Why do many people in Balkans believe that Corona does not exist and that 5G is a conspiracy connected to Bill Gates? Recently, I read an article by weekly columnist Hynek Pallas who often writes about Central Europe in Swedish speaking daily media as Göteborgs Posten. Pallas has reviewed two research book called ”Conspiracy Theories in Eastern Europe” edited by Anastasiya Astapova, Onoriu Colăcel, Corneliu Pintilescu, Tamás Scheibner Routledge, and ”Europe: Continent of Conspiracies” edited by Andreas Önnerfors and André Krouwel.
For example, according to recent research, around 77% of the Western Balkan population believe in conspiracy theories about Covid-19. The case as in Kosovo is that the majority of Kosovar Serbs believe that Bill Gates is behind 5G.
Why is this the case? Beside research about human nature and psychology, there are other and social reasons as well. One main reason is politics because conspiracy theories are created with political agendas and manipulative ambitions. Such agendas are also connected to human emotions in times that are perceived as worrying, dramatic and violent. For millions of people across that used to live or are living in areas that used to parts of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, the collapse of these polities and countries was a personal trauma and anxiety.
The article mentions that Russia has created its own TV show about Chernyboyl as a politically motivated response to the HBO made the show. The Russian government-sponsored show is based on that CIA was behind the nuclear disaster. One can say that conspiracy theory is also used for geopolitical ambitions and nationalism among governments and their supporters.
As written in the article, after the Cold War ended the geopolitical in Europe changed, which also included a change in conspiracy theories ( government-sponsored conspiracy theory making existed in both Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union). As Pallas writes it:
“especially the East was divided between those who wanted to shape societies after Western ideals and those who transformed underground conspiracy theories into politics.”
When it comes to Balkans, with changes as everything from EU-associations to war crimes, and interest spheres of Europe, USA and Russia, the result is also that “geopolitical struggle” leads to more conspiracy theories and conspiracist thinking. For example, where 60% of Serbs and 55% of Croats believed that Yugoslavia was destroyed to implement neo-liberalism.
As Pallas writes it, with globalisation, several popular local level conspiracy theories become global, such as George Soros. The latter has been used conspiracy theories regarding economy, migration and pandemic. And not only that such theories are limited to “alternative media” and portals based on hate, racism and social phobias but even in the “mainstream” or “traditional” media with statements as “Brussel is the new Moscow”.
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