, 29 Sept. 2020, www.theconversation.com/coronavirus-and-conspiracies-how-the-far-right-is-exploiting-the-pandemic-145968.
“Coronavirus Conspiracies Spreading at Alarming Rates across Canada, Experts Say .” Global News, www.globalnews.ca/news/7247416/coronavirus-conspiracy-spreading-canada/.
“From Plandemic to Breadcrumbs: Conspiracy-Theory Slang.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, www.economist.com/1843/2020/09/17/from-plandemic-to-breadcrumbs-conspiracy-theory-slang.
Newton, Casey. “How the ‘Plandemic’ Video Hoax Went Viral.” The Verge, The Verge, 12 May 2020, www.theverge.com/2020/5/12/21254184/how-plandemic-went-viral-facebook-youtube.
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