Anti-mask and anti-vaccination activists are desperate and flailing. Their lack of success over the last 19 months, writ large by the population’s incredible uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination, has them left howling at the moon. Having lost, but refusing to give up, they’ve become more obstinate instead of subdued. The fact that they’ve been wrong and proven wrong again and again is of no interest to them. Seeing themselves as the enlightened freedom fighters tackling a worldwide conspiracy and an apathetic public has given some of them the motivation to carry on.
In this mix are, of course, various far-right actors and groups.
Some are clearly pulling the strings of elements of the anti-mask and anti-vaxx movement. But others are along for the ride and are just there to publicise themselves and recruit new followers. For the latter their particular movement takes precedence over everything else. In a misinformed morass they probably represent the most cynical of all. The presence of the Irish Freedom Party and the National Party at countless anti-lockdown rallies over the last few months — as well as their organising of some of them — has also not gone unnoticed. Crisis breeds opportunity and, for them, the pandemic has provided just that.
Despite this relative harmony of interests, and the large amounts of money that have clearly been poured into anti-lockdown rallies and propaganda, the results of their work over the course of the pandemic have been far from ideal. Their frustration is palpable.
During a roundtable discussion published last month a number of well-known Irish anti-lockdown and anti-mask activists discussed what’s happening. The host described the events of the last 19 months as one of “collective psychosis, mass psychosis”. Her assembled guests were heroes for standing up to the global insanity of masks and vaccinations. The discussion itself was replete with fearmongering, threats of the government coming for people’s children, and bizarre conspiracies that the virus is a hoax.
In the case of the latter it was suspended GP Dr. Gerard Waters who put forth this idea. He went on to say that injecting people with, in his view, a dangerous DNA-altering medication was the real goal of governments, hence the COVID hoax. Evidence for any of this was, of course, lacking. Viewers were simply told to go and look at the “facts”, a phrase common amongst the anti-mask cohort.
Tensions here to stay
Outside of polite but deluded discussion, the tensions are ramping up.
Gardaí have recently warned of potential attacks on vaccination centres by far-right and anti-lockdown activists. That it took them so long to issue the warning is worrying. Back in May The Beacon reported on calls from well-known far-right figurehead Rowan Croft, aka Grand Torino, to attack vaccination centres. During the livestream in question Croft also said that politicians who’re in favour of vaccinating children would eventually be “hung by the neck”.
Across social media and closed groups anti-lockdown activists have passed around lists of businesses to boycott. What these businesses have done to deserve this is to simply enforce mask-wearing by customers or wanting to see proof of vaccination before they’ll provide service. Protests around the country are also commonplace, taking place in locations as different as Longford Town and outside the Department of Health in Dublin. These rallies are often small but aggressive, with passersby or counter-protestors met with a tirade of insults and hostility. And all of this even though the country is reopening again, with the government set to lift all of the restrictions by October. Their hostility increases as normality seems to appear closer than ever.
On top of this, and regardless of the small reach of these individuals and groups, they’re here to stay. It’s easy to laugh at them and mock their so-called theories. But they believe they’re fighting a war. And this means there’s no surrender, no acquiescence of any kind. Their overlap with the far right makes them even more dangerous.
We’ve a long and unpredictable winter ahead.
Featured image via Screenshot