Conspiracy theories: from the far-right to the Virgin Mary

Far-right militants in Europe and the US are increasingly forming global links and using the coronavirus pandemic to attract anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists to their cause, a study commissioned by the German foreign ministry said on Friday.

The study carried out in Germany, France, Britain, the US, Sweden and Finland by the US-based Counter Extremism Project documents the emergence of a new far-right movement since 2014 that is "leaderless, transnational, apocalyptic and oriented towards violence".

The theory of a "great replacement", which holds that Europe's white population is being replaced with outsiders, and which was first expounded by French author Renaud Camus in his 2011 book Le Grand Remplacement, is key to the right-wing narrative at present.

Renaud Camus

"A people was here, stable, had been occupying the same territory for fifteen or twenty centuries. And suddenly, very quickly, in one or two generations, one or several other peoples substitute themselves for him. He is replaced, it is not him anymore." Renaud Camus (pictured right) 2013

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has stated that "Right-wing extremism is the biggest threat to our security -- across Europe," adding that the scene is "increasingly acting and networking internationally," and that Germany is seeking to counter this through "coordinated action with other EU members."

The citizens of Paris, Nice, and Vienna, whilst sharing the minister's concerns, might however question his priorities.

It is not really clear how anti-vaccine and COVID-19 conspiracies fit into the nationalist debate, although such theories have been popularised and given exposure during the recent US presidential campaign: supporters of Donald Trump have taken this issue to their collective hearts.

The enemy outside...

Author Jesse Walker (2013) identified the "Enemy Outside" explanation of conspiracy theories, based on imagined figures alleged to be scheming against a community from without. Such theories have been expounded by the likes of Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin as a means of justifying and gaining popular support for political programmes. These might be described as "top-down" theories.

"Bottom-up" theories, however, such as the anti-vaccine theory, tend to play on existing prejudices, insecurities, and ignorance concerning an issue, or its causes.

There is considerable evidence of Russian "trolls" propagating conspiracy theories: in this they are, according to Walker himself, writing for The Atlantic (Oct. 2018), merely Imitating American political dysfunction.

Apollo 11 Crew

More than 50 years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the Moon, opinion polls have shown that between 6- 20% of Americans believe that no landings ever took place: it was, they believe, all a great hoax, all filmed on a movie set.

Although this is one of the more engaging of such theories, no so-called evidence stands up to scrutiny, and one must ask the question "how many of the 400,000 Nasa employees and contractors involved in the project were in on this conspiracy?"

This brings us to another all-American favourite conspiracy - 9/11.

It is difficult for any rational human being to explain or to fully understand exactly what happened on that tragic day, thus creating space for wild ideas involving radio-controlled airliners and even George W. Bush himself arranging the whole event.

Questions such as "to what end?" are usually met with a wink and a knowing smile.

Donald Trump himself has never been shy about engaging with a good conspiracy theory, having backed the one that holds that his predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama, had not been born in the US at all, and so was therefore ineligible for the presidency. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Trump reportedly continued privately to repeat the suggestion.

Indeed, at the time of writing the outgoing POTUS is still clinging to the story that Biden stole the election through fraud. He will possibly dine out for years on that one.

But it is not just Americans who are susceptible to outlandish theories: in Spain, the Flat Earth Society even has its own football team.

Screenshot 2020 11 21 At 13 43 15

"We are a professional football club in the Spanish fourth tier and we are born to unite the voices of millions of flat earth movement followers and all those people who are looking for answers," club president Javi Poves said in a statement.

The EU...

In Britain, eurosceptics continue to repeat the urban myth that the EU has never had its accounts signed off, a complete fabrication, but not quite a conspiracy theory.

One UK MEP, Londoner Gerard Batten, gave his take on the origins of the EU back in 2016. “In 1942 when the Germans still thought they were going to win the war they produced a report entitled the Europaische Wirtschafts Gemeinschaft– which translates as the European Economic Community," he said.

This is fairly safe ground, of course, because very few people are likely to step forward to defend Adolf Hitler under any circumstances, not even to argue that the EU might not entirely be his fault.

The Vatican...

Another theory suggests that the EU is a part of a Vatican plot. However, as journalist Matthew Cantirino wrote, "spend enough time digging around online and it becomes apparent that the Pope has a hand in just about all significant world events."

However, he did also point out that "many of the EU’s founding fathers, including Alcide de Gasperi, Robert Schuman, and Konrad Adenauer, were devout Catholics."

For some, the real smoking gun in this one is in fact the EU flag itself, with its twelve stars in a circle on a blue background, representing the Immaculate Conception:

“And there appeared a great wonder in Heaven; a woman clothed with sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” revelation 12:1 tells us.

And if its in the Bible, then it must be true....!

Image (Camus): By Renaud Camus; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 18:17, 30 May 2020 (UTC) -, CC BY 2.0,

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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