In recent weeks, we’ve been hearing a lot about a particularly off-the-wall conspiracy theory called “QAnon.” Supposedly, a top-ranking adviser or group of advisers to Donald Trump known as “Q” is using 4chan and 8chan to dribble out information about Trump’s plans to open the trap door under a massive pedophilia ring involving thousands of celebrities and politicians. Most interest in that theory has been in the darkest corners of deplorable Twitter.
However, it’s recently burst into the mainstream spotlight due to QAnon followers making themselves heard at Trump rallies. When Trump came to Tampa last Tuesday, QAnon supporters seemed to be popping up like weeds–shirts, signs, the lot.
MSNBC’s Brian Williams tried to get his head around it on Wednesday night’s edition of “The 11th Hour.” Watch here.
Williams spoke with NBC News’ Ben Collins and former FBI agent Clint Watts about this mushrooming lunacy. Collins said that it was little more than “fan fiction” suggesting that Trump was doing everything right–even when he’s making a fool of himself in the White House. He claims that people who can’t grapple with the real world have used pedophilia accusations to “take out all this disinformation” on Trump’s foes, following on from Pizzagate.
Watts thinks this dreck could potentially escalate into a “public safety” issue. This isn’t an idle concern. Remember, a Pizzagate follower from North Carolina burst into a Washington pizzeria supposedly at the center of Pizzagate and fired an AR-15 into the place. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
But apparently all of this was lost on a columnist for a prominent religious right-aligned newsmagazine. He doesn’t understand why the mainstream media seems to be having a conniption fit over QAnon.
Lately, if you follow the religious right, one source you’ll want to read is The Stream, a newsmagazine that makes no bones about its social conservatism. It contends that “freedom divorced from virtue cannot long endure.” To that end, it claims to provide “clarity and coherence” in the midst of chaos.
Al Perrotta, The Stream’s executive editor, felt he needed to provide some of that clarity in the wake of growing mainstream media interest in QAnon. He concedes that much of what Q posts “seems far-fetched,” such as a claim that Atlanta’s airspace had to be shut down so a trove of captured prisoners could be flown to Gitmo.
However, he claims that when Q was telling his followers to “trust the plan,” he was foreshadowing Jeff Sessions’ effort to expose “the criminality of Hillary Clinton.” He also believes Q was on to something when he claimed that some very important people are involved in sex trafficking.
It’s led Perrotta to wonder about the “sudden interest” in QAnon from the mainstream media. Specifically, he doesn’t understand why a number of outlets have called all hands on deck to debunk it.
Instead, I have to wonder what would motivate the mainstream media to erupt in such a unified chorus of contempt? What is so ghastly about people researching for themselves matters affecting the nation’s governance? Wrestling with questions posed in a Socratic method, forcing readers to think, to debate, to share? Perhaps getting it wrong, perhaps getting it right?
Even if a prank that’s grown out of hand, a well-meaning amusement or an educational game gone wild, what’s the problem? What is it about a community that believes in a government of the people, by the people and for the people that has the media minds so hostile?
Simple: A public that believes in each other and America’s principles more than our government and media institutions poses a mortal threat.
With all due respect, Jim, this is far from just “a prank that’s grown out of hand.” This is serious business. We’ve seen dozens of celebrities slandered as being pedophiles, with virtually no evidence to support those accusations. For instance, QAnon supporters briefly monkeyed with YouTube’s algorithm to falsely brand Tom Hanks as a pedophile.
Contrary to what Perrotta would have you believe, when the media calls out this kind of claptrap, it’s not cowering at “a mortal threat.” It’s doing its job–digging into something, seeing if there’s anything to it, and calling it out. So yes, Al, the media do have an interest in this. And it would be grossly remiss if it didn’t have an interest.
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