An increasingly organised online COVID-19 denialist, anti-vaccine group is spamming Victorian politicians’ inboxes with pseudo-legal emails to try stop public health measures.
Online activist group Reignite Democracy Australia (RDA) is encouraging its followers to send hundreds of emails that they incorrectly believe will force politicians to oppose extending Victoria’s current state of emergency period.
RDA, led by Monica Smit, opposes vaccines, lockdowns, masks, COVID-19 testing and has even branched out into arguing against a gay conversion therapy ban — all based on conspiracy theories and misinformation.
The group campaigns online to its tens of thousands of followers across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Telegram, and by staging in-person protests — often breaking public health orders in the process — that it films and post online.
Its main Facebook page has garnered more than 1.7 million likes, comments and shares in the last 6 months. The page was still available during Facebook’s news ban, despite claiming to be a media outlet.
The group claims to have “close to 5,000” people signed up for a new ‘political movement’, and is asking members if they want to run as candidates for the group.
Smit has links to conservative MPs, as reported by the Guardian’s Anne Davies, and also to the anti-Dan Andrews online group that was linked to the Victorian Liberals. In emails signed by Smit, the group sells merchandise and seeks recurring donations.
Smits has repeatedly sent emails to her mailing list with a call to action to oppose Victoria extending their state of emergency, a legal tool that the Victorian Government uses to mandate hotel quarantine and mask requirements.
Citing “insider information from a member of Parliament”, Smits encourages the 600 viewers of her livestream to send a ‘My Will’ template to MPs.
‘My Will’ letters are a popular form of template among conspiracy theorists based on 1979 booklet by a former Australian politician, Arthur Chresby.
He argued — wrongly — that MPs must carry out the wishes of their constituents if they’re told in a certain way.
Needless to say, that’s not how it works.
But the letters are having an effect: annoying politicians and their staff. A staff member for cross-bencher Fiona Patten told Gizmodo they had received hundreds of emails since mid-February.
“They aren’t achieving anything except making our jobs more difficult, as we miss actual emails that need to be responded to,” they said via email.
Victoria’s state of emergency is set to expire on March 16, and the future of the current legislation remains unclear.