New alliance between anti-vaxxers and far right is deadly threat
“The Nuremberg trials are taking place on September 1,” an anti-vax protester shouted into a megaphone at a BBC team in Scarborough last week. “The nooses are ready … you will be hanged for what you have done to this country.” In Brighton, protesters picked up a vaccination center, dropping a smoke bomb and forcing some appointments to be canceled.
This is the new face of the anti-vaxxer movement: radicalized people on social media, completely accustomed to science and objective reporting on mainstream media, and increasingly prepared to threaten violence. But that’s just the public face.
Daily mail journalists have infiltrated a group of 200 military veterans called Veterans 4 Freedom, whose Telegram conversations revolve around the staging – partly threatening, partly fictitious – of a violent insurgency in which vaccination centers are closed and their injured personnel.
The anti-vax movement has, in short, become a magnet for those engaged in anti-truth and anti-science politics, and an open conduit to the far right. Looking through the press photographs of the August 28 protests, it is clear that this is not the demographics of the Brexit Party – the aged white Tories – and it is not the demographics of Extinction Rebellion either: educated, progressive, young and old.
It attracts former soldiers; young mothers fooled by the idea that their children will be used as “guinea pigs”; Christian fundamentalists; and the usual conspiracy theory junkies who follow figures like Piers Corbyn and David Icke. I also have the impression that the movement attracts a much larger number of low-income youth than traditional politics.
They are, in short, what psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich described in the 1930s as “people in difficulty” – the raw material of early fascism. And all over the democratic world, both the populist right and the fascist right have clung to their concerns and started to mobilize them.
Why now? Because with many advanced countries having vaccinated nearly 70 percent of the adult population, governments and businesses are starting to tackle the problem of “stowaways”. How do you push, persuade or ultimately coerce those who are reluctant to get vaccinated or who are willing to rely on the collective immunity provided by others?
This was less of a problem when health services were still lining up in the long line of people who wanted the vaccine but couldn’t get it. Now, with the UK government determined to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and indoor venues from October 1, and some colleges and businesses already requiring proof of double hit status, the hard core of politicized anti-vaccines sees their chance.
The dangers are twofold. First, that activists could exploit the ready-made social media lie-spreading machine to create a mass immunization resistance movement. The untold story of the pandemic has been the growing skepticism of working-class youth, whose lives have been educationally, economically and socially marred by the lockdown.
The second danger is political. If we take apart one of the leaflets used for the August 28 protests, published by the White Rose – a group of Catholic fundamentalists – we can see how easily anti-vax ideology fits into the architecture of thought of the extreme right.
Entitled “End the Covid Fraud and Global Genocide Now! “, The leaflet – which was pushed through my door in south London – claims that the vaccine is killing people:” The covid [sic] fraud is at the root of a global genocide.
He says the virus is “less lethal than a strong seasonal flu,” that death records have been “falsified” to exaggerate the impact of the disease, and that the vaccine is experimental and is “actually an injection of. genetic modification. .. causing more side effects and more deaths than all other vaccines put together ”. He adds that the scientific debate has been suppressed to give the floor “only to ‘approved’ agencies”. The perpetrators of the “crime” are said to be governments and the World Economic Forum (WEF).
There are many points of congruence with modern fascist thought. The first is the claim that “genocide” is being perpetrated against white Christians. For staunch far-right extremists, this is the heart of the ‘Great Replacement Theory’ (GRT), which claims that immigration to largely white countries, combined with a drop in the white birth rate, is a form of genocide.
Once you establish in your mind the illusion that you are the victim of genocide, then – as in the work of GRT guru, French writer Renaud Camus – extreme forms of resistance ensue. Hence the reference to the Nuremberg trials and the hanging in the Scarborough demo (these references are common online). In the new architecture of fascism thought, there is a justified search for accomplices: feminists, human rights advocates, liberals and Marxists are all seen as “collaborators” with the “occupying power” ( i.e. migrants). In the thought of the White Rose movement, the same logical structure exists.
The name of the group is borrowed from the anti-fascist Catholic group that resisted the Third Reich. Its most famous member was Sophie Scholl, executed by guillotine in 1943 for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. British anti-vaccines present themselves as modern equivalents of Scholl: “Like the White Rose in Germany, which resisted the Nazi regime, we encourage people to resist the tyranny of lust. We don’t want anymore [sic] lockouts and demand an end to all restrictions. ”
[See also: Why does the media mollycoddle anti-vaxxers?]
Although claiming to be “peaceful”, recent street activities have involved intimidation of the media, public death threats and attempts to physically obstruct health workers. By setting themselves up as victims of the genocide, the anti-vaxxers allow themselves to threaten violence.
Whichever route people take in the movement, and no matter how sincere their concerns about state power or big drug companies, these are the self-selected new periphery of the world. far right. First they were anti-lockdown, then they said Covid-19 was a hoax. Now, they say the vaccine is a genocidal conspiracy of a world government (the WEF is, in far-right parlance, just a polite way of saying “occupied Zionist government”).
What unites this group with other parts of the far-right periphery – including the football “guys” who staged a protest against Black Lives Matter last summer, or the supporters of QAnon and Trump who derive from it. ‘one public disorder to another – is a propensity to performative self-deception.
When we talk about radicalization we tend to think of it as moving along a left-right axis – people logically moving from a position of moderate social criticism to extremes, whether within Christian fundamentalism, Islamic extremism or the simple cult of Hitler.
But just as important is the journey away from the truth. Sociologist Karl Mannheim, who observed the rise of Nazism firsthand, noted how the collapse of a passive and pervasive ideology – of Protestant German nationalism – triggered the rise of “utopian” thinking in many. of people, both on the far left and on the far left. far right. In the face of the collapse of social order, a large number of people have embraced irrationalism, mysticism and total and absolute mistrust of all sources of information.
For such people, then, like today, the ultimate proof of their “build your own truth” is that other people share it. Hence the need for defiant public protests, the T-shirts of Covid hoaxes, threats against media teams and attacks on police. Their self-deception cannot be passive and private – it must be actively and publicly nurtured through street performances and social media conversations.
The far right in Britain remains small but dangerous: nearly one in six terrorism convicts in British prisons is now far right, and other trials are underway. The populist right, for its part, remains absorbed within the Conservative Party. But between the two forces there is a vast and dangerous online world of scientific skepticism, human rights activism and what the Germans call “”querdenken”- the refusal to believe in any accepted wisdom.
When one party forms an underground militia, fantasizing about the insurgency, and another party takes to the streets with threats to hang BBC journalists, you better start worrying – because its potential audience is everyone. who do not want to suddenly.
[See also: Why we are entering a new Great Game]