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One of the greatest snowboarders of all time is sharing dangerous conspiracy theories on Instagram

Photo by Kristian Klausen on Unsplash

Nicolas Müller is undoubtedly one of the greatest snowboarders of all time. His effortless style and unique approach to riding everything from halfpipe to powder has shaped modern snowboarding.

Müller has been so influential in the scene that he’s had a biopic film made about him, and he’s been a frequent feature in snowboard media across the planet for decades now. How sad, then, it is to see him sharing racist, anti-Semitic, far-right conspiracy theories on Instagram.

After the recent police murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests for racial equality, Müller started publishing several dubious conspiracy theories on his Instagram stories. Originally posted by far-right sources, these conspiracy theories have their roots in hate speech, racism, and white supremacy.

After several months of sharing anti-vax and 5G conspiracy theories, Müller has recently suggested that Black Lives Matter protestors are instigating a race war, comparing them and antifa protestors to Nazis. Recently, Müller shared an image purportedly showing an antifa flag that bears similarities with one flown by the Nazis during World War II.

This image is a fake, and the flag in question is not actually an antifa flag at all, but one flown by real life neo-Nazis from the British National Front — a fascist group that have been banned from social media for their extreme views.

Müller has also recently shared anti-Semitic stories about George Soros being in control of the world. One of Müller’s insta stories was recently of an image that suggests Soros was a SS officer during the 1940’s. Again, this image is a fake.

Not only was George Soros too young to serve in the SS during WWII, but he and his family are Jewish and had to hide their identity in Nazi occupied Hungary during the war.

So who is the man featured in Müller’s picture? That’s Oskar Groening, a guard at Auschwitz who was recently convicted for his role in the deaths of 300,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

These are just two of the most extreme things posted by Müller over the past few days. Other posts include stories from pro-Trump figures criticising the mainstream media, conspiracy theories that suggest 5G causes coronavirus (spoiler alert: it doesn’t), and content sourced from Q Anon accounts that suggest #AllLivesMatter.

It’s worrying enough that someone would share these things, let alone such a prominent and influential snowboard icon like Müller. This is because these conspiracy theories are not just harmless pieces of trolling that take place on the internet. They have real life effects.

In the past, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories — such as claims that Jews control the world — played a key role in dehumanising Jewish people and contributed to the Holocaust where 6 million Jews were executed by the Nazis.

Today, conspiracy theories that George Soros is a global mastermind in control of the media, finance, and government not only entrench prejudice towards Jewish people, but they are used to undermine and promote violence towards anyone who opposes the policies of Donald Trump.

In 2018, a man who believed these conspiracy theories about George Soros walked into a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA and shot dead 11 Jewish people. This ‘was the worst act of anti-Semitic violence in US history,’ and it’s the kind of awful event that is encouraged by the online material recently shared by Müller.

Online racist conspiracy theories also contributed to the worldview of those responsible for the recent mass shootings in Charlestown and Christchurch. Müller’s insinuations about Black Lives Matter protestors are therefore not only disingenuous, but also dangerous.

All of Müller’s major sponsors — Thirty Two, Oakley, Gnu Snowboards — have recently shared their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In response to these posts, fans have been calling for them to consider their association with Müller. As one person put it in a reply to a Thirty Two post on Instagram in support of Black Lives Matter; ‘how about you put your money where your mouth is and stop sponsoring Nicolas Müller’?’

Since then, Thirty Two have announced that they have ‘parted ways’ with Müller, and have dropped him from their team, as have the snowboard manufacturer Gnu. At the time of writing, Oakley, and other sponsors such as CrabGrab and Remind Insoles are yet to do so publicly.

In response to being dropped by his sponsors, Müller has spoken about the woes of cancel culture and has said he prays ‘for what’s left of the rebellious freestyle spirit in snowboarding.’

Whilst Müller shouldn’t necessarily be ‘cancelled,’ he needs to be aware that freedom of speech doesn’t come with freedom of consequences.

He also needs to learn about the dangers of his conspiratorial thinking and actions, and he should think critically about the sources he gets his news from and how he learns about the world around him.

It’s ok for professional athletes to have political views, but they should be wary about using their platform to promote conspiracy theories and racist material that is so blatantly false, misguided, and dangerous.

Based on some of the accounts Müller is currently following on Instagram such as alt-right sources, Q Anon accounts and conspiracy theorists like ‘MAGAbabe’, it seems that he is learning all the wrong things from all the wrong places. If, as some people have suggested, he is suffering from mental health issues, then those close to him urgently need to help him address these.

Nicolas Müller should seriously consider whether pro-Trump, anti-equality social media posts really do reflect the rebellious spirit of snowboarding he has previously embodied.

Until he takes steps to learn about the dangers of what he’s done and apologise for what he’s shared, as well as the offence he’s caused to black and ethnic minority fans of his, it’s hard to hold Müller in much regard.

To put it bluntly, his recent actions suck. He used to be my favourite snowboarder, but now I’m not so sure.

Rhys Crilley has a PhD in International Relations and writes about the intersections of global politics & popular culture.

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