lockdown protest
(Image: AAP/Scott Barbour)

If the protesters who gathered in a violent demonstration in Sydney on Saturday were a thoroughly eclectic group -- right-wingers, anti-vaxxers, fundamentalist Christians, disgruntled small business owners, anti-government types, Gladys Berejiklian haters, self-appointed tribunes of south-west Sydney, spivs and chancers -- they also reflected that conspiracy theorists are increasingly a threat to public order.

A lot of contumely was heaped on the protesters -- quite correctly -- in Sydney, along with considerable mockery. The police minister resorted to a term of yesteryear ("boofheads") in lieu of something less evening news-friendly. But the presence of conspiracy theorists -- claiming that the virus is a hoax, that vaccines are a threat, that the media is manipulating people -- shouldn't be treated as a subject of derision.

As we saw on January 6 in the United States, conspiracy theories can lead to insurrection, attacks on democracy and killings. In fact the logic of many of the COVID conspiracy theories parading on Saturday in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere leads inevitably to violent insurrection.