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.
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.
In this study, we empirically examine conspiracies on the end-to-end encrypted instant messaging platform Telegram. Using the theoretical framework of dark social movements, we provide a first look at conspiratorial topics disseminated by right-wing extremists in Canada. This study examines conspiracies related to the Great Reset, Great Awakening, United Nations, technology, China, deep state, COVID-19, Islamophobia, and the New World Order. To conduct our study, we downloaded all 270,806 posts available across 21 Telegram channels selected based on their affiliation and/or association with the far-right in Canada. Using mixed-methods entailing traditional content analysis of sampled data as well as a digital investigation of the overall dataset, our findings illustrate a tendency to delegitimize the legitimate with seven conspiratorial topics and trends related to COVID-19, the interconnected nature of conspiracies, technology (5G Network, QR Codes, etc.), the Great Awakening, the deep state and political polarization, children-saving, and critical race and/or religion. We discuss how dark social movements on Telegram orbit around increasingly mainstream conspiracies that enable the far-right to coordinate activities, share similar ideas, and troll opponents.
Chris Cotter, Ting Guo, and myself discussed the passing of the Queen of England and mourning in Hong Kong, then the conspiracy theories with the self titled Queen of Canada, Romana Didulo, Iranian protests and the mandatory Hijab, and finally religion and spirituality in mental health surveys. A great conversation with two very intelligent and humourous academics.
Myself and three political science professors were on a panel the day after the midterms to discuss what had occurred. There were still some positions which were too early to decide, but we attempted to understand the lead up to the election and the vote itself, through a polling, foreign relations, extremist, and gender lens.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski went viral with his encounter with police officers in Calgary who were shutting down his church services during the Covid mandates, when he yelled “Get Out Nazis!” Pawlowski soon became a religious leader of the convoys in Canada who occupied the Coutts Alberta border crossing, a popular guest on Alex Jones’ InfoWars, and tours across America with preachers calling for a Christian nationalism to rise up in North America. Dr. Randi Warne and I researched the transnational Christian and conspiracy based movement that calls for a government by the people, for the people, and with God in the middle, that uses fear, apocalyptism, and conspiracy to mobilize.