Who wouldn’t reveal what is kept out of sight by those who do not have our best interests at heart? Although it is not only the far right that claims to be in the know about sinister plots, they certainly provide a steady stream of such revelations.
Amongst recent ones, the “great replacement” stands out as an attempt to capture the imagination of the public. According to this ethno-nationalist theory, the “indigenous European—e.g., white—population is being replaced by non-European immigrants.” Yet since the second half of 2020, “the great reset” (TGR) conspiracy theory has been making rounds on the internet too.
World Economic Forum
In 2020, the need for a reset was presented by Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), in terms of reimagining capitalism in a post-pandemic world. As per the WEF, there is an “urgent need for global stakeholders to cooperate in simultaneously managing the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. To improve the state of the world, the World Economic Forum is starting The Great Reset initiative.”
The Politics of Recognition vs. Redistribution
The World Economic Forum brings together high-profile figures from politics and business every year in Davos. So, with the WEF pushing the initiative, it is no surprise that it has become a gift for conspiracy theorists. “Globalists” have been accused of using — or even orchestrating — the COVID-19 pandemic to rebuild and take control of the world economy, with a liberal-cosmopolitan elite executing the next step in a quest to overcome resistance.
In an article for The Intercept about TGR, Naomi Klein, a Canadian-American writer and activist, talks about the difficulties to critically engage with the WEF project from a progressive perspective. She also points out that the initiative does provide “a coronavirus-themed rebranding of all the things Davos does anyway.” In her typical style, Klein summarizes the plan as encompassing “some good stuff that won’t happen and some bad stuff that certainly will and, frankly, nothing out of the ordinary in our era of ‘green’ billionaires readying rockets for Mars.”
So, while there is ample space for criticism, far-right groups have been working on turning TGR into an umbrella for their political agenda. Globally, readers might have encountered such attempts. In November 2020, a video of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a UN meeting began circulating. In the clip, Trudeau says that the pandemic provided an opportunity for a “reset.” After the video went viral, he stated that thinking about such a reset in terms of a conspiracy theory arises from people “looking for reasons for things that are happening to them … we’re seeing a lot of people fall prey to disinformation.”
The Far Right
Against this background, the following briefly summarizes key aspects of TGR as they have circulated among the German-speaking far right. The cover pages of Compact, a German radical-right magazine, and the monthly of the extreme-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) have illustrated the conspiracy theory. An offshoot of the Austrian Identitarian Movement published a webpage, distributed leaflets and organized information booths called “info-zones” about TGR. These examples assert that the conspiracy attempts to put the form of globalization that existed prior to the pandemic on steroids. Rather than limiting globalization, which some claim enabled the worldwide spread of the coronavirus, even more of the same old medicine is being administered.
In an interview with the NPD monthly, Alexander Dugin, the Russian far-right ideologue, says that TGR is both the latest attempt by “globalists” and “the final battle” that is openly totalitarian and characterized by censorship, political repression and homicide. With the exaggerated help of the media, homogenous opinions allegedly rule.
Various sources use the term , the process through which the Nazis established total control over German society, to describe what is unfolding today. Compact magazine claims we are already in 1934 (and not in 1933 when the Nazi Party took the first steps toward ) as, apparently, the global, totalitarian takeover began last year. Unsurprisingly, the WEF, the European Union and politicians like German Chancellor Angela Merkel are said to be the villains of the story.
As TGR is supposed to move the public even closer toward a global government, it not only endangers sovereignty and democracy, but also peoples and cultures. That is, conspiracy theorists claim that TGR aims to destroy existing bonds and structures through repeated lockdowns so as to provoke calls for and install a new world order. Or, as Martin Sellner puts it in a video dedicated to TGR, “here, we see one of the basic principles of universalist, globalist, totalitarian ideologues. Also, by the way, a basic principle of the Freemasonry, expressed, entirely free of conspiracy-theoretical wrong tracks: the world has to be built up.”
While such far-right views are hardly news, perhaps the most interesting attack is directed against transhumanism. By merging the digital with the physical world, the ruling elite, according to the Great Reset Stoppen website, enables “total surveillance.” As a result, global dictatorship becomes possible and a once rooted, cultural being is turned into a “socially isolated consumer” slave. Such a person is someone without property and privacy, and one who is not even encouraged to meet and mingle with others face to face. Hence, US tech companies are also on the list of villains.
None of this is new, but TGR offers a framework for a wide range of far-right ideas, a rhetorical space into which diverse claims can be made. These include the “great replacement” as well as “patriotic” opposition to climate policies and Big Pharma and Big Tech. This time, those in the business of “revealing” sinister plots can even point to what is directly said by the World Economic Forum. Whether TGR will unite the far right’s stories and appeal to wider segments of the public remains to be seen.