Conspiracy theories are nothing new but the far right has weaponised them

One particularly popular conspiracy theory paints George Soros as the major force in undermining nationalist movements around the world.

One of the tactics of the far right is to assign a larger agenda to incidents which involve or affect them. Anti-racist and anti-fascist activism is portrayed as being funded by Jewish philanthropist George Soros in his apparent attempt to undermine democracy. The far right also promotes the idea that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are his lackeys due to funding from his Open Society Foundations (OSF). And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also put forward that they’re under the thumb of the government due to funding they receive from it. 

This enables the far right to portray any opposition to them as coming from “state agents” or “Soros lackeys”. It is an attempt to undermine the work of activists and organisations who are tying to create a better society. 

Conspiratorial thinking such as this is nothing new. And it’s easy to dismiss it as something that won’t be believed by the wider population; that it’s just the rantings of people who spend too much time on the internet. Unfortunately this is not the case. There has been a steady growth in this kind of conspiratorial thinking which can be seen on the internet and social media, in the comments sections of articles, and in groups on Facebook. It has bled into our daily lives.

Reality has now become one giant conspiracy that has been uncovered by a select few. Far-right activists have uncovered the “truth”. But this denial of reality is dangerous. And, what’s more, it effects innocent people in the real world. 

Nazis in Dublin?

One of the more notable examples of this conspiratorial mindset was the incident that took place during the Barrow Street protest on Saturday 10 August. Anti-racist activists had organised a march to protest against the presence of Gemma O’Doherty and her supporters outside of Google HQ. 

The former journalist/failed politician was holding a daily protest outside the building after her YouTube channels were removed. Google deleted her accounts after it said she had violated its policies on hate speech and had also attempted to circumvent what was initially a temporary suspension. 

Although those attending the anti-racist march were peaceful the opposition that had gathered opposite them outside of the Google building were less so. They were seen and heard taunting the anti-racism protestors. And it eventually  culminated in at least three of far-right protestors making the Nazi salute. 

Nazi Boy

But one of them came in for particular attention. Given the name Nazi Boy, he was seen making the Nazi salute to those on the anti-racism march on more than one occasion. All of this was captured on film and the photographs and video quickly appeared all over social media.

The far right reacted almost immediately. As previously detailed by The Beacon, the narrative shifted rapidly. Initially it was claimed that the photograph of Nazi Boy was “photoshopped”. Then it was claimed that he was a “plant” by anti-racist activists. The next theory was that he wasn’t Irish and was possibly flown in to discredit the far right here. 

One well-known Irish far-right YouTuber went as far as to insist that Nazi Boy was a plant of a specific activist who works with an NGO in Dublin. The YouTuber claimed that the salute was choreographed by both men for maximum effect.

A variation of these theories continued to be spread on social media even after Nazi Boy’s Twitter account was discovered and he began answering questions. He even went as far as posting a picture of the jacket with the distinctive yellow lining he was wearing when he made the Nazi salute. 

Yet the conspiracy theory continues to exist that he was planted by a specific activist in order to seemingly undermine the far-right cause. This was seen recently when Nazi Boy turned up at the far right “Free Speech Rally” in Dublin on Saturday 14 December. Video footage and photographs exist of him at the protest. 

In one video he is confronted by two men who accuse him of being a plant of the activist in question. Interestingly, he also has a strong Dublin accent. This obviously undermines one of the previous theories that he was flown in for the specific purpose of making the salute.  

In spite of the confrontation between the men and the demand that he “better go”, photographs of Nazi Boy exist which show that he did not leave. In fact, the evidence reveals that he stayed for the duration of fthe rally. And on one of his social media accounts he verifies this, writing that “I was there until the end of the protest”. 

The anti-fascist drugs conspiracy

Another target of the far right’s conspiracies is Joseph Loughnane. The Galway activist and political hopeful was a candidate for People Before Profit (PBP) in the local elections in 2019. He is also running for the party in the upcoming general elections. But elements of the far right have latched on to Loughnane as a target. And in a recent blog post he detailed what he has had to endure.

In November last year a video was uploaded to YouTube by far-right activist Dara O’Flaherty in which he claimed that Loughnane is a prominent drug dealer in Galway. He also points to Loughnane as being part of a conspiracy involving the underreporting of attacks on those he calls “ethnic Irish”. Loughnane and the group he works with, Galway Anti Racism Network (GARN), he says, “skew local and national media reports about racism” as well as skewing statistics on hate speech. 

O’Flaherty says that Loughnane, in league with GARN and anti-fascist activists, “corrupt our youth with sick ideology” and “sell them drugs”. In closing, he implies that Loughnane is partly responsible for the government’s proposed updating of Ireland’s hate speech laws. This, he says, will allow the activist and election candidate to “imprison those who he can bully with his drug and hate-fuelled ideological supremacy”.

“Ferocious”

Since the video was uploaded to YouTube the Irish far right have used it to attack Loughnane. Stickers have been put up around Galway City with his image, phone number, and the aforementioned accusations on them. In a more sinister turn, O’Flaherty, along with a fellow far-right activist, turned up outside Loughnane’s home. Loughnane wasn’t there at the time and according to one witness the two men spoke to his landlord and neighbours in an attempt to get information.

O’Flaherty has a history of political activism. In 2019 he ran in the local elections in Galway as an independent. The top two issues of his platform consisted of dealing with “Uncontrolled Migration” and “Islamification”. These took priority over issues such as housing and the environment. 

He is also running in the upcoming general elections in the Galway West constituency. In a video uploaded to YouTube, in which he announces his candidacy, he says he is running on a “patriotic, anti-corruption” programme. He describes himself as “a ferocious O’Flaherty” and claims he has being doing “battle against the forces of evil and corruption” in Ireland for more than 20 years. O’Flaherty also tells his viewers that the government has a three foot tall file on him. He insists that the government showed him the file in order to deter him from running for political office.

The “rage dynamo”

Speaking to The Beacon Loughnane said that there is “a concerted effort to associate specific crimes with people of colour”. This, he argued, is “purely designed to create unnecessary fear”. He remarked that no matter how “ludicrous” their theories are they still “get a platform in [far-right] circles”. Loughnane also argued that far-right activists are unable to effectively critique neoliberalism as it

is beyond their comprehension. They prefer to lie and deceive the working class in order to create division.

When asked if he thinks he has been specifically targeted because his mother was born in Pakistan, he agreed. He told The Beacon:

I think my heritage entirely drives the hate against me. These people have admitted themselves that they know the lies they spread to be untrue, but they press on when they see my skin colour. Central to every single criticism of me from the far-right and anti-choice movements has been an analysis that I’m foreign to this country due to my Mum being born in Pakistan, and that my drive for equality is fuelled by my ethnic makeup, hence why it should be rejected.

An anti-racist activist who wished to remain anonymous also spoke to The Beacon about the proliferation of conspiracy theorising by the far right. They argued that it is a tactic by the far right as part of a “conscious targeting of people working together to disrupt fascist growth in Ireland”. In fact, the aim

 is to discredit and deflect from the fact that they keep exposing themselves for what they are. 

And the activist insisted that, along with this, there is an element of “perpetual victimhood” too. This contrived victimhood, they told The Beacon, is what far right activists — especially those who publish videos on YouTube — would have their supporters believe. And they can’t stop doing it because, as the activist pointed out,

The minute they stop doing that is the minute their audience drops away. And with it the rage dynamo that is cash money.

An answer for everything

Going forward it is difficult to know how to combat the rise of conspiracy theories. Any time that an aspect of a conspiracy theory is undermined or shown to be false it is often met with a counterclaim. In many cases the counterclaim is even more ludicrous than the conspiracy theory that’s being pushed in the first place. 

When dealing with far-right conspiracy theories this is itself a tactic to confuse and move the goalposts of the argument. Truth here is malleable. And the kind of truth being pedalled by the far right is dangerous and hateful. It targets activists, NGOs, and politicians who simply want to create a better society for every person who lives in it. 

But given the financially lucrative aspect of the far right “rage dynamo”, don’t expect the conspiracy theories to stop any time soon.

This article was updated to include a statement from Mr. Loughnane.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Niccolò Caranti

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