Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication. The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

“The New World Order behind the green mask”: White nationalism, anti-semitism, and the Agenda 21 climate change conspiracy theory

Lauren Cagle's picture
Cagle, Lauren
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Scholarly papers

Conspiracy theories abound about seemingly every aspect of our modern lives, and climate change is no exception. One of the most developed climate change conspiracy theories posits that claims of anthropogenic climate change are a cover for the United Nations and its allies to strip nations of their sovereignty and impose global governance. This paper presents an analysis of the rhetorical strategies used on the “Democrats Against U. N. Agenda 21” conspiracy theory website to frame climate change, sustainability, and the U.N. as existential threats to democracy and freedom. Using qualitative content coding via NVivo, this analysis addresses the following research questions: 1) What scientific, political, and other types of arguments the website presents against climate change? 2) What rhetorical strategies are used to make these arguments? 3) How these rhetorical strategies draw on and refer to the rhetoric of white nationalism and anti-semitism? The rhetorical strategies in use across this site--including dog-whistle terminology, type design, appeals to nationalist values, and topoi shared with other conspiracy theories--reveal the Agenda 21 conspiracy’s roots in white nationalism and anti-semitism. This research furthers rhetorical scholarship on conspiracies and their use of evidence. When these environmental conspiracy theories overlap with far-right ideologies, such as white nationalism, they present an opportunity to better understand both. Particularly given recent events in which white nationalists and anti-semites have been radicalized online and encouraged to violence, understanding these discourse hopefully will also provide avenues to combating their potency.