Almost a third of people who took part in a recent poll by King’s College London and the BBC said it was either “definitely” or “probably” true that “15-minute city plans are a government attempt to surveil people and restrict freedoms.”
Experts increasingly see Covid and the resulting lockdowns, vaccines and restrictions as a watershed moment for conspiracy-driven anti-authority activists.
“If you look at the individuals that are complaining, spreading misinformation and legitimizing conspiracy theories about 15-minute cities, they’re often the exact same cohort of individuals that spread misinformation about Covid and often it’s the same language,” Tim Caulfield, an expert in misinformation at Alberta University in Canada, said.
While these conspiracy theories become commonplace — whether being repeated by Fox News pundits, Dutch farmers, British lawmakers or Austrian nationalists — Caulfield warns that they are still extreme and outlandish.
“One of the remarkable things is the normalization of hardcore conspiracy theories. This isn’t like conspiracy theory-light, it’s a hardcore conspiracy theory,” he said.
As the world grapples with rising temperatures and climate migration, more and more groups suspicious of the government’s motives will resist ecological measures and how they affect their lives, he warned
In November, Duncan Enright, head of transport at Oxfordshire County Council, which covers an affluent and mostly rural part of southern England, suggested a pilot scheme to reduce traffic on six congested roads running across the city of Oxford. The traffic filter plans spearheaded by Enright were aimed at encouraging drivers to use the ring road to get around the city rather than cut across it.
Weeks later, Enright said he was receiving death threats, mostly through social media but also in emails and telephone calls — a target of activists who say green measures are nothing more than an instrument of a malign state and its secret backers. Enright was accused of answering to a cabal of globalist elites to subjugate the population and trap it in its neighborhoods.
“People turned up to a couple of our meetings and were talking about things which were nothing to do with this at all — describing why climate change didn’t exist. Very odd and quite alarming.”
The language used by some opposed to 15-minute cities can be extreme and even violent.
Nigel Farage, the far-right populist and former leader of the Brexit Party who unsuccessfully ran for Parliament seven times, said on Twitter last week: “Mark my words, this isn’t going to end with 20mph zones and low traffic neighborhoods, no no, this is the beginning of climate lockdowns.”