It might sound like semantics, but it’s important to describe Q’s staying power compared to similar conspiracies like Pizzagate, or garden-variety misinformation you might find on social media. Since starting on right-wing message boards three years ago, QAnon has spread to thousands of Facebook groups and representation at the president’s rallies. There’s merch on Amazon, and Q supporters are running for congressional seats.
Whatever you call it, QAnon is baseless. Here’s the gist: Donald Trump was recruited to run for president by the military, which wanted Trump to break up a cabal of Satan worshipers who also operate a global child sex-trafficking ring. There’s a lot of antisemitism in dispatches from “Q,” who has implicated many high-level people in politics and media. President Donald Trump has so far done nothing to refute the conspiracy theory.
So why has QAnon gained so much traction, and what’s there to do about it? Today, we’ll put those questions to Jevin West. He’s a professor at the University of Washington and director of the new Center for an Informed Public. He also co-wrote a new book, “Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World” — and yes, that title gave the episode an “explicit” tag; skip ahead when we introduce him if you’re listening with kids.
He’ll tell us why trust is like the conservation of mass, whether the rise of Q will lead to better regulation of social media, and ultimately how we beat misinformation in general. Plus, we’ll answer your questions about QAnon, like how to talk to a loved one who’s caught in its thrall.
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Here’s a list of everything we talked about today:
- Here’s the website for the Center for an Informed Public and West’s book.
- “What is QAnon, the viral pro-Trump conspiracy theory?” from The New York Times
- “Who Supports QAnon? Here’s what our poll finds.” from The Washington Post
- “Social Media Platforms Need to Flatten the Curve of Dangerous Misinformation” from Slate
- “QAnon Now Has Its Very Own Super PAC” from Vice
- “What is QAnon and how are social media sites handling it?” from Reuters
- “The Prophecies of Q: American conspiracies are entering a dangerous new phase” from The Atlantic