The ‘Think Local Festival’ claimed to allow attendees a chance to “discover the roots and taste of tradition” near Mullingar, Ireland, was cancelled just hours before the kick off in July. Left-wing activists tipped off venues in the area that the organisers behind the event, advertised as a family-friendly two-day festival looking to celebrate rural life and sustainability, were the same ones behind various high-profile anti-LGBTQ protests.
ISD’s Senior Analyst Ciarán O’Connor features in VICE speaking about who the organisers are and what type of rhetoric they have promoted in the past. One of the organisers has a long record of promoting conspiracy theories, including anti-immigration narratives, climate denialism and the anti-LGBTQ+ ‘groomer‘ slur, he said. Adding that she had previously organised a one-day version of the festival in February where conspiracy and far-right movements were invited as speakers. “The marketing and promotion of this festival certainly portrays the event as a community-led, family-friendly, wholesome event but it appears this is no more than a cover for creating a space that will host and promote false, misleading and potentially harmful claims and conspiracy theories about a range of topics.”
Ciarán explained how the event could have unknowingly been a gateway into conspiracy ideology for guests: “The event might attract people who are genuinely interested in learning about sustainability, vegetable production and environmental issues, but … will be at risk of being exposed to baseless and unsubstantiated claims.”
He added that the festival is yet another example of the convergence of different subcultures– those who may be interested in sustainability and wellness with antivaxxers, sovereign citizens and more traditional far-right groups– being brought into the radical conspiracists milieu. “Online conspiracy theory proliferation has brought together traditionally disparate communities so now, far-right figures are increasingly interacting with alternative health proponents, climate change deniers and others.”