Adrian Monk is Managing Director of the World Economic Forum.
Have nothing, be happy. You may have heard the phrase. It started life as a screenshot, picked up from the internet by an anonymous anti-Semitic account on the 4chan photo board. “Have nothing, be happy – the 2030 World Jewish Order,” said the post, which has gone viral among extremists.
How did a headline turn years ago into a far-right meme and slogan picked up by mainstream conservative politicians? What is the truth behind this title?
The story begins in 2016 with Publish an opinion article On the World Economic Forum’s agenda by Danish MP Ida Oken under the headline “Welcome to 2030: I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.”
It was part of a series of articles intended to stir debate about social and economic developments. This was a time when the “apps” economy was booming, and the commissioning editor had previously worked for the conservative British newspaper The Telegraph. The article gained a number of respected readers and lived quietly on the site for several years.
Fast forward four years to 2020. The world looked very different. The pandemic was rampant, and the World Economic Forum launched the “Great Reset,” to promote the idea of “building back better” so economies come out greener and fairer from the pandemic.
The pandemic has amplified many societal ills. The mistrust of governments and leaders that had been building prior to the health crisis was in the interest of both fringe groups and state-sponsored actors looking to undermine and weaken opponents. Both came together on the anonymous dark web in places like 4chan’s “politically incorrect” photo board.
The painting, completely unsupervised, was used by Russian propaganda campaign operators. The intent was apparently to spread disinformation in an effort to provoke the far-right’s ire over COVID-19 and perpetuate domestic extremism. The medium was often via bots that would push far-right conspiracy theories into communities on boards like 4chan.
The latter analysis explains how this context brought the extremists together “using a rhetoric that downplays National Socialism and the Holocaust”. This far-right group that denies the Holocaust has taken over the Great Reset group, claiming that the forum was part of a group that “organised the pandemic to control the global economy.”
A number of threads emerged in this context. One thread on 4chan linked the pandemic and the forum’s alleged nefarious control over the global economy with the idea that “you’ll have nothing and you’ll be happy.”
The movie really went viral, capturing the warped imagination of plot and fringe sets. One neo-Nazi and white supremacist website claimed that the Great Reset was a “response to the fake coronavirus crisis” and would lead to “global communism” to ensure “no one can own anything”.
Its popularity has also seen more mainstream figures whistle to dogs while ignoring their anti-Semitic and far-right origins. Threads proliferated, the phrase “Have nothing, be happy” multiplied, and more major news sites, including Fox News and Sky News Australia, embraced it.
Actor and comedian Russell Brand spoke about it in a video that has garnered more than 1.8 million views on Facebook. It was used by Pierre Boliever, who is currently running for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, to discredit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, giving rise to a national movement.
Despite the conclusion of Reuters in February 2021, that “the World Economic Forum has no stated goal of people having nothing and being happy by 2030,” the trolling continues.
Users on Twitter and Facebook, for example, have posted fake content to promote the lie that the forum is progressing through the Great Reset malignant Evacuation efforts. These include racist plots that claim that white people are the primary target of population displacement. Bad-willed actors have also targeted the Forum’s coverage of the circular economy (economic systems that aim to eliminate waste through the reuse of raw materials rather than their disposal), describing it as a “top-down agenda” that comes from “unelected globalists aspiring to Reshape the world in their image.” These are just some examples among many.
Since 2013, the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risks Report has cited disinformation as a concern, warning that it could lead to “digital wildfires” in our hyperconnected world.
Today, this warning has been largely confirmed. Disinformation is a serious challenge for regulators, a minefield for individuals looking for facts, and a barrier to governments and organizations that want to publish important information.
The consequences of relentless misinformation are serious. Misinformation regarding COVID-19 and vaccines is costing lives during the pandemic. The revelations about the Capitol Hill riots on January 6, 2021 revealed how false information about elections can threaten the foundations of democracy. And 68 percent of Americans agree, saying that “made-up news harms the country’s democratic system.”
Moreover, the amount of data being generated now, which is expected to nearly quadruple by 2025, makes it easier and cheaper to use algorithms for malicious or manipulative purposes with unprecedented efficiency, speed and range.
“It is important to recognize that disinformation/disinformation is a tactic often used in support of a political strategy. There are many ways in which bad information is traded for political gain. One of the ways in which bad information is traded for political gain,” said Stephen Feldstein, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A classic example is a representative intentionally publishing false, inaccurate or misleading information that causes significant public harm.
“Another group of tactics includes phishing and harassment, which is probably the most common form of misinformation directed against a forum. Phishing and harassment entail the intentional posting of offensive content on the Internet in order to stir up or disrupt conversations.”
The ‘You’ll have nothing and you’ll be happy’ story is anything but trivial and offers valuable insights into how misinformation is created and why it is essential that it not continue to spread.
It also highlights how misinformation derails freedom of expression. At Ms. Oken’s request, the forum has removed all media around her article due to the abuse and threats she encountered online. Actions to prevent lies from being accepted as truth can help avoid similar situations and promote true freedom of expression, allowing us all to freely exchange ideas and opinions.
In a world where trolls often win, more forward-thinking conversations like the one Mrs. Oken tried to start will be sullied.
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