"we’re not dealing with people who can be swayed by facts"
August 30, 2020 5:28 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday thousands of far right extremists and QAnon supporters protested in the German capital against the Coronavirus lockdown measures (NBC News) and even tried to storm the Reichstag (Guardian | Euronews), resulting in hundreds of arrests (BBC News) as "authorities said the protesters violated court orders on health and safety" (Deutsche Welle). As this particular brand of conspiracism takes hold also outside the US, the question is now more than ever: What should we do about QAnon now that it has gone mainstream? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Also check out the CJR’s roundtable on QAnon and disinformation hosted on the CJR's discussion platform, Galley, and individual conversations with journalists and experts like Parker Molloy from Media Matters, Will Sommer of the Daily Beast, Julia Carrie Wong from the Guardian US, Alice Marwick, a researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill who has been studying QAnon for a year, and many others.

Further reading in English about QAnon in Germany:
- How did a fringe corona conspiracy theory in Germany grow to a nationwide movement? (The Local, 26 June 2020)
- QAnon theories are merging with European conspiracies: report (Euronews, 31 July 2020)
posted by bitteschoen (161 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also of note is that among those arrested in Berlin was Attila Hildmann, a vegan chef turned conspiracy theorist and self-described "ultra-right-wing" nationalist (EN Wikipedia). Authorities in Berlin had already tried to stop him before (DW).
And, of course, even German QAnoners showed their support for Donald Trump (photo on Twitter).
posted by bitteschoen at 5:30 AM on August 30 [3 favorites]


(there’s also an example of the kind of stuff Hildmann says in this CNN article from July 30 on the spread of QAnon in Europe, not quoting it here because it’s even wilder far-right conspiracism than you can imagine...)
posted by bitteschoen at 5:49 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


God Zuckerburp has a lot to answer for. At some point a wingnut theory was going to emerge on a massive scale because of Facebook's algorithms and this would be it. I have absolutely no idea how you fight something like this.

I could read only so much of this but thanks for posting all the same. I have seen old friends start to go down these rabbit holes since the virus hit and it's painful. Delete, unfriend, delete.

You want your zombies? Here's your zombies!
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 6:07 AM on August 30 [43 favorites]


I've been seeing a number of posts on FB, talking about large numbers of missing children being rescued/found, and tried to find more about it. It turns out that these "reports" have been around for a while, but no news coverage about it. My spidey sense went immediately to QAnon.
posted by sundrop at 6:17 AM on August 30 [13 favorites]


Via Anne Helen Petersen's newsletter, from MIT Technology Review: Evangelicals are looking for answers online. They’re finding QAnon instead.

Obviously US-centered (and so maybe a bit of a derail, sorry), but it does look into how QAnon ideas have spread via FB and anti-child/sex trafficking posts on social media.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:40 AM on August 30 [16 favorites]


NPR had a bonkers interview with a journalist who is dating a conspiracy aficionado.
posted by PhineasGage at 6:40 AM on August 30 [4 favorites]


I just...
I mean, I can’t...

(Sigh) Of course I’m no expert, but as an adolescent, in the 80’s I was really “into” conspiracy theories. Originally somewhat sincerely, as an outgrowth of questioning authority, and later in the same way that I enjoyed bad movies. Once the patterns and connections became obvious they were easier to spot and became a form or entertainment, another genre, a trope. Obviously there are people who study this and probably have whole taxonomies to reference different theories in the same way that there are labeling systems for different kinds of folk and fairy tales. In a way this seems to fulfill that same role, a type of folk mythology. (I haven’t read all the linked articles). When the Bilderberg meetings and Rothschild’s show up in this I won’t be surprised. I’m pretty sure David Icke has at least been name checked if not completely subsumed.

I guess any point I could try to make is that none of this is unfamiliar. What is unfamiliar is the type of people who seem most gullible to this and the sheer reach of it. This whole thing terrifies me. More than anything else I’ve yet encountered in life. Seriously.

It’s all so medieval. So Devils of Loudun. So St. Vitus’ dance. Imagine how this could end. When do people wake up and realize they’ve been dancing for weeks and have burned down all the houses and granaries? When do the Witch Trials start?
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 6:41 AM on August 30 [60 favorites]


What is unfamiliar is the type of people who seem most gullible to this and the sheer reach of it.

Conspiracy cranks of the past had to print their own pamphlets and yell at people from street corners or city council meetings, they weren’t getting a global platform and free tech support from multi billion dollar tech companies that amplified and rewarded their participation.
posted by mhoye at 6:51 AM on August 30 [71 favorites]


God Zuckerburp has a lot to answer for.

Just working on my 1st cup of coffee, and I initially assumed God Zuckerburp was a German far right leader. Should probably just go back to bed.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:00 AM on August 30 [104 favorites]


The Right has always been about arguing from authority. It's one reason why so many Catholics have gotten dragged into the Right Wing--abortion was just the tool, the REASON is because the whole purpose of the Catholic church is to justify arguing from authority (saying this as someone raised Catholic). Even when a Right Winger says the words "educate yourself and draw your own conclusions" they mean "look at these materials I've vetted for you and come to the conclusions I've drawn for you."

The Left has not done a good enough job of protecting and extending public education, but we have to remember we have an inherently harder position to defend. One reason we always seem to tear our leaders down is because we're skeptical of authority (and are right to be!). But the playing field is not even, and can probably never be, because people would rather believe an easy lie than a hard truth.
posted by rikschell at 8:12 AM on August 30 [59 favorites]


METAFILTER: Should probably just go back to bed.
posted by philip-random at 8:20 AM on August 30 [24 favorites]


A few buses full of protesters passed by apartment on the morning of the protests. Full of senior citizens, many from the south of Germany. They looked scared, and sad. Maybe that's just my interpretation.

The Wutbürger (a type of extreme NIMBYism) have found common cause with Reichsbürger aka Nazis who want to take over Poland and Eastern Europe again. Those are the ones flying the black-white-red flag of Imperial Germany at the protests, shouting "Putin, Putin, Putin" out front of the Russian Embassy.

The fact that those NIMBY seniors were fine marching next to and therefore supporting Nazis is not a positive development.
posted by romanb at 8:22 AM on August 30 [20 favorites]


See, the thing is, the conditions for QAnon to spread have been in place for years now. So why only now is it spreading and merging with every other conspiracy theory out there, despite them seeming to be mutually incompatible?

Part of it, I think, is the evangelical subculture trying to deal with cognitive dissonance by inventing a massive pedophilia conspiracy, as they did during the 80s with the satanic panic. Their leaders told them to vote for Trump despite being the very model of the antichrist, and they've got form in inventing entire worldviews to justify why they happen to be right.

But it going mainstream, I think, has to do with COVID. It's been strange, uncertain times, and leaders across the world pivoting to a number of positions that they ping-pong between as they weigh up having to discard their old ideologies with the reality of a global pandemic with the perfect attributes to really fuck up the global order has sent parts of the public who were always kind of skittish around authority, or not particularly liking the rules of society changing on them, into the arms of online misinformation.
posted by Merus at 8:26 AM on August 30 [24 favorites]


Fake facts!
posted by fairmettle at 8:29 AM on August 30


If we're looking for a "cure" to QAnon (and similar profoundly stupid/dangerous stuff), the best thing I've read on it is bluntly simple, thus supremely complicated.

Basically, such beliefs have a lot in common with an addiction like alcoholism, which means it helps to think of QAnon as an disease, but a rather particular kind of disease in that there's a complex social aspect to it (ie: a supportive community of fellow believers/drinkers, always somebody who's going to encourage you deeper into it). The similarities really do line up including the fact that, like alcohol, QAnon is to some degree a painkiller, a response to trauma etc.

So how do we deal with it? Again, maybe the answer here is similar to alcoholism -- that the only way to "cure" someone is if they want to be cured. So again, you start thinking in terms of hitting rock bottom, interventions from friends and family, maybe some kind of 12-step program.

I'm only personally aware of one person who's gone full QAnon and yeah, if you'd told me it would be him, I probably wouldn't have argued the point. He's long been what I'd call susceptible. Very bright (a quite brilliant comic mind actually), but if you dig into his background, you find a messed up childhood and then a bad marriage breakup, MRA related toxicity. And so on. And no -- he's not funny anymore.
posted by philip-random at 8:38 AM on August 30 [13 favorites]


It seems unlikely that this is a purely organic phenomenon at this point (if it ever was) given that it targets common enemies of the Trump and Putin regimes. Remember "spirit cooking" in 2016? Same vein.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:08 AM on August 30 [10 favorites]


Memetic virus. I mean, all viruses are memes; they just have different transcription platforms. Corona wants your epithelial cells, QAnon wants your panicked white supremacists.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:21 AM on August 30 [16 favorites]


shouting "Putin, Putin, Putin" out front of the Russian Embassy

With Russia providing financial and logistical support to populist, fascist movements across Europe and the US — from Trump to Boris to FN to PVV to AfD to QAnon — I hope that these countries figure out some way to deal with this terrorist state, before it is too late.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:26 AM on August 30 [14 favorites]


I am reminded of what it was like trying to deprogram my late father from more mainstream conservative propaganda. He had a sufficiently open mind that he and I could debate about topics of the day, such as the upcoming 2016 election; unlike my mother, who was and is all-in for Trump and still thinks that Sarah Palin would be a perfect US President, he was largely unamused by Trump's bluster and excess. But he was a senior citizen with a Facebook account full of similar folk, and was thus vulnerable to propaganda waves.

More than once, I had to shut down his attempts to engage on some real howlers -- how Obama was going to cancel the 2016 election, declare martial law and remain President indefinitely, or how everyone who got in Hillary Clinton's way ended up DEAD. I tried to be persuasive on areas where persuasion and facts were possible, and straight-up call bullshit on the indefensible. Sometimes it sank in. Sometimes it didn't. (In the end, I thought that I had persuaded him to, as he put it, 'when on a plane without a pilot, if there are two bad choices, at least vote for the one who knows how to fly a plane.' A family friend told me that he'd confided that he voted for Trump because 'you just can't TRUST That Woman.' C'est la vie.)
posted by delfin at 9:26 AM on August 30 [11 favorites]


I think Merus is right on target about the impact of COVID. Faced with such a profoundly threatening and destabilizing thing, we historically tend to look to authorities, which can be great for the right, as rikschell says. COVID threatens the body, the economy, social interaction, and more.

Honestly, I've been forecasting religious responses since January. I'm surprised we haven't seen more, either from established entities or from new religious movements.
posted by doctornemo at 9:38 AM on August 30 [2 favorites]


Basically, such beliefs have a lot in common with an addiction like alcoholism, which means it helps to think of QAnon as an disease, but a rather particular kind of disease in that there's a complex social aspect to it (ie: a supportive community of fellow believers/drinkers, always somebody who's going to encourage you deeper into it).

A memetic disease, and particularly virulent among a weakened flock with many injured members.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:39 AM on August 30 [8 favorites]


I've been forecasting religious responses since January

I won't repost their name to give them attention, but there is a Christian fundraising group that has collected US$200k in donations for the domestic terrorist who killed protesters in Kenosha, WI. Whether it is another wall-like scam is yet to be determined, but financial support for domestic terrorism definitely seems like a ramp up of their ongoing culture war.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:46 AM on August 30 [19 favorites]


God Zuckerburp has a lot to answer for. At some point a wingnut theory was going to emerge on a massive scale because of Facebook's algorithms and this would be it. I have absolutely no idea how you fight something like this.

First step to fighting this is to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Act that gives Zuckerberg legal immunity for the crap that he allows on his platform. A lot of this QAnon stuff originates in the U.S. and Zuckerberg should should be liable for damages the same as CNN or the New York Times or the Washington Post.

As long as Zuckerberg is allowed to make billions without any responsibility for his content you will continue to see things like this get worse and worse.
posted by JackFlash at 9:58 AM on August 30 [36 favorites]


It’s all so medieval. So Devils of Loudun. So St. Vitus’ dance. Imagine how this could end. When do people wake up and realize they’ve been dancing for weeks and have burned down all the houses and granaries? When do the Witch Trials start?
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:41 AM on August 30
So ... Hard to be a God.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:
The greatest enemy of The People is the concept of "The People".
posted by symbioid at 10:12 AM on August 30 [3 favorites]


You want your zombies? Here's your zombies!

That's actually a great way to describe the problem. They can't be reasoned with. They're not strong, but they're relentless. Deal with one, negligible effect; there are more. There are probably more than we think out there, denying they've been bitten, acting normal in public.
posted by ctmf at 10:20 AM on August 30 [29 favorites]


I don't think it's a good idea to think of QAnon as a "disease" any more than it's a good idea to think of religion in general as a disease. All of the Psychology research I read for a course on "fake news" last year has fully convinced me that conspiracy theories and religions are basically the exact same thing psychologically, so it makes a lot of sense that evangelicals are getting interested in QAnon: there is a lot of evidence showing similar personality traits are required in both cases.

It's not helpful to call conspiracy theories a disease because diseases are generally considered to have very negative effects on the individual in question, but in these cases there is no real evidence that either religion or conspiracy theories have negative effects on the individuals participating in it (in both cases I would argue they have strong negative effects on society/future existence as a whole and especially on individuals who are not involved). Conspiracy theory thinking satisfies real psychological needs for certainty and community, which are difficult needs to satisfy in 2020.

Obviously these beliefs are still a society-wide problem that needs to be addressed, but any possible solution needs to actually address the root-level psychological needs of certainty and community. I'm not really sure what movement actually satisfies those needs, I feel like many of the obvious alternatives have been poisoned by infighting and overly harsh standards for members or have other obvious societal downsides.
posted by JZig at 10:23 AM on August 30 [17 favorites]


there is no real evidence that... conspiracy theories have negative effects on the individuals participating in it

Burning down your own country based on demonstrably false outlandish fantasy isn't a negative effect? Well, not a direct one I guess.
posted by ctmf at 10:27 AM on August 30 [12 favorites]


There’s really a lot of great commentary and insights in the conversations on the CJR Galley site, haven’t read them all myself yet but I like how Julia Carrie Wong calls it what it essentially is (emphasis mine):
...I'm very concerned about how the professional media covers QAnon going forward. I'm worried that there will be an impulse toward normalizing this ideology as just another kooky aspect of Trumpism. I really think that we need to guard against that. This is a dangerous antisemitic ideology that is divorced from objective reality and it is gaining a foothold in the Republican Party. That's terrifying.
also in this headline from an article she wrote for the Guardian only a few days ago:
QAnon explained: the antisemitic conspiracy theory gaining traction around the world

No wonder Germany after the US has the most QAnon supporters. It is essentially plain old antisemitism (Protocols of Zion and blood libel included) repackaged with extra looniness from our times.

And now for something no less depressing, some more photos from the Berlin rally
posted by bitteschoen at 10:33 AM on August 30 [13 favorites]


We need another word in English to distinguish "baseless conspiracy theory" vs. "conspiracy theory that has reams of documented evidence and the actors on video saying 'I love this conspiracy, especially in the summer'" but I guess the term for the latter is "fake news"...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:34 AM on August 30 [5 favorites]


Burning down your own country based on demonstrably false outlandish fantasy isn't a negative effect? Well, not a direct one I guess.

Yeah that's exactly my point. With a real disease it's easy to convince someone to get it fixed because it hurts or stops them from doing something they care about. QAnon clearly hurts other people and would EVENTUALLY harm the individual or their children, but not in a way that can be easily demonstrated. So you need to treat it differently when you talk about solutions
posted by JZig at 10:38 AM on August 30 [5 favorites]


First step to fighting this is to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Act that gives Zuckerberg legal immunity for the crap that he allows on his platform.

Every time someone says this I wonder if they realize this will kill MetaFilter and sites like it. Because MeFi scrapes by as it is, they don't have the money for a full-fledged monitor-every-single-thing-that-gets-posted.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:45 AM on August 30 [31 favorites]


Every time someone says this I wonder if they realize this will kill MetaFilter and sites like it. Because MeFi scrapes by as it is, they don't have the money for a full-fledged monitor-every-single-thing-that-gets-posted.

There is absolutely no evidence that this is true. The mods work very hard here and do a great job on a very small budget. Zuckerberg hauls in $75 billion a year and for him to say he can't accomplish what the mods on metafilter accomplish is ridiculous. The mods here would have no problem viewing and making a decision based on a take-down notice. It isn't necessary to view everything in real time.
posted by JackFlash at 10:55 AM on August 30 [45 favorites]


All of the Psychology research I read for a course on "fake news" last year has fully convinced me that conspiracy theories and religions are basically the exact same thing psychologically, so

All religions are not the same. All conspiracy theories are not the same. So how could they ever be "the exact same thing psychologically"? For instance, we have lifelong, fully committed Christians out in the streets right now protesting in favor of BLM. Which conspiracy is driving them to this, I wonder?

QAnon clearly hurts other people and would EVENTUALLY harm the individual or their children, but not in a way that can be easily demonstrated. So you need to treat it differently when you talk about solutions

Which is why it was equated to a disease like alcoholism which has complex social component in how it affects you. Not to mention, it tends to infect its victims with unhealthy amounts of denial.
posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on August 30 [21 favorites]


I loved the Galley interviews and highly recommend them. I haven't seen a format quite like that before -- it's a bit like a two-day conference condensed into a 45-minute read.

Since there isn't a page that collects all of the interviews, and they'll eventually get pushed off the main Galley page, here's the whole collection of interviews: The one that hooked me was Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins. The whole thing is quotable, but here's one section:
Every day I hear a new story about how people are radicalized into QAnon, and every day it's a different online community that's been recently brigaded by evangelists trying to spread the truth about how Donald Trump is singlehandedly stopping the baby eaters.

The most recent one was the Peloton forums. Peloton. Most new Q followers I see recently are new moms.

...

So many people text me or call me or DM me, every single day, without fail, and they ask what they can do about a family member who is unrecognizble from a few months ago. They sit on the computer all day and try to figure out the puzzle about how the president is saving the world, and dream about a day in the near future where all of the bad guys are going to be executed and life is going to be normal again.

...

I don't need to guess if this stuff is important. I hear it from people every day, anxious for a vocabulary to deal with it, begging for ways to get their friends and family members back.
posted by john hadron collider at 11:00 AM on August 30 [36 favorites]


But it going mainstream, I think, has to do with COVID. It's been strange, uncertain times,

This is an important observation. Many folks really have a hard time with analytical thinking, but do respond to a friend or coworker replying "oh right, you're talking about the lizard people invasion, where did you read that again?"

The few cultists that's I've heard say they left the cult, did it via a personal interaction with others that planted a rational seen in their minds. That most folks could not chat with others forced them into this information bubble, well... or they've actually are under brain control by the lizard aliens.
posted by sammyo at 11:00 AM on August 30 [6 favorites]


Every time someone says this I wonder if they realize this will kill MetaFilter and sites like it.

You don't need to completely repeal 230. Just modify it so that it doesn't apply to:

(1) Content that you left up even though it violates your posted TOS (which decision is ultimately up to courts and juries)
(2) Content that you received any consideration paid to post
(3) Content that your selection and presentation algorithm presents to a user

probably more.

But there's lots of room to protect sites like metafilter or even reddit that are predominantly just dumb timelines of what people said while still nailing youtube/facebook/etc to the wall for the vile stuff that they've made an active editorial decision to promote to users.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:11 AM on August 30 [18 favorites]


The addiction comparison concerns me because our society has yet to develop a great cure for that.
posted by Selena777 at 11:13 AM on August 30 [11 favorites]


You can't run social media in the U.S.'s contingent legal fee / no loser-pay litigation regime, without CDA 230 or its equivalent.

Big as Facebook is, it couldn't face 10,000 infringement and defamation suits a day and you better believe that plaintiff lawyers would automate systems to intake clients and file their suits to just that end. Metafilter? Forget about it.

Maybe a DMCA-like regime would work where basically you just tick a box and the offending post is pulled down,
posted by MattD at 11:20 AM on August 30 [2 favorites]


You can't run social media in the U.S.'s contingent legal fee / no loser-pay litigation regime, without CDA 230 or its equivalent.

Yet somehow CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and countless other platforms without the zillions of dollars of Facebook manage to do it just fine. That's it's too hard are too expensive simply isn't an excuse. Why shouldn't Facebook operate to the same standards as CNN? It isn't that hard.
posted by JackFlash at 11:25 AM on August 30 [18 favorites]


Interesting long read
My Father, the QAnon Conspiracy Theorist
"Yes, it is heavy, and it hurts, I want to tell him, but I love you, and I’m sorry that I won’t take the red pill. I hope you can find your way back home".
posted by adamvasco at 11:59 AM on August 30 [9 favorites]


It's an uncontroversial opinion that the stresses of modern society can give people depressive symptoms, sometimes major depression but sometimes just subclinical dysthmia where people can still function quite well in daily life. I am starting to wonder whether the same thing isn't true of psychotic symptoms.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:59 AM on August 30 [11 favorites]


> You can't run social media in the U.S.'s contingent legal fee / no loser-pay litigation regime, without CDA 230 or its equivalent

So what are the downsides?
posted by glonous keming at 12:06 PM on August 30 [10 favorites]


I'm not entirely convinced we will be able to law our way out of a lawless president pushing conspiracy theories.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:11 PM on August 30 [19 favorites]


The Telegraph is trash, but publishing Qanon bullshit on their editorial page is a problem: Paedohpiles using Cheese and Pizza Emojis as Secret Code on Social Media.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:23 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]


It seems unlikely that this is a purely organic phenomenon at this point (if it ever was) given that it targets common enemies of the Trump and Putin regimes. Remember "spirit cooking" in 2016?

I do. Do you have some evidence that it was "non-organic," i.e. pushed by state (or near state) actors as you seem to be implying?

The addiction comparison concerns me because our society has yet to develop a great cure for that.

Cure it? Our society runs on it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:38 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


Yet somehow CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and countless other platforms without the zillions of dollars of Facebook manage to do it just fine.

I don't understand the comparison you are making here. The New York Times is responsible for about 1000 authors--whom they employ and have a lot of control over--publishing a few hundred stories every day.

Facebook is responsible for 2 billion users, many of whose real names they don't even know, publishing a few hundred million things every day.

This is not to say Facebook shouldn't or can't take responsibility for what they publish and their their algorithms choose to promote, but it seems like a qualitatively different kind of moderation / editorial control that's needed.
posted by straight at 12:54 PM on August 30 [15 favorites]


How much of this spike in conspiracy theory cults is the result of the bottom-line driven corporate media who, at best, spout the absolutely toxic "both sides" narrative? Maybe a more honest, non-suborned media would never have saved us, I don't know.

Also, whenever I read yet another news article about more conspiracy-driven violence or online comments about people cutting ties with brainwashed family members I can't help but mourn the loss of so many otherwise decent average people. Maybe they were never decent if they succumbed to this stuff, but I can't believe that's true in most cases. This stuff is insidious and leverages a lot of hard-wired behaviors. Most folks aren't going to stand a chance against the kind of sophisticated, weaponized psychology driving these movements.

I wish I had more to say, but without being trained in cult deprogramming and engaged with a willing participant, there isn't lot you can do on an individual level. Like it says above, these folks don't deal in facts and their emotions are far, far larger and more persuasive, and more frightening, that you could ever be in trying to talk them back to reality.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 1:04 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


is it a crime to profit from spreading disinformation? (this isn't rhetorical, I don't actually know the law that well) like, we have labour laws to keep workers from being exploited (yea I know they're not working all that well right now, but the idea is there) , so if there were laws saying that anyone who is knowingly spreading dangerous disinformation for their own gain can be criminally charged, could that help?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:04 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]


With a real disease it's easy to convince someone to get it fixed because it hurts or stops them from doing something they care about.

I don't think this is generally true. Diseases like addiction or even depression are often really hard to convince people to get fixed. Even for diseases that don't primarily affect mental health, like say type II diabetes, it can sometimes be hard to convince people to follow treatment plans, if doing so requires lifestyle changes they don't want to make.

Another thing that's worth considering when people use a disease metaphor for conspiracy thinking is whether they're describing it as like a disease for the individual, or like a disease for the body politic. (Or both.) Some beliefs or behaviors can be neutral or even great for the individuals, but toxic for society. Maybe it's debatable whether QAnon and other conspiracy theories are like a disease for the people that hold them, but it's pretty clear they're both highly infectious and extremely damaging at the level of societies. And far more so because our body politic now suffers from a severe immune deficiency thanks to decades of cuts to education and anti-expert, anti-government, anti-social propaganda from the far right on talk radio and Fox News.
posted by biogeo at 1:07 PM on August 30 [6 favorites]


Do you have some evidence that it was "non-organic," i.e. pushed by state (or near state) actors as you seem to be implying?--Steely-eyed Missile Man

This is in the news daily. The first link I found in Google.

This has been going on for years.

Heck, here's a recent article in the Moscow Times that talks about it.

Of course this is US election interference. There's also plenty of evidence of influence in Europe.
posted by eye of newt at 1:17 PM on August 30 [3 favorites]


Trump is the cult figure for a bunch of nationalist Americans and one of the central points he keeps hammering is American supremacy. Yet he's being adored by the white supremacist right in many foreign nations.

Are we looking at the beginning of a trans-national white nationalism? Or are they just incoherent?
posted by sotonohito at 1:32 PM on August 30


Are we looking at the beginning of a trans-national white nationalism? Or are they just incoherent?

it could be both
posted by chavenet at 1:48 PM on August 30 [13 favorites]


Fascism is always incoherent. For fascists, there is no problem with simultaneously believing that you are part of a chosen elite people that is better than all others while also believing that a fascist world leader who talks openly about being superior to you and your people is a wonderful leader and role model, as long as he is even more focused on hating the same people you hate. Remember that after years of describing Italians as an inferior race to the German "Aryans," Hitler seamlessly transitioned to insisting that they were and always had been an "Aryan" people once it became politically advantageous to ally with Mussolini. Had the Axis won World War II, the story would certainly have changed again and the Germans and Italians would have been natural born enemies with one destined to rule over the other. We're seeing much the same thing happening again now, I think. QAnon conspiracy thinking is not fundamentally that different in character from the kind of conspiracy thinking that was sweeping Europe in the interwar period.
posted by biogeo at 1:49 PM on August 30 [10 favorites]


eye of newt, none of those links mention the stupid "spirit cooking" thing at all.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:58 PM on August 30


There was also a ... thing ... in London yesterday. I've been referring to it as Flakestock. Covid-deniers, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, anti-5g, David Icke and many, many more. Including someone who turned up with the flag of the British Union of Fascists, which hasn't been seen in public since the late 1950s.
posted by Grangousier at 2:01 PM on August 30 [10 favorites]


How much of this spike in conspiracy theory cults is the result of the bottom-line driven corporate media who, at best, spout the absolutely toxic "both sides" narrative?

A believer is almost certainly not watching corporate media and probably considers it to be "fake news". Would we have gotten here if the news had done more journalism and less reporting? I don't know, but it's hard to ignore the fact that people seem to seek out narratives which confirm their beliefs and ignore those which challenge their beliefs.
posted by Slothrup at 2:14 PM on August 30 [7 favorites]


Turns out China was right about Facebook
posted by moorooka at 2:35 PM on August 30


Their WeChat is worse
posted by Rash at 2:37 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]


There was also a ... thing ... in London yesterday.

Likewise in New Zealand. A mix of anti-UN, anti-5G, and anti-lockdown types. Concerningly an actual MP joined them (albeit one who was kicked out of his party), as well as the New Conservatives (linked to far-right types). The MP has joined up with a new party led by a Maori musician turned conspiracy theorist - it's quite worrying to me seeing right-wingers and Maori both taken in by this.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:44 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


WeChat is absolutely not worse than Facebook. It’s difficult to spread disinformation on WeChat except via direct contacts, and its content is heavily censored to prevent exactly this type of bullshit. It does not host conspiracy-mongering public groups that anyone can find and join, still less does it employ algorithms to channel people toward them.
posted by moorooka at 2:47 PM on August 30 [3 favorites]


eye of newt, none of those links mention the stupid "spirit cooking" thing at all.Steely-eyed Missile Man

Well I was talking about RobotVoodooPower's general point about OP, but, yes, there's evidence of Russian trolling about this particular example of 'spirit cooking' too.

You'd think that will all the deaths Russians experienced at the hands of a facist government (far more than any other nation), that they wouldn't be putting such enormous and elabrate efforts to promote fascism throughout Europe and the US. I guess their effort is to weaken the governments with chaos, but it could all backfire on them at levels that only they can really understand.
posted by eye of newt at 2:54 PM on August 30


Not to deny the real impact of aggregated individual behavior on social media (FB, Twitter, YouTube), as well as malicious efforts to accelerate/shape/direct that, I'm also wondering how much of this is being amped up by subconscious terror about climate change.
posted by PhineasGage at 2:54 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


Obviously these beliefs are still a society-wide problem that needs to be addressed, but any possible solution needs to actually address the root-level psychological needs of certainty and community. I'm not really sure what movement actually satisfies those needs...

Democratic Socialism?

When people are feeling put-upon in life, when they are struggling to get ahead in a society where the decks are stacked against them by the wealthiest people, when they are being persuaded that in order to be a successful adult they must achieve [X, Y, and Z] but [X, Y, and Z] are impossibly out of reach on their financial pay grade, they are prone to thinking that somehow there is some secret cheat code that is letting other people get ahead while they struggle. If they come upon something that "Explains it all" they tend to glom onto it.

Having a universal basic income, better-priced access to heath care, and laws that enforced shorter work hours and more vacation days would go a long way towards alleviating the financial pressure that is no doubt secretly fueling a lot of these conspirators - or, at least, it would give them greater means to have something to do INSTEAD of fall down Youtube rabbit holes. If you're finally able to plan the trip to [insert place here] you've always dreamed of making, or get the camera or fishing pole or other gadget you always wanted, or fix your knee so you can go bike riding with your kids again, then sitting around and reading about Qanon theories isn't going to be as interesting as reading the guidebooks for your trip, trying out your camera on the philodendrons, practicing your fly cast or a long family bike ride.

Many pepole don't have enough time, energy, or money to participate in recreation, so web videos is all they got. Democratic Socialism can give them the means to have that time, energy, and money. And, having the time, energy, and money will also heal most of them of the feeling that the deck is stacked against them in some way that they don't know, so they won't be trying to look for the secret answer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:00 PM on August 30 [41 favorites]




WeChat is absolutely not worse than Facebook. It’s difficult to spread disinformation on WeChat except via direct contacts, and its content is heavily censored to prevent exactly this type of bullshit.

As I understand it, its content is also heavily censored to prevent true information about the Uighur concentration camps, pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong, and anything else the Chinese government would rather people not know about or discuss. I don't think it's very useful to try to compare the degree of badness of algorithmic capitalist control over public discourse versus totalitarian state control over public discourse. They're just differently bad.
posted by biogeo at 4:07 PM on August 30 [24 favorites]


I've always been fascinated with conspiracy theories and also often try to probe online subcultures. About 6 months ago I started a Twitter account to try to learn more about how QAnon works. I made new online friends and I learned a lot about the community.

What I found out was that people in QAnon are extremely friendly and welcoming and want to bring like minded people in. Once you start asking the right questions, replying in the proper way. and your avatar/name are the right style, you are welcomed with open arms. People are really nice, overly nice and complimentary, if they sense you're on their side.

So many of the people I met seemed to crave both community and recognition. Gaining followers is important to these people and there are hundreds of ways to do it. You have to spend all day on Twitter if you want to really build up that influence, and the people with more followers and more retweets are revered.

Another strong value is "doing research," which basically means reading other people's (mostly fact-free) posts about various overarching conspiracies. This community is not critical at all of a source as long as they have the right followers, avatar, and general POV. You can literally say anything in your posts if the scaffolding is Q.

If your research is contradictory, it will be ignored. It won't even be engaged with. Point out a logical fallacy, even in a nice way, and it just won't be discussed. They don't want to argue, they want to engage with information that confirms their new worldview, or that expands it in ways that don't threaten the basic concept.

It's incredibly anti-semitic. It's a given that powerful Jews are behind most of these conspiracies. It doesn't even need to be said and some people are aware of the implications if they are too explicit in the way they present this 'research'.

There's almost nothing they won't believe, and the proof is risible, but considered rock solid. For example, you have may have heard that they believe JFK Jr is alive and working with Donald Trump to defeat the evil pedophiles, the primary proof that he is alive now is a recent video where RFK JR (who, despite being a liberal is popular in QAnon because he's Anti-Vaxx) being interviewed on Instagram live scratches his nose after someone in the chat asked him to scratch his nose if his cousin faked his death.

I believe there is a small group of people who make constant Q memes and theories just for fun, and the rest of the people, who from what I can tell are average Americans aged 30-60 or so, love to lap it up. It's like they're living inside the Da Vinci code with a ton of other "patriots" who give then purpose, community, and support.
posted by chaz at 4:33 PM on August 30 [67 favorites]


Facebook is responsible for 2 billion users, many of whose real names they don't even know, publishing a few hundred million things every day.

So...you are saying we should break them up for spreading Klannish, anti-Semitic propaganda?
posted by eustatic at 4:40 PM on August 30 [5 favorites]


What I found out was that people in QAnon are extremely friendly and welcoming and want to bring like minded people in.

I have a branch of my family (a Canadian branch, btw) that are super into this stuff and have been for decades. They have sold Melaleuca, Rodin + Fields, insurance, mutual funds, and reverse mortgages, as well as participated in real estate deals and extremely "woo" treatments and businesses. They have been into Rosicrucian conspiracies, The Secret, and now QAnon and they fully believe that The Da Vinci Code is the best work of literature since the Bible. Also I have received from them among other things The Celestine Prophecy and Eckhart Tolle books. One is an actual, true, flat Earther.

I think this friendly and welcoming thing is one of the keys to cracking their code a bit. When they meet people like me - let's say, urban white collar somewhat intellectual/artist sort of deal - they feel put down a lot of the time. Some of it is actual, as in, it was really hard for me to say I appreciated The Celestine Prophecy except as a thoughtful gift and they are not stupid about that. And some of it is just how I communicate, which is not generally through the language of sales seminars or Christian phraseology.

I was thinking about this in the aftermath of Kimberly Guilfoyle's speech, which I found ridiculous. But that crazy, over-the-top cadence...that's what they hear at religious events, it says "this is important," and it says "this is something big happening."

Anyways...you can rail against Facebook, and certainly that is where they have congregated lately and gathered political steam, and god, Plandemic. But they have been Like This all along, they truly have.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:44 PM on August 30 [21 favorites]


But they have been Like This all along, they truly have.

I simultaneously agree with this, and think there's a bit of a sea change happening that is sweeping these people along into a grand unified conspiracy that is more pernicious and pervasive. Certain aspects of Facebook aren't helping.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:57 PM on August 30 [7 favorites]


I see no particular need to worry about preserving facebook's business model in our efforts to limit the spread of QAnon. They're "innovative" people, and they can pivot to something less directly harmful.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 7:06 PM on August 30 [10 favorites]


Anyways...you can rail against Facebook, and certainly that is where they have congregated lately and gathered political steam, and god, Plandemic. But they have been Like This all along, they truly have.
I agree with this but think it’s dangerous to underestimate the degree to which Facebook has expanded their reach and helped them look more legitimate. To a Facebook user a lot of these pages look just as legitimate as actual trustworthy sources and everyone’s crazy relatives have an algorithm tirelessly showing their posts to gullible people they probably wouldn’t have had an in person conversation with.
posted by adamsc at 7:14 PM on August 30 [13 favorites]


You'd think that will all the deaths Russians experienced at the hands of a facist government (far more than any other nation), that they wouldn't be putting such enormous and elabrate efforts to promote fascism throughout Europe and the US.

Yale historian Timothy Snyder sometimes has useful things to say about why Russia and fascism. In one of his longer lecture videos on youtube -- I can't put my hand on the precise one -- he discusses the notion some Russians have that Russian national character is a better fit for fascism than the German one was. (Snyder's history lectures are in general worth exploring.)

Also, bear in mind that while Stalinism was ideologically different from Nazism, their profiles as murderous totalitarian regimes of state terror were very similar. So World War II was experienced in the Soviet Union as a great national conflict, but maybe not so much as one between two political systems, such as we experienced it in the West.
posted by bertran at 8:09 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]


Every time someone says this I wonder if they realize this will kill MetaFilter and sites like it. Because MeFi scrapes by as it is, they don't have the money for a full-fledged monitor-every-single-thing-that-gets-posted.

There is absolutely no evidence that this is true. The mods work very hard here and do a great job on a very small budget.


Yes, when I think about the dysfunction of social media -- its business model of continually shoveling out gigabytes of unmoderated viral content to sell advertising against on an industrial scale -- I often think of Metafilter as a prime example of a better model. I think a Section 230 revision could easily be crafted to favor sites like MeFi.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 8:18 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]


I simultaneously agree with this, and think there's a bit of a sea change happening that is sweeping these people along into a grand unified conspiracy that is more pernicious and pervasive.

The internet was supposed to tie everyone together into a "global brain," but the brain it created appears to be extremely prone to seizures.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:33 PM on August 30 [15 favorites]


Is Q the work of pranksters

The above theory bz posted is interesting to me. I mean, this description of the beginning sounds like something out of Foucault's Pendulum.

From the guardian article bitteshoen posted

On 28 October 2017, “Q” emerged from the primordial swamp of the internet on the message board 4chan with a post in which he confidently asserted that Hillary Clinton’s “extradition” was “already in motion” and her arrest imminent. In subsequent posts – there have been more than 4,000 so far – Q established his legend as a government insider with top security clearance who knew the truth about the secret struggle for power between Trump and the “deep state”.

Though posting anonymously, Q uses a “trip code” that allows followers to distinguish his posts from those of other anonymous users (known as “anons”). Q switched from posting on 4chan to posting on 8chan in November 2017, went silent for several months after 8chan shut down in August 2019, and eventually re-emerged on a new website established by 8chan’s owner, 8kun.

Q’s posts are cryptic and elliptical. They often consist of a long string of leading questions designed to guide readers toward discovering the “truth” for themselves through “research”. As with Clinton’s supposed “extradition”, Q has consistently made predictions that failed to come to pass, but true believers tend to simply adapt their narratives to account for inconsistencies.


At the very least it sounds like an elaborate grift that maybe got out of hand and took on a life of its own. Some upthread suggested it might express subconscious fears of global warming. I've heard others liken it to another American religious awakening because of its links to evangelism.

Personally, I had some fun with my own half assed semiotic semiotic psudeo-jungian reading. Let's see, the people most swept up in this are older boomers. The victims are children, and the the pedophiles aren't only sexually abusing them, their literally stealing the children's youth to prolong their own life. Could it be a subconscious reflections of the Q'Anon's fears of aging and death, as well as their feeling that a far-off media elite corrupted the innocence of the 1950's Ozzy and Harriet style culture of their youth to which they long to return: back when America was "great" for them. Maybe their confronting their own shadow: The American dream promised that everyone would "succeed" if they worked hard, but "something happened on the way to the top", and now they feel displaced from the cultural (and economic and political?) position of privilege they were promised: the music is different, the movies are alien, the President was the wrong color. Maybe they wish they could steal some youth of their own? Maybe the plot is something they imagine they themselves might do if t they were "in charge"? Perhaps they feel subconscious guilt regarding the warming world and decaying country they are leaving to their own children?

Oh, well, don't take me too seriously. The above are just some late night ramblings that ran through my head, perhaps projections of my own anxieties.

The prospect of members of this movement becoming definitely is no laughing matter, though. I do have a great deal of anxiety about that.
posted by eagles123 at 9:15 PM on August 30 [2 favorites]


Anyways...you can rail against Facebook, and certainly that is where they have congregated lately and gathered political steam, and god, Plandemic. But they have been Like This all along, they truly have.

The cult isn't new, what's new is the extremely rapid increase in their numbers. It can't be entirely caused by Facebook itself, either. Facebook has been a hotbed of unhinged uncle conspiracy shit since long before QAnon became a mass delusion that has subsumed most other conspiracy theories.

What's new are the active measures being used to game the algorithm, a better marketing angle, and a President who actively promotes disordered conspiratorial thinking. Not only promotes, but exemplifies, working as a role model.

Many evangelicals are being drawn in thanks to the pedophilia narrative. As much as in the Catholic Church, there has been a wave of pedophilia scandals throughout the Southern Baptist congregations and the nondenominational "indie" evangelical churches as well. Q allows them to whatabout away the cognitive dissonance, assign blame to outsiders, and assuage their feeling of guilt for ignoring the red flags waving in their faces. The abusers aren't at fault because they were corrupted by the godless heathens and eating babies and drinking their blood is worse than child molestation anyway. There's a war on, don't you know, and everyone knows you don't change leaders in the middle of a war.

It's a perfect storm of shit that has allowed this mass delusion to grow to a previously unthinkable (at least to me) size, sucking in people who normally would dismiss it all because it requires too much effort to form an opinion either way and just go about their lives instead of following the rabbit hole.

It helped that right wing hate radio had already primed a lot of people to consider their political opponents evil incarnate, of course. It's ironic that for all their efforts over the past 30 years, the Limbaughs of the world weren't the ones to bring it home, but they've finally gotten what they've been after all this time.
posted by wierdo at 9:38 PM on August 30 [8 favorites]


The identity of the people behind Q (at least in the early days) are probably known but now that it's taken a life of it's own I guess it doesn't even really matter.
posted by PenDevil at 11:53 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


Out of left field, Q is a gnostic cult who promise people significance and community for acknowledging its Qnowledge. You're promised an insight beyond the lies on 24-hour TV news, one that allows you to accept that people don't have democratic power over their lives, politicians keep lying and the rich keep getting richer.

People who don't have power over their lives can be swayed by the promise of "secret empowering truth" of gnostic religious cults, so you:
* Don't blame the victims of our untrustworthy and untruthful institutions
* Regain their trust by being transparent and doing things that show you're reliable
* Make it easy to verify what you're saying and doing
* Build a welcoming community, form an in-group around the people who provide verifiable explainers and reward people for joining or correcting flawed content
* Come good on your promise that campaigning and voting in democratic elections makes a difference -- hold people to account and rehabilitate wrongdoers responsibly
posted by k3ninho at 12:02 AM on August 31 [5 favorites]


Having a universal basic income, better-priced access to heath care, and laws that enforced shorter work hours and more vacation days would go a long way towards alleviating the financial pressure that is no doubt secretly fueling a lot of these conspirators [...]

One of the speakers at the Ratbag Rally in London the other day was Piers Corbyn, brother of Jeremy Corbyn. Here's a photo of David Icke, who's apparently addressing the crowd, with Piers Corbyn standing next to him. Piers is an extremely privileged man with access to excellent healthcare, and he probably has as much free time as he wants. Also, I'm sure his brother has mentioned the existence of socialism to him on occasion.

It would be nice to imagine that there's some easy reason why people are driven into conspiracy theories, because that would mean there's an easy way to help them out. But that just isn't true: a lot of these theorists are more privileged, better educated, more leisured than the average person. It isn't being right wing or left wing: most conspiracy material I see from the UK is spread by people who identify as being on the left. Conspiratorialism is its own thing, a separate dimension on the political axes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:20 AM on August 31 [15 favorites]


As far as I can tell, from my experience with conspiracy types on the left and right, there are a couple basic paths to the point we've reached that share some similarities, but don't quite converge.

On the left it seems like those drawn to conspiracies are those who, essentially, started with Chomsky and Zinn and just kept going. Following the belief that we've all been fed nothing but lies by the powerful and their media forever, and there's never been reason to trust anything one reads or hears that's been spread through the standard channels of communication, as those are inherently tainted. They have a complete disdain for mass media and tend to pick and choose the reading of events that best suits their belief in all power being corrupted.

On the right it seems more the desire to hold on to the illusion of one's own past being a purer place. Conversations with these people almost inevitably reference some notion of "Back when I was a kid things weren't like this". They are confounded and absolutely distrustful of all change that threatens their historical understanding of self and place in the world. They too are almost completely distrusting of media, but more because they believe its become tainted rather than has always been so. They want to blame anyone not like themselves, and the media that they see as being taken over by those "others" for making the world such an unrecognizable place with all the changes and claims that call into question their self-certainty.

The flood of information released by the internet era, combined with the rapidity of change, sheer amount of new voices being heard and perspectives shown, and new types of threats being faced and/or awareness of long standing harms being finally heard makes distrust of the old standard narratives seem necessary. That everyone is also living in an era of media glut, with its non-stop barrage of "entertainment" narrative forms that lend themselves to making the fantastic seem plausible surely plays a factor too. In many places the moderately well off have come to expect a certain familiar level of comfort and ease to their lives as a given, seeing that challenged makes them feel like there is something darker and deeper behind it all than is readily visible from previously accepted vantage points. So there must be a conspiracy behind it all rather than it all happening without some shaping hand.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:55 AM on August 31 [12 favorites]


This whole thing terrifies me. More than anything else I’ve yet encountered in life. Seriously.
posted by Conrad-Casserole


Me too. This is the most dangerous time for humanity in my lifetime (coming up 6 decades). We are facing a violent kleptocratic global tyranny, that will be very difficult to dislodge in this age of techno-surveillance, along with major environmental changes unlikely to be beneficial to the vast majority of us.

It is not a good mix.

You'd think that will all the deaths Russians experienced at the hands of a facist government (far more than any other nation), that they wouldn't be putting such enormous and elabrate efforts to promote fascism throughout Europe and the US. I guess their effort is to weaken the governments with chaos, but it could all backfire on them at levels that only they can really understand.
posted by eye of newt


I am not convinced that Putin & Co really do understand what they have unleashed, the potential consequences, and the limits to their power to control it and protect themselves from it.

Whatever their faults (and they have plenty), I think the Chinese do understand, and are extremely concerned about it.

They don't want to argue, they want to engage with information that confirms their new worldview, or that expands it in ways that don't threaten the basic concept.
posted by chaz


Confirmation bias is one helluva drug. :(

As to Facebook, it may not be the cause of The Current Troubles, but it sure as shit is massively amplifying and enabling them, and that is just as bad.
posted by Pouteria at 1:24 AM on August 31 [8 favorites]


My bar for "has something gone truly mainstream" is set at "has my 76-year-old dad heard about it," & last week he asked if I was familiar with QAnon. Turns out his weekly streetcorner protest is being hassled by Q fans yelling things so messed up he declined to repeat them.

Such a large percentage of the population being taken over & weaponized is terrifying & I'm not sure what we as individuals can meaningfully do about it.
posted by taquito sunrise at 1:30 AM on August 31 [5 favorites]


(Not meaning to imply there is nothing we as individuals can do about it, just, I personally don't know what to do.)
posted by taquito sunrise at 1:33 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


We had those protests here in New Zealand too, but the press does not seem to have picked up on the QAnon angle. We tried to explain QAnon to some Kiwis a few weeks ago and they looked at us like we'd lost our mind. But it's starting to gain traction.
posted by rednikki at 2:44 AM on August 31 [4 favorites]


Having a universal basic income, better-priced access to heath care, and laws that enforced shorter work hours and more vacation days

Germany already has most of this. See here for example for vacation days, and the rules around working hours. (Companies can get fined if they are found to breach the rules - I get reminder emails every so often that we aren't allowed work more than a certain length of time, or that working on Sundays is not allowed.) There is also a functioning multipayer healthcare system. There is no UBI, but there are unemployment/jobseekers payments.

I'm not trying to say that things are perfect here, there are still a lot of issues, particularly with respect to integration (both of "people of migrant background" as the media puts it, and the still ongoing integration of East and West), recent incidents of police violence, Far Right extremism and so on. But as Joe in Australia pointed out above, while a social security net is in of itself definitely a good thing, it's not so clear whether it will actually prevent the spread of things like QAnon.
posted by scorbet at 3:13 AM on August 31 [12 favorites]


The cult may be growing faster in the US because of so many being jobless and having more free time that gives them more opportunity to get sucked in, but it does not appear to be primarily made up of people with legitimate economic grievances or being the subject of state power. Indeed, it appears to be a movement of the less afflicted, whose complaints about government are entirely manufactured.
posted by wierdo at 3:38 AM on August 31 [5 favorites]


Most Germans remain supportive of the measures Berlin has taken to curb the pandemic. According to the “Politbarometer” poll, 60 per cent of Germans approve of the current measures, while 28 per cent think they should be toughened up. Only ten per cent say they are “exaggerated”.
Financial Times

Without minimizing valid concerns about this kind of protest/Verschwörungstheoretikern, it's important not to overstate the popularity of this tiny minority.

Also, scorbet is correct that Germany already has many social democratic policies. But it remains a thoroughly neoliberal state. The healthcare system is essentially Obamacare/Romneycare — meaning, of course, it is one of the more conservative possibilities. Regulatory capture seems to be a problem, as more and more people are pushed off the public insurance plans and onto cheap-now, expensive-later private ones. Its economy is not as thoroughly deindustrialized and financialized as the US's, but the rural/urban economic divide remains. The neoliberal/social-democratic CDU/CSU/SPD grand coalition is falling apart without a clear successor.

All in all, if you believe that backlash against the failures of neoliberalism motivates a significant portion of populist sentiment, then Germany's situation should worry you in the same way the US's does.
posted by daveliepmann at 4:35 AM on August 31 [10 favorites]




The internet was supposed to tie everyone together into a "global brain," but the brain it created appears to be extremely prone to seizures.

I keep coming back to the discussion we had here in February, about early Internet activists and how their glib libertarianism, coupled with their unduly positive opinion of the marketplace of ideas, is basically responsible for the state of the world right now. Specifically this line from SPrintF seems apropos:
I guess, in retrospect, we'd been so dazzled by the light of a New Enlightenment that we forgot our Freud. Yes, the "clicks-and-views" economy has bent the Internet, but I remember Usenet and realizing even then that we should show more discretion in baring our innermost thoughts. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube: you can, in abstract, consider these great strides forward in human communication. And indeed they are. But what they are telling us about ourselves is almost Lovecraftian in its cosmic horror: that you are ultimately alone in a world of monsters.
posted by Mayor West at 7:09 AM on August 31 [9 favorites]


I simultaneously agree with this, and think there's a bit of a sea change happening that is sweeping these people along into a grand unified conspiracy that is more pernicious and pervasive. Certain aspects of Facebook aren't helping.

I agree with you completely! And I think Facebook's role in the 2016 US election (and possibly in Ontario's provincial election) can't be overstated. I also think a US President who legitimizes the movement is probably a strong wildcard.

But I disagree that there is a full technological solution. One might be able to slow the spread down some, but really it's about education, social safety nets, empathy, and ultimately...government controls and policies that prevent radical conspiracy groups from taking rights away from others and bombing people.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:27 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


It's incredibly anti-semitic. It's a given that powerful Jews are behind most of these conspiracies. It doesn't even need to be said and some people are aware of the implications if they are too explicit in the way they present this 'research'.

This is one of the most disturbing paragraphs I've read in a long time. While not exactly surprising, in the context of chaz's comment it reinforces the worst potential of a large and seemingly growing minority. A group that has a subset of "leaders" that clearly would take advantage and use the worst traits of their followers.

Literally gave me the chills.
posted by sammyo at 7:28 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


There really is a special place on the stupidity scale for people who see what's happening in the US, in terms of managing Covid, and say yeah, we want that too. This is how it should be here! In that sense it's really a step beyond.

But also, the structure and nature of it are different, as far as I can tell... just because it's basically the same bullshit, but it's trying to take root in different soil, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor. Actually don't, I'm just too lazy to rewrite that sentence (sorry).

I'm not a fan of the way German media report on the US, in fact it drives me insane... and right now, this looks like the reverse case, which also drives me crazy (I can't win)...

But anyway, QAnon, as far as I can tell, is at most a minor component of this insanity. Super-fringy far-right groups like the "Reichsbürger", as well as what we in Germany laughingly call "liberals" (i.e. semi-libertarian neocons), and also the goddamn AfD (who are eternally keeping just to the left of being full-blown fascists) are much more important. Also, it's likely that the overwhelming majority here is the "fuck you I want to party" crowd... sigh.

But that said... God help us, this craziness actually is another virus. Who thought it couldn't spread?
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 7:39 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


I keep coming back to the discussion we had here in February, about early Internet activists and how their glib libertarianism, coupled with their unduly positive opinion of the marketplace of ideas, is basically responsible for the state of the world right now.

a good friend of mine was one of these "early internet activists". Maybe he was an outlier being a sort of avant-artist type, but this does not speak for him -- a guy who was always way better read and incisive than me in his socio-political thinking and comprehending. His basic position was along the lines of, "the web or whatever we end up calling it will probably just prove to be another vast human fuckup, because profit motive will win the day and that always fucks up everything it touches ... but it's a new thing with all kinds of thus far unclaimed territory, so here's hoping."

That was probably twenty-five years ago. Nowadays, he "runs" a strictly underground, mostly off-line arts/performance space that gets by on a strictly cash economy. At least, that was the case before covid. I haven't been in touch for a while.

He was also, back in the day, a thoroughly schooled conspiracy type ... with the caveat that he steered clear of the bonkers and/or vile stuff (Noam Chomsky's manufacturing consent, yes -- Protocols of Zion, NO).

So what does he say about the current state of things? Well, like I said, we haven't spoken for a while. But I suspect he'd just shrug and say, "Well, I wish I was surprised ..." and then spiel off into Marshal McLuhan and Guy Debord territory (the society of the spectacle) -- the bottom line being that most of us still can't see the proverbial forest for the trees in terms of the world we're actually living in (and have been for a good long time), QAnon being just another symptom of what happens when minds (and souls) conditioned to embrace stultifying and stable normality are confronted with a reality (for lack of a better word) which is neither stable nor normal. Never has been, never will.
posted by philip-random at 8:45 AM on August 31 [6 favorites]


sammyo, Once I heard about the adrenachrome harvesting portion it became clear to me that it’s straight up blood libel. Just like the context of the use of passion plays as anti-Semitic propaganda, people need to be educated about what it means to get swept up in it, and what it says about them.
posted by Selena777 at 9:01 AM on August 31 [5 favorites]


A central figure is Michael Ballweg, a Stuttgart-based entrepreneur who runs a software firm. Mr. Ballweg, who did not respond to an interview request, is the founder of Querdenken 711 — “Querdenken” means “lateral thinking” and 0711 is Stuttgart’s area code — the organization that has registered most of the demonstrations, including Saturday’s.

Seems organized, exactly like the reopen protests in the US, by a small group trying to make itself seem like a larger group by advertising to a bunch of easily influenced anti-establishment people. The conspiracy theorists have helpfully already sorted themselves into groups the only thing left is to go recruiting them as pawns in your political game.
posted by subdee at 9:04 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


As alarming as the rise of this phenomenon is, and as appalling as their beliefs are, what is significantly different between QAnon and the Tea Party, other than its global reach? I’m not downplaying Q, but I find it weird when people act like there wasn’t a Republican Party-boosting mass movement based on incoherent rage and conspiratorial thinking less than a decade ago, which also saw adherents elected into office.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:55 AM on August 31 [4 favorites]


Also, scorbet is correct that Germany already has many social democratic policies. But it remains a thoroughly neoliberal state. The healthcare system is essentially Obamacare/Romneycare — meaning, of course, it is one of the more conservative possibilities. Regulatory capture seems to be a problem, as more and more people are pushed off the public insurance plans and onto cheap-now, expensive-later private ones. Its economy is not as thoroughly deindustrialized and financialized as the US's, but the rural/urban economic divide remains. The neoliberal/social-democratic CDU/CSU/SPD grand coalition is falling apart without a clear successor.


Ehh, according to this Healthcare in Germany: The German Healthcare System over 90 percent of Germans are still on the public plans, and Germans are required to buy into the public plans if they make less than ~61,000 Euros. That is much different than Obamacare/Romneycare, even if a "public option" were added. The German system also has a network of public hospitals, public health agencies, and regulatory bodies for prices, spending, and the supply of medical professionals and equipment that don't have an equivalent in the US.

I only bring this up because right wing forces in the US seemed eager to convince some Americans that the reformed version of Obamacare the Democrats are proposing is is some way equivalent to German healthcare.

That being said, I don't doubt that privatization and neoliberalism have affected German health care as well. However, I would point to German labor market reforms that lead to less stable employment - the growth of "minijobs" - as perhaps a more direct cause of feelings of economic dislocation.

Still, looking at the US, it seems like the Qanon folks in this country are drawn from relatively wealthy older demographics whose grievances seem to be more about cultural dislocation than economic insecurity; although, I am sure there are exceptions.
posted by eagles123 at 10:06 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


What is significantly different between QAnon and the Tea Party, other than its global reach?

For one, the focus on pedophilia is drawing in a number of lefty types.
posted by LindsayIrene at 10:12 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


There was a nice wrap up of QAnon for the uninitiated on a recent Pod Save America episode where they interviewed Kevin Roose, a NY Times technology reporter show did a deep dive on QAnon in his own podcast Rabbit Hole. Roose basically subscribes to the cult=addiction theory, in that the people susceptible to this kind of thing seem to share certain characteristics: past trauma, powerlessness, anxiety, lack of social connections and belief in QAnon provides a form of treatment or soothing for their discomfort. There’s always some allusion to “Neuroscience Research” that supports this paradigm and I agree with earlier commenters who are troubled that the solutions we have for addiction or neither easy to implement nor widely available. But it at least offers some kind of framework for getting out of this shit.

Maybe we start by dealing with extreme wealth inequality and stop tearing down civic institutions that provide basic social security? This is all a by product of Reagan Republicanism and trickle down economics where the masses internalize the message that they are meaningless and powerless and the only self identity that matters is which team you’re aligned with.

When this is a strongly held ideology, you can neither reason nor argue with it. All you can do is offer an alternative, real path to security and meaning and community in people’s lives. Not easy challenges in the age of Trump, COVID19 social isolation, and climate disasters.

In fact, I want to hunker down with people who see the world like me and protect ourselves. Which is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to things like QAnon.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:13 AM on August 31 [6 favorites]


True, QAnon’s core mission, insofar as it has any, is both more broad (you don’t have to be a GOP voter to oppose pedophile elites) and way more niche (it’s a conspiracy that dwarfs 9/11 Truth claims in both scale and woo, vs. something specific like obsessing about Obama’s birth certificate) than the Tea Party movement’s mission, but I think it should be considered the successor to the other. And so there should be recent historical lessons to draw from. Even if it seems like the Tea Party mostly dissolved itself through political failure and being overshadowed by another populist right-wing current (2016 Trump’s revival of nativist paleoconservatism).

On the matter of Germany, aren’t they technically ordoliberal, what with the Social Market Economy, and so is a more regulated version of capitalism (Rhine capitalism?) with stronger safety nets and worker protections? Though as with everywhere else, weakened since the ‘80s and ‘90s, of course.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:27 AM on August 31


There is absolutely no evidence that this is true. The mods work very hard here and do a great job on a very small budget.

MetaFilter would likely just instantly close. The amount of lawsuits generated by the removal of Sec 230 would likely be in the tens if not hundreds of thousands in the first month alone. Over a shortish period of time, every single internet property that could reasonably be assumed to have any sort of comment section is going to get sued. Of course 99.999% of the lawsuits are going to be filed by lawyers that had never even heard of the property getting served, but hey, who the fucks cares, a possible settlement is a possible settlement.

How many settlements is that very small budget going to cover? Might as well shut the doors on day 1 and save everyone the hassle.
posted by sideshow at 10:48 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter would likely just instantly close. The amount of lawsuits generated by the removal of Sec 230 would likely be in the tens if not hundreds of thousands in the first month alone.

As I said before, there is absolutely no evidence this is true. You are just making stuff up.
posted by JackFlash at 10:56 AM on August 31 [9 favorites]


Yes. Contrary to the entire of history of the ambulance chasing litigation industry, this one time they'll decide that rather than doing the same thing they've done for a good portion of a century, they'll advert their eyes from the glory that is MetaFilter.com and ensure this bastion of informed discussion should be preserved for evermore.
posted by sideshow at 11:24 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


BTW, you should give the good news to orgs like the Electronic Freedom Foundation, since they seem to have no idea about the "no evidence this is true" stuff. This seem to be under the mistaken perception it is the "most important law protecting internet free speech".
posted by sideshow at 11:27 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


And yet the Internet continues to function at least as well in the 99% of countries that lack such a provision. Odd, that.

Anyway, there's certainly a fun discussion to be had about the (arguendo) noble origins of Section 230 and its sad decline into a get-out-of-responsibility card for robber barons who happen to have chosen the Internet as their field of play, but I'm not sure why we're trying to have that conversation in this substantively unrelated thread?
posted by Not A Thing at 11:34 AM on August 31 [4 favorites]


First step to fighting this is to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Act that gives Zuckerberg legal immunity for the crap that he allows on his platform.

I sympathize, and I was not a fan of the Sec. 230 idea when the CDA was passed, but those were simpler times and regardless it's what we have. Repealing it is a step that might result in repercussions to a multi-dozen billionaire, but I'm skeptical. Of course it would be a shitshow otherwise, not to mention the fun of the repeal campaign, since it would not be a Trumpian "ok, that's gone now" line-item deletion from the US Code.

I believe that, like Trump himself, their petards are the only thing that will work against behemoths of any stripe. Exposure and humiliation for Trump, business failure and unpopularity for Zuckerberg. These are their animating principles, the existential vulnerabilities in each. Opprobrium and banishment, sometimes the old tools are the best tools.

Still, looking at the US, it seems like the Qanon folks in this country are drawn from relatively wealthy older demographics whose grievances seem to be more about cultural dislocation than economic insecurity;

Cause, meet effect. People who can show up to demonstrations, who aren't constantly working minimum wage during daylight hours to survive, who don't need childcare, who have time to worry about the cannibalistic pedophiles among us (AKA "using Facebook")...these are the people who are less concerned with economic insecurity than cultural dislocation. They'll find their "in" with poorer people, but for now we have this cannibalistic pedophile problem to deal with. The more publicity they get, the faster they can cycle through messaging options and find that "in" with the poorer people before the election.

Maybe we start by dealing with extreme wealth inequality and stop tearing down civic institutions that provide basic social security?

I listen to conservative radio from time to time, and just yesterday, on a no-call-in show, I heard the battle described as "Democrats want to hurt rich people." I leave the estimates of a 1-10 pain scale as a reader exercise, but that's the boxed-in logic they're using.
posted by rhizome at 11:37 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Yes. Contrary to the entire of history of the ambulance chasing litigation industry, this one time they'll decide that rather than doing the same thing they've done for a good portion of a century, they'll advert their eyes from the glory that is MetaFilter.com and ensure this bastion of informed discussion should be preserved for evermore.

Yet there are millions of bloggers out there. Bloggers posting their own content are not protected by Section 230. Curiously those millions of bloggers aren't generating millions of lawsuits.
posted by JackFlash at 11:38 AM on August 31 [7 favorites]


Well this thread made me depressed.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:01 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


I listen to conservative radio from time to time, and just yesterday, on a no-call-in show, I heard the battle described as "Democrats want to hurt rich people."

I wish I had a dollar for every conservative fever dream I've heard that I could only answer with, "man, I wish".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:38 PM on August 31 [10 favorites]


Accidentally flipping through channels, I caught a bit of Tucker Carlson, and he said something like, "The Democrats are a threat to you" or "The Democrats are a threat to your family." They aren't even pretending anymore that they aren't trying to incite violence.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:52 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


the primary proof that he is alive now is a recent video where RFK JR (who, despite being a liberal is popular in QAnon because he's Anti-Vaxx) being interviewed on Instagram live scratches his nose after someone in the chat asked him to scratch his nose if his cousin faked his death

Hmm... I think I've just found a way to counter the conspiracy theorists: a reporter needs to ask Trump (in a really fast voice): "FascistrapistscumbagliarsaysWhat?"
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:56 PM on August 31


posted by Saxon Kane: Accidentally flipping through channels, I caught a bit of Tucker Carlson, and he said something like, "The Democrats are a threat to you" or "The Democrats are a threat to your family." They aren't even pretending anymore that they aren't trying to incite violence.

I live in the buckle of the bible belt. Trucks, guns and god. We're a small enough district that we only have one polling location; at the public library. We used to have more, but GOP, whatcha gonna do? They, in a couple of elections, have had two lines; R & D. The R line tends to stretch out toward the horizon, and D's can usually zip in an out. (This may be just for primaries, I'm not sure.)

I told you that story, so I could tell you this one: I'm pretty nervous about going through the D line, in front of damn near everyone else in town. I'm already known as a troublemaker for bringing things up in front of city council and school boards about trans rights and redistributing police wealth to social programs instead of swat tanks we never use.

The right is becoming unhinged, and they are heavily, heavily armed. Qanon is spreading as fast as covid, it seems. I'm finding more and more people, especially the ones that started out as Trumpists, turning to Q as though it's a real thing, and not a grift.

I've watched the protest streams from all over this country, both left and right. I've been a protestor, starting in Thatcher's London, and then bringing what I learned there back here, and became a client walker at abortion clinics during the period when that was a seriously dangerous thing to do. I have faced sticks, stones, tear gas, batons, and LRADs. None of that is as terrifying as what is happening with Q supporters right now.

Some of these really are people who will go house to house. What happened to the Tutsi in Rawanda can absolutely happen here. Q is dangerous as fuck, and it's spinning out with nobody driving it anymore. I don't know what to do. I don't mean it to sound hopeless, I just really have no idea what to do, and wish I did.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:09 PM on August 31 [29 favorites]


I think we're headed towards a reënchantment with and of the world.
posted by dmh at 3:14 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


They, in a couple of elections, have had two lines; R & D.

What the hell. So much for secret ballot.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:19 PM on August 31 [11 favorites]


I've encountered separate lines for Republican and Democratic primary elections before, because those are actually different elections that you're voting in. There shouldn't be any reason for that in the general election, though, and as far as I know that would be illegal.
posted by biogeo at 3:24 PM on August 31 [6 favorites]


What I want to know is, if Q is so welcoming and willing to believe anything, why haven't people embedded themselves in Q communities to disrupt it with true facts?
posted by JHarris at 3:57 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Well if you read chaz's comment upthread it sounds like that isn't really possible because your "true facts" will just be ignored.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:08 PM on August 31 [5 favorites]


> JZig: "It's not helpful to call conspiracy theories a disease because diseases are generally considered to have very negative effects on the individual in question, but in these cases there is no real evidence that either religion or conspiracy theories have negative effects on the individuals participating in it (in both cases I would argue they have strong negative effects on society/future existence as a whole and especially on individuals who are not involved)"

For the record, there's at least one negative effect among some QAnon people: estrangement from family and friends. This Daily Beast article from 2018 highlights some examples. This kind of estrangement is also common in many cults, though in those cases, the estrangement is often enforced by the cult leader(s). In the case of QAnon, it seems to be largely self-inflicted by people who can't bring themselves to stop ranting about Q for even long enough to pass the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner.
posted by mhum at 4:22 PM on August 31 [5 favorites]


This thread has 116 comments. I think I can be forgiven for not having read each and every one of them.
posted by JHarris at 4:23 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I wasn't trying to imply a moral failing on your part.

BUT I AM NOW.

In the case of QAnon, it seems to be largely self-inflicted by people who can't bring themselves to stop ranting about Q for even long enough to pass the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner.

You mean the Qranberry sauce.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:42 PM on August 31


Cranberry. Qranberry. Quran-berry. Don't you see?
posted by ctmf at 5:28 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Quatsch.
posted by Marticus at 5:50 PM on August 31 [3 favorites]


why haven't people embedded themselves in Q communities to disrupt it with true facts?

probably the best question in the thread, imo. well, if you embed, your using circumlocution and false belief in the " whatever" they promulgate. Now take the idiological people to a chalkboard in a room of real books and articles...Not so much a Bund rally.
also, fear, this shit is getting bigger. Like minded folk are less likely to stand up to a precieved threat as on-line demonstrative behavior ensues, FB talk, Twitter nasty and wa-la, fighting at the Tante-Emma-Laden or Wendy's.

estrangement
exactly, counter the"Facts", then walk away. Let the estrangement settle or fester.
posted by clavdivs at 5:58 PM on August 31


why haven't people embedded themselves in Q communities to disrupt it with true facts?

Are you volunteering to embed yourself with the irrational heavily armed violent racist loons who have demonstrated that they're willing to murder those that disagree with them? And tell them that everything they believe is wrong? Let us know how you go.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:03 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Having had to interact at various times with Qanon people, for many of the most committed they seem to have a fundamentally different way of thinking. I don't think that their ignoring people who try to engage with them is some kind of strategy, I just don't think they even really process attempts to debate or argue.

it's not just that they are biased, or ignore sources that contradict them, or are too credulous about sources that agree with them -- the way your usual political partisans and conspiracy theorists are. it's like, the whole standard of "evidence" is completely different. random patterns, coincidences and correspondences are treated as proof, and on the flip side, when people make claims about the world it isn't necessarily because they "believe" them in the normal sense.

I think some are truly mentally ill and cannot turn off this cognitive style, but for others it seems to be bracketed to politics and Qanon and they otherwise operate normally in the world.

If I think about Qanon in these terms, there's no reason won't evolve on the political left and center-left, eventually. You could imagine Russia paranoia for the center mutating into this, or the Epstein/CIA/Operation Gladio stuff people are now muttering about on the left. Imagine a wonderful future USA where you have 3 distinct but equally insane versions of Qanon in conflict with each other.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:18 PM on August 31 [13 favorites]


Remember Weimar.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:46 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Are you volunteering to embed yourself with the irrational heavily armed violent racist loons who have demonstrated that they're willing to murder those

this is depressing, already on chapter 7, section 3. J'Accuse!
posted by clavdivs at 8:23 PM on August 31


Remember Weimar.

"Ich weiß, dass ich Unsinn spreche, aber ich würde lieber weiterwandern und teilweise etwas ausdrücken, das ich nur schwer ausdrücken kann, als weiterhin fehlerfreie Plattitüden zu übertragen."

-Mann, The Magic Mountain.
posted by clavdivs at 8:49 PM on August 31


this is depressing, already on chapter 7, section 3. J'Accuse!

That's fair. But just dropping true facts won't be effective, because Q cultists have set parameters where it is impossible (in their minds) to contradict them.

The only real option, IMO, is de-platforming to limit the spread. We need to see this stuff driven from any mainstream platform. But the platforms refuse to do that. And governments - at least in the US, and in Australia too - refuse to expunge this poison from their own parties and from public discourse. It's hard to see the way forward, given that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:01 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


For those curious about the kind of things the people who rallied in Berlin were all too happy to say in public to the press, CNN has a short video talking to a couple of the participants. One of them says the "deep state" must be ended, another says Trump is an angel with a special connection with the universe, and another says Merkel is "Hitler’s daughter".

Also worth a look, this 11-minute video from the Washington Post about the influence of racism, the AfD and Germany’s nazi past on the spread of far right conspiracy theories.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:35 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


The only real option, IMO, is de-platforming to limit the spread. We need to see this stuff driven from any mainstream platform. But the platforms refuse to do that.
I think of this like a wildfire: Facebook and YouTube’s active support is taking the same fire and adding strong, hot, dry winds. Simply enforcing their terms of service would be a meaningful improvement and not actively promoting it even more so but that doesn’t happen when the government regulators report to someone who benefits from these conspiracy theories.
posted by adamsc at 4:55 AM on September 1 [5 favorites]


They, in a couple of elections, have had two lines; R & D.

What the hell. So much for secret ballot.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:19 PM on August 31


I don't think this is plausible for the general election. Either they're handing out the same ballot to both lines, in which case the "R" & "D" lines are just meaningless labels, and there wouldn't be any reason for about half the difference between the two lines to just switch lines, or else they're handing out different ballots, which would be pretty easy to catch and make a federal case out of it, if you wanted to. I suppose a third possibility is that they wouldn't be counting ballots from the "D" line, but that's what election judges are for.

Is this how conspiracy theories start?
posted by Reverend John at 5:33 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


No, I said it might have only been for primaries, but I wasn’t sure. Subsequently I’ve contacted someone at the county to ask, and it is indeed only for primaries.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:57 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


I think of this like a wildfire:

a rather apt analogy, I think. Which leads to a few thoughts:

1. you can't stop it by wandering into the middle of it. The sheer mad power of the thing is unstoppable there. Your tactics will be useless.

2. which means you need the perspective of a broader strategy. You need to study the "map" and make informed predictions as to where the spread is likely to go and then think about stuff like evacuations, cutting firebreaks etc, even controlled burns (he said, really starting to stretch the analogy). And then, I don't know, you hang back and contain, pray for rain (stretching it further).

3. At a certain point, the sooner the better, you gotta get your experts involved and on the scene (firefighters to continue the analogy), folks with training, experience and not just a little raw courage.

it really does help to have something of a McLuhanistic perspective on all of this -- the notion of viewing information systems as chaotic, very much like climatic systems, nature itself. You can make forecasts/predictions but you never really know exactly how things will go ... and the longer range, the less accurate.
posted by philip-random at 8:02 AM on September 1 [3 favorites]


I’ve contacted someone at the county to ask, and it is indeed only for primaries.

So much for, "so much for secret ballot".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:28 AM on September 1


Your ballot's contents are secret but which party you are registered for is a public record in every state I am aware of.
posted by mmascolino at 11:16 AM on September 1


Sure, you said it might only have been for primaries, but then someone else took it as fact, and the truth is it was basically absurd on the face of it.
posted by Reverend John at 2:59 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Your ballot's contents are secret but which party you are registered for is a public record in every state I am aware of.

At the same time it still is not ideal for Republican and Democratic primaries to have separate lines. It's the difference between having a closed but unlocked door (hey, anyone can look you up/come in uninvited) and living in a glass house.

At least in Tennessee (where it is not - for now - required that you register for a certain party to vote in its primary) you aren't asked which ballot you're voting on until you get to the records desk at your location. Then you're asked if you want the R ballot or the D ballot. (For elections where there is a local general the same day, you're asked if you want R+local, D+local, or just the local ballot.)
posted by pianoblack at 7:25 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


First election for me was the 1984 primary. California used punch cards then. The ballot was in the booth, you inserted your card in a metal guide with flip pages on it and punched the card using holes next to your choices. So every party needed a different booth for primaries. The poll workers we so excited to see me because it was the only time they'd ever set up a Peace and Freedom Party booth.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:50 AM on September 2 [2 favorites]


The poll workers we so excited to see me because it was the only time they'd ever set up a Peace and Freedom Party booth.

Serious question: the Peace and Freedom Party had multiple people running for the same office and needed a primary? I, uh, did not realize they had that large a pool of candidates.
posted by jackbishop at 1:00 PM on September 2


Don't remember, probably not nationally but maybe for some state offices
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:22 PM on September 2


I caught a bit of Tucker Carlson, and he said something like, "The Democrats are a threat to you" or "The Democrats are a threat to your family." They aren't even pretending anymore that they aren't trying to incite violence.

Honestly if I saw Tuck on the street I'd be hard-pressed not to threaten him.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:39 PM on September 2 [3 favorites]


I would consider it a moral imperative to do so.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:42 AM on September 3


This may be a bit of a derail, but I remember when sometime around the 2016 election some protestors showed up at Tuck's house. I live and work in DC, which may be related to the fact that a couple (now former) coworkers of the professional late middle aged liberal white woman persuasion were sitting around the break room tut-tutting about this taking things too far. I came as close to losing my temper as I ever have at work - managed to get out of there fairly quickly, but I still maintain that fucker can thank polite liberal comity that he hasn't yet been hog-tied and thrown into an open cess-pit.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:30 AM on September 3 [6 favorites]


From the NYT yesterday: Trump Emerges as Inspiration for Germany’s Far Right - Among German conspiracy theorists, ultranationalists and neo-Nazis, the American president is surfacing as a rallying cry, or even as a potential “liberator.”

There’s a bit more detail in there about the size of the QAnon following in Germany:
Germany’s QAnon community, barely existent when the pandemic first hit in March, may now be the biggest outside the United States along with Britain, analysts who track its most popular online channels say.

... Hard numbers are difficult to discern, with followers often subscribing to accounts on different platforms, analysts say. NewsGuard, a U.S.-based disinformation watchdog, found that across Europe, accounts on YouTube, Facebook and Telegram promoting the QAnon conspiracy counted 448,000 followers.

In Germany alone, the number of followers of QAnon-related accounts has risen to more than 200,000, Mr. Dittrich said. The largest German-language QAnon channel on YouTube, Qlobal-Change, has over 17 million views and has quadrupled its following on Telegram to over 124,000 since the coronavirus lockdown in March, he said.

“There is a huge Q community in Germany,” Mr. Dittrich said, with new posts and memes that dominate the message boards in the United States immediately translated and interpreted into German.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:52 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


On this topic there’s also a short but interesting (if totally depressing!) article from yesterday in Time magazine: How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election—and Shaking the Foundation of American Democracy
posted by bitteschoen at 9:32 AM on September 11


A key figure in QAnon, perhaps also its source, is outed by Bloomberg and Logically.ai as being a New Jersey-based financial security analyst at Citigroup with ties to something called Armor of God.
posted by Brian B. at 6:50 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


with ties to something called Armor of God

Not 'with ties to,' Armor of God is an app that he created for Q followers and was monetizing. Both his site and the app are now no longer available. Kind of looks like they found Q, and he was using it all to make money. This is my shocked face.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:38 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


Kind of looks like they found Q

From the Logically piece:
"So does that mean Gelinas is Q? No. In fact, it’s quite unlikely that someone such as Gelinas would have been involved in the very early (i.e. 4chan) days of Q."
posted by neroli at 9:14 AM on September 12


Gelinas as an internet operative may be like Silk Road and the multiple Dread Pirate Roberts. I suspect QAnon as a group could be the remnants of the KKK propaganda wing which went underground after losing court cases and was laying glow during general disapproval, but which gradually formed militias and swamped the NRA (both share 33 as the sum of numbered letters, which is important signalling to underground movements). Only a shadowy secular organization can coordinate the entire evangelical landscape to support a resistance, without losing everything in the process.
posted by Brian B. at 10:43 AM on September 12


Or, QAnon is just a Putin-sent troll.
posted by Brian B. at 11:06 AM on September 12


From Brian B's first link,
In Armor of God’s Google Play Store profile, the service describes itself as a platform “designed for patriots worldwide..."
That is, uh, quite the use of the word "patriot".
posted by eviemath at 3:54 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Global patriots...does that include ISIS? Seems like it should.
posted by rhizome at 4:46 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


If you thought it was weird before just wait until these loons get going.
New Age communities are driving QAnon conspiracies in Brazil.
These spiritual, pseudoscientific groups are domesticating QAnon narratives for non-American audiences.
posted by adamvasco at 7:12 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


Demons of the deep state: how evangelicals and conspiracy theories combine in Trump’s America.
QAnon has many overlaps with spiritual warfare and its practitioners. It uses similar ideas of religious revival and donning the “armour of God” against unseen foes.
posted by adamvasco at 4:44 AM on September 17 [2 favorites]


So back in the days when Margaret Thatcher passed, I believe I said some prissy things in response to the UK general celebration of her passing, and how being that celebratory maybe wasn't all that polite.

I would like to formally apologize for that, because I have to say that now I get where y'all were coming from.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:22 AM on September 17 [5 favorites]


One is an actual, true, flat Earther.

Kottke linked to this enlightening video connecting them together: In Search of the Flat Earth by Dan Olson.
posted by Rash at 10:37 AM on September 18


It began in the US with lurid claims and a hatred of the ‘deep state’. Now it’s growing in the UK, spilling over into anti-vaccine and 5G protests, fuelled by online misinformation.
posted by adamvasco at 2:56 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Not counting Brazil (where I'm aware that they codify "whiteness" differently), are any countries that are majority people of color plagued by QAnon and related conspiracy theories? It doesn't seem like it.

Because this makes me think that, in the end, all of this bullshit is because of their usual hatreds and fears of people who aren't "white," "Christian," straight, or cis-gendered.
posted by droplet at 3:27 PM on September 20


The podcast Reply All did a (typically) great story about QAnon and the father-son crime duo who run the image board it started on, 8Chan.

It is, as usual, damn interesting

Country of Liars
posted by From Bklyn at 1:37 AM on September 21 [2 favorites]


Dr Eleanor Janega of Going Medieval.
On Q Anon and Antisemitism.
I have been thinking about how at its heart, QAnon is just a reheated version of medieval Antisemitic beliefs updated for people who have not taken the divorce well.
The incidents of the twentieth century show that really if we want to talk about Antisemitism it is modern Europeans who really took it to the next level.
The QAnon gang seem to have wanted to pick up where the Nazis and medieval people left off, sadly.
posted by adamvasco at 8:32 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


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