Know someone who believes unfounded COVID-19 theories? Here’s how to talk to them about it.

While some ideas are far-fetched, Carmen Celestini, a University of Waterloo academic who studies the history of conspiracy thought, says it may cause more harm to brush them off—legitimate fears often underpin these beliefs. “As a society, I think that it’s time for us to stop dismissing people who do believe in conspiracy theories.”

Read the full article by Lauren Scott on The Cambridge Times.

The Great Reset Conspiracy, COVID, and resistance

At the heart of the Great Reset Conspiracy, a theory that global elites are using the pandemic to establish a New World Order (NWO), is a confluence of fears brought forward by the pandemic, including economic, health, and the long-standing notion of elites enslaving humanity. The words of Prince Charles on June 3rd, 2020 to encourage the “resetting” of the global economy and humanity’s response to potentially cataclysmic climate change, did not evoke a movement, but instead served as the “proof” of the beginning of a New World Order (NWO). The words “the Great Reset” have now been uttered by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and conspiracists have re-interpreted President Joe Biden’s campaign slogan “Build Back Better,” as proof that the global elites are using the pandemic as their opportunity to establish the NWO.

Read the full article on H-Nationalism.

Why do Trinity worshippers take such risks to go to church in person?

The most extreme congregations believe that the government is using the COVID scare to grab control of people’s religious freedoms and individual rights, says another religious studies scholar, Carmen Celestini.

“They actually refer to the masks we wear as face diapers.

Read the full article by Luisa D’Amato on The Waterloo Record.

Designating Proud Boys as terrorist organization could deter recruits, experts say

Carmen Celestini, who is a fellow at the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism, said . . . more has to be done to better understand the allure of far-right and conspiracy theories and their ties to organized religion. She said governments should work to partner with researchers to contend with the phenomenon.

“Most of the public that’s engaging in these groups are wandering into these things,” she said. “What we need is more prevention.” She added where the public and governments have failed in the past is in their dismissal of these groups as operating on the fringes, and an assumption that their adherents are the “uneducated, unwashed masses.” Many of those who rioted in D.C., she noted, were white-collar professionals—doctors, lawyers, teachers, and small business owners.

Read the full article by Samantha Wright Allen and Beatrice Paez on The Hill Times. (Subscription required.)

Dominion Voting Systems has stepped up security for its offices after receiving threats

The disinformation surrounding Dominion’s voting machines is par for the course given the political climate in the United States, said Carmen Celestini, a professor at the University of Waterloo and a fellow at the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism.

“Conspiracy theories like these, which are encouraged by people like Rudy (Giuliani), tap into some already-held beliefs that people in groups like QAnon have,” Celestini said. “They’re getting this information not just from Giuliani but from OANN (One America News Network), YouTube shows, podcasts. If you’re in a social media bubble with only these sources, you get sucked down that rabbit hole quickly.”

Read the full article by Jacob Lorinc on The Toronto Star.

Patriot churches

As per the definition of Katherine Stewart in her book The Power Worshippers, Christian nationalism is based upon the myth that the American republic was created and founded as a Christian nation, and as such, the legitimate government “rests not on the consent of the governed but on adherence to the doctrines of a specific religious, ethnic, and cultural heritage.”

Under this definition, the laws of the land should not be based upon deliberation of democratic institutions, but upon idiosyncratic interpretations of the Bible. . . . The belief that America has always been and remains a Christian nation is not an idea that is held solely by self-described Christian nationalists. The Public Religion Research Institute found that almost one third of Americans believe this, and that four in ten Americans believe America was a Christian nation but no longer is.

Read the full article on H-Nationalism.

QAnon—politics and society

Recently Facebook and their subsidiary social media platforms blocked QAnon accounts and other related content. While many of the QAnon believers are not primarily active on these platforms, they are conduits to engaging new adherents. QAnon members interact on other platforms, both mainstream and that are created for right wing “freedom of speech,” in response to social media’s perceived censorship. Adherents also interact within groups on cellphone messaging programs such as Telegram.  

Read the full article on H-Nationalism.

Trump, Television and the Media: From Drama to “Fake News” to Tweetstorms

At the end of October, I will be presenting at the virtual conference Trump, Television and the Media: From Drama to “Fake News” to Tweetstorms, hosted by London Metropolitan University.

My presentation, “Tweets, Conspiracies, Moral Panics and Masks of Freedom,” will analyze and trace the creation of the moral panic that has become the focal point of a battle not against a virus, but representative of the moral divide in a country.