Covid-19: conspiracy in Quebec, a sign of "psychological distress"?

In Quebec, to curb the expansion of the conspiracy movement, the Facebook and YouTube pages of its main leader, Alexis-Cossette Trudel, have been closed. According to Frankie Bernèche, professor of psychology, the popularity of this movement can be explained mainly by psychological causes, while the second wave promises to be more difficult.

In Quebec, the conspiracy movement continues to worry authorities, as the province now has to deal with the "second wave" of Covid-19. According to a study carried out last spring by the University of Sherbrooke, almost 40% of Canadians believe that their governments (provincial and / or federal) are withholding important information about the crisis from them. Figures comparable to those, more recent, from the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, which show that 35% of Quebecers consider that their government does not tell them everything.

Conspiracy in Quebec, a booming movement

In recent months, numerous demonstrations have taken place across Quebec to denounce the extension of health measures and the possibility of a re-containment, which was finally reinstated by the Legault government in early October. Since then, measures have been taken by the Quebec state and municipalities to dissuade supporters of this trend from demonstrating again. Likewise, a motion was unanimously adopted by the National Assembly to condemn the rise of the movement:

"That the National Assembly denounce all forms of threats against scientists, journalists and elected officials, including the Prime Minister; (…) That it recognize that the rise of the conspiracy phenomenon in Quebec is worrying and requires concerted action ", we read in the motion.

Professor of psychology at the College of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (pre-university level), Quebec, Frankie Bernèche believes that the conspiracy movement is rooted first in a "ddenial of the reality of Covid-19".

“There is much more resistance to mask-wearing and other measures today than when the crisis started. (…) When you can't run away or face a threat, people may tend to deny. This is a fairly classic reaction in psychology. (…) When you think about it, the deniers of the crisis are perhaps the most anxious in the population, ”underlines Mr. Bernèche at Sputnik's microphone.

According to the results of a study by a group of researchers from the University of Sherbrooke, "followers of conspiracy theoriesAre very prone to develop anxiety related to the seizure, paradoxically.

More fearful, the opponents of health measures?

Opponents of health measures would thus seek to find answers to the crisis that sometimes do not exist, according to the findings of the survey.

“There is a very strong link between anxiety about illness and therefore fear of being affected by it, financial anxiety, and the tendency to adhere to conspiracy theories,” said one of the researchers involved, Marie-Ève ​​Carignan, in an interview with the Journal de Québec.

According to Frankie Bernèche, tensions are set to be exacerbated in the coming weeks. He observes a phenomenon of "radicalizationAmong the members of the movement:

“The fact that we are in the second wave accentuates this tendency towards denial. In the first wave, we weren't sure what to expect, but now we know very well what we're looking at for the next few months. The second wave hits harder psychologically, so the mechanisms of denial come to the surface more easily. The hope seems less great, "the teacher observes into our microphone.

To curb the movement against health measures, Facebook and YouTube closed the accounts from which its main leader, Alexis-Cossette Trudel, operated. Doctor of religious sciences and former activist for the independence of Quebec, Cossette-Trudel's YouTube channel, Radio-Quebec, had more than 120,000 subscribers before being deactivated by the Web giant. By way of comparison, the main French-language channel of the public broadcaster, Radio-Canada Info, has 275,000 subscribers on YouTube.

“We have clear policies against disinformation regarding Covid-19, and we are developing them in collaboration with global and local public health authorities. (…) Our policies prohibit comments such as saying that the virus is a hoax or that promote medically unfounded remedies, ”argued a statement from Google, which owns YouTube.

In this context, especially on social media, many supporters of Alexis-Cossette Trudel cry censorship and accuse the federal and provincial states of being behind this maneuver.

In any case, according to Frankie Bernèche, “there is more and more psychological distress, whether among conspirators or not".

“Among young people, we have never seen such high levels of anxiety due to Covid and distancing measures. This has never been seen in the scientific literature, ”warns the psychology professor.

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