The latest conspiracy theory adjacent to Covid? The Italian army is here

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A strange rumor circulating around fringe online groups managed to creep into wider social media over the weekend, causing people to wonder, “Is the Italian military in Nova Scotia?” Zealand? And why?’ Dylan Reeve got to the bottom of the claims for IRL.

“DO NOTHING AND THE NZ WILL CONTINUE TO FAST BECOME A FASCIST STATE OF AUTHORITY TYRANNY BY ARDERN”.

So claimed a long message copied over the weekend from a group of groups on Telegram, an instant messaging system with heavily encrypted and self-destructing messages where conspiracies adjacent to Covid have hatched any pandemic. According to the screed, Jacinda Ardern will delay elections, make New Zealand a republic, cancel all private land titles and jail all unvaccinated people in camps set up on reopened New Zealand military bases.

The claims made in the semi-viral post weren’t at all verified, lacked evidence, and were, to put it bluntly, ludicrous – as usual in the world of conspiracy theory. However, two specific claims caught the attention of many New Zealanders on Twitter: that UN troops were coming to New Zealand, presumably under Ardern’s leadership, to take control of our people; and that members of the Italian army were already deployed here for the same purpose.

“UN troops are due to arrive in New Zealand on November 28, 2021,” one claim read, adding that this has been “confirmed by the National Party” (more on this later). “The Italian troops are already there,” said another urgent bullet point.

“THIS IS WHERE IT BECOMES VERY REAL FOR THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO THINK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR IN NZ: RE DELUSIONAL. EACH KIWI WILL BE OWNED BY ARDERN AND SHE CAN DO ANYTHING SHE WANTS WITH HER MILITIA – UN TROOPS RENDERED IN NZ NOVEMBER 28, 2021 (CONFIRMED BY NATIONAL PARTY) – ITALIAN TROOPS ARE ALREADY HERE “. (TELEGRAM MESSAGE / IMAGE: DYLAN REEVE)

Screenshots of the message circulated on Twitter and were downright mocked. “Are they here because they heard about our deep affection for pineapple on pizza?” ” a user asked, while the others seen potential benefits: “With the Italian invasion of New Zealand underway, we’ll finally have good food and a better sense of fashion in this country! “

So, are the UN troops and Italian soldiers there to oppress us? And has the National Party confirmed it?

“No – this is the first time I’ve heard of it,” said National Party Chief Press Secretary John Mitchell, laughing, when reached by phone to answer questions about the imminent invasion of the UN.

Mitchell promised to ask around and answer me if he had found any evidence of a peacekeeper landing force en route, but nothing was done.

Where the hell did these statements come from then? And do they have any basis in reality?

The first mention may have been made on a local Telegram channel on October 18, when a user named “Based Maka” reported seeing “three Italian servicemen in a [Christchurch] supermarket”. On the same day, user “Based Don” warned people of impending disaster, telling users “bad shit is coming” and they should “just fucking get ready”.

When asked by another user for details, “Based Don” simply replied, “Italian soldiers are in New Zealand”.

Days later, an influential British conspiracy theorist likely reinforced the claims when he posted a video “confirming” that a large number of Italian troops were present in New Zealand.

AN INFLUENTIAL BRITISH CONSPIRACY THEORIAN REINFORCED THE AFFIRMATION THAT THE ITALIAN TROOPS WERE IN NEW ZEALAND. (IMAGE: DYLAN REEVE)

But in his story, the troops are not there to support Jacinda’s subjugation of the population. The British conspiracy theorist has subscribed to a more traditional QAnon narrative that sees the military working with global secret “white hats” – a reference to the Gentiles in Western movies – against the Deep State. In In his storyline, heroic Italian soldiers are here, as part of Operation White Hat, to arrest government officials and rescue imprisoned children.

Followers of QAnon ideas were obviously delighted to hear this news. All they needed was “confirmation” of the operation described in the video; an operation that believers were waiting for.

Fairly quickly, a local Telegram user arrived with “evidence” that this was happening. On October 24, “Ruth” reported on an operation to save trafficked children in New Zealand: “1,000 people have just been withdrawn from Te Anau by the Italian army. They specialize in tunnels and build them as well.

That same day, a local conspiratorial influencer who calls himself “The Nelson Knight” had even more details to share. He spoke of Italian special forces carrying out a “cleanup operation” in New Zealand, stopping global elites here. In his story, it’s an “exciting new trajectory” that will see the New Zealand government removed from office in 2022, along with the judges and others who authorized them.

A C130J HERCULES OF THE ITALIAN AIR FORCE TAXI AT CHRISTCHURCH AIRPORT. (PHOTO: DOMINIC OAKES)

Exciting stuff! Except, here, in reality, there is a much simpler explanation. The United States, Italy, Germany and South Korea all operate parts of their Antarctic programs outside of Christchurch. It is therefore not at all unusual, during the summer months, to see military planes like the huge US C-17 Globemaster at Christchurch Airport. With these military planes come military personnel.

In July, Stuff reported that hundreds of Antarctic employees were due to arrive and transit through Christchurch this year, including 150 from Italy in October and November.

“We have an Italian Air Force plane here that takes our Antarctic personnel to the ice,” said Bruce, a local employee who answered the phone at the Italian Antarctic Program’s Christchurch base when The Spinoff called. “In total, around thirty [military staff], they finished MIQ about two weeks ago.

It would be quite likely that Christchurch residents could run into uniformed Italian Air Force personnel at local supermarkets, Bruce suggested.

This simple explanation will not deter conspiracy theorists, however. As with all claims made by these groups, the events they predict will not come true – there will be no mass arrests, no illegal children, no UN invasion. Yet new claims will arise in their place like a mole, and unshakeable faith in some mysterious evil will remain.

One thing is for sure: the next bizarre, panicked warning message won’t be far away.


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