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PoliticsJune 8, 2022

Conspiracy theorists are losing their shit over a clip of Jacinda Ardern in New York

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The meeting at a mega-investor’s New York HQ was so secretive and sinister that the prime minister enthusiastically posted about it on social media.

The online misinformation machine is insatiable, feeding on grains of truth to make mountains of bullshit about, you know, the secretive deep state cabal that rules the world. Jacinda Ardern is a recurring character in this fabulist universe, often cropping up in the company of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, all of whom are baselessly portrayed as puppets of octogenarian World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab and the new world order plot.

One such grain was found in Ardern’s recent American trip. Specifically, her participation in a meeting hosted at BlackRock. Suitably scratchy footage of Ardern leaving the massive, multinational manager of financial assets has flooded the usual social media channels in recent days, complete with horrified stage-whispers ranging from hyperbole to outright fabrications.

Ardern, pantomimed one of many articles on an American misinformation-strewn pseudo-news site, was shown to be “a pawn doing the bidding of the New World Order”. “Someone just got busted coming out of BlackRock,” posted another conspiracist Twitter account with “Redpill” in the username on Saturday. “Was this the real reason she was in the US, and used the meeting with Biden as cover?” The tweet was re-posted by more than 5,000 accounts, with the accompanying video as of yesterday viewed more than 570,000 times. 

Among those who shared it was Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser who received a pardon from the then president over charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He declared that the “most ‘WOKE’ of any country head” had “gone to genuflect” at BlackRock.

A similar clip was posted by Disclose.tv, the Germany-based disinformation firehose which, as reported by the local public broadcaster, “began as a conspiracy forum for swapping UFO stories [but] has turned into a popular news aggregator dispensing conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine content”. Its video has been viewed more than 860,000 times on Twitter and more than 200,000 on Telegram.

The nakedly QAnon conspiracy theorists got in on the act, too. “New Zealand’s pro-tyranny PM Jacinda Ardern is filmed coming out of the globalist Death Star financial headquarters at BlackRock,” gurgled one prominent QAnon account on Gab, the social network beloved by the far-right. Endless comment threads filled with the usual screeds of invective, dystopian fantasy, casual comparisons to Nazism and a big serving of misogyny. Naturally, New Zealand’s own disinformation groups eagerly shared it.

But just how insidious and secretive was Ardern’s BlackRock visit? So insidious and secretive that you can find evidence of it on, well, her own Facebook page on the day it happened.

Tagging along on the US visit was a trade delegation, with Ardern promising to provide face time for New Zealand business owners who might otherwise struggle to get an email opened. Of the BlackRock meeting – widely trailed in the mainstream media – Stuff’s political editor wrote: “The business delegation in attendance were clearly wowed by the access they managed to get by riding the PM’s coat-tails but also took away a lot from it.” 

The videos, with their swirling online audience in the millions, have two principal origins. One is a New Zealand based TikTok user, with 20,000 followers, who posted a shaky video of Ardern leaving BlackRock HQ, adding his own commentary: “What is Jabcinda doing coming out of BlackRock? … That is freaking scary.” He went on to urge viewers to “share this far and fricking wide”. The other is a Sydney-based disinformation account on Twitter, with 3,500 followers – a small number, but enough to attract the attention of more influential social media users worldwide able to share it far and fricking wide. 

In both cases, the source material came from Newshub. In the TikTok example the images were made muddy by a phone camera recording the television, but in both cases the video was cropped to disguise the fact that it was taken from a very straightforward, unscandalous report for the 6pm news, and made to appear as though the footage was opportunistic, or a stakeout even, rather than Jacinda Ardern leaving a meeting as scheduled.

The conspiratorial froth around Ardern’s visit was especially attractive because it dovetailed with another disinformation theme that has proved popular recently: the falsehood that, in the words of one of the accounts cited above, “BlackRock owns all the major pharmaceutical companies and weapons manufacturers as well as most of the mainstream media”. 

BlackRock does hold stakes in some of these companies, and as a colossal financial player it very much warrants great scrutiny and criticism for its decisions (including whether it has ballsed up its responsibilities to the environment). But the statement above, versions of which are debunked in Reuters fact-checks here and here, is total crap, swimming in a sewer of bullshit.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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