An OG conspiracy theory about the United Nations’ supposed effort to establish a dystopian “New World Order” has gained steam online and is now galvanizing some pro-gun activists who plan to rally in Richmond, Virginia, at the Capitol next week.
An image dating back to at least 2016 showing U.N. vehicles being transported on flatbed trucks has been making the rounds on the internet again in recent weeks. People are sharing the photo, saying it was taken late last month on a highway in Virginia. They claim it's more evidence that the U.N. is in cahoots with the Democratic Virginia Legislature on a covert mission to disarm Americans and overthrow the United States with the end goal of establishing a New World Order run by global elites.
The New World Order theory has been around for decades, but its most recent iteration is rooted in a fake document that started circulating online seven years ago. It purports to be a notice from the U.N. announcing the creation of a “Civilian Weapons Confiscation Study Group,” which would facilitate gun control laws in order to disarm civilians. It plays into simmering paranoia among right-wing militia types, who believe that a second civil war is on the horizon, and that Democrats are seeking a mass gun-grab to render conservatives defenseless.
It’s an improbable scenario to say the least, but it's been playing on the imaginations of pro-gun activists in Virginia, thousands of whom will descend on Richmond on January 20 to protest gun control legislation. The rally was organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a non-profit pro-Second Amendment organization. They’ve told the state that as many as 100,000 people could show up to the open-carry affair — and law enforcement are bracing for the possibility of violence.
Tensions over gun rights in Virginia have been mounting since a mass shooting left 12 dead in Virginia Beach in May, renewing calls from Democrats for tighter gun control. When Democrats flipped the Legislature and turned it blue in November, pro-gun groups leapt into action. Since then, 100 counties and cities passed resolutions declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” meaning that they will decide which gun laws to enforce and which to ignore.
In response to the growing Second Amendment sanctuary movement in Virginia, U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, whose district includes Richmond, ventured that the “governor may have to nationalize the National Guard to enforce the law.”
“That’s his call, because I don’t know how serious these counties are and how severe the violations of law will be,” McEachin said. “But that’s obviously an option he has.”
Virginia’s National Guard put out a statement after McEachin’s comments, saying that they “understand and respect the passion people feel for the U.S. Constitution and 2nd Amendment Rights” and “will not speculate about the possible use of the Virginia National Guard.”
Pro-gun conspiracy theorists believed that Virginia’s National Guard was siding with them and that they wouldn’t comply if Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, called them in to assist. In their view, Northam would be left with no choice but to summon the U.N. — whom they say has secretly been given the authority to build a network of underground bases in the United States.
A spokesperson for the U.N. says this isn't true.
“Simply put, the report is false and the U.N. is in no way undertaking any operations of the sort that you describe,” Farhad Aziz Haq said to VICE News in an email. “Photos depicting U.N. vehicles atop flatbed trucks in the U.S. are not uncommon. That’s because such vehicles are transported in the U.S. to places where they can be shipped to U.N. peacekeeping missions, where they are used. There are no U.N. peacekeeping missions in the United States, and the vehicles are not used inside the United States.”
It seems to have all begun when one Facebook user, who says they’re a resident of Elon, Virginia, shared the image of the U.N. vehicles on flatbed trucks last month with the caption, “Can’t begin to tell you how many of these I passed on 81 near Lexington, VA. Interesting times ahead!” (He’s since deleted the post.) Dave Hodges, who hosts a radio show popular among militia and "patriot" groups, claimed on December 20 that Gov. Northam was planning to use “roadblocks and U.N. troops to seize guns” from civilians.
“National Guard won’t comply with Virginia gun laws, so in response, Northam gives green light to U.N.,” declared another YouTuber with 60,000 subscribers in a video that has amassed over 100,000 views since it was posted December 29. And one Twitter account, which has been restricted due to “unusual activity,” also shared the image of the U.N. vehicles, which now has over 4,000 retweets. “As predicted!” they wrote. “U.N. vehicles in Virginia to assist with shock-troop gun control! Are you ready! Photo captured yesterday! Foreign troops!”
And the Facebook page for the Washington chapter of The Three Percenters, a right-wing militia, shared a LinkedIn post advertising a U.N. job opening for a “Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Officer” with the caption “Boogaloo is near” — a term used by far-right groups to refer to an impending civil war.
Militia groups like The Three Percenters are expected to join pro-gun activists for the rally in Richmond on Monday.
Cover: The United Nations logo on the back wall of the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations is seen from the floor May 12, 2006 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)