NEW YORK -- Two new reports released on Monday by the World Jewish Congress have found that harmful conspiracy myths targeting Jews have become increasingly widespread online, and that the once United States-centric QAnon movement has begun to take hold across Europe since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reports, Antisemitic Conspiracy Myths and QAnon: A Conspiracy Myth, explain how misinformation campaigns in relation to the root and spread of the coronavirus have flourished on social media, with tech companies struggling to appropriately address the issues.
Since March 2020, antisemitism derived from conspiracy myths has risen around the world, with a number of notable instances recorded in Germany and Austria. The QAnon movement has rapidly spread across the United States and has steadily emerged in the Balkans, France, Germany and elsewhere. Along with it, phrases such as “Jewish virus” have seen greater use across social media platforms as well as an increased renewal in the use of epithets such as “kike,” “dirty Jew,” and other derogatory terms, in comparison to the previous year, according to Google Analytics data examining the search of these keywords.
The QAnon conspiracy myth claims that a secret cabal of political and Hollywood elites are running a child sex-trafficking and torture ring with the ultimate goal of controlling the masses. This conspiracy myth, which is inherently antisemitic in nature, accuses prominent Jewish figures such as the Rothschilds and George Soros--in addition to others whom proponents of the myth mistakenly believe to be Jewish such as Bill Gates--of being the orchestrators of the movement to torture children. Holocaust denial, distortion and trivialization are present in language as well.
A high level of overlap can be found between the audiences of QAnon and pandemic conspiracists, with influencers sharing content related to both myths. The reports provide an overview of antisemitic conspiracies, their historical background, and their current relevance on social media, in political institutions and in acts of violence. They also aim to highlight the growing threat emerging from the increasingly mainstream belief in such conspiracy myths as well as their role in encouraging and motivating terrorists.
Conspiracists are not limited to one political view and can be found on various sides of the political spectrum, the reports demonstrate. Moreover, their popularity among the mainstream is often attributed to conspiracists’ efforts to make sense of difficult situations that cannot be fully grasped or explained, such as a pandemic. In the 2020 U.S. elections, there were at least 24 congressional candidates on the ballot who endorsed or expressed support for QAnon, including U.S. Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia who won her seat by more than 225,000 votes.
The WJC’s conspiracy myths report features data cited from the Baden Württemberg State Center for Political Education in Germany, showing how once people are influenced by conspiracy myths, it becomes increasingly difficult to break this type of thinking, as they disregard evidence and reinterpret random occurrences. This leads to deep mistrust of the state, government, police, doctors and others in positions of power.
Since the initial spread of the coronavirus in March 2020, the reports find that there has been an acute rise in online antisemitic activity, often–but not exclusively–linked to the pandemic, as social practices moved into the digital sphere.
“COVID-19 is not the only disease that has spread widely across the globe this year,” said World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder. “Conspiracies surrounding false child abuse scandals or assumptions that Jews are to blame for the creation and spread of COVID-19 are not only spreading hatred and contempt, but putting far more lives in danger. Although there will one day be a vaccine for the coronavirus, there is no vaccine for hatred. We must continue to educate others on the dangers of conspiracy myths so that truth can prevail.”
“The growth of right-wing extremist parties and groups in Europe and elsewhere, the expanding acceptance of movements such as QAnon in the mainstream, and a proliferation of negative sentiment toward Jews and the state of Israel have contributed to an unsafe atmosphere for all Jews,” said Menachem Z. Rosensaft, general counsel and associate executive vice president of the WJC. “Antisemitism in all its forms must be combated vigorously by both governments and the community at large.”
The reports are available online as part of the WJC’s ongoing work related to monitoring the rise of antisemitism across the globe in recent years:
Antisemitic Conspiracy Myths
QAnon: A Conspiracy Myth
About the World Jewish Congress
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