President Joe Biden appeared to namecheck an old-school conspiracy theory while ruminating on the state of global affairs — and online conspiracy theorists are very, very excited about it.
“Now is a time when things are shifting,” Biden said Monday in response to a question about how the U.S. was responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “There’s going to be a new world order out there, and we’ve got to lead it.” He also referenced a “liberal world order,” which he said has helped the world avoid global conflicts since 1946.
The “New World Order” conspiracy—which claims a nefarious global cabal poses an existential threat to the United States—has been around for decades. It’s a versatile narrative that can be molded to accommodate any perceived bad actor du jour, depending on what flavor of conspiracy theorist you’re talking to. Some might say the New World Order is comprised of the “Illuminati.” Others might say Freemasons, and some might say Communists. Antisemitic conspiracy theorists have placed Jews at the center of this cabal. These days, it’s often a hodgepodge of “liberal” villains, such as billionaire philanthropist George Soros (often the target of antisemitic conspiracies), the Clintons, and Bill Gates. The conspiracy theory has long been a cornerstone of the anti-government militia movement.
Among conspiracy theorists, the words “New World Order” (sometimes shortened to “NWO”, not to be confused with the pro wrestling stable) have evoked a litany of dystopian horrors, including depopulation programs using forced sterilization, a secretive ruling class of reptiles, and satanic “globalists” who are determined to kickstart the apocalypse.
However, that phrase also has legitimate use in the context of geopolitics: It was popularized by world leaders in the aftermath of World War I and later World War II, to describe systems of collective government (such as the failed League of Nations, NATO, and the United Nations) which would help nations avoid future bloody conflicts. And recently, it’s being used again by pundits and lawmakers to describe the uncertainty wrought by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sent shockwaves across Europe.
Every time the phrase is used in a “legitimate” context, conspiracy theorists go wild. The latest iteration of the theory, which is being peddled throughout the QAnon community, claims that Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are puppets in a globalist scheme and that Western leaders only care about preventing Russia’s invasion because they’re protecting secret “biolabs” there. This theory has been used to discredit Western support for Ukraine.
Conspiracy theorists and far-right personalities pounced on Biden’s remarks, made during a Business Roundtable, to claim that the gaffe-prone president unwittingly showed his hand. “New World Order” trended on Twitter overnight. “Yes, president Biden was speaking in code. Yes he will lead the New World Order. Yes you will bend your knee. Bow down before Biden’s America,” wrote one person on Twitter. “I believe with all my heart that Joe Biden was installed by Globalists, Babylon included, to usher in the New World Order,” wrote another.
One particularly well-known proponent of the New World Order conspiracy is Infowars’ Alex Jones, who’s been taking a victory lap since Biden’s remarks. On Monday evening, Infowars ran the headline “Internet Flips Over Biden Saying ‘New World Order’ Is Coming”; the article itself was just a compilation of memes congratulating Jones for being “right.”
The far-right outlet the Gateway Pundit ran a headline saying “Biden Says the Quiet Part Out Loud,” and mused, “Weren’t we told the “Great Reset” and the “New World Order” were just conspiracy theories?”
Far-right activist Laura Loomer also chimed in. “Remember when the left called us all CONSPIRACY THEORISTS for saying that the U.S. government was aligned with globalist forces to usher in a New World Order???” Loomer wrote on Telegram. “WATCH: Biden just admitted yesterday that he is working to implement the New World Order and that the US needs to lead the charge.”
“Conspiracy theories= conspiracy facts,” she added.