Fortunately Twitter decided to rein in QAnon, one of many cults projecting both the main tenets of Trumpism but also serving as a channel for non-domestic malign actors to invest in GOP disinformation and disruption.
Twitter’s crackdown comes too late to stop QAnon’s growth. While QAnon’s presence on Twitter will almost certainly shrink after the move, the movement it built on Twitter and other social media platforms has already moved into the real world—and established a foothold in the Republican Party.
Ahead of the deletions, panicked QAnon believers have attempted to evade bans on Twitter by changing up their spelling—now they claim to instead support CueAnon, or QANöN. “Praying Medic,” a leading QAnon promoter who blends late-night conspiracy theorizing with evangelical Christianity, temporarily deactivated his account in the hopes that Twitter will eventually give up on its purge.
Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn recently filmed himself taking a QAnon oath with his family, thrilling QAnon followers desperate for proof that their dream of mass executions will come true. All of these Trumpworld nods to QAnon come even as the FBI considers QAnon a source of domestic terrorism.
A QAnon believer who compared Q to Jesus won the Republican Senate nomination in Oregon. Another QAnon fan and congressional candidate is poised to win a runoff in Georgia in a heavily Republican district, meaning the conspiracy theory could soon be represented on the House floor next year.
QAnon is well-established on other social media networks, including Facebook and TikTok, the social media app popular with young people where the QAnon-adjacent Pizzagate conspiracy theory has flourished.
So far, Twitter’s purge hasn’t extended to some of QAnon’s leaders on the site. As of this writing, many of the most visible QAnon accounts—including Jordan Sather, a QAnon promoter who encourages his fans to consume a substance the FDA warns amounts to drinking bleach—are still active on the site.
Nine years later, as reports of a fearsome new virus suddenly emerged, and with Trump now president, a series of ideas began burbling in the QAnon community: that the coronavirus might not be real; that if it was, it had been created by the “deep state,” the star chamber of government officials and other elite figures who secretly run the world; that the hysteria surrounding the pandemic was part of a plot to hurt Trump’s reelection chances; and that media elites were cheering the death toll. Some of these ideas would make their way onto Fox News and into the president’s public utterances. As of late last year, according to The New York Times, Trump had retweeted accounts often focused on conspiracy theories, including those of QAnon, on at least 145 occasions.
The power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power—its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process—was not. The internet also enabled unknown individuals to reach masses of people, at a scale Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of. The warping of shared reality leads a man with an AR-15 rifle to invade a pizza shop. It brings online forums into being where people colorfully imagine the assassination of a former secretary of state. It offers the promise of a Great Awakening, in which the elites will be routed and the truth will be revealed. It causes chat sites to come alive with commentary speculating that the coronavirus pandemic may be the moment QAnon has been waiting for. None of this could have been imagined as recently as the turn of the century.
QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them. But it is also already much more than a loose collection of conspiracy-minded chat-room inhabitants. It is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values. And we are likely closer to the beginning of its story than the end. The group harnesses paranoia to fervent hope and a deep sense of belonging. The way it breathes life into an ancient preoccupation with end-times is also radically new. To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.
As Q has moved from one image board to the next—from 4chan to 8chan to 8kun, seeking a safe harbor—QAnon adherents have only become more devoted. If the internet is one big rabbit hole containing infinitely recursive rabbit holes, QAnon has somehow found its way down all of them, gulping up lesser conspiracy theories as it goes.
In this one hour program little attention is paid to the Russian components of disinformation deployed against the US, even as Zakaria was to be used as a messenger in the Ukraine revelations manufactured by Giuliani.
Disinformation has destabilized the reliability of information and the attempt to divert data reporting from the CDC is only the beginning of discrediting official statistics, especially for Trump cultists.
Ã¢ÂÂ Bryan Lowry (@BryanLowry3) July 23, 2020
Ã¢ÂÂ Michael Edison Hayden (@MichaelEHayden) July 23, 2020
— Molly Jong-FastÃ°ÂÂÂ¡ (@MollyJongFast) July 23, 2020
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) July 22, 2020
Ã¢ÂÂ Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) July 24, 2020