Gates, Fauci and the New World Order: Inside Australia’s far-right silos
By Mario Peucker, Victoria University
A global cabal of elites seeks to “depopulate and control the world”, by destroying Western (or white) civilization: so goes the long-running New World Order conspiracy theory that is proving resilient in the face of Covid-19.
Misinformation helps these conspiracy theories thrive. What’s less clear is why people spend time and effort over a long period of time posting conspiracy-related content in communities that are okay with it.
People spread misinformation for various reasons. Some intentionally mislead, while others are motivated by their sincere belief in what they consider to be the truth.
Sharing misinformation may be an attempt to convert others to their “truth”, while for others it is about reassuring their sense of belonging to a like-minded community characterized by worldviews much broader ideologies.
This analysis comes from an in-depth analysis of marginal political actors in Australia and their online messaging. The study, undertaken by Victoria University in partnership with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, explored both the online mobilization of the radical left and the far right (and the interplay between the two). But this article focuses only on the far-right, for a reason: the analysis did not reveal any examples of far-left misinformation.
The analysis looked at approximately 19,000 posts on 50 far-right Facebook pages and groups between January and July 2020; 142,000 tweets posted between January 2016 and May 2021 on 57 far-right Twitter accounts; and 45,000 posts from 40 accounts on the fringe Gab platform from January to September 2020.
Topics related to Covid-19 – such as vaccinations and lockdown restrictions – dominated the post on all three platforms.
Around 13% of posts on Gab were about Covid-19, with a further 4% relating to lockdown measures in Australia – far-right posts on Facebook and Twitter were dominated by the same issues during the period.
Misinformation was a common element of these far-right online posts, especially in calls for agitation against public health orders. But in these online environments, a dissenting voice was rare. In these digital silos, converting others or enlightening doesn’t seem to be the goal.
On the contrary, disinformation about Covid-19 is often embedded in a more comprehensive far-right ideological narrative. Online messaging weaponizes misinformation and distortions of truth, as reported by mainstream media or hyper-partisan fringe sources.
Weaponized news conveys and promotes far-right messages of nativism or ethno-nationalism, racism and alleged conspiracies.
Misinformation about public health measures is often used to highlight the threat of the alleged New World Order plot – arguing, for example, that lockdown restrictions were established to usher in a tyrannical totalitarian regime or that vaccines would kill.
References to tech mogul Bill Gates, US chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci, the World Economic Forum (WEF) or the World Health Organization (WHO) as powerful players are presented as evidence of such conspiracies.
The following Gab posts illustrate this: “Coronavirus is an obvious scam to anyone who pays attention to it”, or “The only reasons to keep this… persistent fear alive are political. They want to turn the West into a satanic Marxist hell and inject everything the world of Gates swamp juice”.
In many cases, disinformation related to Covid-19 has been shared to racially attack minority groups, most often Chinese and Muslim communities, and international students. Here, the purpose of the misinformation seemed primarily driven by the racist and Islamophobic agenda prevalent within these far-right online communities.
A secondary purpose motivates the sharing of misinformation regarding Covid-19 and other events (such as Black Lives Matter and climate change) within a broader far-right ideological message.
Since the audience for their messages in these far-right environments need not be converted to their version of “truth”, their message instead becomes a statement of group identity – a claim to belonging to the community that has not fallen for “brainwashing” of “evil” globalist forces.
Factually incorrect information and conspiracies become the glue that holds this counter-hegemonic community together, giving them a sense of superiority, belonging and respect among themselves.
These far-right online spaces sometimes lead to the mainstream debate, as seen with Misinformation about Covid-19. They can also create and deepen social polarization, resulting in the sociologist Mark Davis called ‘anti-public’ — when there is no point in deliberating or rationally exchanging views or differing opinions.
Countering socially harmful conspiratorial misinformation requires a solid understanding of the psychological and social factors that make alternative truths appealing.
Only then can nuanced strategies be developed to prevent more people from falling down rabbit holes of misinformation – and eventually restore a space where robust public debate can replace ideologically parallel communities.
Dr. Mario Peucker is a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities at the University of Victoria, Australia. He is also an executive member of the Center for Resilient and Inclusive Societies. He has published five books and numerous reports, book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals, such as Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Politics and Religion, Ethnic and Racial Studies and Australian Journal of Political Science. Dr. Peucker disclosed no conflict of interest.
Article published with the kind permission of 360info.