CW: Antisemitism, suicide
For my own safety and at the request of some of my subjects, I will not be posting interviews from now on. If you believe you have a compelling reason to see them, please email me.
To most people, the 14th of June ’21 was when Boris Johnson would announce an extension to the national lockdown. The Delta COVID Variant has seen increasing infection rates and hospitalizations.
To protesters, it was described as ‘Judgement Day’ on Telegram, a time for a ‘Great Awakening’ when protesters would take the streets of London and halt government business. Below are my main takeaways from the day.
The Media Is The Virus
On Sunday the 13th I tweeted that I would not want to be an official reporter covering this subject. I was right to be concerned. A BBC reporter was chased out of the protest with such hostility that I’m surprised he escaped without a beating. It’s horrific.
The most popular sign of the day was ‘The Media is the Virus’. The hatred was ubiquitous, but there was no shortage of professional camera operators either. Telegram chatter showed the crowd was looking out for the 77th Brigade and ‘Rothschild Controlled Media’.
Fact checks were frequently cited by participants as part of the global conspiracy to lead us to their own personal dystopia. I don’t know how you reach out to these people, but traditional channels are not going to work.
Anti-Semitism is Rife
A through-line with (almost) every participant was that COVID and the lockdowns are part of a plan to depopulate the earth. Another through-line, with every participant, was anti-Semitism. Hate crimes against Jewish people in London have reached unconscionable levels. This has mostly been attributed to leftist anti-Israel sentiment, but it’s also become more prominent in conspiracy circles.
When I interviewed QAnon protesters last year, only one person mentioned Jewish people at all. Another couple were horrified at the suggestion that they might be anti-Semitic. That was not the case on Monday.
A few people still paid lip-service to it just being ‘the Rockefellers’ and ‘Zionists’, but absolutely everyone I talked to was perfectly comfortable blaming Jewish people for COVID 19. One man even took the time to patiently explain Hitler’s revolutionary economic policies, which he believed were the real reason for WW2.
Jesus Is Lord (And Anti-Lockdown)
I was not expecting the Catholic church to feature so heavily in an anti-lockdown protest but the faithful were out in force. A de-frocked priest, a former nun, and a smattering of worshippers made their presence known.
When asked why they were attending, most claimed that they believed lockdowns and “mandatory” vaccinations were against the biblical concept of free will. Depopulation via COVID was called a continuation of abortion, and proselytisers also assured me that this was the best place to “plant seeds” for the lord.
Trump Looms Large
As I set up my camera for the day, before I had started interviewing people, a woman grabbed my arm. “It’s Trump’s birthday today”, she tells me with a big smile. I ask her why that matters and she just nods and walks away.
There were at least four giant Trump flags on display, with many more participants wearing ‘Make England Great Again’ hats. The people I spoke to empathised with Trump’s deplatforming, and noted that “England always follows America”. To them, the fact that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ (which, just to be absolutely clear, it was not) from Trump is a warning of what’s to come.
The ‘Make England Great Again’ hat wearers were freemen of the land inspired by Trump. By their telling, there is no English parliament, instead, the English are oppressed by the British. When I asked who ‘The British’ were the leader responded “You know exactly who they are”.
Q, Lizards, And Assorted Conspiracies
Nobody was willing to talk about Q on camera. The fingerprint of the conspiracy could be seen everywhere, but as one person told me ‘I have about 5% hopium it’s true, but I doubt it’. The rhetoric about saving the children has also shifted. Instead of paedophiles kidnapping kids for nefarious purposes, it was now the more grounded (but still absurd) theory that vaccines were going to murder children.
For conspiracy buffs out there, I did find a Bill Cooper fan in the wild, which was very surreal in 2021 London. (For more on Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars I recommend this episode of the podcast Knowledge Fight)
David Icke was a prominent figure in the story of most people I spoke to. There was a strong parasocial element, with many expressing regret at having ‘abandoned’ him at an earlier point. I was only able to find two people willing to agree that we had Reptilian overlords. They also very earnestly wanted to me know the Pleiadians were fighting back.
“It’s better that then civilized humans doing this to people. I don’t think I could live with that.”
We Have To Get Personal
Two things really stuck out throughout the day. One, was the carnival-esque atmosphere. People were ecstatic to be around people like them. As they carried messages about our collective impending doom, people were laughing and more than happy to mug for the camera.
But even light probing revealed a dark undercurrent of fear and despair. One woman I spoke to had undergone chemotherapy in the past, and was terrified of any additional medical treatments. People spoke about losing their businesses, their jobs. And then there was the sign I still can’t get out of my head:
It was too loud to interview this woman, and I lost her in the crowd. According to the other side of her sign, she’s an NHS worker. I really hope she’s ok, and that someone can get her help.
I don’t have any big answers or a moral takeaway. These people are putting their communities at risk and making life hell for the NHS. They’re part of the reason I have only seen a specialist once in the last year and a half. The increasing calls to violence on Telegram are scaring me, and I don’t think they’re empty threats.
All I can really do is suggest, if you have it in you, that you keep in touch with people in your life who have fallen down this rabbit hole. I think exposure to the real world is the only thing that is going to make a difference.