Far-Right Groups Transition From Stop the Steal to Stop the Vaccine
Ever since last November’s election right up through Joe Biden’s inauguration as president, far-right, anti-government and conspiracy groups lived by the mantra “Stop the Steal.” Since it’s now pretty obvious that Biden’s in the White House to stay those same extremist groups need something else to keep members motivated and attract new adherents.
The new object of their obsession has become “Stop the Vaccine.” Increasingly they are gathering in online forums trying to spread the view that COVID-19 vaccines are killing recipients and that the government’s sweeping vaccination effort is secretly a sinister plot to control the population.
Using information gleaned from the federal database that tracks deaths and adverse reactions nationwide among those who have received a vaccine, adherents of groups like QAnon, the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo movement and others have been spreading articles and producing videos with titles like “COVID-19 Vaccines Are Weapons of Mass Destruction – and Could Wipe Out the Human Race” or “Doctors and Nurses Giving the COVID-19 Vaccine Will Be Tried As War Criminals.”
These groups portray vaccines as a symbol of excessive government control. “If less people get vaccinated then the system will have to use more aggressive force on the rest of us to make us get the shot,” read a recent post on the Telegram social media platform. Other messages contain more ominous predictions. “A massive death wave will be witnessed later this year among those who took the vaccine,” one said. The vaccines sometimes are referred to as a “potion” or as a “bioweapon,” and vaccinated people are “shedding mutant viruses.”
The new focus on vaccines is particularly striking on discussion platforms frequented by QAnon adherents, who had falsely prophesied that Donald Trump – who received the vaccine – would continue as president while his political opponents were marched off to jail.
“They rode the shift in the national conversation away from Trump to what was happening with the massive ramp up in vaccines,” said Devin Burghart, the head of the Seattle-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which monitors far-right movements, referring to followers of QAnon. “It allowed them to pivot away from the failure of their previous prophecy to focus on something else.”
In April the groups are planning to hold a conference with the tagline “Learn How to Fight Back for Your Health and Freedom.” Set to headline the gathering are two of the country’s most vocal conspiracy theorists: none other than Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell.