New obscurantisms

At the end of 2019, the transfer of the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Aberrations (Miviludes) from Matignon to the Ministry of the Interior, within a secretariat specializing in radicalization (the CIPDR, Interministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalization), had caused turmoil and concern among associations helping victims of sects. The possibility of the removal of the archives and the website of Miviludes, whose work had been unanimously recognized for 17 years, had added to the fears of seeing the resources of a State service, obviously, essential . Everything then returned to normal and this return to normal is undoubtedly due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Because the historic pandemic has aroused fear and obviously legitimate concerns in the population frightened by this coronavirus, the consequences of which we did not yet know on health and against which we did not yet have a vaccine. The confinements which caused isolation added to the anxiety of many French people. Conspiracy theorists of all stripes and miraculous healing merchant gurus, ready to do anything to sell their “advice” or their potentially dangerous “grigris” to fragile people whose weakness they abused, flourished on this soil.

Supported by the government in terms of resources, Miviludes has just published its 2021 activity report which confirms how much the Covid has indeed been a catalyst for scattered movements and has shaped a new face of excesses and sectarian movements. Most referrals – the number of which increased by 33.6% between 2020 and 2021 to 4,020 cases – are no longer just made up of purely religious groups but also forms of alternative medicine or promises of well-being and of spirituality, which attract people wary of conventional medicine. A threshold has been crossed, as noted by the president of Miviludes, the prefect Christian Gravel, who points to “a proliferation of new players, more discreet, mastering the web and its codes, knowing how to control minds, by exploiting fears, the loss benchmarks, the search for simple solutions to existential questions, which are by definition complex. Naturopaths, sophrologists, followers of mindfulness meditation, coaching, personal development, well-being, proselytes of masculinism or conversion theories…

So many charlatans whose power of nuisance is often multiplied by the ease with which, on the internet, they can disseminate their words. The catalog à la Prévert is all the more chilling in the back that behind the reports there are broken men and women, their loved ones annihilated.

Therefore, more than ever, the fight against these charlatans must be relentless, against them but also against digital platforms that sometimes leave fake news or dangerous words online for too long. Freedom of expression then has a good back. This battle of the Enlightenment against the new obscurantisms will be long. It must mobilize all of us.

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New obscurantisms

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