'Freedom' Convoy Built on Racist Right-Wing Ideology

Right-wing ideology emphasizes a narrow, selfish sense of entitlement and grievance against a bogeyman parade of suspicious groups presented as opposed to 'real' citizens.

By Ryan McGreal

Posted January 27, 2022 in Blog (Last Updated January 27, 2022)

Apologists for the #FluTruxKlan try to argue that the antivax movement they represent is definitely not racist because diversity! Look at this Indigenous woman who supports the convoy!

This is, of course, a classic tactic of reactionary movements: find a token representative of a community that is marginalized by an exploitive policy to explain how efforts to achieve equity are actually harmful.

Fox News, the Trojan Horse of the authoritarian populist right-wing propaganda ecosystem, has long excelled at this: finding women to defend the patriarchy, Black people to defend police brutality, Muslims to defend racial profiling at airports, and so on.

It’s always possible to find someone from a marginalized group who will defend the system of marginalization. Such people may have internalized colonialist exploitation, or they may just be in it for the money (ie. internalized colonialist exploitation).

It is fundamentally bad reasoning but it works because people who are highly motivated to justify odious ideas are also highly motivated to treat the body of evidence like a fussy eater at a salad bar: fill up on the bits they like and skip everything else.

So, for example, they disparage and disavow the consensus of the global medical research community as some kind of conspiracy while giving the full weight of credibility to some crank doctor spouting ideological disinformation.

Or they wave away the widespread evidence of violent racism among members of the convoy because there’s a spokesperson who insists publicly that they are peaceful and was seen on video getting emotional.

But when you review the internal communications of the participants in this protest, as antifascist activists have been doing and sounding the alarm about for years now, it is frighteningly clear what they are really about.

Are there individuals who support the convoy who really are just there out of some kind of principled opposition to a vaccine mandate as government overreach? I’m sure there are.

But they are not the people who organize and promote these events. It isn’t a spontaneous eruption of civic energy that happened in a vacuum: it is an orchestrated challenge to civil society.

It’s interesting to look at where the money and organizing energy comes from to finance these antisocial outbursts of intolerance.

There are powerful, wealthy agents of destructive industries (like fossil fuels) who don’t want to be regulated and have invested in an entire astroturf ecosystem of plausible deniability to preserve their interests.

Their playbook for attacking public health policy - which they borrowed and adapted from the tobacco industry - is to undermine public understanding and confidence in science and to challenge the idea of a common public good.

The strategy is to generate Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about the body of scientific evidence, while also driving a wedge between people to frustrate the possibility of common purpose and civic solidarity.

The ideology emphasizes a narrow, selfish sense of entitlement and grievance against a bogeyman parade of suspicious groups that are presented as being opposed to “real” citizens.

Racism is woven directly and inextricably into this - it is a ready-made framework to divide people against each other while justifying one group’s exploitation and abuse against another.

But people who are publicly defending racist ideas know that overt racism is unacceptable in mixed company, so they resort to denial (“I’m not racist!”), projection (“You’re the racist for calling me racist”) and deflection (“whatabout this unrelated issue?”).

(Again, you need only look at what the people in these movements are saying to each other on their own channels to figure out where they really stand.)

Before COVID, the right-wing fringe was already a mess of white supremacism, anti-globalism and virulent opposition to climate policy (remember the Yellow Vests and the “United We Roll” convoy?).

When the pandemic struck , that existing ferment of racist science denial easily mutated into denial of emergency health measures like masks, distancing and vaccination, which are framed as sovereign rights infringements rather than the shared means to protect lives.

So it is no surprise that racist fringe groups have embraced and promoted opposition to COVID health measures to advance and normalize their extremist agenda. Look at how quickly the PPC carved out this space on the last federal election.

Of course, there are also plenty of grifters and hucksters capitalizing on the flow of money into this parallel universe of pseudoscientific bigotry and paranoia to spin various conspiracies for influence and profit.

And those conspiracies inevitably tap into longstanding stereotypes, especially barely-coded anti-Semitic rhetoric about a “cabal” of “globalists” who want to impose a “new world order” by secretly controlling the government.

It’s inherently racist, inherently authoritarian, inherently calculated to serve the narrow interests of destructive industries that are literally creating a global climate catastrophe before our eyes and whose COVID minimism is responsible for the worst health outcomes.

Don’t allow their hateful ideas to be sanitized and normalized.