Contested Narratives of the Pandemic Crisis: the Far Right, Anti-Vaxxers and Freedom of Speech

Cowden, Stephen ORCID: 0000-0002-2549-8760 and Yuval-Davis, Nira ORCID: 0000-0002-6446-386X (2022) Contested Narratives of the Pandemic Crisis: the Far Right, Anti-Vaxxers and Freedom of Speech. Feminist Dissent, 6. pp. 96-132. doi:10.31273/fd.n6.2022.1264

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This paper seeks to open a discussion about the role played by the extreme right within the contemporary ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement as it has developed during the recent Covid-19 pandemic. While supporters of this movement are politically diverse, we see the far right as having used the Covid crisis as a significant opportunity to place their conspiratorial narrative before a wider audience, where a rhetoric of victimisation around pandemic related restrictions masks their deep authoritarianism and profound racism and misogyny. We discuss ‘white replacement’ theory as the key idea which animates the contemporary far right, in both its secular and religious manifestations, and we argue that this theory has offered the framework for the far right’s opposition to vaccinations and public health related restrictions. Throughout the pandemic, the far right’s use of conspiracy theory and calculated disinformation, particularly in the online space, has thrown up considerable dilemmas in relation to issues of freedom of speech for progressives. We conclude by discussing how the feminist anti-racist left must continue to defend freedom of speech in the face of this, but that this understanding needs to be informed by a conception of the ‘common good’.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Additional Information: Special Issue
Uncontrolled Keywords: Covid-19 Pandemic; Extreme Right; Radicalisation; Anti-vaxxers
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology.
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Health and Social Care
Research Priority Areas: Society and Learning
Depositing User: Stephen Cowden
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2022 13:01
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2023 10:27

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