Rina Caldari: The "Corona Rebels" - Conspiracy Theories from the Far Right
Times of uncertainty such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, are fertile ground for the spread of conspiracy theories and unproven claims. Communication used to take days to reach remote communities. Now social media can spread misinformation globally within a few minutes.
In Germany, two groups, Querfront and Widerstand 2020 have gained prominence in recent months by using pseudo-scientific studies to argue that the Corona virus is only a media hype, that the virus is harmless, and that the government is using the virus as an excuse to deprive people of their freedom and fundamental rights.
Querfront or Crossfront is behind many of the current protests staged throughout Germany. Originally founded during the Weimar Republic, its current aim is to unite the far-right Alternative for Germany Party and far left radicals, in opposition to government policies such as physical distancing and the closure of gyms and barbershops during the pandemic.
According to Haskala, an organization devoted to calling out fascist and racist speech and behaviour, the protests have included anti-Semitic language and racist sentiments aimed at minority groups including the Sinti and Roma.
Dr. Bodo Schiffmann, a general practitioner in the small town of Sinsheim, Germany, has created a new political party, Widerstand 2020, (Resistance 2020.) Dr. Schiffman posts numerous videos on YouTube positing that the Covid-19 is milder than the seasonal flu, and that special precautions such as social distancing and lockdowns are completely unnecessary. Dr. Schiffmann does present certain medical facts, but he takes them out of context and combines them with unproven claims and untested ‘cures.’ Matthias Quent, director of the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society explains that the initiators of Widerstand 2020 represent a diverse pool, “the enemies of science meet conspiracy theorists, right-wing populists and left-wing anti-vaccine opponents.” To show the widespread support for Querfront and Widerstand 2020, protesters are asked to wear bracelets made of aluminum foil.
Such a blending of far right and far left ideologies in COVID-19 protests is uncommon in other countries, except for the United States. In the United States, QAnon, a far-right group which sees President Trump as their saviour in the fight against a global elite, shares views with the anti-vaccine movement which began as a leftist initiative but has now moved closer to right wing conspiracy theorists.
Conspiracy theories are promulgated by German celebrities such as Ken Jebsen, a former radio host. Through his YouTube channel, KenFM, Jebsen stirs up fear that Germany will mandate a Corona virus vaccination whenever one is available suggesting that ‘the requirement will be introduced through the back door.’ Vegan cook and author, Attila Hildmann and German film star, Till Schweiger have joined the Corona Rebel movement stirring up panic among their many followers on Twitter and Facebook. Anti-vaccers use images borrowed from the Holocaust such as the entrance to Auschwitz or the Yellow Star to emphasize their contention that the government is stripping them of their rights. This trivialization of the Holocaust is shocking, and one might ask how anyone could buy into such views. “But some people who come to the anti-vaccine protests might not be right-wing or believe in conspiracy theories; they could just be into homeopathy or anthroposophy,” states Beate Küpper, a social psychologist at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences.
Yet another preacher of the coming apocalypse is German soul singer and songwriter, Xavier Naidoo, who peppers his lyrics with homophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic slurs. A recent video of Naidoo shared on social media in March 2020 promotes a fundamentalist Christian ideology and attacks migrants.
Although migrants and minorities are accused by Querfront and Widerstand 2020 as spreaders of the virus within Europe, there are still some among our people who believe in conspiracy theories, or worse, become members of these groups.
Historical mistrust of the German government and its state-run medical system is undoubtably a source of this seemingly incomprehensible behaviour. How can a people who were subjected to attempted genocide and psychopathic medical experimentation by the National Socialist government only 75 years ago, be expected to welcome lockdowns and vaccinations even in the face of a global pandemic?
Additionally, the economic crisis which has devastated Germany’s formerly robust financial system, has been particularly damaging to small businesses, many of which may be forced to close permanently, while no measure by authorities seem to have been designed yet to help address this problem and mitigate its consequences.
Then there is the enforced isolation from friends and family which exacerbates the anger and frustration felt by all and increases the temptation to blame others for a virus which plays no favorites.
We must take a clear stand against conspiracy theories and speak out against movements which use toxic propaganda to prey upon our communities. We Roma have survived slavery, famine, the Holocaust and several plagues. It is our responsibility to share the facts about COVID-19 with our minority communities and to confront misinformation whenever it appears.
First published on the "Saste Roma - info pal o koronavirus" Facebook page
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