They are religious and immoderately suspicious, have far-right positions or firmly believe in alternative medicine: up to 6% of the population of Quebec is “conspiratorial”, according to a study which analyzes the speeches of the main extremist influencers of the Web from here.
“We can no longer think that the conspirator is just a guy who makes videos in his car,” explains David Morin, professor at the School of Applied Politics at the University of Sherbrooke.
He co-authored with eight other researchers a large forthcoming study entitled The conspiracy movement in Quebec. It contains data obtained by survey on the members of this movement as well as a list of 45 “conspiracy leaders” from Quebec and Canada, whose statements and ideological brand are analyzed.
Several celebrities from alternative networks meet there, such as the influencer of QAnon theories Alexis Cossette-Trudel, the actress Lucie Laurier or the ex-leader of the identity group La Meute recently arrested on the sidelines of the “Freedom convoy”, Steve Charland. 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 figures are also labeled 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 by their previous status or because they are widely followed. […] We had long discussions to find out who to choose, but we are comfortable with each of the names we put there, ”explains the man who also holds the UNESCO Chair in the prevention of violent radicalization and extremism.
David Morin will publish this fall, with his colleague Marie-Ève Carignan, a work for the general public intended to “explain what conspiracy is” and to help those whose relatives have fallen into the various discredited theories that abound on the Web.
Different forms of conspiracy
In total, up to 21% of Quebecers are either “convinced” or “moderate” adherents to conspiratorial thinking, a term preferred to the pejorative formula of “conspiracy theorist”. This is less than the Canadian average, where 29% of the population would adhere at least moderately to this school of thought.
It likely has to do with a lesser-known aspect of conspiracy theorist, Morin argues: its religious component. Religion is important to 58% of convinced adherents polled, compared to 21% of those who don’t believe in the grand conspiracy.
The study also groups conspiracy leaders into five major ideologies, by ideal type: far-right, anti-government, alterscience, religious, or even inspired by QAnon theories.
“It’s to show that there is a diversity of points of view in this movement. We have people on the left, for example who come from the world of alterscience, who in the context of the pandemic walk hand in hand with people who have an extreme right ideology, ”says David Morin.
These ideological connections are not necessarily understood by social media followers or protest participants, he says. For example, the links between the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” and the extreme right went unnoticed by a large part of the demonstrators.
Based on a survey commissioned by the firm Léger and carried out in 2021 among 4,500 Canadians, the report estimates that 20% of convinced adherents agree with “the use of violence to fight against government injustice”. . This is two and a half times the proportion of non-members.
The best-known leaders carefully avoid crossing the line of hate speech and “always be careful to sit on the fence”, illustrates Mr. Morin. “There are still a few, [comme] Jean-Jacques Crèvecoeur, who [ont] started to have much more insurrectionary remarks. »
According to him, it is important to speak in the media about the influencers of the grand conspiracy. “These are people who are already well enough known [sur Internet], so it doesn’t make them any more famous than they already are. “Publish their excesses – and the ideology behind – allows above all to better see the recovery of their ideas in political speeches. A problem that affects the current leadership race of the Conservative Party of Canada.
“We have one of the two candidates [présumément en tête] who does not hesitate from time to time to send signals to his potential electorate in connection with Davos, the new world order, cryptocurrency… We see that there are attempts at recovery”, laments the academic.
Currently, research does not present a clear solution to prevent conspiratorial thinking. Or get over it.