The far right is coalescing around a narrative about the lockdown. 

In our fourth Covid and the far right update, we look at how the far right, while divided on the extent of the virus, has found common ground in its critique of the lockdown. We also see a rise in the old “New World Order” conspiracy theory.

Don’t miss our upcoming report, released on Monday, which takes a closer look at the rise of conspiracy theories in times of crisis.

A common lockdown narrative

A video that aims to highlight the crucial role of people who have migrated to the UK during the lockdown called “you clap for me now” was published last week and has been shared extensively across social media platforms and news outlets. It features immigrant and BAME Britons in essential roles in the UK, such as doctors and nurses, teachers and delivery drivers reciting an anti-racist poem.

However, the video has become the target of mockery and discussion in many far-right outlets. It has helped assert the increasingly common view that the lockdown is being used to assert a leftwing agenda of promoting immigration and “replacement” of white British people.

It has garnered attention in far-right groups on Telegram, where campaigns to mass downvote the video on YouTube have been spreading. British nazi Mark Collett also made a video where he says it is part of a propaganda campaign where the narrative will be that “the migrants are the heroes, they’re the future, they’ll save the country”. He goes on to argue that the government “overinflated the death rate to scare people and then they’re going to use this for a demographic replacement” and that “we have turned into second-class citizens through unequal enforcement”, referring to white people being discriminated against by UK authorities.

This view of the lockdown has increasingly become the dominant understanding of the current Covid crisis in the far right. While there are still differences within the movement on whether the extent of the pandemic has been overblown or downplayed, and what its cause is, the far right has, to a degree, coalesced around the narrative that the lockdown is overly authoritarian, and is being used to promote the interests of liberal elites at the cost of effectively stopping the spread of the virus. The “solution” proposed by many in the far right, is closing borders entirely, and often indefinitely.

Far-right group Hundred Handers has promoted this line for several weeks with a stickering campaign with messages such as “pubs closed borders open”, but this angle is increasingly common. Internationally, Canadian far-right conspiracy theorist Stefan Molyneux wrote on Twitter on Thursday that “you can’t go for a walk and your children can’t play in the park – but hundreds of thousands of foreign workers can pour over the border to take your jobs!” and anti-Muslim outlet Voice of Europe has published articles aiming to sow doubt in the intentions behind the lockdown, with articles such as “550 illegal boat migrants land in UK during Wuhan virus lockdown”.

New World Order

We have previously highlighted the role of conspiracy theory in relation to the current pandemic and this trend continues. The explanation that the lockdown is being used to promote the hidden interests of shady elites aligns well with many conspiracy theories. 

Evidence of this can be seen in the renewed interest in the well-established “New World Order” theory, common among the far right and online more generally. Searches for theory has spiked on Google since the end of March as shown in the diagram below.

New World Order conspiracy theory alleges that a secretive cabal aims to enact a globalist agenda and eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, replacing nation-states. It is a systemic conspiracy theory that describes a grand plan, under which more specific conspiracy theories about current events can fit in. Old antisemitic texts such as the Protocols of Zion has been used to argue for the existence of the conspiracy, as well as more recent developments such as increasing surveillance.

The many conspiracy theories related to corona, such as the role of the WHO, the UN, that 5G is part of the cause and the former CEO and founder of Microsoft Bill Gates has something to do with it can all be made to fit into the New World Order conspiracy theory. However, the stringent laws of social distancing and proposals to use surveillance technologies to track the spread of the virus have contributed to the renewed interest in the conspiracy theory also by the far right.

The London-based conspiracy theory group Keep Talking, whose antisemitism HOPE not hate exposed earlier this year, wrote:

So, it happened. The New World Order people took control of half the world by putting them under house arrest on the pretext of the latest scare story, telling us: God! We’re all going to die – unless you give up all your rights to us.

A video by American conspiracy theory YouTuber James Corbett and his channel Corbett Report has also been shared by far-right outlets. In the video titled “Corona World Order” he argues that the current pandemic is a “boon for the globalists” and that it will lead to “centralisation of power and control in the hands of a very few oligarchical elitists using a technocratic enslavement gird to impose a global worldwide tyranny, aka a new world order”.

Opposing the lockdown

Taken further, these ideas have been used to argue for the need to protest the current lockdown. While Facebook announced that they will take down events breaking the social distancing guidelines to protest the lockdown after similar events took place in the US last week, these calls are still made on other platforms.

Among those promoting this idea is Nick Griffin, former leader of British National Party who wrote on Twitter: “give the British in general and the English on particular the leadership they need to fight the #Covid #lockdownextension”.

Calls for various protests and marches have also been spread on various far-right channels on Telegram. One announcing a “March against a vaccine and lockdown” in May. The poster features an image of Bill Gates in the background and announces a march in central London. Whether the creator actually intends to organise the march is unclear but it has not stopped the image from being shared frequently, signalling that there is some level of support for the idea.