In its report that VRT News has seen OCAD points to recent demonstrations and protests against corona measures organised in recent months. OCAD singles out the recent demo in Brussels that attracted 35,000 demonstrators and in which several organisations joined forces.
The body speaks of a ‘countermovement’, an umbrella that covers all the organisations that were involved and states this movement is securing an ever more prominent position in the public arena.
OCAD says the various organisations are very different. They are not considered organisations with a traditional ideology but for security reasons including terrorism and extremism are being followed. Most were established specifically to oppose corona measures.
Fourteen organisations took part in the demo in Brussels under the banner ‘Together for Freedom’. None can be said to be extremist, though some are in a grey zone.
Far right and extremist right-wing groups also joined the march. OCAD says it can be argued that extremist right-wing actors attempted to use the demo as a channel and instrument.
The watchdog concedes there has been legitimate criticism of corona measures from the start, but more people have now joined the countermovement. OCAD says this must be followed up to ensure intervention is possible if there are problematic developments.
Most organisations oppose vaccination, but disinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news are popular too in these groups. Many people believe the measures are a conscious attempt leading to an authoritarian state or dictatorship. On social media and the internet people end up in an ideological bubble where they only receive information that supports their worldview.
The fact that the governments promised a return of freedoms as a result of vaccinations and that didn’t happen has fuelled dissatisfaction. As a result of this support to follow measures has fallen or disappeared entirely among a growing segment of the population.
The report notes that the Covid Safe Ticket also encouraged people who were already unhappy about the pandemic in the direction of more extreme alternatives and conspiracy theories.
OCAD says protests are leading to ever sharper appeals to revolution and tribunals. Politicians, scientists, and the regular media are seen as adversaries. They regularly receive threats often via social media.
All this is leading to a tense and polarised climate says the report. Hate speech directed at politicians, scientists and the media is becoming increasingly acceptable.
‘Interventions’ have been made affecting people who were responsible for online messages in order to prevent physical violence.
The pandemic is not set to disappear soon. More variants, more waves and more measures are a possibility. OCAD says it’s hard to judge whether the countermovement will be able to retain the momentum that increased strongly in recent months and whether this will lead to further radicalisation and possible acts of violence.
OCAD expects resistance to be at its height when new measures are taken in the run up to new waves. Mandatory vaccination too could trigger dissent.
“Sensitivities and the dialogue on many social media platforms are very emotional increasing the risk of counterreactions”.