Who are the organisers, and what is their agenda?
Last Saturday (29 Aug) there was a protest in London attended by thousands of people who believe that COVID-19 is a hoax, who refuse to wear masks or social distance. The press have normalised the protest to an extent, some outlets making clear that the beliefs and conspiracy theories these people hold to be true are nonsense. However, this was very far from normal and the far right influence and links associated with this protest have been largely ignored. Just who are “Unite for Freedom?” Let’s unmask the anti-maskers.
Kate (Kay) Shemirani was the MC for the event. She was an RN but was suspended in July for spreading false information about COVID-19 and vaccines. Amongst her other work as an anti-mask and antivax ‘influencer, she’s also the ‘Health and Wellness’ expert for the US alt-right media The Sons of Liberty.
Previously describing NHS staff as ‘criminals’ for perpetuating the corona virus ‘hoax’, she lead a chant at the protest against NHS nurses in particular, before claiming that fluoridation “rots your teeth and brain”. She encouraged the crowd to hug each other, before going into a rant, starting with the conspiracy theory that George Soros funds BLM and going on to say ‘they’re killing your babies’ — claiming that Soros funds abortion — what sounds like a version of the blood libel (also here.)
“The Black Lives Matter people who missed me talking… funded by George Soros… the biggest cause of death… the biggest cause of death amongst the American Black… African Black American… is abortion! They’re killing your babies before they even get out the womb! Who funds that? George Soros Planned Parenthood.” (at 1:17 in the RT recording of the rally on YouTube)
Why is George Soros a target and why mention him here? Soros has become the central hate figure of the far right, associated with the New World Order conspiracy theory, which holds that a secret cabal of the super rich are the actual power behind governments, seeking absolute domination and subjugation of the populace. It becomes associated with anti-semitism when this cabal is identified as ‘the Jews’. It’s no coincidence that George Soros is a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust.
Professor Dolores Cahill was the organiser of the event, on Facebook at least. She’s the chairwoman of the Irish Freedom Party — a right wing minority party that campaigns for ‘Irexit’, and was established shortly after Nigel Farage went over to the Republic to promote his ideology. The IFP has ideological links with the old BNP and their leader has endorsed the white supremacist ‘great replacement’ theory.
Cahill is a scientist with a teaching position and did hold an EU post, however after promoting what were described as ‘controversial and unscientific’ views on COVID-19, Cahill was asked to resign from as vice chair of the Scientific Committee of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a partnership between the European Commission and the drugs industry to promote new drugs. Her opinions were also disavowed by her university at the insistence of students and alumni.
Piers Corbyn is the notorious older brother of Jeremy Corbyn. He is a climate science denier who also claims that he can predict earthquakes. He believes that Bill Gates wants to immunise women with vaccines that contain microchips to make women infertile and claims absurdly that The Gates Foundation is designed to make money and exploit the poor. Corbyn has also previously been associated with the far right. He was arrested at the protest for unlawful assembly and apparently has been fined £10,000.
David Icke is a holocaust denier and highly influential conspiracy theorist. The press likes to dismiss him using a plethora of pejorative terms for people suffering from mental illness, but it is dangerous to try to simply ignore or belittle him. His beliefs are well-documented (and here, and here) and so I will not repeat them, but even in his headline speech — as the crowd chanted his name — he said that current events are not random (more on this below) but are following a long-planned agenda to facilitate the ‘total subjugation of the human race’.
Twitter and other social media platforms are full of tweets saying that Icke’s speech at the event has been ‘banned’. Nevertheless, links have been tweeted literally thousands of times — two even in Japanese — but mostly by bots. One too-real poster even said that it had been ‘banned by YouTube!’ and yet actually posted a YouTube link! The entire rally was streamed live by RT and is still up on YouTube, all 5 hours of it, but I will not provide a link here.
The fact that a documented holocaust denier would be given such a platform and the press aren’t up in arms about it should be a cause for serious concern. What was picked up, amongst the few QAnon placards, Tea Party banners and MAGA hats was this: the flag of the British Union of Fascists.
Given the political direction of the organisers. the views of its keynote celebrity speaker and those expressed by the MC, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they would be in attendance — after all the sister demonstration in Berlin saw violence as men carrying flags of imperial Germany tried to storm the Reichstag. However what a lot of people have said is that it is probably the first time in a generation or more that this flag, of a party proscribed in 1940, has been openly displayed in Trafalgar Square.
Some of the attendees I’ve challenged over social media over the past few days have said that they didn’t cheer for Icke, and weren’t there because they agreed with him, or when I pointed out that another of their chosen pundits had a right-wing political agenda that I was “playing the man, not the ball.” It becomes more difficult to ignore however when the organisers are actual leaders of right-wing political party, have direct affiliations with the US alt-right and actually deliver antisemitic conspiracy theories from the stage.
The far right have a reputation for jumping on bandwagons in order to draw people in and with this loose affiliation of largely alienated, and legitimately confused, people they have a practically captive audience, open to conspiracy theories and anything that will explain or rationalise the occurrence of the pandemic. Some people find it hard to accept that events like this can simply occur without the agency of someone or something. For them it is easier to believe that the pandemic isn’t real — even when they have had direct experience of friends or family contracting the disease — or that it is a part of a global conspiracy.
As it happens, there is a growing number of scientists postulating that the pandemic has an indirect cause — anthropologenic climate change. The ecologic, societal and economic effects that climate change has already caused not only have made such an event more likely but provided the perfect circumstances for transmission. But note that most of the organisers listed above deny that there is such a thing as climate change, in the face of overwhelming evidence and scientific consensus, saying that it is more likely that millions of scientists, specialists, technicians and other experts all over the world are part of a secret global conspiracy.
The other aspect of drawing more people to engage with far right idologies is simple profit. From old-fashioned snake-oil salesmen, pushing fake cures and protections and anti-vaccination books with no basis in scientific fact, to the new market in controversialist content, there is a lot of money to be made. Controversialists have been increasingly feted by the media, normalising their extreme views and unwittingly giving them the kind of credibility that they can then exploit, either through direct marketing (as with InfoWars) or sales of online advertising. To some extent the very same social media companies that are accused of censoring these views continue to profit from them. The Press Gazette has an excellent article on this, focussing in particular on David Icke and the media channel London Real.
It seems odd that the anti-maskers who claim to take pride in the fact that they do not accept anything at face value, that they independently check and research everything the government or the establishment tells them, would not extend that same diligence to the pundits and self-appointed leaders of their movement. If anything this reveals not a healthy application of critical thinking but a desperate search for anyone who can rationalise random events, and at the same time, provide a sense of community in response to a heightened sense of alienation. For these reasons I have refrained from using the kind of derogatory terms we have seen in the media in the past few days. The antimaskers need to regard their chosen sources of information, the people where they have placed their confidence and faith, with the same level of scepticism they have applied to the scientific and medical community as a whole.