As protesters gather again on parliamentary grounds, a researcher has warned that false information will continue to spread from the Internet to the real world.
Disinformation Project director Kate Hannah told front page podcast While most restrictions have now subsided, the anger we continue to see is no longer just over the pandemic.
“What unites people who join the team or plan to protest is New Zealand’s philosophy and what they think New Zealand should be,” Hannah said.
Asked why protesters took to the streets at a time when Covid-19 restrictions had largely eased, the researchers said it was important to understand that the people drawn to these protests were never entirely driven by the pandemic.
“For the people who have benefited from and led these movements, this has nothing to do with Covid-19,” Hannah said.
“For those who join the movement, it’s often because they care about their personal experience with the vaccine or their personal mission experience and it affects them and their families.
“But leadership [of these protest movements] Always been interested in ideas about family, male and female roles, power, control and politics and ideas about who can be a New Zealander… Covid-19 is kind of like a Trojan horse pulling people into these ideas actually. “
The rhetoric surrounding the latest protests includes military symbolism and language, as well as plans for mock trials of politicians, officials and journalists falsely accusing them of crimes against humanity.
The idea is riddled with conspiracy theories and is often shared online in New Zealand.
“The motive for the rhetoric surrounding the trial was a misunderstanding of the Nuremberg trials and the Nuremberg Declaration, which emerged at the end of World War II as a response to the Holocaust.
“The rhetoric expressed by protest leaders is that politicians, officials, journalists, academics and members of the health care system are responsible for what they call mass genocide or democratic slaughter, which means the government kills people.
“These claims are clearly false, but the rhetoric surrounding holding people accountable is widely expressed in these communities.”
While some of these theories are outlandish, we’ve seen conspiracy ideas spread online that lead to real-world violence.
The Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill and February’s local protests in Congress are just two recent examples of the dangers of allowing these ideas to infiltrate society.
“We should be very cautious and concerned,” Hannah said.
“Since the parliamentary occupation in February and March, there has been an increase in military or weapons-related rhetoric and symbolism. There has also been an increase in the level of tension expressed. When I say ‘express tension’, I mean maybe tension is not It really exists, but the way it’s expressed on social media encourages people to believe that violence may be necessary.”
But it’s not just about violent threats. Leading proponents of disinformation are now also encouraging their supporters to disrupt New Zealand in other ways.
The best example is Freedom Voice, which has begun to encourage its members to represent councils and school boards.
Worryingly, these people were also told to clean up their social media profiles and hide their affiliations with any conspiracy-adjacent groups – which in turn means voters could unknowingly vote for these candidates .
“If there’s someone with a very fixed agenda…putting themselves on councils and school boards, that could have long-term effects on the ability of what we call diverse and marginalized candidates to feel included in these really critical parts of us. . Social structure and democracy,” Hannah said.
This year voters will have to pay more attention to their local candidates and make sure they don’t vote for those who intend to do more harm than good, she said.
While protests may roar and rage for a day (or maybe longer) before they subside again, that doesn’t mean these problems will go away.
It appears that the real battle will be fought within the agency these people are so vehemently opposed to.
The Front Page is the New Zealand Herald’s daily news podcast, available every weekday at 5am.
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