Conspiracy Influencers Bandwagon on Farmers’ Protests

From Reuters:

French and Belgian farmers angry about rising costs, EU environmental policies and cheap food imports blocked highways and access roads to a major container port on Tuesday as the protests spread across Europe… Farmers say they are not being paid enough, are choked by excessive regulation on environmental protection and face unfair competition from cheap imports.

Part of “not being paid enough” concerns a power imbalance with supermarkets: French farmers have also targeted Lidl and Aldi for protests. In the UK, the “Get Fair About Farming Campaign” has highlighted that “almost half (49%) of British fruit and veg farmers fear they will go out of business within the next 12 months”, and that 75% see “supermarket behaviour” as a “leading factor”.

One might see scope here for an obvious left-of-centre critique of neoliberalism; however, the Financial Times recently noted a protest in Brussels “organised by MCC Brussels, a think-tank backed by the arch-Eurosceptic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán”, and how “liberal and leftwing politicians fear that rural groups are being radicalised by far-right parties and Eurosceptic groups prepared to grasp any cause as a way to infiltrate mainstream politics ahead of EU elections in June.”

Meanwhile, the conspiracy milieu is also getting in on the act: if farmers are finding their work economically unsustainable, this is because of “globalists”, while “regulation on environmental protection” is based on bogus, corrupt science and scaremongering. As claimed in a recent documentary made by the Falun Gong media outlet NTD (previously noted here) entitled No Farmers No Food: Will You Eat The Bugs?, farmers are being “attacked” by governments, who want to control the food supply and move populations over to an insect-based diet. On social media, the German-inflected phrase “you vill eat ze bugs” is used to signal belief that the whole thing is being orchestrated by Klaus Schwab, whose reward for decades of self-promotion and elite networking is to find himself at the centre of many conspiracists’ thinking as an all-poweful bogeyman who for some reason nobody noticed until a few years ago.

The phrase “No Farmers, No Food” has also been around for a while, and over the past week or so it has been used as the name of a new account on Twitter/X (@NoFarmsNoFoods) which has now amassed more than 40,000 followers. The account is controlled by UK conspiracy influencer James Melville; although his name does not appear, striking similarities of rhetoric were obvious from the beginning, and he has confirmed his involvement in an interview with James Freeman, the former Brexit Party MEP who more recently has been working with vaccination misinformation spreader Aseem Malhotra. Inevitably, “merchandise” is promised, but it’s also a vehicle to promote other influencers, or those who seek to become such: a scroll through the account’s feed brings up endosements from the likes of Neil Oliver and Alan Miller of the Together Declaration, as well as links to a website infamous for attempting to smear Chris Packham. A number of posts focus on “net zero”, reflecting Melville’s views that climate science is bogus and that summer wildfires have no significance beyond an apparent rise in arsonists.

More generally, Melville has also promoted the idea that food distribution in the USA is under attack from supposedly mysterious fires and cattle deaths, presumably with a view to creating artificial shortages. He also complains about the extent of Bill Gates’s ownership of agricultural land in the US: this, though, is less a principled critique of monopoly capitalism than an objection to Gates as an especially malign individual. Last year, Melville suggested that Gates may be planning to contrive an pandemic to hamper the 2024 Presidential elections.

UDPATE: Meanwhile, John Bye has drawn attention to a group called the “People’s Food and Farming Alliance”. He describes it as “a spin-off from alternative medicine group the People’s Health Alliance. Unsurprisingly they promote homeopathy for farm animals, as well as growing your own food in case the government collapses our food supply”.

UPDATE 2: As a good example of how the media works, Melville was invited onto an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today devoted to the protests (at 17.27), during which he denied that his campaign has any “political slant”. However, he was followed by Leceistershire farmer Joe Stanley, who warned against genuine grievances being “wrapped up win conspiracy theories and some sort of extremist dogmas”on farming social media. Asked about “No Farmers No Food”, he notes:

Just from looking at their output, there’s a lot of talk around things such as “elites”, anti-climate change messaging, anti-net zero messaging, and then if you follow through the sorts of accounts that they in turn are re-Tweeting, there’s a lot of that sort of content which is coming from the right of the political spectrum.

Stanley is the author of Farm to Fork: The Challenge of Sustainable Farming in 21st Century Britain (Quiller, 2021), and he probably came to the BBC’s attention because of a letter in Farmer’s Weekly, published under the heading “Be Careful of Far-Right Farming Rhetoric”.

UPDATE 3 (11 February): The Reclaim Party’s Laurence Fox has drawn attention to a “No Farmers No Food” Tweet from James Melville, adding:

Britain’s brilliant, hardworking and crucial farmers should look very carefully into who has nominated themselves to represent them.

This got a “like” from Fox’s conspiracist girlfriend Liz Barker (CaliforniaFrizz, aka “Betty”), who was previously in a relationship with Melville (H/T @qandamazon).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.