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Locking Down the QAnon Vote
By Melissa Ryan
Donald Trump loves conspiracy theories. He owes a lot of his political rise to amplifying birther conspiracies about Barack Obama. As a candidate for President, Trump appeared on Alex Jones’ Infowars. And Business Insider reports that Trump has amplified 21 separate conspiracy theories on Twitter.
One conspiracy theory that Trump has yet to endorse directly? QAnon, the right’s favorite mega conspiracy theory. Which is interesting when you consider that Trump is the hero of QAnon. Followers believe Trump is working to bring about “The Storm” where his many enemies will be arrested for being “murderous child-eating pedophiles.” QAnon is both ridiculous and the kind of content that you’d think Trump would be all over.
While Trump hasn’t endorsed QAnon he continually plays footsie with key figures and amplifiers of the conspiracy. Alex Kaplan writing for Media Matters reports that Trump “has amplified tweets from supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory more than 25 times, and members of his family, his personal attorney, current and former campaign staffers, and even some former administration officials have also repeatedly amplified QAnon supporters and their content.” Kaplan also reminds us that “Supporters of QAnon have been linked to murder and other acts of violence, and the FBI has warned about the conspiracy theory as a potential domestic terrorism threat.”
The Trump operation seems to have made a strategic decision that endorsing QAnon is a line they won’t cross but that they also can’t afford to alienate Q’s supporters. Amplifying known supporters of QAnon while remaining silent on the conspiracy itself allows them to signal QAnon while still giving Trump and his administration plausible deniability.
Conspiracy believers are part of Trump’s coalition and both the reelection campaign and the Republican party put effort into reaching out. I should point out that multiple Republican members of Congress, like Trump, clearly believe conspiracy theories and/or use their elected office to amplify them.
You might be tempted to dismiss conspiracy-mongering as a political tactic and assume that those who subscribe to conspiracy theories are just idiots who probably won’t even vote, but doing so would be a grave mistake. A new paper from political scientists, Michael BangPetersen, Mathias Osmundsen and Kevin Arceneaux, A “Need for Chaos” and the Sharing of Hostile Political Rumors in Advanced Democracies makes the case that motivations to share disinformation and conspiracy theories “are associated with ‘chaotic’ motivations to “burn down” the entire established democratic ‘cosmos’. We show that this extreme discontent is associated with motivations to share hostile political rumors, not because such rumors are viewed to be true but because they are believed to mobilize the audience against disliked elites.”
Republicans need conspiracy theorists to win, just as they need white supremacists to win. (Yes, there’s a lot of overlap.) More than likely there are Republican operatives out there right now formulating plans to turn out the crucial QAnon vote.
No Holiday for Hate
Despite being the time of year when most choose to wind down, propagators of far right, radical right and divisive, conspiratorial ideas continue to convene in Europe, the US and elsewhere.
I’ve put together an overview of recent and upcoming events which highlight just how much cross-border collaboration is occurring now in these circles. It no longer makes sense to just talk about domestic actors and groups, we have to think bigger. Whether it is the movement of people, money or ideas, driving elements of these movements now think globally, and we have to as well.
Read the full run-down here
- A new report from Data & Society: Source Hacking: Media Manipulation in Practice. The report identifies “the underlying techniques of source hacking to provide journalists, news organizations, platform companies, and others with a new vocabulary for describing these tactics.” A helpful resource for media and news consumers.
- Alliance for Securing Democracy is out with a much-improved Hamilton Dashboard 2.0. “The new interface enables reporters, researchers and interested citizens to identify the narratives Russia’s government seeks to promote in the United States and abroad – providing a comprehensive, big-picture look at its strategic attempts to manipulate information around its geopolitical interests.”
- Undercover in Patriot Prayer: Insights From a Vancouver Democrat Who’s Been Working Against the Far-Right Group from the Inside (Portland Mercury)
- Leaked Emails Show How White Nationalists Have Infiltrated Conservative Media (Splinter News)
- Over 40 People Have Been Arrested as Potential Mass Shooters Since El Paso (Huffington Post)
- Users of a Major Online Trump Hub Expect They’ll Be Kicked Off Reddit—and They Don’t Know Where to Go (Mother Jones)
- Infowars Loses Appeal in Sandy Hook Defamation Lawsuit (Right Wing Watch)
- Far-Right Terrorism is Now a Global Phenomenon, With Help From Russia (Daily Kos)
- How Experts Are Trying to Deradicalise America’s Youth in the Age of Trump (The Independent)
- Media Presented Far-right Grifter Andy Ngo as a Credible Journalist Reporting on Left-Wing Violence and Antifa. He Was Just Caught Covering for Far-Right Extremists as They Plan Violent Attacks. (Media Matters)
Want even more links? Support us on Patreon to receive a second ICYMI post just for CARD members.
We just released a new Ctrl Alt-Right Delete podcast for our patrons, an interview with the fantastic Kim Kelly! From taking on the metal scene’s swastika tattooed underbelly to teaching teens how to do labor organizing in Teen Vogue, Kim is giving hope to a generation of people shafted by the digital economy and hungry for a better world.
Thursday, September 26. Arrive by 2:00 PM. The film begins promptly at 2:30-5:00 PM.
Location:New York City College of Technology (CUNY), 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11221
NYC Media Lab will host a screening of The Great Hack, a widely talked about film released by Netflix. The documentary explores how a data company named Cambridge Analytica came to symbolize the dark side of social media in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The screening will include a discussion with The New School’s David Carroll, who is featured prominently in the film.
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Until next week…