Conspiracy Theories are a global phenomenon. Some make people deny the existence of the new coronavirus, while believing that vaccination is about the implantation of brain chips! Others incite voters who just lost an election to assault democratic institutions, like those Trump supporters storming the US Capitol to stop Congress clear the way for a Joe Biden presidency.
Are people who believe in conspiracy theories just gullible? Or is there more to it? And how worried should we be?
There is growing concern in Germany about the scale of demonstrations against the measures introduced to cope with the coronavirus. And the spread of conspiracy theories to justify the protests. It’s not just about flat-earthers and reptiloids – yes, some people believe that Angela Merkel is a space alien –The real problem arises when adherents to these theories become a threat to democracy and freedom. Then it becomes the job of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency to keep an eye on them. The question is whether that is necessary yet. That’s now up to the interior ministers of Germany’s federal states to decide.
Some of them wear foil hats to protect themselves against radiation or ward off other evil spirits. Often considered harmless conspiracy theorists, they have now come to the notice of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The crisis around the coronavirus is a perfect fit. Some argue that it does not exist at all; others, that it was invented by politicians to control us. Some even speak of a coronavirus dictatorship.
Right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists point to perceived similarities with 1933, when Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany and the fascist dictatorship began. Some people demonstrating against the coronavirus measures have compared themselves to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
One challenge facing investigators is the lack of organized structures among conspiracy theorists. There are branches of the American Q-Anon movement in Germany but there is no reliable information about how many people belong to the hard core of conspiracy theorists here. However, surveys suggest that one in three people believes that there is a grain of truth in their elaborate stories.
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