Issue goes beyond delusions of conspiracy theorists

Actions that deny the legitimacy of an elected government and attempt to overthrow it with violence are a grave challenge to democracy. The situation must not be brushed under the rug by blaming it on delusional conspiracy theories.

Germany’s federal prosecutors office has detained 25 people, including members of a far-right group, for plotting to overthrow the government. They allegedly aimed to establish their own state through violent means, and some members are suspected of planning to storm the Reichstag parliament building.

Followers of the conspiracy theory-promoting QAnon were reportedly involved in the plot, which envisaged that one of the alleged ringleaders, a man from an old aristocratic family, would become the leader of a “new nation.” A former member of the military special forces and a former lawmaker of a right-wing party were also allegedly involved in the plot. It is a serious problem.

The alleged plotters, who held different professions and hailed from different backgrounds, were united under a delusion that they would deny the existing state power and create a new government led by themselves. This is in keeping with QAnon conspiracy theories in which it is claimed that a deep state is controlling the world.

The backlash against the German government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been cited as a reason for outrageous claims spreading through society. When infections surged, people who opposed the lockdowns, vaccinations and mask-wearing staged demonstrations.

Mistrust of the government, which has mounted due to the pandemic, has apparently brought together people who are dissatisfied with the status quo — regardless of ideology — under the banners of “freedom” and “resistance” and created an environment in which conspiracy theories can prevail.

Fake news and inaccurate information on social media are believed to have triggered such trends.

Whatever the logic, the act of rejecting the role of the parliament and speech and destroying democracy is unacceptable. The current situation, in which more and more people are suffering because of the soaring prices of goods and energy, also risks destabilizing society and spreading radicalism. Each nation should be more vigilant.

The United States, the leader of democracy, bears a particularly heavy responsibility. The incident in which a mob of supporters of then U.S. President Donald Trump broke into the Capitol building in Washington in January last year appears to resonate with this German case.

Trump has maintained a certain level of political influence and announced his candidacy for the next presidential election without accepting the outcome of the presidential election he lost. It is a grave situation.

In Japan, too, members of a conspiracy theory-promoting anti-vaccine group claiming to be the Japanese arm of QAnon were arrested for allegedly breaking into a COVID-19 vaccination site. It is necessary to monitor the movements of various organizations and nip violence in the bud.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2022)