In this Bloomberg article, Milo Comerford, ISD’s Head of Policy & Research, Counter-Extremism, discusses how local opposition to so-called 15-minute cities in Oxford (UK) has been weaponised by international conspiracists and extremist movements, building on the “architectures” of anti-government activism established during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID has created “unlikely coalitions between people who were previously hardened conspiracy theorists and those who were scared in the context of the pandemic and got drawn in,” he said.
What is being seen is an active attempt to adapt these theories to new contexts: “A lot of the (15-minute, Oxford) conspiracy’s hallmarks are very American, being at its core about a kind of freedom of movement that’s defined by automobile-friendly cities,” he explained. “The odd thing is that it doesn’t really make sense in the context of Oxford. Its medieval center has always been pretty pedestrian and cycle-friendly. In fact, the conspiracy has slightly been imposed on Oxford.”
The article cites ISD’s 2021 report on the rise of another related conspiracy around the term ‘climate lockdown‘, which found broad support among anti-vaccination and far-right groups during the COVID crisis. Amplified by alternative media outlets in the US and UK and threaded with antagonism for climate action, this theory claimed COVID-19 was “merely a precursor to future ‘green tyranny’… and that both governments and global elites would curtail civil liberties under the pretext of climate change.”