To Conspiracy theorists (CTs) in Europe, the Covid-19 pandemic is just a story invented by the international financial mafia or a malicious tool to control people's mind, to "reset the world", a "soap opera" or a "supermarket flue", reports Agence- France-Presse (AFP). The in-depth report, prepared after talking with CTs, its followers and intelligence authorities, found that such "alternative" theories run on various issues that influence people, creates mistrust among them and even influences elections in the continent.
Covid-19 virus a tool!
In the Netherlands, unprecedented riots happened during curfew and protests were held against pandemic regulations. Those who staged these include populist activists, critics of a "world government", and promoters of natural medicine.
Some among CTs believe that elite forces worked for 20 years to create the covid virus, a tool with an agenda of curbing public freedom and reducing population. They are against the "Great Reset", a "shady plan" by World Economic Forum to revive the economy after the pandemic. Similarly, Germany and Denmark witnessed protests against pandemic restrictions where people voiced similar arguments of conspiracy, scam etc.
The co-founder of Microsoft is one of the prime targets for CTs. One of them claims that Bill Gates, who has no medical degree or expertise in vaccines, is convincing people that they are sick to improve his medicine sales. He says that Bill Gates- who worked decades for improving access to vaccines- earned his money out of his philanthropic foundation based on healthcare.
Ways of propagating conspiracies
Podcasts become a medium for CTs in the Netherlands, and they take up stimulating subjects like Covid-19, the disappearance of Flight MH370, child crime and UFOs.
In France, a documentary titled "Hold-Up" surfaced in 2020, which cradled many conspiratory theories. Various digital platforms removed the film from their feeds. It filmed stories from doctors, researchers, sociologists etc., making it convincing and was watched by many though the French government denounced it.
Furthermore, certain online CT associations not only create 'alternate' content but also hold activities like "fundraisers for students in need."
In Telegram, a messaging app, people follow CTs, some with nearly 1,50,000 followers. Though Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc., paved a strong path for CTs, they later took down their narratives and related accounts. But CTs find alternative platforms and continue to publish what they claim mainstream media are hiding. Some of the theories relayed through telegram groups rise above the conspiratorial spectrum to become subjects of public debates, which can even reach a country's parliament.
QAnon as the influencer
European CTs got inspiration from the QAnon movement in the US. QAnon is where extreme right-wing groups, people who believe in UFO's, think that 5G wireless technology will control people, etc., rally together. QAnon came to global prominence during the storming of the Capitol during the last days of the Trump administration. It also propagates the idea that a group of elites rule the world order.
The QAnon had claimed that US Democrats keep a paedophile network and that 1,000 children were freed from the ship Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal. According to QAnon, the children were being trafficked in the ship by a group led by Hillary Clinton.
The growing power of CTs
The AFP reports states with examples that there are people who fell for these theories and take the CTs' version of incidents as the window for news. The lockdown played a part in leading people to dwell in cyberspace, and thus some fell for CTs.
The movement is strong on digital platforms as it is easy to post conspiratorial content there. The situation has grounds for concern, according to intelligence organisations in France. Also, the country is preparing for an election which online mobilisations could sabotage. The CTs have influenced some far-right-wing electorates in the European continent.
The growing power of this alternative narrative is worrying European intelligence services who fear that democracies might lose stability due to it. They fear the tidal wave these CTs create, brewing mistrust among people against public institutions.