Nicolas: La haine, tranquille

Of note. Good thought experiment:

La dernière péripétie de la course à la chefferie du Parti conservateur du Canada est particulièrement surréelle. Pierre Poilievre, bien en tête dans les intentions de vote, a serré la main à un partisan le week-end dernier, lors d’un événement de campagne. Le partisan en question s’est avéré être Jeremy Mackenzie, fondateur du Diagolon — un homme et un groupe associés à « l’extrémisme violent » par le Centre intégré d’évaluation du terrorisme (CIET), l’organisme fédéral chargé de repérer les menaces à la sécurité nationale.

On comprend que dans un bain de foule, un politicien ne connaît pas nécessairement l’identité de toutes les personnes auxquelles il serre la main. Mais depuis, l’identité du personnage est devenue publique. Le candidat à la chefferie conservatrice, Jean Charest, et le chef du NPD, Jagmeet Singh, ont tous deux demandé à Pierre Poilievre de dénoncer l’individu. Pour le moment, c’est le silence radio du côté de Poilievre. Et ce silence ne semble pas affecter particulièrement la campagne du candidat.

Il y a encore quelques années, l’incident aurait semblé surréel à quiconque suit la politique de près ou de loin. On constate pourtant que le meneur de la course au Parti conservateur peut désormais serrer la main d’un extrémiste violent surveillé par les autorités antiterroristes canadiennes, tranquille, sans que cela fasse de vagues. Après tout, M. Poilievre et plusieurs de ses collègues députés n’ont aussi eu aucun problème à s’afficher avec le convoi dit « de la liberté » à Ottawa en février dernier.

Pourtant, le CIET a aussi déterminé ce convoi comme une « opportunité » de recrutement et de réseautage importants pour plusieurs mouvements extrémistes violents, selon un rapport rendu public la semaine dernière par le truchement d’une demande d’accès à l’information. Cela ne veut pas dire que tous les participants au convoi appartenaient à des groupes extrémistes violents, bien sûr. On dit plutôt que leur présence était assez importante, particulièrement au sein des organisateurs, pour qu’il soit très problématique, voire dangereux, pour des élus de s’y associer.

Ce recrutement et ce réseautage, et par ricochet donc, cette croissance des groupes violents associés à l’extrême droite depuis février dernier, sont devenus palpables. Encore il y a deux semaines, des partisans de QAnon ont attaqué des policiers de Peterborough, en Ontario, en s’imaginant procéder à leur « arrestation citoyenne ». Et plusieurs journalistes — des femmes, surtout racisées — font l’objet depuis quelques mois d’une campagne ciblée de haine.

Des courriels, écrits sur un modèle similaire, reprennent le vocabulaire et les théories haineuses des groupes d’extrême droite, tout en les ponctuant de menaces de viol et de mort. Devant la gravité de la situation, le Toronto Star, Global News, le Hill Times et l’Association canadienne des journalistes ont même dû faire une sortie conjointe pour dénoncer la situation et interpeller les services de police qui auraient failli à traiter avec assez de sérieux plusieurs plaintes reçues.

Résumons donc. Des militants d’extrême droite, dont plusieurs ont été identifiés comme des menaces terroristes, ont contribué à paralyser la capitale nationale l’hiver dernier. Depuis, ils se sont multipliés, et certains d’entre eux s’en prennent non seulement à des élus, mais aussi à des journalistes, et même à des policiers.

Imaginons un moment que ce soit le leader d’un groupe terroriste associé à l’islamisme qui serre la main de Pierre Poilievre, ou qui envoie des menaces de mort et de viol à des journalistes. Pensez-vous que l’impact sur la course à la chefferie du Parti conservateur serait la même ? Pensez-vous qu’on banaliserait autant la gravité des menaces reçues ? Imaginons qu’un regroupement autochtone décide de procéder à « l’arrestation citoyenne » d’un corps policier. La nouvelle serait-elle traitée comme de la petite routine d’actualité politique d’été ?

Poser la question, c’est y répondre. La banalisation des menaces posées par l’extrême droite au Canada est d’ailleurs déjà dénoncée depuis plusieurs années par les experts en la matière. Et bien sûr, cette montée de la haine affecte non seulement les figures publiques, mais aussi les gens ordinaires. Entre 2019 et 2021, les crimes haineux déclarés par la police ont augmenté de 72 %, selon les compilations de Statistique Canada. Là encore, imaginons une augmentation de 72 % de n’importe quel autre type de crime au Canada sur une période de deux ans. Tout le monde en parlerait.

Souvent, lorsque la menace vient de l’extrême droite, l’analyse policière et médiatique porte sur des « incidents isolés », des « loups solitaires ». Le mouvement est donc là, devant nous, et il grandit. Mais on peine encore à le voir comme un mouvement. Chaque plainte pour menace de mort ou de viol, par exemple, sera traitée isolément — si elle est même traitée.

On se garde, le plus souvent, de se pencher sur les réseaux auxquels appartient l’individu qui déverse sa haine. Pour cesser de banaliser le phénomène, il faudrait enfin comprendre que, même lorsqu’on a affaire à un homme seul derrière son clavier, cet homme appartient à un contexte social bien précis.

Source: La haine, tranquille

QAnon Is Thriving in Germany. The Extreme Right Is Delighted.

Metastasizing is the appropriate word:

Early in the pandemic, as thousands of American troops began NATO maneuvers in Germany, Attila Hildmann did a quick YouTube search to see what it was all about. He quickly came across videos posted by German followers of QAnon.

In their telling, this was no NATO exercise. It was a covert operation by President Trump to liberate Germany from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government — something they applauded.

“The Q movement said these are troops that will free the German people from Merkel,” said Mr. Hildmann, a vegan celebrity cook who had not heard of QAnon before last spring. “I very much hope that Q is real.”

In the United States, QAnon has already evolved from a fringe internet subculture into a mass movement veering into the mainstream. But the pandemic is supercharging conspiracy theories far beyond American shores, and QAnon is metastasizing in Europe as well.

Groups have sprung up from the Netherlands to the Balkans. In Britain, QAnon-themed protests under the banner of “Save Our Children” have taken place in more than 20 cities and towns, attracting a more female and less right-wing demographic.

But it is in Germany that QAnon seems to have made the deepest inroads. With what is regarded as the largest following — an estimated 200,000 people — in the non-English-speaking world, it has quickly built audiences on YouTube, Facebook and the Telegram messenger app. People wave Q flags during protestsagainst coronavirus measures.

And in Germany, like in the United States, far-right activists were the first to latch on, making QAnon an unexpected and volatile new political element when the authorities were already struggling to root out extremist networks.

“There is a very big overlap,” said Josef Holnburger, a data scientist who has been tracking QAnon in Germany. “Far-right influencers and groups were the first ones to aggressively push QAnon.”

Officials are baffled that a seemingly wacky conspiracy theory about Mr. Trump taking on a “deep state” of Satanists and pedophiles has resonated in Germany. Polls show that trust in Ms. Merkel’s government is high, while the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has been struggling.

“I was astonished that QAnon is gaining such momentum here,” said Patrick Sensburg, a lawmaker in Ms. Merkel’s conservative party and member of the intelligence oversight committee. “It seemed like such an American thing. But it’s falling on fertile ground.”

The mythology and language QAnon uses — from claims of ritual child murder to revenge fantasies against liberal elites — conjure ancient anti-Semitic tropes and putsch fantasies that have long animated Germany’s far-right fringe. Now those groups are seeking to harness the theory’s viral popularity to reach a wider audience.

QAnon is drawing an ideologically incoherent mixture of vaccine opponents, fringe thinkers and ordinary citizens who say the threat of the pandemic is overstated and government restrictions unwarranted. Not everyone who now aligns with QAnon believes everything the group espouses, or endorses violence.

Until a few months ago, Mr. Hildmann was popularly known merely for his restaurant and cookbooks and as a guest on television cooking shows.

But with 80,000 followers on Telegram, he has since become one of QAnon’s most important amplifiers in Germany. He is a noisy regular at coronavirus protests, which drew more than 40,000 people in Berlin this summer, to bridle against what he considers to be a fake pandemic concocted by the “deep state” to strip away liberties.

He calls Ms. Merkel a “Zionist Jew” and vents against the “new world order” and the Rothschild banking family. He no longer recognizes Germany’s postwar democratic order and darkly predicts civil war.

During a recent interview at his vegan restaurant in an upmarket neighborhood of Berlin, admirer after admirer — a civil servant, a mail carrier, a geography student — approached to thank him, not for his food, but for raising awareness about QAnon.

Experts worry that activists like Mr. Hildmann are providing a new and seemingly more acceptable conduit for far-right ideas.

“QAnon doesn’t openly fly the colors of fascism, it sells it as secret code,” said Stephan Kramer, head of domestic intelligence in the eastern state of Thuringia. “This gives it an access point to broader German society, where everyone thinks of themselves as immune to Nazism because of history.”

“It’s very dangerous,” Mr. Kramer added. “It’s something that has jumped from the virtual world into the real world. And if the U.S. is anything to go by, it’s going to gain speed.”

The QAnon conspiracy theory emerged in the United States in 2017, when a pseudonymous online poster claiming to hold the highest U.S. security clearance — Q — began dropping cryptic messages on the message board 4Chan. Global elites were kidnapping children and keeping them in underground prisons to extract a life-prolonging substance from their blood, Q hinted. A “storm” was coming, followed by a “great awakening.”

For historians and far-right extremism experts, QAnon is both a very new and a very old phenomenon. Made in modern America, it has powerful echoes of the European anti-Semitism of centuries past, which was at the root of the worst violence the continent has known.

The idea of a bloodsucking, rootless elite that abuses and even eats children is reminiscent of medieval propaganda about Jews drinking the blood of Christian babies, said Miro Dittrich, a far-right extremism expert at the Berlin-based Amadeu Antonio Foundation.

“It’s the 21-century version of blood libel,” Mr. Dittrich said. “The idea of a global conspiracy of elites is deeply anti-Semitic. ‘Globalists’ is code for Jews.”

The ignition switch for QAnon’s spread in Germany was “Defender-Europe 2020,” a large-scale NATO exercise, said Mr. Holnburger, the political scientist.

When it was scaled back this spring because of the coronavirus, QAnon followers contended that Ms. Merkel had used a “fake pandemic” to scupper a secret liberation plan.

Then one far-right movement, known as the Reichsbürger, or citizens of the Reich, jumped onto the QAnon traffic online to give greater visibility to its own conspiracy theory.

The Reichsbürger, estimated by the government to have about 19,000 followers, believe that Germany’s postwar republic is not a sovereign country but a corporation set up by the allies after World War II. The QAnon conspiracies dovetailed with their own and offered the prospect of an army led by Mr. Trump restoring the German Reich.

On March 5, the elements of the two movements fused into a common Facebook group, followed a week later by a Telegram channel.

“That’s when QAnon Germany first started taking off,” Mr. Holnburger said.

Two weeks later, in the middle of the lockdown, the German pop star Xavier Naidoo, a former judge on Germany’s equivalent of “American Idol,” joined a QAnon group and posted a tearful YouTube video in which he told his followers about children being liberated from underground prisons. A far-right influencer, Oliver Janich, reposted it to his tens of thousands of Telegram followers.

Since then, the biggest German-language QAnon channel on Telegram, Qlobal Change, has quadrupled its followers to 123,000. On YouTube, it has more than 18 million views. Overall, the number of followers of QAnon-related accounts on all platforms has risen to more than 200,000, estimates Mr. Dittrich of the Amadeu-Antonio Foundation.

On Tuesday, Facebook said it would remove any group, page or Instagram account that openly identified with QAnon.

In the country of the Holocaust, promoting Nazi propaganda or inciting hatred is punishable by up to five years in jail, and two years ago the government passed strict legislation designed to enforce its laws online.

But conspiracy theories and lies are not illegal unless they veer into hate speech and extremist content, and officials admit they have found QAnon’s spread hard to police.

Some QAnon followers are well-known extremists, like Marko Gross, a former police sniper and the leader of a far-right groupthat hoarded weapons and ammunition.

“Trump is fighting the deep state,” he told The New York Times in June. Merkel is part of the deep state, he said. “The deep state is global.”

But many are people who in the early days of the pandemic had nothing in common with the far right, Mr. Dittrich pointed out.

“You could see it in real time in the Telegram channels,” he said. “Those who started in April with worries about the lockdown became more and more radicalized.”

These days you see it on the streets of Germany, too.

Michael Ballweg, a Stuttgart-based software entrepreneur who founded Querdenken-711, the organization that has been at the center of protests against coronavirus restrictions, recently started referencing QAnon.

An eastern youth chapter of the AfD has used “WWG1WGA,” an abbreviation for Q’s motto “Where we go one, we go all,” on its Facebook pages.

Even those on the far right who do not buy into the conspiracy theory have found it useful.

Compact, a magazine classified as extremist by the domestic intelligence agency, has dedicated its last three issues to QAnon, pedophile scandals and the Reichsbürger movement. In August, it had a giant Q on its cover — and had to be reprinted because of high demand.

Jürgen Elsässer, its editor in chief, was at the last big coronavirus protest in Berlin handing out Q stickers and Q flags. He does not believe in a conspiracy of pedophile elites, preferring to look at it as “allegories.”

“Q is a completely novel attempt to structure political opposition in the era of social media,” Mr. Elsässer said in an interview.

After the pandemic, “the far right will reconstitute itself differently,” Mr. Elsässer said. “Q could play a role in this. It’s about elites, not foreigners. That casts the web more widely.”

Asked about the dangers of QAnon, the federal domestic intelligence service replied with an emailed statement saying that “such conspiracy theories can develop into a danger when anti-Semitic violence or violence against political officials is legitimized with a threat from the ‘deep state.’”

The biggest risk, say experts like Mr. Dittrich and Mr. Holnburger, may come when the promised salvation fails to arrive.

“Q always says: ‘Trust the plan. You have to wait. Trump’s people will take care of it,’” Mr. Holnburger said. “If Trump does not invade Germany, then some might say, ‘Let’s take the plan in our own hands.’”

Mr. Hildmann already has some doubts.

“It’s possible that Q is just a psyop of the C.I.A.,” he said.

“In the end, there are no external powers that you can rely on,” Mr. Hildmann said. “Either you deal with it yourself or you don’t bother.”

How right-wing extremists, libertarians and evangelicals built Quebec’s movement against COVID-19 restrictions

Of note:

The main event at a demonstration protesting COVID-19 restrictions last weekend north of Montreal was a speech by Steeve L’Artiss Charland, one-time leader of a far-right group that has since faded from view.

In a parking lot in Mont-Tremblant, Que., Charland told a crowd of around 75 about his miraculous recovery from a childhood illness that had stumped doctors. He then told them they were part of a cosmic struggle of good against evil.

“It’s us against them,” Charland said to applause. “We’re in a spiritual war. We’re in a war of darkness against light.”

The opposition to public health measures in Quebec has given many figures in the province’s foundering far-right movement a chance to re-invent themselves, and to find new audiences.

Charland had been one of the leaders of the Islamophobic group La Meute before leaving last year amid an internal power struggle.

The infighting, according to researchers who monitor the group, contributed to La Meute’s decline in popularity.

Charland, meanwhile, has become an active spokesperson for the movement against COVID-19 restrictions. He’s been criss-crossing the province to take part in demonstrations.

Several other prominent organizers in what’s colloquially known as the anti-mask movement also have close ties to Quebec’s far right.

The group behind a large demonstration in Montreal earlier this month, for instance, is headed by Stéphane Blais, a fringe politician who has courted far-right supporters for years.

The march began outside Quebec Premier François Legault’s office near the McGill University campus, and wound through the streets. 1:00

His political party, Citoyens au Pouvoir, received less than one per cent of the vote in the last provincial election.

But the non-profit organization he founded in the spring to challenge public health rules claims to have raised $400,000. In Montreal, he spoke to a crowd of several thousand people.

“The far-right movement had kind of died down last year before some of them recycled the anti-mask issue,” said Roxane Martel-Perron, a specialist in right-wing extremist groups at the Center for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence in Montreal.

The movement in Quebec has drawn a wide range of other figures into its orbit as well, including evangelical pastors, libertarian radio hosts and conspiracy theorists.

Their interests sometimes intersect only tangentially, but for the moment these unusual alliances have managed to organize recurring demonstrations across the province, with more slated this weekend. Together, they are seeking to undermine the government’s efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Blurred lines

Along with members of the far right, the organizational core of the movement in Quebec is composed of conspiracy theorists, though the distinction between the two is not always clear.

The career arc of Quebec’s best-known conspiracy theorist, Alexis Cossette-Trudel, illustrates the fuzziness.

Before starting his own YouTube channel, Radio-Québec, Cossette-Trudel was a frequent contributor to several far-right media outlets in the province.

With Radio-Québec, he was among the first to translate into French material from QAnon, a conspiracy movement that began in the U.S. and believes the world is run by a cabal of satanic pedophiles. QAnon theories are often overtly racist or anti-Semitic.

Since the pandemic began, Cossette-Trudel has focused almost exclusively on criticizing the public health rules put in place by Quebec and Ottawa. Subscriptions to his YouTube channel have increased nearly fourfold.

His criticisms are often variations of QAnon theories, such as his recent baseless claim that Premier François Legault is exaggerating the threat of COVID-19 as part of an international plot to prevent U.S. President Donald Trump from being re-elected.

Cossette-Trudel uses his social media reach — his personal Facebook page has 36,000 followers — to promote demonstrations where people rally against COVID-19 restrictions. His speeches at these events are often shared widely by participants.Last week, Cossette-Trudel was a guest on the top-rated lunch-hour radio show in the Quebec City area.

The radio station, CHOI 98.1 FM (Radio X), is known for airing populist conservative opinions, often with a libertarian bent.

Its hosts and on-air personalities have repeatedly criticized Quebec’s public health restrictions, saying they are not justified by current infection rates (experts say the province is already being hit by a second wave.

One Radio X columnist, Éric Duhaime, even organized his own demonstration in August. It attracted more than 1,000 people in Quebec City.

“To force me to wear a mask, to threaten me with $600 tickets — I’m sorry, we’re not in communist China here. We live in a democracy,” he said in a video ahead of his rally.

Though these on-air figures try to distance themselves from conspiracy theorists, the distinction, again, is not always clear.When Cossette-Trudel appeared on the lunch-hour radio show, host Jeff Fillion said he was interviewing a “star” whose work was “very detailed and well researched.”

Evangelicals step into the public

Next month, Cossette-Trudel and Charland are scheduled to speak at a protest in Montreal that is billed as a “demonstration-gospel concert.”

A poster for the event features the names of several evangelical preachers who have become active supporters of the movement.

An evangelical media outlet, ThéoVox, has even taken to broadcasting live from some demonstrations, and produces polished video interviews with organizers and prominent speakers.

André Gagné, a Concordia University professor who studies the Christian right, said it is unusual for evangelical groups in Quebec to engage in politics, but a small number appear to be influenced by pastors in the U.S. who have publicly opposed public health rules.

This particular strain of evangelicalism, Gagné said, associates government control with godless communism or socialism.It is rooted in an apocalyptic world view that shares many similarities with QAnon-style conspiracy thinking, with its paranoia of secret programs out to control us through vaccines or internet towers.

“This very much parallels the eschatological fictions that have developed in some evangelical circles about the eventual rise of a one-world government headed by an anti-Christ,” Gagné said.

This mode of thinking might appear to clash with other spiritual groups that have also joined the protests, such as advocates of new-age therapies.

But Martin Geoffroy, an academic who has studied both new-age and right-wing movements, suggested focusing instead on the fundamental values they do share.

“The common thing is that they are all anti-authority movements,” said Geoffroy, who heads CEFIR, the anti-radicalization research centre at Cégep Édouard-Montpetit, a public francophone college in Longueuil.

“Conspiracy theories help them to create a parallel reality where they are the authorities.”

Source: How right-wing extremists, libertarians and evangelicals built Quebec’s movement against COVID-19 restrictions

Exploring the danger behind Quebec’s anti-mask conspiracy theorists

Of concern:

Late one Tuesday night in May, while most of Quebec was still under lockdown orders, the phone rang in Premier François Legault’s riding office.

In a calm but firm voice, a man left a message saying he regretted voting for Legault, and then warned the premier that his days were numbered.

A few hours later, at 3:16 a.m., the man called back and left another message. This time he was screaming and swearing about Quebec’s top public health official, Dr. Horacio Arruda.

The man said he could get access to a gun and wanted to shoot Arruda.

A member of Legault’s office staff who heard the message alerted Quebec provincial police. Their investigation quickly turned international.

The calls were traced to a 47-year-old trucker from Quebec City, Philippe Côté. A tracking device on his truck indicated Côté was in Texas, not far from a gun shop, when he phoned Legault’s office.

Canadian border guards were placed on alert. When Côté crossed back into Canada on May 16, they spent three hours searching his truck.

The border guards didn’t find any weapons, but they did uncover evidence of a different threat, one that also crosses borders and has the potential for violence.

“Several bits of paper were found on which were written different political conspiracy theories,” reads a description of the incident contained in court documents.

Côté was allowed to re-enter the country, but was arrested by provincial police a short time later. On May 21, he pleaded guilty to two counts of uttering death threats, and will be sentenced later this month.Côté’s lawyer, Olivier Morin, told reporters back in May that his client had been emotionally distraught by the pandemic and the rules he had to follow as a trucker.

“He was mixed up. He wanted answers and he went on conspiracy websites,” Morin said.

Since May, provincial police in Quebec have arrested at least four other people for allegedly making online threats against politicians and other public figures. Police have interviewed several more about their online activities following complaints from the public.

The suspects all have Facebook accounts that promote conspiracy theories about COVID-19, including some that originate from QAnon, a conspiracy movement that began in the U.S. and is now considered a national security threat by the FBI.

Experts who monitor extremist groups in Quebec are concerned about the role conspiracy theories are playing in radicalizing online behaviour, and the possibility it could turn into real-world violence.

“We’ve seen it before, and it was called Alexandre Bissonnette,” said Martin Geoffroy, who heads an anti-radicalization research centre at Cégep Édouard-Montpetit, a public francophone college in Longueuil.Geoffroy was referring to the man who killed six people at a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

“QAnon is ravaging the mainstream population right now,” Geoffroy said. “This is part of the collateral damage of the pandemic.”

Conspiracy theories take root in pandemic

Conspiracy theories shape the way a significant number of Quebecers think about the pandemic.

A poll conducted last month for Montreal’s La Presse newspaper suggested 35 per cent of the population believe mainstream media outlets are spreading false information about COVID-19; 18 per cent believe the pandemic is a tool created by governments to control them.

Those findings echo a survey done in June by the province’s public health research institute (INSPQ), which found 23 per cent of Quebecers believe that COVID-19 was fabricated in a laboratory — a theory rejected by scientists who have studied the genetic code of the virus and determined it was not manipulated.

Among the most popular purveyors of conspiracy theories in the province is Alexis Cossette-Trudel, the son of two convicted FLQ terrorists, who broadcasts his views on social media under the moniker Radio-Québec.His YouTube channel has more than 110,000 subscribers. Analytics show that number has nearly quadrupled since the pandemic hit Quebec in March.

Cossette-Trudel openly expresses support for QAnon, which holds, among other claims, that U.S. President Donald Trump is waging a battle against an international cabal of high-profile liberals who are Satan-worshipping pedophiles operating a child sex-trafficking ring.

In one recent video, Cossette-Trudel said Legault was exaggerating the risks of COVID-19 as part of a global plot to ruin the economy and prevent Trump from being re-elected.

This strain of conspiracy thinking is a visible component in the ongoing anti-mask demonstrations in Quebec.

At a protest last Saturday in Montreal, which attracted several thousand people, there were dozens of posters and T-shirts inspired by QAnon symbols and slogans.

Many participants said they thought the pandemic was “over” or “fake” and that the government was lying about the deadliness of the disease.”At first I thought Radio-Québec was too extreme, but then with time I realized they are right,” said Marie-Josée Bernard, a mother of three who took part in Saturday’s demonstration.

Arrests for alleged threats

Conspiracy theories, though, are not only contributing to anti-mask protests in Quebec, they also appear to be playing a role in violent online behaviour.

  • On July 28, a 26-year-old man was arrested for allegedly making online threats against a journalist. His Facebook page has links to conspiracy videos about the pandemic, and content from QAnon supporters.
  • On July 30, a 27-year-old man was charged with intimidation, obstructing an officer and three counts of uttering threats against Legault, Arruda and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His Facebook page features links to far-right content, videos by Radio-Québec and various other conspiracy videos about the pandemic.
  • On August 4, a man in his 60s was arrested for allegedly making online threats against both Legault and Arruda. The arrest came shortly after a Facebook account that circulates QAnon conspiracies published Arruda’s home address.
  • On Aug. 7, a 45-year old man from Drummondville was charged with intimidation and two counts of uttering threats, reportedly against Arruda. Along with posting conspiracies about the pandemic, his Facebook page also features racist and anti-Semitic content.

Along with the arrests, Quebec provincial police have also met with several other individuals about threats associated with their social media accounts, at least three of which indicated support for Radio-Québec.

Cossette-Trudel did not respond to a request for comment.

‘We don’t want to wait until it’s too late’

In the U.S., conspiracy theories in general, and those associated with QAnon in particular, have contributed to the radicalization of several people who have committed acts of violence.

recent study published by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center concluded that the “increasing frequency of criminal or violent acts by QAnon supporters seems possible, even likely” in the months to come.

Experts in Quebec have similar fears that online violence could move offline.

“We’re speaking with police to help with prevention. We don’t want to wait until it’s too late,” said Roxane Martel-Perron, who heads education efforts for Montreal’s Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence.

The issue, said Martel-Perron, is not that people would question the government’s handling of the pandemic. It’s that the answers they are receiving — about shadowy plots out to control them — can be used to justify extreme acts.

“What we’re worried about is the violent means that might be taken in response to these perceived grievances,” she said.

Quebec politicians have signalled their growing concern, as well.

On Tuesday, the first day of the fall legislative session, independent MNA Catherine Fournier introduced a motion calling on the National Assembly to “recognize that the rise of conspiracy theories in Quebec is alarming and requires concerted action from civil society and public authorities.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Source: Exploring the danger behind Quebec’s anti-mask conspiracy theorists