Which ideas do you see as dangerous
"They are looking for the Savior who can set them free" : How dangerous will the "lateral thinkers" movement be in 2021?
Michael Blume (44) is a religious scholar and anti-Semitism commissioner for the state government in Baden-Württemberg. He also runs the podcast “Conspiracy Issues”.
Mr. Blume, the numbers of infected people are increasing, the intensive care beds are scarce - despite this, self-proclaimed lateral thinkers demonstrated against corona measures and vaccinations until the very end in German city centers. How do you explain that?
The movement has already radicalized itself very far. It's a typical process. Imagine joining a movement. They believe that there is really a world conspiracy behind the pandemic. You have already invested a lot of time, possibly also money, because of this you fell out with friends and relatives.
But then something happens that challenges their belief in conspiracies. Now you have two options: Either you write it all off as a loss and come back to reality. Or you escalate further and bury yourself deeper. That's why conspiracy movements always start very broad, but then people jump off. Those who stick with it become radicalized and louder.
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As before, right-wing extremists stand next to religious fundamentalists, anti-vaccination opponents next to Reich citizens. What keeps these people together now?
It is the common enemy of a world conspiracy - an image that is essentially anti-Semitic. The people who come together there, however, often think similarly. We are talking about authoritarian personalities. You learned to distrust others from an early age.
At the same time, they long for a strong leader. They are looking for the Savior who can set them free. This is called tyrannophilia. In the case of religious fundamentalists, it can still be the Lord Jesus. This can also be clearly observed with QAnon ...
... the conspiracy movement that spilled over from the USA to Germany ...
Its followers believe that an elite kidnaps children in order to extract a special substance from their blood. At QAnon, Trump is believed to be the savior. When he lost the election, the supporters could have seen that they were on the wrong track. They'd rather cling to the idea that it was election fraud.
What role do children play in conspiracy movements? In some corona demos, participants apparently brought their children with them.
Children serve two functions in conspiracy movements. On the one hand as a trigger: It is claimed that children are threatened. Lateral thinkers claim that children are suffocated by the masks - which is simply not true. QAnon's narrative is the same myth we had about the witch hunt in the 15th century.
The witch's hammer said that women and Jews would observe the Witches' Sabbath and make witch ointment from children. And on the other hand, children are also used as protective shields during the demonstrations when they are to run right at the front and stand against the police.
Many of the lateral thinkers pretend that a "Corona dictatorship" is being set up here. Do these people really believe that?
At first they just think it's possible. But the deeper they slide in, the more they actually believe it. The internet also makes it very easy to move around completely in an alternative reality. Some of them are highly educated, highly intelligent people who believe in conspiracies.
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Some compare themselves to Sophie Scholl or Anne Frank, they attach a Star of David to themselves - thus compare themselves to those persecuted by the Nazi regime ...
This is of course a complete trivialization of the Holocaust. We call this victim envy: Those who see themselves as victims of a world conspiracy cannot bear to be thought of other victims. Corona victims, for example, or victims of the Nazi regime. That is why you put yourself in their place, present yourself as the new Sophie Scholl and the federal government as the Nazi regime.
Incidentally, that didn't start with Covid-19. We already had people here in Stuttgart at the demos against the diesel driving bans who attached themselves Jewish stars.
Do you have to come to terms with the fact that a small part of society is saying goodbye to a parallel world?
We mustn't give up on anyone and we always have to make offers for people to get out of there. That is why we need drop-out programs - it can best be compared to leaving a sect. But we also need a defensive constitutional state. A backward move by the police, as was the case in Leipzig this autumn, is of no use.
If these people feel they are winning, then they radicalize even more. Authoritarian personalities do not respond to cuddle education. They need clear rules, a clear address and, at the same time, the offer: If you want to get out of there, we'll help you. A well-fortified constitutional state and a warm-hearted civil society - that is what is needed at the moment.
How can you get conspiracy believers to rethink your private sphere?
One can only try to give them time. To recommend a book or a podcast to you, not face-to-face. If you insult people or insult them as Covidiotes, you tend to achieve the opposite of what you want.
Parts of the AfD are trying to ingratiate themselves with the lateral thinkers on the street. Can the party benefit from it?
No party in history has benefited from allying itself with a conspiracy movement. In the US, QAnon supporters are already cursing Republicans for allegedly not standing by Donald Trump enough. The party can never be as radical as the conspiracy movement would like it to be. And conspiracy movements are always essentially anti-democratic. They see the political opponent as absolutely evil and deny him his dignity.
What will happen to the lateral thinkers next year? Front man Michael Ballweg wants to retire for the time being ...
I am already observing signs of decay in this camp. Basically, however, it does not matter under which label conspiracy believers organize themselves. When a group breaks up, new forms of organization emerge. I estimate that in 2021 we will have a major anti-vaccine conspiracy movement gathering to fight the Great Reset.
What's it all about?
"Covid 19: The Great Reset" is actually the title of a book that the founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, wrote. His thesis is that the world is facing a fundamental upheaval and that social and ecological grievances must now be addressed. But those who believe in conspiracies see the book as proof that there was a great plan of the business elite to usurp world domination with the help of Corona. Forced vaccinations are also part of the plan in this myth.
Do you fear that this could negatively affect the willingness to vaccinate?
Unfortunately, that has already started. The fears that were initially directed against the virus are now directed against vaccination.
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