A clip of NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant using the phrase “new world order” is being shared by conspiracy theorists and right-wing hacks all around the world and, yeah, this isn’t great.
Chant made the comment at Thursday’s coronavirus press conference when a journalist asked about whether or not authorities will still list exposure sites once NSW opens back up with 70% vaccination coverage.
“We will be looking at what contact tracing looks like in the new world order,” Chant said, perhaps meaning to say something like “the new normal.”
“And yes, it will be pubs and clubs and other things if we have a positive case there. Our response may be different if we know that people are fully vaccinated.
“So, we’re working through a number of those issues, but we will have to reflect and learn.”
Although she didn’t correct herself, it’s not hard to imagine Chant intended to say something like “the new normal”. But the seemingly innocuous comment isn’t ideal, particularly when it’s been picked up by conspiracy theorists around the world.
The Chief Health Officer later added: “So, to be honest with the community, we are going to have to work on a number of those things and redesign what our test, trace and isolate policies are into the future.”
The press conference then continued as normal.
Unfortunately, the phrase “New World Order” also refers to a right-wing conspiracy theory that a group of shadowy elites is plotting to take over the whole world.
Chant’s comment raised a few eyebrows in Australia because of the peculiar choice of words, but nobody lost their shit.
Oh no, Dr Chant just said “new world order.”We’ll be seeing that popping up in silly conspiracy videos.
— Isobel Roe (@isobelroe) September 9, 2021
NSW CHO Kerry Chant said "new world order" in today's presser – a phrase commonly used by conspiracy theorists
innocent turn of phrase from her, but it's blowing up conspiracy channels on social media. LOTS of comments about it on Scott Morrison's Facebook Live just now
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) September 9, 2021
public health officials stop using the phrase 'new world order' challenge
— Michael McGowan (@mmcgowan) September 9, 2021
That was until people in Europe and North America woke up (literally, not metaphorically) and saw the footage. It didn’t help that British online newspaper The Independent decided to stoke outrage by sharing an isolated snippet from the presser.
By late Thursday afternoon, Australian time, the phrase “New World Order” began trending on Twitter as a mix of right-wing shit-stirrers and conspiracy theorists collectively clutched their pearls. Twitter’s own trending feature clocked over 81,000 tweets and counting.
If you're a public health official discussing Covid containment measures in a televised briefing, do not use the phrase "New World Order", a well-known conspiracy theory about an authoritarian world government, in any context, ever. pic.twitter.com/x5SBqhVWV4
— Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) September 9, 2021
Far-right YouTuber and former InfoWars editor Paul Joseph Watson, former Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian, and British actor-turned-hack Laurence Fox were among the numerous verified accounts which shared the clip.
One clip shared to Twitter has already been viewed over 2.4 million times, while several other videos have hundreds of thousands of views.
The clip has even spread to other platforms like YouTube and Instagram, and is also doing the rounds on encrypted messaging platform Telegram.
Of course, facts are not these people’s strong point. A bunch of people referred to Chant as “Australia’s public health chief” or even said that the clip was from last year, perhaps conflating the incident with the time when NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard used the same, unfortunate turn of phrase.
Eventually, the conspiracy theory feedback loop hit Australia on Friday morning.
NSW One Nation politician Mark Latham jumped on the bandwagon, tweeting: “I can confirm this was no accident: Kerry Chant told a meeting of NSW MPs last Friday of her ‘New World Order’, which left me thinking ‘wow, that’s weird, what’s the NSW health system got to do with a grandiose expression like that, first used by Bush Snr?’”
All this goes to show how one tiny slip-up during an hour-long press conference can end up causing an international panic over a completely baseless conspiracy theory.