NPR spoke to truckers stuck in the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. The “Freedom Convoy” has blocked any traffic from crossing the border between America and Canada for a few days, and as the impact of this action shuts down car manufacturers in both countries, NPR asks who is behind the protest and why?
Canadian’s have witnessed the Canadian flag being worn, displayed upside down, and desecrated with symbols of hate at the ongoing convoy protests against Covid mandates, while simultaneously witnessing the flag as a symbol of pride at the Winter Olympics. What do these contradicting images of our national flag mean to Canadians, being Canadian, and the reckoning of who we are as a people? The flag waving at this juncture in time is creating a sense of pride and anger.
Disinformation, conspiracies, and extremist ideologies are important components of social movements, such as the convoy protest in Ottawa. The link to extremist views, white nationalism, and neo-Nazis have overshadowed any real protesters who are expressing their positions. More importantly extremists are using this opportunity to recruit and spread their ideologies. As Canadians recoil and denounce the actions of some actions in Ottawa, we need to consider what the future of this movement could be.
A report was released by Liberation 75 which found that a third of North American students new very little about the Holocaust, or believed the Shoah was exaggerated. One cause could be that only a few states mandate that the Holocaust be taught in schools, and in Canada, it is not mandated at all. Many students learn about historical events from social media and the internet. The result of disinformation, memes, and conspiracy theories is the lack of knowledge in our youth.
Some of the organizers of the Freedom Convoy, or the trucker protest in Ottawa, have a history of connections to right-wing extremism and white nationalism. One of the organizers of Unity Canada, Jason LaFace has previous connections to the Soldiers of Odin. Conspiracy theories are an important aspect of this movement and cause harm as they spread across the many social media accounts and channels associated with the protest.
Joe Paris, a journalist for the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and I spoke yesterday about the growing fears of food shortages across Canada instigated by disinformation and conspiracy. This growing fear is an aspect of the current trucker convoy on its way to protest in Ottawa, and serves as a mobilization tool and as a separator between Canadians across the spectrum on vaccination mandates.
While memes and images are shared on social media, the underlying assumption of these images is as a form of fear mongering that can be a catalyst to acceptance on conspiracy theories.
I was interviewed by Noor Ibrahim of Global News on the topic of the potential of the spreading of misinformation in the metaverse. Watch the clip here.
A few months ago I did an interview with the Religious Studies Project on my research and publications. The interview was just posted, and I am excited to share this podcast!
From their introduction: In this episode, Maxinne Connolly-Panagopoulus discusses the range of Dr. Carmen Celestini’s work on religious conspiracy theories, Christian apocalyptic thought its impacts on the American political system. and tracks some of the parallels between early and modern conspiracy theories. They cover early grassroots movements such as the Anti-Masonic Party and the Know Nothings, who sought to fight against what they perceived as a threat to Christian values from a New World Order. This is paralleled to QAnon and current theories which hold a similar distrust of the government, the media and beliefs of a Satanic New World Order. We then move to discuss The John Birch Society and how their form of improvisational conspiracism linked to contemporary right-wing mobilisation and the Christian Identity Organisation. Threaded throughout our discussion, we ask explore the motivations for joining such a movement and what keeps people there despite moving targets and failed prophecies. Finally, Carmen describes the state of the field of conspiracy movements today, and where she sees it going in the future.
You can listen to the interview here.