Druthers, a new print paper devoted to Covid conspiracies, launched its first edition in Toronto on November 28. Claiming 25,000 hard copies in circulation and an online edition, it is receiving a lot of buzz in anti-mask/lockdown circles.
A second issue is planned for January 1, and editor Shawn Jason Laplante, who goes by Shawn Jason online, announced that a partnership is in the works with Ted Kuntz of Vaccine Choice Canada (VCC).
The status of this arrangement is unknown, and Laplante told the Canadian Anti-Hate Network he was “just exploring some ideas,” when asked for comment.
He presented it to his supporters a little differently.
“I just received a phone call from Ted Kuntz, president of Vaccine Choice Canada and it looks like we are joining forces to make Druthers even bigger and deeper reaching!” Laplante wrote in the private Druthers Facebook group on December 4.
In the print edition, all of page two of the paper’s first issue was devoted to a press release from VCC.
While he told us there wouldn’t need to be a newspaper without the “rampant censorship” seen in society, his goal is to reach national circulation of half a million copies.
Current funding for the paper is coming from a mixture of sources, including crowdfunding, ad and merchandise sales. Laplante states on his GoGetFunding page that $3,000 is all that is needed to produce and distribute 25,000 copies, and that $5,000 would enable him to complete a publishing run of 50,000. For the upcoming January 1st edition, he has raised $1,680 as of December 6. Assuming all the supporters who advertised their business ventures in the first edition paid for the space, he brought in approximately $1,125 through advertising sales.
Laplante, who appears to be based in Toronto, writes in his first editorial that Druthers’ creators are “explorers of truth” who “love and care for all of humanity.” While this may be what he would like people to believe, it is not the case.
Dave Bolton of Newmarket, who is working closely with Laplante on Druthers, is the father of Mike Bolton, another frequent anti-lockdown protest attendee who describes himself as a fascist Atomwaffen Division supporter.
The paper is being promoted by the anti-Muslim ACT! For Canada’s website, alongside white nationalist and former University of New Brunswick professor Ricardo Duchesne’s Council of European Canadians, QAnon content creator Amazing Polly, and The Epoch Times, among others.
The paper was also promoted by a user on the notorious white supremacist forum Stormfront. RykerB posted a description of the project that appeared on other sites, including ACT! For Canada: “This is exiting [sic] news! The first issue of this new newspaper is complete. 25,000 physical copies have been printed. Druthers thanks everyone for their love and support in bringing this to fruition. This weekend they begin distributing the hard copies freely around Toronto & neighbouring cities. In addition to the physical newspaper there are also digital, and online versions.”
In response, Laplante stated he was unaware of the promotion on Stormfront and ACT! For Canada.
“Druthers is being talked about everywhere by many people. I'm not a hater at all. Quite the opposite,” he said. “Heck, I don't even hate the globalists who I believe are committing massive crimes against humanity right now.”
In addition to the expected anti-vax, anti-mask rhetoric, and articles about how to organize a protest march and how to navigate relationship challenges that may arise when one’s significant other is not on board with anti-mask beliefs, Druthers also dips into the far right side of things by recommending “websites of interest” including The Corbett Report, Rebel Media, Dan Dicks’ Press For Truth, Lamont Daigle’s The Line Canada, and Hugs Over Masks, among others.
An article entitled “Panopticon: COVID-19 and the reign of terror” by self-described “environmental journalist” Guy Crittenden raises eyebrows with its heavy reliance on QAnon ideas and assorted conspiracies, comparison of global COVID responses to Nazi eugenics and the Holocaust, while leaning on a thinly veiled antisemitic trope that globalists are “not connected to spirit.”
When asked about the content of the articles, he acknowledged that “some people will call some articles conspiracy theory,” but said his paper is about “exploring truths rather than trying to be a voice of authority.”
At first glance, 48-year-old Shawn Jason Laplante appears to be an unlikely publisher of such content. Indeed, some of his friends even called him out for an October 4th Facebook post promoting his favorite YouTube channels including Wayne Peters’ What’s Up, Canada?, Dan Dicks, and Amazing Polly, among others.
A self-described “Reality Alteration Specialist,” Laplante, a home renovator and carpenter by day, has poured his passions into his many side projects that, until now, promoted love and peace while selling T-shirts and coffee mugs.
His most successful venture was I Love You Pass It On, or ILYPIO, an admittedly endearing effort to spread little love cards around the world to make people smile. He boasts that he got the cards into over 800 communities worldwide, and his T-shirt made it into a couple of music videos and was even promoted by Darius McCrary of Family Matters fame.
In an ironic twist, back in 2015 Laplante organized teams to give out free hugs around Toronto, which almost seems like training for what was to come in 2020. However, at that point, it does not appear that he was telling his friends to “keep an open mind” when it comes to far-right/racist material.
In June he asked for volunteers to take over the management of the ILYPIO project, stating in the comments, “I’m feeling drawn to step up my activism game. Iloveyoupassiton was always intended as a form of activism, but lately I am moving towards more aggressive activism… As the powers that be have upped their game recently, so must I.”
This new aggression is leading Laplante to boost people like antisemitic conspiracy theorist, David Icke on his social media and within the pages of Druthers.
Icke is a one-time British football player known for his promulgation of the theory that most major world leaders are a race of reptilian and pedophilic aliens. Icke is also a decades-long superspreader of conspiracies and misinformation -- he claims that “Rothschild Zionists” control the world, that Jews financially supported Hitler during the Second World War, and that Jews were behind both the 9/11 terror attack and the 2008 recession.
Icke has also argued that schools should permit the study of Holocaust denial.
Recently, Icke was banned from YouTube after promoting the idea that COVID-19 was actually caused by 5G technology.
Laplante said in a comment that he was unaware of Icke being antisemitic.
Also, appearing in the pages is controversial Aylmer pastor Henry Hildebrandt, who is making news for his hardline anti-mask leadership of his congregation. Twenty years ago Hildebrandt courted controversy when he fought the Children’s Aid Society to maintain the right to strike his children and counsel his congregants to carry out similar discipline in their families.
While Laplante is careful to say he doesn’t fully agree with some of the individuals and organizations he highlights, at some point fellow travellers become fellow believers and it is very concerning where this new venture will lead him. In a brainstorming thread on Facebook, Laplante proposes targeting COVID testing centres with his propaganda while others suggest handing out flyers to parents outside schools at drop-off/pick-up times.
“I don't propose people distribute newspapers at COVID testing centers,” he said when asked, “but offering up a flyer with some information about the tests isn't a bad idea.”
Laplante and Druthers illustrate the dangers that come when New Age or anti-vax proponents mix with racists and other far right actors. A strong belief in seeing the goodness in everyone coupled with an attitude that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” leads to an increasing suspension of common sense and moral judgement while pursuing the common goal of fighting covid safety measures.
It remains to be seen whether Druthers will continue to grow or will fall flat despite the support and assumed injection of funds from VCC, but one thing is certain: Laplante has strayed significantly from his proclamations of equal love and care and it may take a significant change for him to return to that worldview.
With files from Elizabeth Simons and Kurt Phillips.
Follow Rayne on Twitter @agtbloodrayne.