Saturday, December 5, 2020

'The Daily Show,' Vox, and CBS News explain QAnon, silly to serious examinations of a conspiracy theory

I closed out Michigan hearing goes viral as Corden, Kimmel, Fallon, and Colbert spread the laughter with "Don't listen to me, Georgia Republicans. Just keep drinking the Qool-Aid." Why did I spell Kool-Aid with a Q? Because of the role followers of QAnon have been playing in spreading conspiracy theories, such as the ones being spread by the attorneys working for what's left of Trump's campaign discouraging Republicans from voting in the runoff election for U.S. Senate in Georgia because the system is rigged. True, that's not a core idea of the Q mythology, but it certainly is adjacent to it. So, what is QAnon? I am outsourcing that to "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" and Vox for a silly and serious look at the elaborate conspiracy theory and how it has spread.

First, the silly with How QAnon Is Taking Over The GOP as explained by Trevor Noah.

Are Trump’s typos secret messages? Are Hillary Clinton, Tom Hanks, and Oprah eating children to live longer? Here’s what you need to know about QAnon.
This video and the others I have embedded below all touch on a subject I have been writing about for years, the ability of Facebook to allow its users to spread misinformation and reinforce their worst political instincts. I'm quite aware that pointing this out is biting the hand that feeds this blog, as Facebook is this blog's number one source of page views, even as it has become less reliable over the years. That I continue to use Facebook for this purpose might even make me appear hypocritical. This is why it's called "The Facebook Dilemma." Sigh.

That's the silly version. Now for the serious versions of the story, beginning with Vox's The Instagram aesthetic that made QAnon mainstream.

Conspiracy theory researchers explain how QAnon spread through Instagram.
At first glance, the images under the hashtags about child trafficking don’t look that different from anything else you’d expect to see on Instagram. They feature bright pastel colors with trendy fonts spelling out taglines like “wake up” and “get loud.”

What the people who see these hashtags — and the lifestyle influencers who often post them — might not know is that the hashtag is being used to bring QAnon ideas into the mainstream. In March, 23 percent of people surveyed by Pew had heard of QAnon; by September, that number had risen to 47 percent. Now the conspiracy theory has reached a bigger support base than ever before via QAnon-lite memes — with serious implications for the election.
Once again, the video examines the role of social media in propagating the conspiracy theory and injecting it into the mainstream, this time concentrating on Instagram, although Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are all mentioned.

Speaking of YouTube, its recommendation algorithm brought CBSN Originals presents "Reverb | The QAnon Effect" to my attention. As I have written three times before, "Behold the power of the YouTube algorithm!"

What started out as a fringe conspiracy theory in 2017 has recently spread into the mainstream. Dozens of people linked to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory ran for federal office in 2020, and two were elected to Congress. This CBSN Originals documentary explores how QAnon has taken root amid challenging times and a growing distrust in American institutions, and what it means for the future of the country.
In addition to the role social media plays in spreading misinformation and recruiting their users into the cult of QAnon, CBS News examines the other causes and effects of the conspiracy theory, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the election, and protests again police brutality among the causes and the harm it is causing to fighting actual child trafficking and on American politics among its effects. Scary.
Speaking of scary, keep the following quotes from David Frum in mind while reading this post and watching the videos.
Maybe you do not care much about the future of the Republican Party. You should. Conservatives will always be with us. If conservatives become convinced that they can not win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.
The one-third of America that identifies as “conservative” will be isolated even more profoundly within an information ghetto of deception and incitement.
“When we talk about online radicalization we always talk about Muslims. But the radicalization of white men online is at astronomical levels,” tweeted the sharp social observer Siyanda Mohutsiwa the morning after the 2016 election.
Frum describes why liberals and others should care why many people on the right believe at least part of the QAnon conspiracy theory. When I wrote that I might post "something more serious" today, I meant it. Even though I started with comedy, I was being "ha, ha, only serious" about an issue that is deadly serious. My hope is that the next sentence Frum wrote comes true: "Perhaps the very darkness of the Trump experience can summon the nation to its senses and jolt Americans to a new politics of commonality, a new politics in which the Trump experience is remembered as the end of something bad, and not the beginning of something worse." The Crazy Eddie in me approves.

I'll have something lighter tomorrow, most likely another clip post from Saturday Night Live. Stay tuned.

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