Beyond the Fringe: How the Language of Conspiracy Went Mainstream
A V Deggar explains how Alt-Right US Talk Radio sparked a flame that spread across the entire world
In February 2023, thousands of protestors came together to protest low traffic networks (LTNs) in the historic centre of Oxford. The Oxford LTN would “calm” traffic in residential areas by installing traffic filters on six roads across the city. Residents will be able to apply to drive through these filters for up to 100 days per annum with a special permit.
As Otto English reported at the time, these LTNs were quickly equated with the 15-minute city conspiracy, that alleges a shadowy cabal is aiming to cantonise cities in the name of climate lockdowns, keeping citizen locked in geographical zones, depriving them of their freedom of movement.
An array of pictures had been posted by those attending protests – one image in particular catches the attention – a yellow flag peeking out of the gathered throng and billowing in the breeze.
At its centre, a black rattlesnake, coiled on a patch of grass and ready to attack. Beneath the serpent, the motto “DONT TREAD ON ME”, in its original, apostrophe-less format.
This is the Gadsden flag.
Created by the eponymous Christopher Gadsden during the American War of Independence, the thirteen rattles on the snake’s tail symbolised the 13 American colonies and their unity against the British crown. But what was it doing in central Oxford on a cold February afternoon?
The answer begins in US right-wing talk radio in the 1990s.
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