The Quiet Part Out Loud - Conspiracy theories and the rhetoric among activists in Sweden related to the Coronavirus pandemic
Abstract: This thesis deals with a set of organized activist movements during the harshest restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic in Sweden. These groups protested both online and offline against imposed restrictions and vaccinations, displaying a critical attitude towards recommendations and restrictions such as by gathering in large crowds. The study aims to present and problematize the frameworks used by these social activist movements during their demonstrations, and to explore how initial concerns raised by the activist contained notions of anti-vaccination attitudes and signs of conspiracy theories. By collecting thirty-one images, forty-three texts, and fifteen videos (4 hours and 58 minutes) online through a qualitative nethnographical method, I have observed and analyzed how activists present themselves and are presented by others in digital environments. Their alternative understanding and opinion during the pandemic placed them at the fringe of the mainstream views on vaccinations and restrictions. The thesis draws upon the theoretical concept of stigmatized knowledge in combination with framing theory to deconstruct the framework and rhetorical organization of the covid-19 activist groups, and to show how social groups mobilize and rearrange ideas to fit their cause through a chain of frame alignments. Support for these movements within this fringe of society is found to share commonality with far-right attitudes, especially as they view their western state as the enemy and accept propaganda from actors like Russia (Vaken.se, 2022). The expression “quiet part out loud” refers to “publicly express a sentiment which one is expected to keep to oneself; to reveal an ulterior motive” (Wiktionary.org, 2020).
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