Into the Q-niverse

If you want to understand the Trump era (at the risk of getting really, really depressed) The Atlantic‘s deep dive into the QAnon conspiracy phenomenon is absolutely essential reading:

Conspiracy theories are a constant in American history, and it is tempting to dismiss them as inconsequential. But as the 21st century has progressed, such a dismissal has begun to require willful blindness. I was a city-hall reporter for a local investigative-news site called Honolulu Civil Beat in 2011 when Donald Trump was laying the groundwork for a presidential run by publicly questioning whether Barack Obama had been born in Hawaii, as all facts and documents showed. Trump maintained that Obama had really been born in Africa, and therefore wasn’t a natural-born American—making him ineligible for the highest office. I remember the debate in our Honolulu newsroom: Should we even cover this “birther” madness? As it turned out, the allegations, based entirely on lies, captivated enough people to give Trump a launching pad.

Nine years later, as reports of a fearsome new virus suddenly emerged, and with Trump now president, a series of ideas began burbling in the QAnon community: that the coronavirus might not be real; that if it was, it had been created by the “deep state,” the star chamber of government officials and other elite figures who secretly run the world; that the hysteria surrounding the pandemic was part of a plot to hurt Trump’s reelection chances; and that media elites were cheering the death toll. Some of these ideas would make their way onto Fox News and into the president’s public utterances. As of late last year, according to The New York Times, Trump had retweeted accounts often focused on conspiracy theories, including those of QAnon, on at least 145 occasions.

I’m not sure Trump really believes this, though you can never be sure. But he’s certainly not above using it to rile up his (shrinking) base.

The writer, Adrienne LaFrance, tried to reason with several QAnon enthusiasts. It went about as well as you’d expect:

Taking a page from Trump’s playbook, Q frequently rails against legitimate sources of information as fake. Shock and Harger rely on information they encounter on Facebook rather than news outlets run by journalists. They don’t read the local paper or watch any of the major television networks. “You can’t watch the news,” Shock said. “Your news channel ain’t gonna tell us shit.” Harger says he likes One America News Network. Not so long ago, he used to watch CNN, and couldn’t get enough of Wolf Blitzer. “We were glued to that; we always have been,” he said. “Until this man, Trump, really opened our eyes to what’s happening. And Q. Q is telling us beforehand the stuff that’s going to happen.” I asked Harger and Shock for examples of predictions that had come true. They could not provide specifics and instead encouraged me to do the research myself. When I asked them how they explained the events Q had predicted that never happened, such as Clinton’s arrest, they said that deception is part of Q’s plan. Shock added, “I think there were more things that were predicted that did happen.” Her tone was gentle rather than indignant.

Harger wanted me to know that he’d voted for Obama the first time around. He grew up in a family of Democrats. His dad was a union guy. But that was before Trump appeared and convinced Harger that he shouldn’t trust the institutions he always thought he could. Shock nodded alongside him. “The reason I feel like I can trust Trump more is, he’s not part of the establishment,” she said. At one point, Harger told me I should look into what happened to John F. Kennedy Jr.—who died in 1999, when his airplane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha’s Vineyard—suggesting that Hillary Clinton had had him assassinated. (Alternatively, a contingent of QAnon believers say that JFK Jr. faked his death and that he’s a behind-the-scenes Trump supporter, and possibly even Q himself. Some anticipate his dramatic public return so that he can serve as Trump’s running mate in 2020.) When I asked Harger whether there’s any evidence to support the assassination claim, he flipped my question around: “Is there any evidence not to?”

I do not expect Trump to win re-election this fall. He’s not picking up any states won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, and several of the states he did win – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina – are looking very shaky for him. Even freaking Georgia might be in play. Trump’s win was so narrow that he really can’t afford to lose anything, and his coalition sure as heck hasn’t grown in the ensuing four years.

But even if he loses in a landslide, there’s still a ride-or-die Trump cult consisting of up to one-third of American voters. Many of them are all-in on QAnon as well. And how will they react when it looks like the Deep StateTM got rid of their savior?

From #BelieveWomen to #NeverHeardOfThisWoman

The Daily Beast contacted several feminist organizations who loudly promoted sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Cavanaugh to ask them about allegations against Joe Biden. You won’t believe what happened – or, more accurately, didn’t happen – next:

Women’s groups and prominent feminist figures have remained almost universally silent over a former staffer’s accusation of sexual misconduct against former Vice President Joe Biden—including those individuals and groups who came to express regret for how the Democratic Party handled similar accusations made against President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

[…]

The Daily Beast contacted 10 top national pro-women organizations for this story, including Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Organization for Women. Most organizations did not respond to a detailed request for comment about the allegation by Tara Reade, a former staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office who has accused the former vice president of forcibly penetrating her with his fingers in the early 1990s. Others replied and did not provide a statement. 

One prominent women’s political group cited a scheduling conflict and asked to be kept “in mind for other opportunities!” When pressed if the following day would work better, an associate said it would not, citing another scheduling conflict. 

The near-total lack of acknowledgement from nearly a dozen leading pro-women organizations comes as new corroboration has emerged with respect to the allegation, which the Biden campaign has categorically denied. Neither the Biden campaign nor Reade responded to requests from The Daily Beast for comment on Tuesday. 

Prediction: twenty years from now, when another conservative Republican is caught up in a sexual harassment or assault controversy, the same groups calling for his had will also express regret that they didn’t take the allegations against Biden more seriously.

Mediaite‘s John Ziegler calls out everyone involved – media outlets and Biden supporters downplaying the story, and Trump supporters who suddenly have the vapors about allegations that don’t even come close to what their guy is credibly accused of – for their blatant hypocrisy:

…in many ways, this story isn’t really about Joe Biden. It is about how nearly everyone in the political/media realm is a total and obvious hypocrite. #MeToo supporting Democrats are pretending this allegation has no merit because they don’t want to harm Biden’s chances against Trump. Republicans, usually much more skeptical of #MeToo, who backed Kavanaugh because the evidence against him was very flimsy, are jumping all over this story because it might benefit them politically. And news media outlets of all stripes are deciding, as usual, to shift their editorial standards not based on what the truth is, but on which narrative best fits their particular agenda.