News about podcasts and the spread of disinformation or conspiracy theories has been the topic of conversation for many. Yet, how prevalent are the podcasts that actively engage in this type of programming, and how do we as a global community deal with these issues with free speech? This is not a topic that can easily be addressed but it is something that we need to engage with and find a solution to.
The self-proclaimed Queen of Canada, Romana Didulo and her followers have leapt from the online world of social media, to the streets of Peterborough, Ontario. A small number of her followers initially gathered outside the police station in the small city, on a mission to conduct citizen arrests for espionage, treason, and genocide. They believe that institutions such as health care, police, military, politicians, and academics have created a genocide with vaccines against COVID19. Three of her followers were arrested. Further citizen arrests of police officers have been held in other cities across Canada, but what does this all mean?
Are podcasts a conduit to the spreading of mis or disinformation? Podcasts are not as moderated as social media platforms, and many ideas can be spread under the radar. We saw this with my conference presentation on Seeping Hate, while individuals are deplatformed, their podcasts are often not. This allows the messages and ideologies to be spread, which are far more powerful than the individual’s social media account.
On August 18th I gave a talk for Religions for Peace USA, on the great replacement conspiracy theory and its impact on society. Delving into the history of the conspiracy theory, the fears it represents, and the violence that it has caused, I explain what the implications are globally.
As media tries to understand and inform others about the potential consequences of self described “Queen of Canada” Romana Didulo’s followers attempting citizen arrests on her behalf, the conversations need to be nuanced. While scholars and experts in the field of conspiracy and extremism recognize the movement from online to offline engagement, the analysis must also be truthful and not spurring on fears. The analysis provided should come from experts in the field who understand social movements and extremism. To forward a rhetoric of comparisons to militias and violence simply raises fears in the general public.
Tomorrow, August 13th, followers of Romana Didulo will gather in a park in Peterborough, Ontario to conduct citizen arrests on the police in the city. The command to begin the “day of arrests” on behest of the Queen, was made to stop “the tyranny, espionage, and genocide.” These references are made in response to conspiratorial beliefs anchored in QAnon, anti-Vax, and a belief in the power of the self described Queen. While I do not believe there will be a strong attendance, I am very interested in the response by the police force, and hopefully will be there in attendance. Perhaps there will be more to come.