Webworm's conspiracy coverage so far
I will keep this page updated with links to all my pieces on the conspiracy madness taking over your timeline.
Below you’ll find all the pieces I’ve written about specific aspects of conspiracy theory culture since 2020.
Maybe there’s something in here you can forward to friends and family spiralling out into conspiracy hell — this advice from Webworm’s resident therapist springs to mind.
This is all available on the Substack Reader app — which is super slick, and another way to read Webworm.
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Webworm’s conspiracy coverage so far:
Drugs, the CIA and MKUltra
“He effectively had a license to kill issued by the US government.”
Why does New Zealand have no original conspiracies?
It’s all recycled junk and it's getting very, very boring
Looking back at the Wellington Riots
Some perspective from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s former social media manager
“I offer you my sincere apology”
A string of abusive emails sent over months ends in an unexpected (and possibly pleasant) place
The Hare Krishna who called me “c**t face”
A few months of hate mail led me to a person I did not expect
The God Factor in the “anti-mandate” protests
“There are so many fundamentalist Christians who have been conditioned into supporting this”
Should we bring back public executions?
The protestors in Wellington turn on the media, asking for public trials and executions. And in the fray — Kelvyn Alp
Bill Gates on being Conspiracy Theorist’s #1 Bad Guy
“The idea that Dr Fauci got picked for that sort of behind the curtain role, and I got picked for it… I would not have suspected it.”
The Brainworms of the Wellington Protestors
The PowerPoint presentation being shared around kiwi conspiracy theory circles that will make you... much dumber
Flat Earthers: Humans Can Believe in Absolutely Anything
It’s a curse we live with and we're never going to change
Never Engage with Toddlers Online
Social media is a hotbed of arguing, shouting and posturing. Here are my rules of (dis)engagement
Has New Zealand found its Marjorie Taylor Greene?
Increasingly it looks like disinformation is here to stay — endorsed by a Member of Parliament who shrugs it off like it's nothin’
The Conspiracies That Made Us
Debunking 10 of the conspiracy claims that got us to where we are today
A therapist’s guide to holiday hell 2021
Staying sane while distant relatives descend into your life with screams of “I’ve been doing my own research...”
Running a fake disinformation Facebook page
People flooded his page for disinformation. What they found shocked them to their core: Information
Bad News: the anatomy of dodgy news
They’re websites built to spread under the guise of freedom, transparency & honesty. They’re the opposite.
The schadenfreude of anti-vaxxer deaths
The uncomfortable reactions when conspiracy theorists pass away from Covid and what it says about us
When an advertising watchdog chases its tail
Why did the Advertising Standards Authority look at a bunch of misinformation —and agree with it?
“I’ve been on the run since 2014. I try & keep myself a moving target”
When paranoia meets medicine, and the uncomfortable tension in-between
Remember when Secret Societies were exciting?
The Freemasons, Illuminati, Knights Templar and Skull & Bones: The stuff we talked about before QAnon!
Sorry, posting your cat will not plant a tree
When is a scam not a scam? Never. Also: Travis Scott conspiracy theories, and New Zealand’s attempt at a Capitol Riot
Could the Capitol Riots happen in New Zealand?
“A group of 1000 people can storm in and get her and her supporters and arrest them for treason. Or shoot them.”
How to become an anti-vax MLM sensation!
Webworm's guide to making some sweet cash from spreading blatant lies to your braindead followers
New Zealand goes Loopy
A summary of Aotearoa’s top anti-vax & conspiracy theory nitwits
The Tale of Peter Mortlock and Sue Grey
What does the megachurch leader have in common with a lawyer called Sue Grey?
Why are Anti-Vax Church Leaders All Weeping?
Oh, they run schools. Peter Mortlock’s open letter to Jacinda Ardern and every New Zealand MP
Vaccinations vs Politics, God & Conspiracy
“I don’t have to give you a reason and I am not going to give you a reason.”
Fear of a Changing World
For the privileged, this pandemic is the first time they've experienced world-bending trauma
Destiny Church isn’t the Problem
Giant white megachurches are getting away with far more than Destiny — but no one cares. Because they’re white.
“I smell vaccinated people” (for paying members)
It’s a plot twist even M. Night Shyamalan couldn't see coming
PSA: We’ve Hit Maximum Gossip about Vaccines
The internet is awash with disinformation & it’s hurting my brain
The Church of Anti-Vax doth speak unto me
The pastor of City Impact writes to me about that decidedly anti-vax sermon he gave
Worshipping at the Church of Anti-Vax
Much of fundamentalist Christianity is more than just a religion: it’s a conspiracy theory gone wild
Bonus: the full Cease & Desist letters (paying members only)
These are Chris Patterson Barrister’s full Cease & Desist letters sent on behalf of Dr Dan & David D'Amato
An open letter to Dr Dan & his lawyers
Last week I received a Cease & Desist notice. This is not the first time this has happened.
Dr Dan from Millhouse Medical
This isn’t The Simpsons, it’s real life
RIP: Billy TK Jnr & Vinnie Eastwood
New Zealand’s two major conspiracy theorist dimwits finally get arrested. This is how it went down
A whimsical yet horrifying look back at the movement that turned people’s brains to goo
Deepfakes are (one) click away
“I think we’ve entered a game over scenario for consensus reality”
Living on a planet thriving with health & wellness misinformation
Inside Steve Bannon’s NZ news division
Counterspin Media, the kiwi news show hosted on Bannon’s network
New Zealand’s Fake News
Webworm explores two kiwi news shows that are conspiracy theory central
Taking flight: the QAnon crowd avoiding masks
Here in New Zealand, conspiracy theorists continue to be, well — arseholes
One hellish day on Billy TK Junior’s app
Billy may be gone from sight, but he's not gone from the App Store
QAnon in your undies
A quick update on Lonely Lingerie
JFK: a conspiracy theory to take seriously?
Sometimes a conspiracy theory has something going for it... but that doesn't mean it doesn't end in utter chaos!
“I hope you get hit by a truck”
It was like any other day, until my online life filled up with intense rage & hatred
“Jet fuel can’t melt steal beams!”
Debunking some of the biggest - and weirdest - 9/11 conspiracy theories
I think I’ve grasped QAnon for the first time
I examine my own relationship with leaving religion behind over 15 years ago, and how it’s informed my view of conspiracy theory culture and why it’s so hard to leave
Vacuous influencers weigh in on the vaccine
Prepare for the influx of wellness influencers telling us the COVID-19 vaccine is VERY BAD
Why New Zealand is not immune to America’s stupidity (for paying members)
Over the weekend, a man dressed up as a Capitol rioter — and failed to understand the problem
RIP QAnon: 2017-2021 (for paying members)
Why QAnon followers are lost, lonely and desperately confused right now
Parler posters ponder possible prosecution (for paying members)
They fled from 8Chan, Facebook & Twitter for Parler. Now Parler users face a new nightmare
Donald Trump’s biggest defeat: no tweeting
The social media network made a small man feel big. He’s not so big anymore. He's getting smaller and smaller.
A terrorist group storms the US Senate
I’m speechless, reflecting on the year leading up to this.
Encounters with the far-right: Part 2
From semen retention to stalking, the far-right is alive and well in New Zealand
Encounters with the far-right: Part 1
An essay by Byron Clark, who's been documenting pests in New Zealand
The fallout from the Lonely story (for paying members)
“You’re a wormy piece of shit Farrier. You don't do any investigating”
The Lonely descent into QAnon: Part 1
Famously worn by Kylie Jenner & Lena Dunham, the founders of NZ brand "Lonely" have turned their mind to conspiracies, aliens & Star Seeds.
The Lonely descent into QAnon: Part 2
Lonely Lingerie's reaction to COVID-19, and setting their sights on the stars (and aliens).
A eulogy for Pete Evans
Illustrator Dan Vernon reflects on the social demise of celebrity chef Pete Evans.
Screaming “free speech” while ignoring “hate speech” (for paying members)
“In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.” Diving further into the conspiracy-riddled mind of celebrity chef Pete Evans.
Pete Evans: chef to Neo-Nazi enthusiast
He’s been dropped by his publisher and TV show, but this is just the beginning for the unhinged chef.
A therapist on conspiracy theories: Part 2
This is the second part of my conversation with psychotherapist Paul Wilson.
A therapist’s view of conspiracy theories: Part 1
Who better to talk to about disappearing down rabbit holes than someone who’s dealing with them in their day job?
I talk to the creator of the Conspiracy Chart
Abbie Richards’ Conspiracy Chart went viral on TikTok. As COVID and an election envelopes the US, it’s a good time to revisit it.
Meet Tova O’Brien, the reporter whose interview with a QAnon-adjacent politician has gone viral
It’s wonderful to watch: a New Zealand political reporter getting stuck into Jami-Lee Ross, a grifter conspiracy theorist who’d campaigned for a place in parliament.
Feels Good Man, my favourite documentary of 2020
“The way Pepe was stolen from Matt was the way consensus reality was stolen from the public.”
The infection in our election
I asked New Zealand illustrator Daniel Vernon to come up with a comic strip that illustrates how conspiracy shit spreads during an election cycle.
Why are conspiracy theories dripping in racism?
I talk to researcher and scholar Tina Ngata about why conspiracy theories are dripping in racism, and why those spreading the message aren’t necessarily who you’d expect.
The red-pilling of Billy TK Jnr
I examine how someone can fall down a rabbit hole of misinformation and disinformation by examining the Facebook timeline of New Zealand political hopeful Billy TK Jnr. I scour his entire Facebook feed, examining how and why he embraced this new system of belief. This is one man’s descent down the rabbit hole. And it happened alarmingly quickly.
I talk to kiwi conspiracy rapper, “Sesh” (for paying members)
The rapper formerly known as “Derty Sesh” has dropped the derty. Now he focusses on doing his own research. Oh no.
Where were you when you heard the news about Donald Trump contracting COVID-19? (subscribers only)
Why this news has the ability to turn us all into conspiracy theorists.
Faking It: QAnon from the Inside
I talk to someone who’s been observing QAnon followers from the inside — by creating a social media persona that reflects “a classic conspiracy-minded divorced dad.”
From 2016 to 2020, the media still falls for Pizzagate
I take a look at how a stupid idea from 2016 ends up in a New Zealand newspaper in 2020. It’s time to wisen up, folks.
Make up something fucking new, so that I can actually give a shit!
These are the words of Joseph Uscinski, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami. In this newsletter (and complimentary podcast) we discuss how belief in conspiracy theories remain stable; that the problem of people disappearing down conspiratorial rabbit holes is no worse than it’s ever been.
Reflecting on "James", the Reddit user whose theory got out of control (for paying members)
Our interview with the man who kicked off a conspiracy theory ended with a call from the police, a lot of discussion, and time for us to reflect.
Webworm talks to the man who started the COVID-19 outbreak rumour in New Zealand
A conversation with the man who started a conspiracy theory that rapidly spun out of control in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
The Attraction of Sloppy Nonsense
A conversation with science fiction Sonny Whitelaw, about the moment fans began to believe their Stargate novels were real. We explore what this “sloppy nonsense” says about conspiracy adherents in 2020.
Sloppy Nonsense - a conversation (for paying members)
For Webworm subscribers, this is a 30 minute podcast with Sonny Whitelaw, as we discuss magical thinking, science and religion.
As New Zealand gets new COVID-19 cases, we immediately see the influence of QAnon down under
I explore why mommy bloggers are falling down the conspiracy rabbit hole, and why it’s happening fast. I also talk to an expert on Alternate Reality Games, looking at how QAnon is essentially a great big game that’s fun to play.
“I’m just outlining facts”: watching New Zealand getting red-pilled, in real time
I look at how New Zealand politicians have played directly into QAnon’s hands. It’s frightening, disheartening and sad.
Want to cure this conspiracy hell? Turn off Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
I look at how social media giants contribute to the spread of dangerous misinformation and disinformation, and what we can do about it.
A week of conspiratorial madness (for paying members)
A 20-minute podcast where I reflect on where society sits with conspiracy theories in 2020, including QAnon entering politics, social media influencers jumping on board, and possible ways we combat all this rot.
Why #saveourchildren is not about saving our children
Yes, child trafficking is a real thing. But the stuff you’re seeing on your Facebook timeline is another thing entirely, and doing real harm. I talk to Travis View, an expert on QAnon, who points out that he’s yet to see a QAnon follower who’s actually achieved anything real (besides shooting up a pizza joint).
Won’t somebody please think of the children!
This looks in a broader sense at how the need to “protect children” is being co-opted by conspiracy movements — to the point where suddenly children are allegedly being sold using online homeware stores (they aren’t).
How to talk to people stuck in a conspiracy theory hellscape
I talk to Mick West, the man who created the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, got really rich, retired, and now debunks conspiracy theories full time. He has some tips on how to talk to friends and family who have fallen down the rabbit hole.
Billy TK junior: An international assassin slips into New Zealand
This piece explores the fundamental problem with New Zealand political hopeful Billy TK Jnr: mainly, that he’s full of shit when claiming things like “an international assassin was sent to New Zealand to kill me”.
Influencer culture should be burnt to the ground
A look at why influencers are getting on board the conspiracy bandwagon, and why that’s incredibly dangerous. A case study looking at celebrity chef Pete Evans and New Zealand heartthrob Art Green.
Freedom of speech vs spewing out misinformation
A followup the previous piece, I look closer at why calls for “freedom of speech!” don’t necessarily mean you should spout bullshit 24/7.
Why has the world gone so horny for conspiracy theories?
I talk to academic Dr M R. X. Dentith about the mindset behind modern day conspiracy culture, and why it’s so engrained in our conversations right now.
The QAnon documentary: I watched it so you don’t have to
I watched a “documentary” created by QAnon adherents that had gone viral. In this piece, I break down what QAnon is for those stumbling on it for the first time.
Plandemic: Please, for the love of God, stop spreading these godawful “documentaries”
Back when New Zealand first went into lockdown, another “documentary” by QAnon types started flooding facebook timelines. Here I look at why medical misinformation about COVID-19 is so alarming.
Webworm appearances in other media:
Thanks to all those in other media who are picking up on Webworm’s reporting in this space.
Thanks to my rantings here on Webworm, I now do a podcast with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman called Armchaired & Dangerous, which focusses on conspiracy theories. We do live shows, too!
It’s a spinoff of Armchair Expert — Dax’s podcast that I appeared on back in September 2020. You can listen to that specific episode here.
Many thanks to Kim Hill for having me on her Saturday Morning show on RNZ:
“Thousands of protesters marched on Parliament earlier this week with a mixture of motives on display. While some were protesting lockdowns, vaccines, and vaccine mandates, others used the opportunity to fly Trump flags or express anger about the use of 1080.
Members of Parliament commented they had never seen so much security around the Beehive, but is it a sign of things to come?
Journalist and filmmaker David Farrier has spent the last few years diving down conspiracy theory rabbit holes - from QAnon to anti-vax chaos - and writing about them for his online newsletter Webworm. He joins the show to discuss what protests like these signify and where it’s all going.”
Steve Kilgallon wrote this feature about my work in the conspiracy space for Stuff — and has some good background to what I’ve been up to.
Thanks to Dave Chen, who had me as a guest on his podcast Culturally Relevant, talking conspiracies, documentary, and QAnon.
TV3’s The Project popped over to my place to talk QAnon for this piece.
I was interviewed by Dr. M R. X. Dentith for this podcast The Podcaster’s Guide to the Conspiracy.
I spoke to John Campbell on Breakfast about the origins of a dangerous COVID-19 conspiracy theory that spread on social media, and to Jesse Mulligan about political hopeful Billy TK Jnr, and the link between Evangelical Christianity and QAnon.
The Spinoff has been hugely supportive in sharing my work, republishing “A conversation with the man who started the Covid-19 outbreak rumour” and “How Billy TK plunged down the Covid conspiracy rabbit hole.”
Hayden Donnell put this great piece together for Mediawatch, and Stuff republished some of my free newsletters like this one.
Stuff’s election podcast, Tick. Tick, spoke to me about my recent reporting on conspiracy theory culture.
If you think anyone would enjoy Webworm (which also features other newsletters not related to conspiracy theories!) — feel free to pass this on.
Thanks for your unique perspective & the hard work you do with sharing these topics! Thoughtful & it makes you question/view things in a different way. I appreciate how it is interesting to talk about. & keep busy with while staying at home due to COVID-19 virus
I hope that everyone in New Zealand, & everywhere else in the world your Webworm readers live stay safe. We can give each other hope & get through it together
Thanks forever David. Going to miss all the animals you encounter on Instagram, but a big fan of you taking care of yourself. I love the little Webworm world/community, am excited to see where it'll go. I learn a lot from reading your posts, and the comments here are fantastic as well. It's really a wonderful thing here. All the best from DK x