Conspiracy epidemic, born in US, spreads in Europe
Pierre Donadieu, with Yann Schreiber in Stuttgart
Mon, May 17, 2021, 11:54 AM·14 min read
“It’s not a virus, it’s a tool to use power,” says Monique Lustig in the Netherlands, while in Germany, Hellmuth Mendel argues that “Covid is a story invented by an international financial mafia”. “And what if this was all just a film?” asks Christophe Charret in France.
From The Hague to Stuttgart and Paris, they claim to be battling the control of their minds by a ruling class that invented the Covid-19 pandemic for its own ends, seeing themselves as promoting and disseminating alternative views from the official version.
Conspiracy theories, driven by the global health crisis, are taking root in Europe more than ever, drawing inspiration from the QAnon movement in the United States.
Accounts supporting the theories have been purged from Twitter and YouTube after breaking the regulations of the social media giants.
Proponents have taken to other platforms to publish information — mostly false — which they claim “mainstream” media are hiding.
AFP reporters spent months looking into this environment of conspiracy theories on the continent, finding everything from adherents of QAnon, ultra-evangelicals and anti-vaxxers, to right-wing populists, the unemployed and even doctors.
They make up a disparate mix of movements and views but their growing power is worrying Western European intelligence services who fear that democracies could be destabilised.
“Conspiracy theories have taken off significantly with social networks. We see now that people are organising themselves in clandestine cells. Obviously it is a threat,” said France’s national intelligence coordinator Laurent Nunez, acknowledging that QAnon theories have arrived in the country.
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