The pandemic accelerated pre-existing conspiracies that had long been lingering around the world. In Germany, it prompted the Querdenken (“lateral thinkers”) protests, bringing together different conspiratorial groups on- and offline, equally united against COVID-19 government mandates. ISD Senior Manager for Policy & Research, Jakob Guhl, spoke to GRID about how this united front began, and the interplay between QAnon and Reichsbürger narratives in the country. Similarities such as just sharing the first letter (Q) between group names helped tie movements together and ‘raise awareness about the conspiracy ideology’, leading to translations and larger audience reach.
“Some of the contents of it were copy-pasted and translated for a German context,” Jakob told Grid. “Same symbol, the same content, but call it ‘der Sturm’ instead of ‘the storm’ — and there you go.”
Jakob compared the merging to a “vegetable soup” versus a “melting pot”: “Things retain their own flavour, but they take on a bit of the flavour of the others,” he said. “It’s not that they’re all now starting to believe the same thing — it’s more that they’re so close to each other in terms of demonstrations and also on Telegram and these networks.”
‘“QAnon and Reichsbürger are, in a way, perfectly compatible with each other.”
The full interview is available on Grid.