Conspiracism on Social Media

In the past I’ve lamented the apparent flourishing of pseudoscience in the vegan community: anti-vaxxers, mistaken beliefs about GMOs, belief in astrology, and so on. I’ve recently learned that it’s far, far worse than I could have imagined.

I’ve been alerted to an Instagram account that, in addition to promoting veganism, adheres to reprehensible anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Even worse, Instagram is doing nothing about it. This account has hundreds of thousands of followers, many of whom leave supportive comments about how the person running the account is “uncovering” some really heavy stuff.

I’m not talking about people criticizing Israel, which in and of itself is not at all anti-Semitic. I’m talking about people using terms like “Jew world order” to refer to an alleged Jewish conspiracy to kill and/or control the rest of the world.

It’s unbelievably disgusting, and Instagram is doing nothing about it. I’ve reported dozens of posts only to be told that they did not violate their terms of service. I’ve commented on a couple of occasions, only to be deluged with hateful replies in return.

Most troubling for the vegan cause is the fact that their veganism appears to snugly fit inside of their paranoid and conspiratorial conception of the world. They seem to believe that large food companies are in on the conspiracy, and veganism is a form of resistance against it. Meat is poison, or something like it, so stay healthy by avoiding it, seems to be the logic. They’re also apparently opposed to clean meat because it’s “frankenfood” and Bill Gates supports it. Makes perfect sense.

This is upsetting. We should not tolerate these harmful conspiracy theories in our community. Jews are not plotting to take over the world; GMOs are not harmful; not vaccinating your children is delusional; and vegan food is not a form of resistance against a global conspiracy.

We have to call out this grotesque nonsense wherever we encounter it. We have a responsibility to show that these attitudes are not tolerated by our community. Because vegans make up such a small proportion of the population, there is a serious risk that every encounter non-vegans have with a vegan will play a large role in forming their conception of who vegans are, what they believe, and whether or not they’re worth listening to.

The more we call out these hateful people for their bigoted beliefs and opinions, the more people will see that the vegan community is actually quite diverse, and most of us are well worth listening to.


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