How is it possible that thousands of people in our country are persuaded to assemble in Trafalgar Square to applaud anti-vax cranks and far-right extremists such as Piers Corbyn and Katie Hopkins? What kind of delusional mania brings people to cheer the malignant, attention-seeking narcissist Kate Shemirani as she calls for doctors and nurses to be hanged like Nazi war criminals?
The Metropolitan Police are now following up on Shemirani’s disgusting remarks on Saturday. But they – or perhaps the security services – might also think about investigating some of the social media influencers that have been promoting so-called “freedom rallies” in London and elsewhere.
I took a close look at one of the biggest anti-vax, anti-lockdown accounts on Twitter, the so-called Anti Lockdown Alliance (GLOBAL), which heavily promoted these events.
The account tweets in several languages but mostly in English – all the usual batshit-crazy conspiracy theories about the “Great Reset”, Bill Gates, etc. It constantly suggests that vaccines are both ineffective and dangerous, and are being used as a tool of “global genocide” by (you guessed it) “globalists”.
It promotes anti-lockdown and anti-vax protests in a wide range of countries: Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the US, Canada, Australia… In Britain, it tweets excitedly about mobs attacking Covid testing centres.
It shares clips from GB News commentators, including one alleging that the UK is under attack from “a cabal of government scientists”. It generally seeks to promote distrust of scientists and indeed any kind of expert, and has a particular animus against the BBC, often prefacing its tweets with “NOT ON THE BBC NEWS”.
Here it is sharing a Sputnik article in Portuguese suggesting the virus was created by Bill Gates and George Soros. The Anti Lockdown Alliance often shares material from Russian propaganda media controlled by Putin’s mafia state, such as Sputnik and RT (Russia Today).
In fact, the person or people behind this account are all-round fans of Putin. Here they are welcoming his remarks about the ‘Great Reset’ – one of the conspiracy theories most heavily promoted by Kremlin trolls.
According to the Anti Lockdown Alliance, Putin’s Russia is a haven of freedom and tolerance. Unlike Britain, which – along with other European countries – is now a “police state”.
The account is also a fan of Belarus and its tyrannical president Alexander Lukashenko. Another bastion of freedom, apparently. Who’d have thought?
The Anti Lockdown Alliance is not so busy resisting lockdowns and vaccination that it does not have time to comment on foreign policy points relating to Russia.
Indeed, it sometimes goes further than simply echoing Kremlin talking points. Here it is suggesting that “Russia storm in and take Nazi occupied Europe for the people”.
The Anti Lockdown Alliance is generally in favour of violence on the streets of Europe and the US, even when this is not specifically related to lockdowns – and especially when it is directed at governments for which Putin has a particular dislike, such as that of President Macron in France.
The account was also excited by the attack on the Capitol in Washington by Trump’s supporters in January, and perhaps disappointed that this did not lead to wider civil violence.
Curiously, the Anti Lockdown Alliance existed long before the pandemic. It was set up in 2013, and in its previous incarnation seems to have aimed mainly at polarising British politics between far left and far right, claiming at times to support Jeremy Corbyn but at other times showing equal enthusiasm for Jacob Rees-Mogg. It will probably surprise no-one to discover that it is strongly anti-migrant and eagerly promoted Brexit in 2016.
All this might suggest that there is rather more to the Anti Lockdown Alliance than meets the eye. Is it part of a Kremlin influence operation? That’s hard to say for sure, but if it isn’t then it is certainly seeking to promote division and conflict in ways that very much suit the Kremlin. And there is plenty of evidence that Putin’s mafia state sees disseminating conspiracy theories around the pandemic as an excellent way to do this.
Why is the Kremlin pushing anti-vax, anti-lockdown disinformation? For exactly the same reason as it promoted Trump and Brexit: to cause chaos and conflict in Western countries that it sees as enemies.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of home-grown idiots, malignant narcissists and bad-faith actors who are only too happy to assist in this.
Ed: screengrabs have been used explicitly to avoid generating extra traffic to the dangerous account featured in this important article.