The Victorian Andrews government recently mandated the compulsory wearing of masks in public. Although mostly accepted by the general populace, one woman dubbed a “Karen”, filmed multiple videos of herself not wearing a mask as an act of so-called-defiance.
The videos shocked the public, especially with the growing cases of COVID-19 infections.
In the first video, the now-infamous “Bunnings Karen”, is shown entering a Bunnings without a mask and being rejected by staff. The Victoria police are then called to remove her from the store.
The second video depicts her interaction- from multiple angles – with police as they attempt to arrest her. As a last-ditch act, she claims a medical exemption which excludes her from wearing masks and produces a medical certificate. The sergeant then chooses to let her go. It is not known if charges were subsequently for failure to comply or resisting arrest.
It's gonna be a loooooong lockdown. We bring you today's Covidiot UPDATE we have the prequel in BunningsPosted by Australia is better than this on Saturday, July 25, 2020
However, “Karen Goes To Bunnings” is not limited to a single event and is part of a much broader-right-wing movement. She is an active member of a well known active conspiracy group in Melbourne called the “Concious Truth Network”.
The group encourages members to drive through quarantine checkpoints.
Even perhaps more horrifyingly the group has encouraged members to cross police checkpoints exiting quarantined Melbourne.
In a separate video another conspiracist, Eve Black is seen causing confusion to police as she avoids their questions at a checkpoint, citing talking points from a script widely circulating the group.
“Have a disturbed the peace?”
“Have I committed a crime?”
Frustrated, the police officer waives her through. The Deputy Police Commissioner, Rick Nugent, later stated that officers could have been stronger – by removing her license. However, given the immense pressure and delays across checkpoints, the officer’s reaction is unsurprising.
In a subsequent press conference police have stated they know who she is and that she can expect a knock at the door in the coming weeks.
“The Conscious Truth Network” Facebook Group Celebrates Her Success
These videos are part of a worrying trend embedded in a mishmash of online conspiracy theories around masks and COVID-19. Members of these types of groups consistently couch their anti-mask COVID19 in pseudo-legalistic language. This co-option of the language of human rights and constitutional law is sprinkled throughout the videos above.
Who are they?
Like many conspiracy groups, they have a wide range of loosely tied beliefs.
Some believe COVID-19 is a hoax, created by vaccinators a.k.a Bill Gates to harm or kill the general population. Other theories contain to 5G, chemtrails, and the use of hydroxychloroquine to fight the virus.
Many, however, are drawn by anti-mask and anti-lockdown beliefs.
Members of this group commonly refer to Daniel Andrews as Hitler, or Communist and make many comparisons to the holocaust.
A Photo From “The Conscious Truth Network” Facebook Group
A Popular Post From A Member
James Bartolo, a former Australian soldier and competitive bodybuilder, heads “The Conscious Truth Network”. He started the Facebook group in May to coincide with the anti-lock down rally in Melbourne, where he was arrested.
❌❌WARNING❌❌ ⚠️⚠️MASSIVE TRIGGER ALERT⚠️⚠️ If you don't have an open mind, do not proceed. This message is a wake up call for those Australians who are willing to change their views when presented with information and facts that contradict their current beliefs. Do your homework, conduct thorough research, question authority, use your common sense, do not comply with unjust madness. Stand true with your fellow men and women. Have faith in yourself, have the courage to do the right thing and remember, united we are UNSTOPPABLE! Follow our Youtube Channel below https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY-tPt5V4mKPiyb9kPurDAA And our FB page here https://www.facebook.com/TheConsciousTruthNetwork/ And the FB group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/281070686354651/ Remember to like, comment and share this video! We rely upon you to spread this message! - JamesPosted by James Bartolo on Sunday, June 7, 2020
Bartolo advances many bizarre claims, including the illegitimacy of the government, that 5G is dangerous, that citizens don’t need pay taxes or fines, and people should move their money to bitcoin.
Unique to other conspiracy theorists around. He strongly urges the public and his followers to not consent to the laws being applied to them, as (in their belief) the law cannot be applied to them unless you consent.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has identified the group with similar tactics to the Sovereign Citizen Movement in the US, which encourages it’s “followers to use quasi-legalistic questions and challenges (usually based on extremely misguided interpretations of the law) to undermine government authorities”. The US has identified them as a threat with extreme right-wing terrorist ideologies.
The group is one of many actively recruiting to fight Australia’s response to COVID-19
“Karen” actively participates in meetings
Victoria is fighting hard to combat the virus, although in recent days the growth seems to be slowing. Case numbers on the 27th of July were the highest they’ve been (532).
Although no outbreaks have been linked to this group, we know that a single super spreader was able to infect over 66 cases linked to the current outbreak in Melbourne.
The group is one among many as The Herald Sun reported today, in the vast conspiracy network here organising and spreading in Australia.
The movement also supports anti-vaxxer tendencies, contributing to the growing anti-vaxxer movement. A recent poll from news.com.au found that 54% voted that they won’t take a vaccine if available.
Bartolo and his followers are actively recruiting and trying to spread disinformation. The group’s page currently has 2,340 likes, and their Facebook group has 2,900 members.