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Covid conspiracists, Qanon and the far right

With the second wave of the pandemic hitting us, far-right groups in Britain hope they can match the successes of their friends in the US and Europe by using anti-lockdown sentiment as a way of building support, warns PAUL SILLETT

LAST Saturday, 6,000 to 7,000 gathered on the anti-lockdown protest in Trafalgar Square. 

People came for many reasons. Many simply distrust the government’s handling of the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Others believe that lockdown is being used to crack down on their civil liberties. 

It would be a mistake to write off everyone who attended or sympathised with the protests as a racist or worse. 

But whatever the reasons that brought people to Trafalgar Square, for anti-racists this movement is problematic. 

The government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has been appalling. But it’s ordinary people who have suffered most, with black communities and front-line workers hit the hardest. 

Boris Johnson is to blame for the response to the crisis, but he isn’t making the virus up. 

Some, both in the crowd in Trafalgar Square and on the platform (including notorious anti-semite David Icke), have a clearly racist agenda. 

The racist and fascist right see the anti-lockdown protests as a potential recruiting ground.

Anyone attending these events has to ask themselves if they feel comfortable sharing the square with the likes of Icke or ex-members of English Defence League (EDL), British National Party (BNP) or the present-day Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) thugs who were in the crowd. 

Known fascists have operated on these protests without challenge. Fascist flags have been displayed and nobody has attempted to remove them. 

Many on the protest, having lost all faith in those in power, are buying into conspiracy theories explaining the crisis including Qanon. 

These theories, given oxygen by racist politicians like Donald Trump, can seem to give an explanation to a world that’s apparently out of control. But they are riddled with racism. 

The Qanon signs presented on the anti-lockdown protests reference the conspiracist argument that Trump wants to expose a global cabal of prominent figures involved in Satanic child abuse, including Bill Gates, George Soros (the far right’s favourite target for anti-semitic conspiracies) and others who are alleged to be central to such horrors. 

Trump’s continual attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement, his overt racism and Islamophobia and his nods to anti-semitism have made him a hero of the racist right and the darling of the conspiracy theorists. 

Many of the militiamen who have carried guns against Black Lives Matter activists are inspired by Qanon. 

Trump says he “doesn’t know much about Qanon but appreciates their support.”

It’s not surprising then that among the many different flags, banners and signs on the protests this Saturday, that the Qanon signs and Make America Great Again baseball caps also appear. 

The “Save our Children” group that has also been seen on anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine events across the country is riddled with far-right figures who for example blame London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan among others for covering up abuse. 

Individuals like David Icke and Kate Shemirari, (prominent on last week’s 3,000-strong event in London), have been key to the mobilisations. 

They are supporters of many of the key conspiracy theories’ themes. 

Shemirari, for example, says that “the NHS is the new Auschwitz” and argues that 5G technology caused the Covid-19 virus. 

Much of what is being expressed on the platforms at anti-lockdown events echoes ideas once on the margins of society but now regularly heard on Fox News and echoed by the far right Breitbart. 

The anti-lockdown protests are not simply far-right mobilisations. But the far right is certainly present. 

It’s been far-right thugs who have led the attempts to clash with the police that made the headlines. 

While the far right’s presence on the anti-lockdown events is worrying, we need to put it in perspective. 

Compared with the mass mobilisations around the Football Lads Alliance, Democratic Football Lads Alliance and Tommy Robinson a couple of years ago, they are still very much on the back foot. 

Their recent attempts to mobilise in Dover and west Wales around opposition to refugees have not broken through their general isolation.

But with the second wave of the pandemic hitting us, the far right in Britain hope they can match the successes of their friends in the US and Europe. 

The Qanon and their ilk are pernicious purveyors of old myths and prejudices, packaged in the language and media of the 21st century. 

That the world’s most powerful person, Donald Trump, is happy to have Qanon support speaks volumes. 

Anti-racists, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, must monitor and maintain a watching brief over these contradictory developments.

For more information about resisting the far right visit www.standuptoracism.org.uk.

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