Nathanial Veltman’s video confession was played in a Windsor court today, a shocking revelation of conspiracy, hate speech, and violence. Veltman revealed that he believed the social media posts of those spreading hate, that Muslims were abusing and grooming young women in Europe, his anger and hate rose from these images and he wanted to attack in response. His act of running over a family in London, Ontario was the result of these images and ensuing beliefs.
Nathanial Veltman’s trial for the murder of a London, Ontario family begins in Windsor this week. The trial will set the precedence for the new Canadian terrorism laws. Veltman’s hate motivated attack against an Islamic family who were out for a walk is the first murder charge under these new terrorism laws.
The trials for Freedom Convoy Leaders Tamara Lich and Chris Barber has seen a large amount of social media as evidence presented in the courtroom. Social media, both mainstream and alternative, was a significant component to the social mobilization of protesters and funders. While the evidence being shown focuses on the two leaders attempting to convince protesters to remain in Ottawa, after the police and Emergency Act called for them to leave, the posts from those leading the protest were also laden with conspiracies and disinformation.
The great replacement conspiracy theory holds that white people are being replaced in “Western Civilization” through immigration policies. Christianity will be destroyed and believers persecuted for their faith. In the August edition of Sojourner Magazine I have written a piece explaining the history and the impact of the conspiracy theory and how Christianity is intertwined.
A few years ago I was digging around in a pile of books for sale at the University of Toronto and I found a treasure. In my hands I had an original copy of the proceedings from the first Parliament of World Religions, that was tattered and worn, but it was soon to be all mine. I posted endless pictures of the book’s pages on my social media and it soon took a place of prestige on my bookshelf.
Fast forward a few years and I was shocked and honoured to be invited as a panelist for the 2023 Parliament of World Religions being held in Chicago. I will be joining experts in the field of religion and extremism to discuss the “Rise of White Christian Nationalism: Threats to US Democracy.” The rise in Christian nationalism across the globe is something society as whole needs to be cognizant of and respond to. There are numerous panels and conversations which address the role of religion in society, polarization, fears and hopes at this year’s Parliament, which is being made held in a hybrid format.
Working with the team at the Disinformation Project at Simon Fraser University we researched the role of influencers within hate groups on the social media platform Telegram. Social media influencers (SMI) play a significant role in the spreading of hate ideology on platforms, recruiting new members, and organizing political social movements offline, in eruptions such as the events on January 6th on Capitol Hill or the Freedom Convoys in Canada. Research on SMI’s impact on conspiracy theories, social movements, and the spreading of hate is a relatively new field of research, and this work plays an important role in our understanding of the social capital power these individuals can have.
The concept of 15 minute cities is an urban planning idea to make where we live more walkable. Having stores, entertainment, and all our needs met within a walkable range of our homes, to eliminate car use, and engage in activities and with each other. Conspiracy theorists have linked this idea to the Great Reset, QAnon, and the social credit system believing that this is the latest form of control by elitist cabals trying to enslave us all, and begin the New World Order. The ramifications of this idea, in an offline setting, are becoming apparent as social movements in online communities, come forth and voice their concerns at local municipal meetings, as we recently saw in Essex, near Windsor, Canada.
During the pandemic, and even currently, there are many hurdles to be faced with communication. What is the truth? Who are those we can trust. These issues continue to flourish as Chat GPT creates havoc with the line between real and computer generated faux reality. The Association for Canadian Studies invited scholars and policy makers to address this issue specifically with the pandemic, for their journal Canadian Diversity. My article looks at the way that conspiracy and extremism became prevalent in anti-mandate groups online.
Join us at a conference in Waterloo, ON on May 7-9, where academics and religious leaders will gather and speak about polarization in religious communities. Former Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Yale Theologian Miroslav Volf, will be engage through various panels and keynote speeches to help us all understand conspiracy, extremism, fear, and volatility that is the polarization we encounter in our religious institutions and flocks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the app Tik Tok is no longer allowed on Canadian government issues cell phones. Given the concern regarding China data mining information of users from the app, and recent events such as the weather balloon shot down, the CSIS report on China’s influence on the federal election, and spy buoys found in our waters, this was not an unexpected move. Other countries such as America, India, and the EU have also taken this measure.