Conspiracy theories are like Pringles. They’re delicious to consume, full of short-term hits to the pleasure centers of the brain, and you can’t eat just one of them.
We know that people who believe one conspiracy theory usually believe more than one. So if you believe that the Mafia and CIA worked together to assassinate JFK, you probably also believe that the Twin Towers were stuffed full of explosives that triggered after a terror attack the US allowed to happen. And on and on.
In fact, if you believe these conspiracy theories, there’s no reason to disbelieve any others. Why would you? Sure, some are more outlandish than others, but all are outlandish, depend on unseen evidence, dissolve under scrutiny, and fall into the realm of wishful thinking.
QAnon, the mysterious avatar claiming to be a small team of military intelligence officers and Trump officials using 8chan to leak information on an upcoming purge of the deep state, hasn’t posted since August 1st. With 8chan down, and Q’s own posts instructing followers that there are “no outside comms,” no new posts seem to be forthcoming, either.
What’s more, Google searches for QAnon have crashed, hitting their low over the last year. A movement with no new material to research, no communications from its leader, and slackening interest among newcomers would seem to be a movement that has little left in the tank, and is near death. Right?
One of the hallmarks of the current state of right wing media is that they’ll lie about things they have no reason to lie about. They’ll even lie when it’s more advantageous to tell the truth.
Case in point: the QAnon rally on September 11th on the National Mall in D.C. From photos and accounts of the media who covered it, it’s clear that there were about 100 people there, including about half-a-dozen speakers. Not a single picture taken at the event even shows that many, but if one totals up everyone who went to the Mall specifically to attend the rally (as opposed to being photographed while just passing through) one could charitably get the total up that high.
Someone else is likely to find somewhere else to start some board that’s even worse than 8chan, yes. But for now, the internet is a slightly less terrible place.
Another positive side effect to the crash of 8chan? No more QAnon! Ordinarily, a simple deplatforming wouldn’t stop an ascending cult like QAnon, right? I mean, if you’re going to carry out a secret plan to save the world’s children from Hillary Clinton, don’t you just find somewhere else to spread your message, rather than allow your movement to die?
Over a span of less than 24 hours, America endured two more mass shootings, both carried out by young white men armed with assault rifles, and fed by internet-driven hate. The motivations of El Paso shooter Patrick Crusius and Dayton shooter Connor Betts appear to have been different, with Betts in particular seeming to be driven more by personal animosity and hatred of women than any political cause.
The causes of the two shootings might diverge, but one thing that doesn’t is the conspiracy theories that started up in their wake. The discourse about the El Paso shooting was flooded almost from the first moment with fake news, memes, errors in early reporting, nebulous conspiracy theories, and outright lies.
The Dayton shooting didn’t generate much in the way of conspiracies, but that’s only due to it taking place late on a Saturday night. By then, it was easy enough to lump the two shootings together as part of some kind of vast plot, carried out in two different places by the same shadowy group.
Longtime watchers of the early discourse around mass shootings will recognize everything that was written and said about El Paso, because it’s the same stuff that’s written and said about every mass shooting. They all have the same conspiracy theories, the same fake allegations, the same mistaken eyewitness reports, and the same attempts to flood the news cycle with fakes in order to create chaos.