Why did Davos conspiracy theories become so mainstream?

New York

The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos has long been a bane of conspiracy theories. Extremist figures like Infowars host Alex Jones have reliably used the event to instill fear and paranoia about the sinister schemes that the “globalists” are supposedly plotting.

However, in the past, these comic conspiracy theories were largely confined to the fringe corners of the internet – places like Infowars. But this has changed in recent years. Extremist ideas promoted by the likes of Jones have become mainstream, having been promoted by some of the most influential figures in the right-wing media.

Take Glenn Beck, for example. The right-wing media personality, who wrote a conspiratorial book The Great Reset exploiting the Covid-2020 theme of the World Economic Forum, They laughed at the idea On Tuesday conspiracy theories swirled around the event, while simultaneously giving oxygen to some of those theories when he interviewed a guest who claimed, unchallenged, that the assembled world leaders “want you to eat bugs instead of meat.”

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Beck is not alone in using the event to advance this fringe discourse. Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, who responded On Sunday in a conspiratorial thread about the gathering in Davos, he said the “S in ESG,” which stands for the World Economic Forum’s “Environmental, Social and Governance” standards, “stands for Satanism.” (Musk also claimed He was invited to the assembly, however said the organizers He wasn’t on the guest list.)

Alex Friedfeld, associate director of the ADL Center on Extremism, told me on Tuesday that the use of extremist rhetoric and endorsement of conspiracy theories from leading voices on the right has resulted in outlandish allegations reaching far more people than they used to.

“The reality is that these conspiracies have thrived in more marginal parts of the internet,” Friedfeld said. “But when you have people like Tucker Carlson or Glenn Beck — they start normalizing these plots, exposing millions of people to these ideas.”

In particular, Friedfeld referred to “The Great Reset” conspiracy theories, noting that the term has at this point been “largely decoupled” from the origins of 2020’s Covid and has become “a broad brand of conspiracy” about how global elites plot to use the masses for their own interests. . Friedfeld, in particular, said that the use of the term “Great Reset” by the main characters is a cause for concern because it can send people down a rabbit hole.

“You go looking up whatever issue they’re talking about on Fox News and all of a sudden you’re hit with all these other conspiracies that fall under the same umbrella,” Friedfield explained.

Associated Press’ Sophia Tulp I reported this week Use of “The Great Reset” has been on the rise at Fox News. Tulp said the term was mentioned on the right-wing talk channel 60 times in 2022, up from 30 times in 2021, and 20 times in 2020. Tulp added that it was mentioned more often on Carlson’s show and on The Laura Ingraham Show.

The danger of conspiracy theories was not lost on those present at Davos. In a session on Tuesday moderated by Brian Stelter, AJ Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, Description of misinformation As one of the most pressing problems facing society.

“I think if you look at this issue of misinformation, I think it basically maps out all the other major challenges that we face as a society, especially the most out there among them,” Sulzberger said. “So it’s disinformation and in the broader set of disinformation and conspiracy and propaganda and clickbait…the broader mix of bad information that corrupts the information ecosystem, what you’re attacking is trust.”

Sulzberger added, “Once you see trust go downhill, then what you see is society starts to divide, and that’s how you see people divided along tribal lines, and that immediately undermines pluralism.” Undermining pluralism is perhaps the most dangerous thing that can happen to democracy. So I really think if you’re spending this week reflecting on the health of democracies and democratic erosion, I think it’s really important to go back to where this started.

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