As the United States crept towards authorizing the rollout of pharma giant Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine this weekend, millions of Americans cheered, ecstatic to see the nation take a key step towards the end of a brutal pandemic that has killed nearly 300,000 of their fellow citizens. The reaction from Corona Chan News (CCN) was decidedly more negative. CCN bombarded its readers on the messaging platform Telegram with links and commentary about the supposed dangers of taking a dose of the vaccine, which has in fact proven safe in major trials. Most of the links lead to articles from reputable sources analyzing, for instance, legitimate concerns about potential allergic reactions to the vaccine and discussing the details of a rollout. But the channel’s commentary spun these stories into evidence of nefarious plots to track, sterilize, or mutilate citizens. Within hours of a key FDA panel approving the vaccine’s U.S. debut on Thursday, the channel posted, “Here comes genocide.” The channel, which has just over 6,000 subscribed followers but a much larger overall daily view count and a line into wider social media networks, has also tried to mobilize its followers to convince those around them not to take the vaccine. “Your goal this week is to tell 5 people directly that the vaccine has the potential to sterilize people,” it posted last Sunday. “Family and friends first.” This may sound like run-of-the-mill hardcore anti-vaxxer conspiracy rhetoric, the depressingly common background noise of the pandemic. But CCN isn’t actually an anti-vaxxer channel. It’s a militantly white nationalist space created in early February “as a content aggregator for disinformation promoting a racist outlook on the pandemic,” as an April report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that attempts to understand and develop responses to extremism, put it. At least a half-dozen organizations to counter extremism, hate, and terrorism have been monitoring it since the spring, including an arm of the United Nations.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen how easily and quickly an online conspiracy can result in acts, sometimes violent, in the real world. — Mollie Saltskog
The channel only recently pivoted to making, and calling for the spread of, anti-vaxxer rhetoric, apparently because they believe that they can co-opt that movement to destabilize America and take advantage of the ensuing chaos. That’s not a deep reading of CCN’s motives; the channel is open and explicit about its aim, and about the fact that it doesn’t necessarily want to bring anti-vaxxers into the neo-Nazi fold, just push them into ugly conflict with authorities that white nationalists can exploit. It’s also very clear about the fact that this scheme is just a part of a wider conviction, shared by many far-right groups, that the coming months are going to be a shitshow of pain and unrest in America, and that they must milk that misery for all it’s worth. “It’s a win that we’re not the only ones hurting,” this winter, CCN said in a recent post. “All the normal Whites are being brought down to our level of disenfranchisement.” “We must further radicalize the anti vaccine [sic] movement,” another post read. “They have the potential for extremism against the system…. Encourage militancy. The racial angle can be used or it can be avoided for wider reach. Propaganda memes will be essential for this effort.” “Our efforts must be focused on discouraging as many people (only Whites) from taking [the vaccine] as possible,” read another. “This will force the system’s hand to escalate. Rebellion will grow in response to their clampdown on anti vaxxers [sic] and this works in our favor.”

via daily beast: Coronavirus – The ‘Terrorgram’ Plot by Neo-Nazis to Seduce Anti-Vaxxers