Lockdown protesters outside Parliament House in Melbourne (Image: AAP/Scott Barbour)

Is the current generation of conspiracy theorists any different to those of yesteryear?

Are the virus hoaxers, who think COVID-19 is a Bill Gates plot, or anti-vaxxers, with whom they're linked, or QAnon adherents, or "replacement theory" white supremacists, or incels, any different to previous generations of anti-Semites (who still blight society, of course) or anti-Communists convinced that Moscow controlled the world, or anti-Catholics who saw all Catholics as agents of the Vatican, or anti-Masons... on and on the list goes.

There have always been conspiracy theorists, a minority of the population who are characterised by, in the words of Norman Cohn, “the megalomaniac view of oneself as the Elect, wholly good, abominably persecuted, yet assured of ultimate triumph; the attribution of gigantic and demonic powers to the adversary; the refusal to accept the ineluctable limitations and imperfections of human existence..."