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.
I will be a keynote speaker at the Annual Secular Arizona Summit on December 10, 2022. I will be addressing the role of conspiracy theories and Christian Nationalism on American politics. Registration is required.
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.
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.
I hope you can join me online in August for a discussion of how the fear of “The Great Replacement” has provided motivation for many heinous attacks on racial and religious minorities and the role of religious communities should take in dispelling this myth perpetuated by white-supremacist groups.
Sponsored by Religions for Peace USA, the talk is free, but you’ll still need to register online to attend.
The Fear of “The Great Replacement”
and its Impact on Society
Thursday, August 18, 2022–2:00 to 3:00 P.M. EST
Learn more about the work of Religions for Peace USA and their faith and interfaith partners at www.rfpusa.org.