Collective memory and distancing

By Kaileigh La Belle

Like previous videos that we’ve watched in this class, the video on Qanon in Germany interviewed people who were close to or even directly involved with the conspiratorial, Far-Right leaning movement. When individuals were asked why people joined this movement, many outsiders noted the idea of gaining control over uncontrollable circumstances. While I think that there is some merit to the argument that feelings of control/lack of control can be mobilizing factors, I think that there is a deeper issue going on here, especially after reading some of the other readings on the subject of xenophobia and Far-Right Hate. The Stone reading, which highlighted the role of collective memory in dictating responses to current crises, is applicable here. Throughout the video, the anti-vax, anti-mask protesters made numerous visual or oral references or parallels to Germany’s nazi past, presenting COVID-preventative measures as a style of eugenic, authoritarian plot. For them, this is evidently a morally motivated movement that draws heavily on the idea of preventing history from repeating itself. While the idea that these preventative measures are anywhere close to a fascist dictatorship is, as the video makes clear, ludicrous, I think that it represents an attempt to distance themselves from the fundamentally antisemitic conspiracies they push and therefore “validate” their involvement. They see their motivations as being “civic” and hinged on “protecting” people (especially the vulnerable like children) from a shadowy authoritarian government or secret society. In their eyes, this makes their movement incompatible with hate, or, at the very least rationalizes it for them in a sort of “greater good” situation. It prevents them from seeing the antisemitic origins and impacts this movement has and thus they continue to involve themselves in it. Overall, by coupling this sort of moral argument with imagery of preventing another genocide/authoritarian regime, they distance themselves from any type of critical thought about their actions or blame for them.

2 Replies to “Collective memory and distancing”

  1. Thanks Kaileigh! Your excellent post reminds me that there can be a moral, “protecting” element for peoples’ involvement with conspiracy theories. Not everyone uses them as justification for violence.
    Interestingly… this phenomenon provides a (invalid!) logic for a remark like Trump’s “there are fine people on both sides”. (Reference the “Unite the Right” event in 2018 in Charlotte Virginia)

  2. What stands out to me most about these movements is the pearl-clutching and the “think of the children!” rhetoric QAnon supporters like to parrot. The collective memory which you describe that these people are familiar with is rooted in antisemitism and myths like blood libel, which can easily be preyed on by QAnon. Also something I wanted to note about the VICE clip: at some point in the video you can notice a lot of Imperial German Flags (black-white-red tricolors) with Iron Crosses. Because carrying a swastika is illegal, protesters of the right-wing ilk carry the Imperial flag around because it is a convenient loophole. I’d interpret the moral panic presented by QAnon as their justification for an authoritarian regime.

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