[CW: anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories, racism, fascist ideology]
The White Rose, a name which originally was used by a group of young German students, executed for organising against the Nazi regime, is a name now abused by a new group deeply rooted in antisemitic conspiracy theories. The movement emerged in response to the governments’ dire handling of the pandemic. Frustrated people have misdirected their anger at government bungling, lockdowns and masks, and have focused it on antisemitic conspiracy theories of the “New World Order” and a great “Plandemic”. In the UK, these trends have largely come together in an anonymous Telegram group called “ The White Rose”.
The White Rose, which formed in late 2020, has built itself on several precedents. It goes without saying that even at the start of the pandemic, trust in governments worldwide was at a low point. Throughout 2020 this became much more pronounced, particularly in relation to policies pushed by many states, notionally aimed at tackling the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic. While much of this distrust was rooted in genuine and tangible problems, there has also been an explosion of bizarre conspiracy theories, including fantasies about Communist Chinese plots, Jews, plotting doctors, big pharma and 5G towers. Above all others, the anti-vaccine movement is the largest and most influential conspiracy theory movement in the country.
“The website links to two other websites for similar groups in Ireland and the Netherlands.
The Irish website, which was created in late February 2021, trivializes the Holocaust even more explicitly.
The Irish website describes the quarantine hotels for travelers as concentration camps and the security guards in the hotels as Gestapo.
According to the website, it was “NOT Adolf Hitler who murdered millions of men, women and children,” but doctors.“Quote from an article by by W. F Thomas, for German language publication ” The Belltower”
Benefiting from the massive growth of conspiracy theory beliefs over the last 5 years, anti-vaccine groups have exploded in size since the start of the pandemic. In the latter half of 2020, much of this came to a head with a series of major demonstrations by a coalition of groups believing in various Coronavirus focused conspiracy theories. Originating with a german activist group, and using existing conspiracy theorist networks, this led to the formation of a large number of regionalised independent groups, all pushing the same message.
While QAnon dominates the conspiracy theorist scene in the US, White Rose is the largest and most coherent grouping in the UK, with a telegram channel containing tens of thousands of users, with hundreds of posts per day. Their telegram channel serves as a hub for designing and sharing propaganda, spreading new paranoid theories, indoctrination, and encouraging new members to get involved.
“…a breakdown and analysis of their Telegram group chat revealed that QAnon beliefs, along with antisemitism, ranked among sentiment in messaging. Naturally, in groups designed to oppose pandemic restrictions, the conversation quickly turns to fringe concerns befitting of their QAnon affinity and outright conspiracy such as masks being harmful or a control device, vaccines being dangerous or deadly, and the danger of the pandemic being grossly overstated. Outright denial that COVID-19 exists is also common.”Quote from a Logically Investigation by Joe Ondrak and Jordan Wildon
The actions of White Rose have been limited to big protests and overwhelmingly stickering all over London by using a tactic copied directly from the neo-Nazi “Hundred Handers”. The White Rose Telegram channel admins recommend their activists rapidly decentralise and use Brother QL series thermal printers to print cheap but poor quality stickers, as well as purchasing or printing leaflets and posters. The aim of the organisers is to dump vast quantities of visual propaganda into the public consciousness using an army of eager, radicalised volunteers, constantly exposed to far right rhetoric. This tactic has been successful and has spread across the country and to so called Australia, the US and Aotearoa, as well as several other countries.
However, their actions are not limited to stickering unfortunately: Larger demonstrations in central London and in other cities have also seen clashes with police, which has further radicalised sections of the movement to agitate for all out war against all perceived enemies, not only including the police, but also various ethnic and social minorities. Protests have given participants the courage to commit antisemitic and other racist attacks, particularly in North London.
The White Rose chat officially has a policy of banning racist posters but this is sporadically enforced at best, and seems to exist largely to keep up a good front for “normies” entering the group. Explicit statements pushing for violence against Jewish people might sometimes get a user banned, but anything even vaguely subtle floats freely in White Rose chats alongside a conscious effort to co-opt the plight of the Jewish people during the holocaust. The talking points and imagery used on the stickers in particular equate the perceived “struggle” of covid-hoaxers to the oppression and persecution Jewish people as well as other marginalised groups faced during the horrors of the Holocaust. This is not only antisemitic and disgusting in itself, but alongside this, much of the White Rose focus on traditional Nazi dog whistles focusing on “elites”, and “shady cabals” who supposedly run the world. Meanwhile far right groups and agitators essentially use the group as a recruiting and radicalisation ground, posting links to their own groups and various types of propaganda. While moderators on the main channel take down explicit calls for violence, the message remains clear.
Covid conspiracy theorists and White Rose have also continued to try and build a serious hatred against East and South East Asian people in the UK fuelling attacks in the street in multiple cities and building a stronger right wing anti-China narrative. This has prompted a response from groups like Stop Asian Hate UK (SAHUK) who emerged during the pandemic to respond to these attacks. On one occasion at a central London Stop Asian Hate Rally that took place at the same time as a “Freedom Rally”, an organiser for SAHUK was even physically attacked by a Covid Hoaxer further cementing the need for physical responses to conspiracy theorists.
Their protests have been attended and supported by neo-Nazi group “Pie ‘n’ Mash Squad”, far right party “For Britain”, and other far right groups such as Rock Against Communism – A loose front group for the extreme Neo-Nazi Blood and Honour network (see photo) and others including radical right wing Christian groups. Similar things have been observed in countries like Germany where photos of neo-Nazis have been taken marching alongside the sister movement of White Rose in the country. The willingness of covid-hoaxers to walk alongside far right groups and individuals shows a tolerance for their ideas and actions which is unacceptable and dangerous, particularly when placed into an already antisemitic movement. As the expression goes “If there’s a Nazi at the table and 10 other people sitting there talking to him, you have a table with 11 Nazis.”
A similar dynamic takes place in the online spaces of covid hoaxers, with white rose being one of a number of telegram channels and facebook groups where neo-Nazis are free to spread propaganda without consequence. The
main White Rose chat channel itself is frequently filled with antisemitic posts, and many groups have inserted themselves into this mix with ease. For example in “StandupX”, one of the groups coordinating “Freedom Rallies”, members of neo-Nazi Patriotic Alternative are free to send links, images and try and recruit like in the image seen here where a link is sent from leader of Neo-Nazi “Patriotic Alternative”, and noted pedophile Mark Collett’s channel.
Although not every attendee or sticker-wielding member of The White Rose is a convinced believer in far right ideology or Neo-Nazism, this free association with the far right combined with their racist messaging means that for all intents and purposes the White Rose as a group should be treated as far right by antifascists across the board. In an ideal world, this would have already happened throughout the pandemic.
White Rose and other conspiracy theorists present themselves as the victims of pandemic “tyranny” from the government, “forced” to wear masks and to get vaccinated; the real victims of the pandemic have been the millions left dead by the virus and by refusing masks and vaccinations, covid hoaxers practice an active attack on anyone vulnerable to Covid-19. However, furious denialism is rife in the antivaxx movement, with many adherents refusing to believe that people have even died, insisting that the real hoax is the pandemic itself, rather than say, any of the snake-oil sold to them by the huge array of scammers and grifters that infest online anti-vaccine spaces
It is very clear now that The White Rose and the “movement” of covid hoaxers are in a radicalisation spiral with “activists” now choosing to target schools in what is becoming some of their most sinister actions. A group called Outreach Worldwide was recently reported on the front page of the Daily Mail, for coordinating the mass harassment of schools. We have been monitoring that particular group, and several others of a similar nature for several months, since their appearance on the scene in late summer, and may post more material on them shortly.
Other countries have also seen similar phenomena. Antifascists based in North America have noticed an uptick in anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists in their local areas are advised to read this writeup from Dirty South Right Watch which also touches on White Roses growing development in the so called USA. The anti-vaccine movement has also exploded in Australia, with large protests fighting the Australian police earlier this year, and a rapid increase in the number of users in white rose chats identifying as Australian, and sharing videos of the demonstrations at around the same time.
White Rose is a clear attempt to build an agitated, populist street movement in the UK, aimed entirely at the enemies of the far right. It is important that people step up to remove their propaganda safely by using keys or your own stickers (While uncommon, razor blades have apparently been placed behind white rose stickers more than once) and challenge anyone you know spouting their dangerous ideology.
This article is unlikely to be our last on this subject. Expect more from us regarding the White Rose and its various allies and offshoots.
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