The frustration and distress generated by the pandemic have been a tipping point for many Quebecers, especially those who follow conspiracy theories.
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“People don’t become conspirators overnight, it’s a process, and there are many different paths. […] And the stronger their level of membership, the more they will speak out loudly, perhaps with violence, ”says Martin Geoffroy, director of the Center for Expertise and Training on Religious Fundamentalism, Political Ideologies and Radicalization.
The phenomenon of online threats is far from new. But, in recent months, the situation has been exacerbated, especially for elected officials at the center of government decisions, widely targeted by violent comments.
There are several reasons that can lead an individual to show his anger, to the point of constituting a criminal offense and leading to charges.
Hidden behind the screen
“These are not people who necessarily want to commit a crime, or who intend to do it. […] Often, they do not have the impression that it is a problem to express themselves like that, as it is behind a screen, estimates Christine Grou, president of the Order of the psychologists of Quebec.
Self-regulation or inhibition problem, trouble controlling one’s emotions or impulses, limits of judgment, psychological distress, difficulty anticipating the consequences of one’s actions or simply lack of empathy towards the victims, the factors are numerous, list she does.
The pandemic has a huge influence on the vulnerability of people, who might be tempted to find blame for the tragedies they have experienced, such as the loss of a job, the loss of pleasure and certain freedoms.
“Blaming someone in particular is easier, as we have no control over the whole situation,” says Margaux Bennardi, of the Center for the prevention of radicalization leading to violence.
The Center can support relatives of people making online threats.
Finally be heard
The isolation and the fact that these people may feel ignored, she says, could cause them to speak out aggressively in order to ultimately be heard.
The group ripple effect can also cause these individuals to believe in conspiracy theories more intensely and to challenge authority, sometimes with animosity.
“These people say: ‘We have the truth and you sleep. For them, the facts no longer matter, they mostly want to find things that confirm their beliefs. It’s autofiction, they believe in a novel that comforts. Especially with the pandemic, the reality is difficult … ”, underlines Martin Geoffroy.
“They feel invested with a mission. And seeing that their cause does not really advance despite the demonstrations and the outbursts, it may be that the frustration embarks, “he adds.
The level of membership also has a huge influence on their actions, the researcher believes. He has just received a grant to study the Quebec complosphere.
“The first two levels are not the most intense. They believe in certain things. But the more you fall in the hole, the harder it is to back down. Beliefs are becoming very strong, ”says Mr. Geoffroy.
Adherence to conspiracy
Level 1 | People are interested in conspiracies that actually happened. For example, tobacco companies that lied about cancer.
Level 2 | They end up believing in theories where there is only speculation. For example, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, extraterrestrial life and UFOs.
Level 3 | We leave reality, but these are theories that are harmless to others. For example, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
Level 4 | A threshold of dangerousness is reached, for oneself and for others. People then start to deny scientific facts. For example, the anti-vaccine and anti-mask movement.
Level 5 | This level is seen as practically a point of no return. The facts no longer matter. We are especially interested in what confirms our beliefs by considering the rest as corrupt. For example, QAnon, Pizzagate, and “deep state” world domination (deep state).
Source: Center of Expertise and Training on Religious Fundamentalism, Political Ideologies and Radicalization
There it goes too far …
Since the start of the pandemic, several individuals from across Quebec have been arrested by the police for threats made against personalities making decisions for health measures or even journalists carrying out their work. Here are a few cases that caught our attention.
A known face of the conspiracy movement and accustomed to the courts, the troll was arrested in December by the Sûreté du Québec for making threats against Prime Minister François Legault on social media.
The 51-year-old has posted several videos on social networks where he denounces, often in a vulgar manner, the decisions taken by the government.
He was already on probation after being found guilty of making hateful remarks against the Muslim community.
He was arrested in July by SQ police for making threats on social media against TVA journalist Kariane Bourassa, who had covered an anti-mask demonstration in front of the National Assembly. He was also charged with inciting hatred.
In a post that appeared on his Facebook profile after his arrest, we could read that “it’s nothing to worry about, it’s part of the game of society”.
The man was even astonished that the journalist had not blocked him from accessing his page. “Am I to understand that she prompts me to continue to make an example of myself?” He asked.
The 45-year-old man was arrested in August for making threatening remarks towards the national director of public health, Dr Horacio Arruda. The Drummondville resident was also suspected by the authorities of having spread the personal address of Horacio Arruda. We will recall that a group of individuals went to demonstrate in front of his residence in October. Marcoux, a former candidate in the 2018 provincial election, was propagating several conspiracy theories on social media.
This Lac-Saint-Jean retiree was arrested in September for also threatening Prime Minister François Legault. The 65-year-old, however, told Press never “intended to hurt the Prime Minister”. According to our information, it is often an explanation which is given to the police officers, whereas the individuals did not think they would suffer consequences for their remarks made. Proulx would have written on Facebook that Mr. Legault “would pay with his life” for having imposed the wearing of the mask.
Patrick Dussault was accused of transmitting threats targeting Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and François Legault, as well as Horacio Arruda, in November.
He has been released, but must meet several conditions, such as not using social media, not owning weapons and not re-contacting his victims.
However, a few days later, on his Facebook profile, it was written that he was a victim of the “deep state”, propagating several assertions drawn from conspiracy theories concerning in particular QAnon, 5G technology and self-help. saying statistics fraud regarding COVID-19.
Advice for relatives
Don’t ignore some red flags, such as comments with a violent connotation
Never fall into confrontation
Speak to “I” and not to “You”. Say: “I wouldn’t feel good if I received these words”, rather than: “You don’t have the right to write that”
Promote dialogue, to understand the reasons behind the frustration experienced
Trying to realize the possible consequences for threatening comments, such as a criminal record
Make the person understand that they have a right to their opinion, but that they must respect the opinions of others
Seek professional help if needed
Source: Center for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence
Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my [email protected] 1-800-268-7116