Russia, Conspiracies and Useful Idiots

Aug. 1, 2022

Again with the conspiracy theories.

You’re never done with conspiracy theories. They’re like Whack-A-Mole, except that the only amusement they afford is the occasional grim chuckle.

I wasn’t chuckling very hard when I saw the latest iteration of the conspiracy theories that have been swirling around the food supply chain. This one is somewhat less amusing than the last, which had to do with people setting fires at, and deliberately crashing planes into, food plants to keep prices high. No, this time we’re back to a favorite old target of conspiracy theorists: “The Jews.”

England’s deliciously named “Network Contagion Research Institute” (NCRI) told The Guardian that a number of accounts on QAnon and similar sites are trying to link food supply problems to a “cabal of shadowy, and often Jewish elites [that are] bringing about the ‘New World Order.’” The organization pointed to a post by a QAnon influencer who is known for anti-Semitic screeds: “Never believe for one moment there’s a shortage of anything. Food. Water. Oil. They create and manufacture these shortages. These aren’t naturally occurring whatsoever.” Three guesses who “they” are.

It would be bad enough if this were just garden-variety blood-libel anti-Semitism – but it’s worse. Theories like this are an attempt to deflect the blame for the food situation from Russia, which has roiled food commodity markets, especially in grains and oilseeds, with its invasion of Ukraine.

NCRI notes that Russian state and proxy media have been pushing the line that the West is to blame for the food shortages because, I dunno, they forced Putin to invade or something. Now the blame-somebody-else line is being taken up by online conspiracy theorists. NCRI further notes that there’s a lot of overlap between the people engaging in conspiracy theories about food now and the ones who pushed them about COVID vaccines when they first came out.

It also notes that the disinformation about COVID had a practical, if negative, effect: furthering distrust in Western governments and institutions. That’s also what the current online nonsense about the food supply chain is doing.

So Russia starts ridiculous rumors, its agents (or useful idiots) amplify them, and the U.S. and the rest of the West is weakened as a result. Gee, sounds almost like...a conspiracy.

HELP US CHOOSE THE GREEN PLANT OF THE YEAR

Help choose the most sustainable food or beverage plant of the past year or two in Food Processing's Green Plant of the Year poll. This year, we have three nominees: Flowers Foods' Lynchburg, Va., bakery; Tyson Foods' Joslin, Ill., beef complex; and Vital Farms' egg facility in Springfield, Mo. Read their persuasive essays and vote for your fave through Aug. 29. The plant with the most votes wins and will be profiled in our October issue.