“The Great Reset” — a conspiracy theory triggered by the World Economic Forum 2021 theme of the same name — claims that the global elite plans to dismantle capitalism and enforce a socialist world order.
In the new world order, covid-19 would solve overpopulation, pandemic survivors would be forced to get the vaccine and be enslaved by it, and private property would be abolished.
The theme of the 2021 WEF summit was “The Great Reset.” The event is attended each year by some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people at a ski resort in Davos, Switzerland. Organizers launched an initiative in June 2020 ahead of the 2021 event — the second one in a row held virtually because of the covid outbreak — calling for the covid-19 pandemic to be seen as a chance for what they called a great reset of the global economy.
President Vladimir Putin was invited to deliver a virtual special address at the World Economic Forum summit, held on Jan. 25–29, 2021 — in hindsight, possibly a really bad idea for its value in fueling a conspiracy theory.
By inviting Putin, forum founder and director Klaus Schwab was arguing for the need to nurture honest dialogue to end the era of polarization and isolation, Pavel K. Baev wrote for the conservative defense policy think tank, Jamestown Foundation.
However, in his speech, Putin talked about rising inequality and the inefficiency of global institutions. But the core of his message was a warning about the growing risk of war. He talked about the “bad peace” after World War I and the crisis in the 1930s that led to renewed global conflict within 20 years.
Putin warned that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated preexisting imbalances and tensions.
He said these could deteriorate to war of “all against all.”
“In the 20th century, the failure and inability to centrally resolve such issues resulted in the catastrophic World War II,” Putin said in the speech. “Of course, nowadays such a heated conflict is not possible, I hope that it’s not possible in principle, because it would mean the end of our civilization. But I would like to reiterate, that the situation might develop unpredictably and uncontrollably if we will sit on our hands doing nothing to avoid it. And there is a possibility that we may experience an actual collapse of global development that might result in a fight of all against all.”
“Left unsaid but strongly implied, however, (was) that Putin (was) supposedly ready to resort to military force in order to fight off the perceived encroachments on Russia’s interests,” Baev wrote.
In his speech, Putin also denounced the “digital giants” that he said want to manipulate societies. “The Russian special services are able to execute effective cyberattacks against the U.S., but they cannot control domestic information channels,” Baev wrote. However, he added, Putin “is more irked by the decision of Facebook and Twitter to block the accounts of his (oligarch friend).”
“Rampant corruption and rigid central control are the main causes of Russia’s protracted economic stagnation,” Baev wrote, “and their continuing impact denies the country any chance for a post-pandemic recovery.”
Schwab, a German engineer, economist and head of the World Economic Forum, wrote a book published in 2020 called “The Great Reset” with co-author Thierry Malleret. According to the dust cover, the book is “a guide for anyone who wants to understand how covid-19 disrupted our social and economic systems, and what changes will be needed to create a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world going forward.”
An international non-governmental and lobbying organization, the Geneva, Switzerland-based World Economic Forum was founded in 1971 by Schwab. Its reason for existence, according to the WEF website, is to engage “the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas” for public-private cooperation.
While living in Germany during World War II, Schwab’s family was monitored and interrogated by the Gestapo. Schwab was later awarded a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was a professor of business policy at the University of Geneva for more than 30 years. Since 1979, he has published the annual Global Competitiveness Report, which assesses the potential of countries around the world for increasing economic growth and productivity.
The Great Reset proposes a stakeholder model, “where government, business, and individuals collaborate; where longer-term planning for future generations replaces short-sighted presentism, and where better measures of success allow us to move beyond a myopic focus on GDP and short-term profits,” Schwab wrote in a WEF blog.
Political scientist and writer Ivan Wecke was intrigued by the attention “the great reset” term was getting on social media — 8 million-plus interactions on Facebook and almost 2 million shares on Twitter as of August 2021. Wecke set out to “find out what the WEF’s Great Reset plan was really about,” he wrote for the openDemocracy media organization.
What he learned scared him.
“At the heart of conspiracy theories are supposed secret agendas and malicious intent,” Wecke wrote. “While these may be absent from the WEF’s Great Reset initiative, what I found was something almost as sinister hiding in plain sight. In fact, more sinister because it’s real and it’s happening now. And it involves things as fundamental as our food, our data and our vaccines.”
There are three main benefits in adopting a conspiratorial mindset: One: A conspiracy theory brings order to random events and provides a framework for understanding the world. Two: A conspiracy theory can distract its believer from facing fears about sociopolitical upheaval and uncertainty. Three: A conspiracy theory provides a social benefit — with a community of like-minded thinkers who validate each other’s anxieties and shared worldview.
Wecke wrote that in the multi-stakeholder model of global governance, instead of corporations serving many stakeholders, corporations are promoted to being official stakeholders in global decision-making, while governments are relegated to being one of many stakeholders. In practice, corporations become the main stakeholders, while governments take a back seat “and civil society is mainly window dressing.”
Covid vaccines are a landmark in the development of stakeholder capitalism, he wrote. He cited the COVAX initiative, a multi-stakeholder group of public and private partners that aimed to accelerate the development and manufacture of covid-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. But it turns out, “It’s more important for (the pharmaceutical companies) to protect their interests and market mechanisms than to protect universal health or protect people from covid,” he wrote.
Big tech is another landmark in the development of stakeholder capitalism, Wecke wrote. Civil society organizations fear Big Tech will create a global body to govern itself. This could increase their power over governments and multilateral organizations. If that happens, it would be a victory for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft in their war with governments over tax evasion, antitrust rules, and their ever-expanding power over society.
In his critique of multi-stakeholder governance, Wecke found that such governance entails removing democracy by sidelining governments and putting unelected “stakeholders” – mainly corporations – in their place when it comes to global decision-making.
“Put bluntly, multi-stakeholder partnerships are public-private partnerships on the global stage. And they have real-world implications for the way our food systems are organized, how big tech is governed and how our vaccines and medicines are distributed,” Wecke wrote.
The Great Reset started as a marginal conspiracy theory on the fringes of the internet but has grown into a disinformation ecosystem in itself, according to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). The London-based nonprofit works to reverse polarisation, extremism and disinformation worldwide.
This disinformation has been amplified by right-wing U.S. media figures including Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro, who both appropriated elements of the Great Reset theory as proof of a plot to erode freedoms and capitalism, wrote Ciarán O’Connor, an ISD analyst with expertise on the far-right.
The most prolific communities promoting content about the Great Reset theory are Facebook groups that frequently feature covid-19 misinformation, O’Connor wrote.
Schwab wrote about the Great Reset agenda in a World Economic Forum blog in June 2020. “There are many reasons to pursue a Great Reset, but the most urgent is covid-19,” Schwab wrote. “Some countries have already used the covid-19 crisis as an excuse to weaken environmental protections and enforcement. And frustrations over social ills like rising inequality – US billionaires’ combined wealth has increased during the crisis – are intensifying … the pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world to create a healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous future.”
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and war in Europe sent shock waves around the world, The Great Reset and a new world order were on the minds of some Twitter users. Here are some of their comments:
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Photo: World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab, left, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
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