Conspiracy Theories, Bots, Trolls and Convoys: Was It Just a Distraction?
During the deep cold of Canadian midwinter, in early February, when the so-called “Freedom Convoy” rolled into Ottawa and settled in, it was something we whispered to each other on Twitter. It sounded outlandish, absurd and hard to imagine. But then, there was so much that didn’t add up.
We were Canadians of Twitter who were understandably wary of this convoy. For some of us, it was because we remembered the precursor: the pre-covid attempt at such a convoy, spearheaded by many of the same people. It wasn’t about mandates then. And wasn’t about mandates now either, though ostentatiously it appeared that way.
We read their memorandum of understanding, a document where they outlined their desire to dissolve parliament and replace our elected branch of the government with a committee of themselves.
But something was strange. This purported to be a grassroots Canadian movement, but the people we were encountering on Twitter were by and large not Canadian. Or they claimed to be but their American spelling and abysmal knowledge of Canadian civics (such as talking about the Canadian president) betrayed otherwise. Many of them were brand new accounts with few followers and no photos.
There were definitely verifiably Canadian pro-Convoy activists online as well and advocating for their beliefs, littered often with the same conspiracy theories that the suspect accounts were pushing. But they were a much smaller voice than the onslaught of suspicious accounts that were flooding my feed and commenting on my tweets.
They were insulting, misogynistic, racist, transphobic, antisemitic, and the list goes on, but they didn’t pull that out right away. They’d start out sounding half reasonable, and as the conversation progressed, they’d get more aggressive. By the end, I’d be called the c-word, or a hag, or any number of misogynistic insults.
I’m a white woman, so they attacked me with misogyny. For others, they had many more marginalizing insults and epithets at the ready.
It’s all stuff we know and have seen before. The trolls are a feature of the internet. It’s normal. Or at least, I should say…