How a conspiracy theory that Trump and Robert Mueller are secretly working together got from Reddit to Trump rallies.
Conspiracy theories create order out of chaos, attempting to make sense of events that don’t make sense. And researchers have found that fact-based arguments against them only serve to reinforce them in the minds of believers. That’s what makes QAnon or Sandy Hook trutherism or any other conspiracy theory so difficult to combat: Because conspiracy theories aren’t based on facts, conspiracy theorists aren’t receptive to them either.
.. Everything is fine. As a popular saying among Q adherents proclaims, believers must only “trust the plan.”
.. Obviously, none of this happened. There were no public riots or mass arrests or the use of emergency broadcasts. (In fact, the Emergency Broadcast System went out of service in 1997, replaced by the Emergency Alert System.)
The overwhelming majority of Q’s assertions are hilariously untrue: that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was placed in power by the CIA, that Seth Rich was murdered by MS13 under orders from former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, that many prominent Democrats are currently wearing ankle monitors because they are secretly under arrest... The fact is that QAnon’s base assertion — that Trump really is in control of everything — is an inherently strange one to make when the Trump administration does, actually, control the entire federal government... Conspiracy theorists and members of the alt-right and far right were among the first to jump on the QAnon bandwagon (though some have decided Q has been “compromised”)... the QAnon hashtag has been used so many times on Twitter it’s now virtually untrackable... Curt Schilling shared a video on Twitter in June that alleges that QAnon isn’t just about Trump. It claims every US president before Trump was engaged in a criminal conspiracy with pedophile rings and the “deep state” and pharmaceutical companies, all to enslave the American people.
.. As Slate’s Christina Cauterucci wrote in July, accusations of pedophilia are the easiest and most effective way to tarnish someone’s reputation with no proof necessary, as pedophilia is universally considered a horrific and horrendous affront... QAnon isn’t about protecting Trump, in their view. It’s about saving children from rape and murder — and who could oppose that?.. But the open source nature of QAnon, where Q posts something for thousands of other people to interpret as they see fit, means other conspiracy theories fit neatly within QAnon — like ones about false flag shootings, Jewish bankers controlling the world, or the Illuminati. As the Daily Beast’s Will Sommer wrote in July:
While the Storm is at the center of the QAnon narrative, it’s also flexible enough to fold in just anything that makes the news. Q is fond of hinting that each mass shooting is a false-flag attack organized by the cabal, and he used a blurry webcam picture of a flash of light near the Puget Sound to claim that the deep state had tried to shoot down Trump’s plane.
Conspiracy theories are hard to fight because they’re about what we want to believe
.. Trying to disprove a conspiracy theory thus usually only serves to reinforce it.
.. Conspiracy theories aren’t created by evidence, but by belief, or by the desire to believe, that there must be something more to the events that shape our lives, culture, and politics than accident or happenstance.
.. Where there is confusion, or even pain and tragedy, QAnon, or shootings termed “false flags,” or 9/11 trutherism brings some semblance of order and security. The 9/11 attacks were so horrific that they can’t possibly have happened without President George W. Bush being behind it somehow, orchestrating things behind the scenes. A mass shooting at an elementary school that killed so many small children is so terrible that it can’t possibly have really happened.
.. Conspiracy theories often serve an ironic function of providing a sense of order in chaos. People would rather believe that there are evil masterminds out there that pull strings on cataclysmic events than accept the occurrence of random events.
Conspiracy theories also serve to elevate events to be less banal: For example, it is easier to conceive of Princess Diana having been killed by some elaborate evil conspiracy than being the victim of a rather banal drunk-driving accident.
Values would require that Twitter make tough calls on high-profile and obviously malevolent figures, including tossing them off as a signal of its intent to keep it civil.
And Mr. Jones is not even an edge case: His bilious lies, including that the murders of the Sandy Hook Elementary children were “synthetic, completely fake, with actors,” clearly sully the platform.
Twitter has certainly appeared to have adjusted the rules for Donald Trump. While the president has not descended down the same demented rabbit hole as Alex Jones, many argue that he has violated various Twitter rules, by threatening violence (he did so against North Korea and later Iran) and by systematic harassment of people (the list is too long).
.. Yes, many sources assure me that there is indeed a pull-emergency-brake plan for him, but it hasn’t come to that. Yet.
.. In any case, if you get kicked off Twitter, you can always unload your twisted mind on your very own website.
.. His intent was to tamp down widespread rumors that Twitter was “shadow banning” — who comes up with these creepy terms? — some conservative users. The idea is that their posts mysteriously don’t show up in search results. Twitter did not do that, Mr. Dorsey said, “period.”
.. It was opened by Mr. Dorsey, who sat cross-legged on the stage, leading a 10-minute meditation for his most fervent followers — Twitter’s employees flown in from across the globe.
.. The event had a very Silicon Valley feel-good vibe, and veered awfully close to becoming a spoof of itself.
Over the past several days Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify have removed most of Mr. Jones’s programming from their services in a sweeping effort to rein in those who traffic in online misinformation that draws hundreds of thousands of followers and results in harassment and threats to their targets. Stitcher, LinkedIn and Pinterest have also removed Infowars content.
.. YouTube’s termination of Mr. Jones’s channel cost him access to his 2.4 million subscribers and resulted in the removal of all his past videos. Those videos had amassed billions of views, in part because YouTube continued to recommend them to users who had shown interest in conservative topics.
.. Mr. Jones has been trying to compensate by promoting his website and mobile app. On Tuesday, after news of Mr. Jones’s bans spread, Infowars was Apple’s fourth most popular news app, outranking those from every mainstream news media organization. Before the ban, it ranked 33rd on average since July 12.
.. He suggested that it was his support for President Trump, not his spreading of falsehoods, that led to him being “de-platformed.”
“This is a war on free speech,” Mr. Jones said. “This is what the corporate media is doing in America because it’s afraid of new independent media and asking questions.”.. Facebook removed Mr. Jones’s pages for violating its policies by “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” YouTube terminated Mr. Jones’s channel for repeatedly violating its policies, including its prohibition on hate speech. Spotify cited its own prohibition on hate speech as the reason for removing a podcast by Mr. Jones... Indeed, Infowars’ own website says in its terms of service that the company “may review and delete any content you post on the website or elsewhere utilizing our services or system if we determine, in our sole discretion, that the content violates the rights of others, is not appropriate for the website, or otherwise violates this agreement.”.. While private companies can choose what to take down from their sites, the fact that social media platforms like Facebook have become indispensable platforms for the speech of billions means that they should resist calls to censor offensive speech.. The recent decision by Facebook and YouTube to take down Alex Jones’s content may have provided a quick solution to a challenging situation, but encouraging these companies to silence individuals in this way will backfire.”.. Mr. Jones was defiant on his program Monday, saying past efforts to screen offensive broadcasts have “only made us stronger.”
.. “But it has not allowed us to reach a lot of new people,” he continued. “That’s why you have to understand now that Infowars is the most censored program in the world — because we know the truth.”
.. Over two decades, Mr. Jones has built a profitable business selling diet supplements, survivalist gear, and air and water filtration equipment as he spread bizarre theories, including that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were an inside job, that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a government-backed hoax, and that various government-orchestrated plots are responsible for poisoning Americans’ water, air and food. Mr. Jones promotes himself and Infowars as near-solitary truth tellers in a news landscape dominated by left-leaning “corporatist” media — even though the popular Drudge Report website broadcast his show on Monday.
.. Now, what he calls his “de-platforming” has only increased his sense of grievance, and that of his followers — even as it shrinks his reach before the November midterm elections.
.. “I knew what the enemy was doing — I knew their battle plan, I made the conscious decision to draw their fire,” he said on his show Monday. “When you see the Alamo assaulted and myself probably destroyed, I’ve been telling you this for years,” he said, adding: “Remember Infowars. Remember free speech.”
.. So far, Mr. Trump, who praised Mr. Jones during an appearance on his radio show during the presidential campaign, has remained silent as Mr. Jones issues appeals to Trump supporters.
.. On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. posted on Twitter that Mr. Murphy was “A Democrat Senator openly admitting that Big Tech’s censorship campaign is really about purging all conservative media. How long before Big Tech and their Democrat friends move to censor and purge Breitbart News, Daily Caller and other conservatives voices from their platforms?”
The removal of his content comes as Mr. Jones faces multiple defamation lawsuits for claims he spread on Infowars, including by the families of nine Sandy Hook victims, who are pursuing three separate lawsuits against him.
.. encourage his followers to migrate to his Infowars website, where he has posted the content removed by other platforms. He is also asking followers to donate to him — and buy his merchandise.
.. “Don’t forget the financial support; that is the strongest thing you can do to make sure that we continue on and are strong in the fight,” he said. Referring listeners to his online store, he said, “Go there today and send them a strong message that you stand for the First Amendment, you stand for us and get air filtration, water filtration, optics, preparedness gear, high quality storable foods, supplements that are so good for you and your family.
“Feed your gladiator,” he urged.