Religious and overly suspicious, they hold far-right positions or are strong believers in alternative medicine: up to 6% of Quebec’s population are “conspiratorial”, according to a study evaluating the speeches of the main extremist influencers online here.
“We can no longer believe that the conspirator is just a guy making videos in his car,” said David Morin, a professor in the University of Sherbrooke’s School of Applied Politics.
He was a co-author along with eight other researchers on a large upcoming study entitled The conspiracy movement in Quebec. It includes survey data on the members of this movement and a list of 45 Quebecois and Canadian “conspiracy leaders” whose statements and ideological brand are analyzed.
Several celebrities from alternative networks meet there, such as the influencer of the QAnon theories Alexis Cossette-Trudel, the actress Lucie Laurier or the ex-leader of the identity group La Meute, Steve Charland, who was recently arrested on the sidelines of the “Freedom Convoy”. The data collected predates the occupation of truckers and protesters in Ottawa earlier this year, where several influencers in English Canada got a taste of fame.
Political and media personalities are also described as conspiratorial, such as the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, or the founder of Rebel News, Ezra Levant.
“For us, these are voices that give credibility to the movement, either through their past status or because they are widely followed. […] We had lengthy discussions to figure out who to vote for, but we feel comfortable with each of the names we put there,” explains the man, who also holds the UNESCO Chair in Preventing Violent Radicalization and Extremism.
David Morin, along with his colleague Marie-Ève Carignan, will publish a work for the general public this fall, which aims to “explain what conspiracy is” and help those whose loved ones have fallen into the various discredited theories that there is on the internet.
Different forms of conspiracy
Overall, up to 21% of Quebecers are either “strong” or “moderate” supporters of conspiracy thinking, a term preferred to the derogatory phrase “conspiracy theorist.” This is less than the Canadian average, where 29% of the population would at least moderately agree with this school of thought.
It likely has to do with a lesser-known aspect of the conspiracy theorist, argues Morin: its religious component. Religion is important to 58% of believers surveyed, compared to 21% of those who don’t believe in the grand conspiracy.
The study also groups conspiracy leaders into five broad ideologies according to ideal types: far-right, anti-government, anti-age, religious, or even inspired by QAnon theories.
“It is meant to show that there is a diversity of viewpoints in this movement. We have leftists who come, for example, from the world of alterscience, who, in the context of the pandemic, are walking hand in hand with people who have an extreme right-wing ideology,” says David Morin.
These ideological connections are not necessarily understood by social media followers or protesters, he says. The links between the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” and the extreme right went unnoticed by most of the demonstrators.
Based on a survey commissioned by the Léger company and conducted in 2021 among 4,500 Canadians, the report estimates that 20% of staunch supporters approve of “the use of force to address government injustices.” That is two and a half times the proportion of non-members.
The most prominent leaders are careful to avoid crossing the line of hate speech, and “always be careful about sitting on the fence,” explains Mr. Morin. “There are a few more [comme] Jean-Jacques Crèvecoeur, the [ont] started making much more incendiary remarks. »
According to him, it is important to talk about the influencers of the great conspiracy in the media. “These are people who are already well known [sur Internet], so it doesn’t make them more famous than they already are. “The publication of their excesses – and the ideology behind them – allows, above all, to see the use of their ideas in political speeches better. An issue affecting the current Conservative Party of Canada leadership race.
“We have one of the two candidates [présumément en tête] who does not hesitate to send signals to his potential constituency from time to time in connection with Davos, the new world order, the cryptocurrency … We see that there are attempts to recover,” laments the scientist.
Currently, research does not offer a clear solution to prevent conspiracy thinking. Or overcome it.