“Evil elite” conspiracy theory has thousands of believers in the Netherlands: report

The conspiracy theory suggesting that the world is secretly controlled by an “evil elite” poses a threat to the democratic rule of law in the Netherlands, according to a report released on Thursday by the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). The Dutch civilian intelligence service estimated that approximately 100,000 people in the Netherlands have subscribed to this form of anti-institutional extremism to varying degrees.

This “evil-elite-narrative” advances the notion that an “evil elite” including governments, judiciary, media, the scientific community, large corporations, and police aims for global dominance at the national and international levels, the AIVD stated. This narrative is “factually incorrect,” the organization said in its report.

They warned that if an increasing number of people continue to propagate it, trust in institutions could erode, with “a risk that the democratic legal order will slowly but surely come under pressure.” This could foster a “parallel society” where faith is lost in both institutions and people.

The “evil elite” narrative is currently the most popular narrative among extremist groups in the Netherlands, which finds resonance among a diverse range of people, extending from right-wing extremists to Islamic extremist groups. The AIVD estimated that approximately 100,000 people in the Netherlands have, to varying degrees, subscribed to these beliefs.

The AIVD stressed that this anti-institutional extremism is not inherently synonymous with right-wing extremism. Despite some overlap in their beliefs, anti-institutional extremists do not necessarily hold anti-Semitic views or endorse white supremacist ideologies.

The narrative suggests that the “evil elite” creates disasters to scare the public to “force the population into obedience, and to roll out its own ‘secret’ agenda,” the AIVD said. This includes disasters like the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, but also more local incidents like the nitrogen emissions issue in the Netherlands and a train derailment in Voorschoten.

While those spreading this message may not directly call for violence, the narrative itself can incite immediate acts of violence against those perceived as representatives of the evil elite. The AIVD noted that there has been a surge in threats against politicians, and other figures like scientists, journalists, judges, and lawyers.

The current environment is fostering anti-institutional extremism, the report explained. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, more Dutch citizens have exhibited skepticism towards the government and institutions like the scientific community and the media. Scandals such as the settlement of the earthquake damage in Groningen and the childcare allowance scandal also spurred increased criticism of the government.

“Trust in government and institutions is low and there is often a lot of justified criticism, but this can become a breeding ground for anti-institutional extremism,” the report read.

As this trend stems mostly from the dissatisfaction of people who feel neglected by the government, the AIVD pointed out the importance for government, scientific bodies, media, and the judiciary to establish or re-establish trust with society by demonstrating their trustworthiness and communicating reliably.

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