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Is it too late to stop QAnon?

Heard on:
Workers at an Owens & Minor Inc. medical supplies distribution center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, wait for President Donald Trump, on May 14. One of them is lifting his shirt to reveal a Q shirt underneath.

Workers at an Owens & Minor Inc. medical supplies distribution center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, wait for President Donald Trump on May 14. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

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QAnon is more than just a conspiracy theory. BuzzFeed News has taken to calling it a “collective delusion.” Others just call it a cult.

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:

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