Over the first few days after the Christchurch mosque massacre, two interlocking narratives developed. One was tallying up the carnage, and the other was the story of the alleged killer’s radicalization through social media. And of course, both narratives were driven in part by the conspiracy theories that both the killer espoused through his manifesto and that instantly sprouted up around the shooting.
None of this is new. Self-radicalization via social media is a huge issue that major tech companies are struggling to contain. And instant conspiracy theories are common to mass tragedies now, as we’ve seen time and time again in the last ten years.
But the reaction to the New Zealand massacre had one major difference that anyone who keeps tabs on conspiracy/extremist culture should be screaming to the high heavens about: the response of the US government to amplify, rather than condemn, the killer’s racism and the conspiracy theorists who push it.
It’s genuinely an accomplishment to get a book near the top of the Amazon #100 chart. It’s even more of an accomplishment to do it when you’re an author that nobody has ever heard of who had never written a book before. And it’s the giant golden star on top of an accomplishment cake to do it writing a book that has no real audience, written under a fake name by people also using fake names, and is barely a book.
But such is the way of things. And so “QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening” made international news when it skyrocketed up Amazon’s charts, fueled by a clutch of five star reviews and coverage on the TV news and web.
QAnon is a lot of things. It’s a conspiracy theory, it’s a prosperity scam, it’s a fascist fantasy, and it’s a lucrative grift. It’s also a sociological experiment, a prank, and a cult. But at its heart, QAnon is a movement of grievances. Some of them are profound (or they would be, if they existed), and some of them are unbelievably petty.
Among the most petty of grievances that QAnon believers have is that the mainstream media refuses to ask President Trump about Q, and is actually working together to NOT ask him about Q.
Such a notion began with QAnon himself, of course. In Drop 1643, posted in late June 2018, responded to a piece on a fringe right wing media site by claiming that the mainstream media could “end this” by simply asking Trump directly about Q.
#Qdrop 1643 Q taunts MSM to ask President Trump about Q!
One of the side effects of electing Donald Trump as president is that there’s virtually no separation between Trump the president and Trump the businessman. He’s talked up his Florida club Mar-a-Lago as the “Winter White House,” routinely holds “meetings and calls” at his various properties, and probably would slap a gold TRUMP sign on the White House if he could get an RNC donor to pay for it.
The incessant mixing of business and politics has led to absurd horrors such as a Mar-a-Lago guest posing with the military aide responsible for carrying the “nuclear football,” Trump country club friends getting access to multi-billion dollar VA contracts, and most recently, the pastry chef at the Florida club having her personal beliefs splashed all over national news.
Why? Because she’s a believer in the fascist fantasy/prophecy cult/conspiracy theory QAnon, and promotes it all over social media, as well as in her job.
Does skepticism equal disbelief? Can one question elements of a particular story while also generally believing stories of its type? And does one story of a terrible crime turning out to be false immediately falsify all stories of all terrible crimes?
These are the hard questions that we should be asking ourselves as the saga of Jussie Smollett continues shift from a hate crime to a hoax.