As the coronavirus continues to surge globally, virus-related conspiracy theories are proliferating online. These antisemitic, xenophobic, hateful messages spread misplaced blame and misinformation, making it more difficult to access accurate information while elevating fear and anxiety. While some of these messages are new, many are simply old tropes repackaged for a modern pandemic.
Extremists are imagining weaponizing the coronavirus
On fringe platforms, extremists are encouraging those who are infected with the coronavirus to target people that these groups consider to be enemies, including politicians, and non-whites and law enforcement.
- On March 13, this meme was shared on Telegram. It highlights that the coronavirus may be more dangerous for people over 50 and encourages people to cough on their elected officials, many of whom fall into that age cohort.
- On March 17, a Telegram user shared a meme encouraging sick people to cough on minorities.
- On January 24, this Telegram user joked about travelling to Washington, D.C. while infected with the virus.
- Several extremists, notably on Telegram, have called for the coronavirus to be weaponized against law enforcement, with some arguing police should be targeted as they manage and enforce new virus-related public safety measures.
- Many posts encourage infected people to target busy public areas in order to spread the virus as widely as possible. These two posts were shared on Telegram in early March.
The Coronavirus as the precursor to societal collapse, revolution, and the race war
Many conspiracy theorists and far-right activists believe that rising infection rates, increasing paranoia and ever more intrusive government countermeasures to the pandemic will result in society’s collapse, which they can use to bring about the boogaloo, a slang term for a future civil war.
- Accelerationists are advocating measures that will exacerbate the negative effects of the pandemic in the hope that it will spur parts of the population to violence. The following images show the different ways they advocate using COVID-19 to spread social unrest.
- Extremists on Telegram explicitly hope that the coronavirus sparks the boogaloo, which many believe will create the opportunity to build a white ethno-state. One user on Telegram referred to the coronavirus as the “achoogaloo.”