Contested Narratives of the Pandemic Crisis
The Far Right, Anti-Vaxxers and Freedom of Speech
This paper seeks to open a discussion about the role played by the extreme right within the contemporary ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement as it has developed during the recent Covid-19 pandemic. While supporters of this movement are politically diverse, we see the far right as having used the Covid crisis as a significant opportunity to place their conspiratorial narrative before a wider audience, where a rhetoric of victimisation around pandemic related restrictions masks their deep authoritarianism and profound racism and misogyny. We discuss ‘white replacement’ theory as the key idea animating the contemporary far right, in both its secular and religious manifestations, and we argue that this theory has offered the framework for the far right’s opposition to vaccinations and public health related restrictions. Throughout the pandemic, the far right’s use of conspiracy theory and calculated disinformation – particularly online – has thrown up considerable dilemmas in relation to issues of freedom of speech for progressives. We conclude by discussing how the feminist anti-racist left must continue to defend freedom of speech in the face of this, but this understanding needs to be informed by a conception of the ‘common good’.
Copyright (c) 2022 Cowden Stephen, Nira Yuval-Davis
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