White Supremacist Odinist Cult : Resurgence of Conspiracy Theories and Extremist Trials: Weekly Roundup
In a time when conspiracy theories continue to flourish on social media platforms, a recent study reveals the alarming resurgence of unfounded theories linking government COVID-19 lockdowns to alleged election fraud. The study, exclusively shared with USA TODAY, sheds light on the unsettling reality that social media platforms are taking insufficient measures to combat these narratives. Simultaneously, a double-murder trial in Indiana has taken a bizarre turn, as the defense contends that a white supremacist Odinist cult played a role in the crime. Additionally, a white supremacist from West Virginia has pleaded guilty to threatening jurors involved in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial. Here’s an overview of the week in extremism.
Plus: How a COVID-election conspiracy theory caught fire, and a conviction for Ray Epps in insurrection. It’s the week in extremism from USA TODAY. https://t.co/fb9z9vGWWk
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 22, 2023
Resurgence of COVID Election Conspiracy Theories on Social Media
Recent weeks have witnessed the rapid spread of a conspiracy theory through social media channels. The theory suggests that rising COVID-19 infections will be used as a pretext for implementing new lockdowns, which, in turn, will facilitate widespread mail-in voting and ultimately manipulate the outcome of the 2024 election. This theory, despite being thoroughly debunked, has gained significant traction.
A study conducted by Advance Democracy reveals alarming statistics: approximately 32,480 posts related to COVID and mail-in ballots were found on X (formerly Twitter) alone, marking the highest monthly total since November 2020. Disturbingly, the study underscores the unchecked propagation of these theories, with only a single post out of tens of thousands being flagged by social media fact-checkers. X has seemingly abandoned its efforts to combat election disinformation, allowing these unfounded narratives to persist.
Brian Hughes, associate director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University, highlights the potency of COVID denialism in uniting certain political movements, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this issue.
White Supremacist Odinist Cult Implicated in Indiana Double-Murder Case
In a shocking twist, defense attorneys for Richard Allen, charged with the 2017 murder of two young girls in Indiana, filed a 136-page memorandum this week. They allege that crucial evidence pointing to a white supremacist Odinist cult’s involvement in the victims’ murder was ignored by prosecutors.
The memo contends that the search warrant executed at Allen’s home in October 2022 was based on flawed probable cause. It also asserts that 13-year-old Abigail Williams and 14-year-old Liberty German were victims of a ritual killing conducted by multiple individuals affiliated with the Odinist sect, not Allen.
Odinism, originally an ancient Nordic pagan religion, has been co-opted by white supremacists in the United States and beyond, resulting in numerous murders and acts of terrorism. The defense argues that evidence linking the double-murder to Odinism was concealed, including the presence of sticks arranged at the crime scene to resemble Odinist runes.
White Supremacist Threatens Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Jury
In a separate development, a white supremacist from West Virginia, Hardy Carroll Lloyd, has pleaded guilty to threatening members of the jury overseeing the case of another white supremacist who perpetrated the Pittsburgh synagogue attack in 2018, claiming the lives of 11 congregants.
Lloyd targeted jurors based on their perceived Jewish faith, facing charges for making threats on social media and sending threatening emails during the trial of Robert Bowers, the perpetrator of the synagogue shooting. He could be sentenced to up to six years in prison. Bowers himself received a death sentence last month.
Statistic of the Week: One
Former Marine Ray Epps, known for urging demonstrators on January 6th, pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge this week. Epps had been a central figure in a far-right conspiracy theory alleging his involvement as an FBI plant at the January 6th insurrection, tasked with inciting insurrection.
Epps’s recent charge has sparked skepticism among some far-right influencers, who argue that the minimal charge only reinforces their conspiracy theory. This development underscores broader concerns, as over 100 identified January 6th rioters have yet to face charges, including those captured on video committing acts of violence, as reported by USA TODAY in March.
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