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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.

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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


Research/Projects

  • 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.”

ICYMI

Want even more links? Support us on Patreon to receive a second ICYMI post just for CARD members.


CODA

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. 

You can listen right now by joining our Patreon as a bronze member.

NYC Readers: Free Event! Join NYC Media Lab for Screening of The Great Hack, a Netflix Original Documentary

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.

Got feedback or questions? We love hearing from our readers. Reply directly to this email with your comments. I read every email and respond to most. You can also hit us up on Twitter: @melissaryan, @simonmurdochhnh, and @hopenothate.

Until next week…